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Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad News

By Mustachio @mustachio2011
Good news. Seat sale! Here's my chance to fly in to Clark and go to Mt. Pinatubo, a place that's been sitting on my list for a long time. Travel date: five to twelve months in the future. No problem, I can wait. One month comes and goes, two, three, four months. 
Bad news. One month to go before I can cross Mt. Pinatubo off my list and I receive a message from the airline that the route I booked has been cancelled. The options they give me are to either cancel the ticket for a refund or to book to another destination. The next nearest airport that the airline serves is Manila, two hours from the jump–off for Mt. Pinatubo.
Good news. I reroute it to Manila and, from the original four days, I shorten the trip to two since my only intention was to visit Mt. Pinatubo. This, at least, will save me from spending for extra days and save my vacation leaves, too.
Bad news. Of the original five that have agreed to go on this trip, only three push through. That means each of us will have to add a bit more to the budget for the common expenses (4x4 vehicle and guide).
Good news. The day has come for me to fly to Manila. Planning on sleeping for a few hours once I get to Manila.
Bad news. Flight is delayed. That means no more time to rest before getting on the bus to Tarlac.
Good news. My good friend, who is based in Manila, picks us up at the airport, we go to her house and repack our things. We check that we have everything we need, zip our bags, then jump in a cab and catch the bus to Tarlac. As soon as we settle in the bus seat, sleep takes over. Our slumber is interrupted two hours later: we are already at McDonald's Capas Junction. McDonald's is open 24 hours, we go in and have breakfast—at 3AM! The earliest breakfast I have ever had.
From McDonald's it's 45 minutes by tricycle to the tourism office. It was still dark when we got there, with one lone light coming from the container–van–cum–office. As the clock slowly approached 5AM, 4x4 vehicles started coming and the officer–in–charge finally arrived.
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad News
We were asked to sign some forms and pay the fees. In half an hour, we were churning up a cloud of dust, kilometer by kilometer, on a 4x4 jeep (it's 25 kilometers to the crater from the tourism office). We ate no one's dust—we were the first group to go!
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsSome scenes along the way
As we approached the start of the hike, seven kilometers from the crater, the 4x4 that had overtaken us a few moments earlier, parked and its contents spilled out, ready to walk. We were aware that it's a seven–kilometer hike on a bad–road–day, but our driver, taking a chance, continued and saw that it was passable. Wheeee, the lazy bums rejoice! We wouldn't have to walk for seven kilometers! With a grin, we pass the hikers and I watch them until they disappear from view. Some minutes later, I see a 4x4 some distance behind us and laugh as I recognize its passengers—it was the group that had started walking. So we weren't the only lazy bums around!
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad News One kilometer from the crater
Six kilometers of loose rocks, boulders, and streams, and the 4x4 stops. This is the last stop for the vehicle. And we are left with just a kilometer of hiking.
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad News
We were the first group to reach Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake and had it all to ourselves for a good 30 minutes. The lake was green, not the turquoise I was hoping for, but click, click, click the camera shutter went, recording every possible angle. (I have always wondered why the color changes. If you know why, do tell me!)
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsA green crater lake
Swimming in the lake is not allowed. Boating activities have also been stopped—the boats were all padlocked in a shed. We had nothing else to do but bring out the mat, devour our packed lunch at 8AM, then rest under a tree with stomachs full.
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsPacked lunch turned breakfast part two (left); resting under a tree (right)
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsOne last look before we leave
We only spent about two and half hours at the lake. Reaching the place where we had left the 4x4, we were amused at the sight: there were more than forty 4x4s! And I thought we were lazy.
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsA 4x4 convention!
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsMt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsSome photos taken on the way back
Mt. Pinatubo: Good News/Bad NewsSome crazy bikers going to the crater lake under the heat of the scorching sun
Thanks to the sun who was shining at full power, it was the longest ride back to the tourism office. We reached the tourism office sweaty, sleepy, and covered in dust. The store in front of the tourism office will surely make some money if all the other groups arrive in the same condition as us—thirsty and grimy. Aside from selling cold drinks and food, they charge for the use of shower rooms (Php 50) and toilets (Php 10). Such enterprising people.
We traced our way back to Manila the same way we had come: tricycle, bus, cab. At my friend's house, we hurriedly washed up, took a nap (we'll just wake up at 6 for dinner) that turned into a good deep sleep. We woke up at 6....in time for breakfast.
Mt. Pinatubo:
Good News/Bad News (you're here!)
Itinerary, Budget, and Tips (soon)

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