While everyone was scrambling to gather their things, I was left there attempting to compose myself.
The 4×4 ATV ride would take us an hour and a half while the trek would be another three and half hours. I had one and a half hours of sleep, 500ml of water, one small pack of crackers, a sandwich for lunch given out of good heart by a colleague, and a throbbing head. Good. Luck.
We spent a few minutes in the area to stretch our legs and use the toilet. But I learned that we were charged with P10 for the restroom use, I refused to pee in there. I thought I could just relieve myself behind a rock later (which I eventually did, by the way). Local kids were already up very early in the morning to sell bamboo canes for P20. After a few minutes, we were asked to sign waivers and were divided by four since 4×4 cars could only accommodate four tourists, a guide, and a driver. I shared the car with Glice, Joan, and Karen.
The ATV ride was rather calm and delightful, considering that it was a bumpy travel. I had a nice time watching nature unfold itself in the daylight: the sun coming out, colorful birds cutting the crisp morning air, clouds of dust forming before us and disappearing only to appear again later.
It is a wonder that most of the mountains here were formed that way because of the very much known Mt. Pinatubo eruption that happened in 1991 which killed almost a thousand people. I was still a baby then, being born in 1989, so I don’t have stories to tell about it. But reports say that it’s one of the largest volcanic eruptions we’ve known that its volcanic ash even reached Japan. Remember that no one thought it was an active volcano. Imagine the locals’ surprise to find out that it was indeed just dormant.
There are streams of water that we cross from time to time. I once stooped down to feel the water with my hands and it was as cold as the water from the fridge. In fact, on the course of our travel, the engine from one of the ATVs overheated and they splashed water to cool it up. Amazing!
After an hour drive, we were allowed to get down to take photos of the area. These are my colleagues. Some were so afraid of getting sunburn that they wrapped their bodies with sunblock and scarves. They looked like ninja mummies from afar, hahahaha!
Me: You look like you’re not climbing Mt. Pinatubo but Mt. Everest.
Colleague: I know right!
Friendly local kids.
After an hour or two, we reached the place where we’d begin the trek. By this time, the sun was already up and the heat was beginning to in-ten-si-fy. While I did not mind the walk, I worried about the heat as I sometimes get migraines because of the rise of temperature.
The trek was surprisingly fun. Though when we were approaching the crater, I felt really tired and sleepy. Damn that pizza dinner.
Aaaand ultimately, the crater.
How could a serene space like this turn into a monster once it awakens, I do not know. But this view is really something.
That’s me in red, heh.
The water was so inviting so I removed my shoes to feel the cold with my feet. Only I probably went too far.
It was too late when I remembered that my cell phone was in my pockets. Yep, phone got busted. I tried saving it by basking it under the sun while we ate snacks under the shade of a mango tree. The crater was a real wonder. Other tourists were there too, albeit few; some were foreigners. Locals also sold soft drinks, beer, and bottled water all for P100. It was too pricey but yeah, they labored hard to get there too they deserved profit. I sneaked a 15-minute nap.😀
After an hour, at 11:00AM, we prepared to get back. The trek going back was the hardest part. It was so hot and my head was throbbing again. There was wind, but not strong enough to stave off the heat. The midday sun only intensified its scorch as we walked further. It seemed like forever, if you want to know the truth. I just wanted to get back to the 4×4 vehicles.
Around 2PM, we finally arrived in the spot where the cars were waiting. We got on and off we went. I thought it was relief already but little did I realize that it was as miserable as the walking. The heat was all over the place and we were left with our scarves and caps to use for covers, because the vehicles didn’t have roofs. After an hour, I felt really sleepy. But sleeping was a dangerous thing to do because I may fall off the car. But the force of sleep was stronger than the danger posed before me. I leaned across Joan and dozed while holding a scarf above us.
Luckily, I did not fall. Whew that was intense.
We arrived at the village around 3:30 and cleansed ourselves in washrooms (shower for P50). We agreed to hand a little amount to our driver and tour guide on top of the tour package we paid. Around 4:00 we said goodbye to the locals and headed home.
Was it an amazing experience? Well, yes. Hot and tiring, but amazing. Lost a camera filter and a cell phone, but still amazing. Maybe because putting the heat aside, the place is really wonderful. Maybe when time comes that I’d be going back, I would schedule the trip on a November or a February so it wouldn’t be as hot.
Nonetheless, I’m still happy I came face to face with a volcano crater without worrying that it would splash some hot sulfur all over me. I wonder when it’s erupting again. I hope not in a hundred years.
Credits: all photos taken by K. Versoza