Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mt. Pinatubo: A Geologist's Dream Trek

She was four years old and on a different continent when the cataclysm of the Philippines' Mt. Pinatubo occurred in 1991. She was already fascinated with rocks, and unbeknownst to her, she was about to become a huge Spice Girls fan.

Fast forward to 2011, her fascination with rocks and earth grew to an obsession that eventually led to her present career as an engineering geologist. Whatever that means. And her love for the Spice Girls is already embedded in the farthest corners of her mind.

My introduction to Chuck's (not her real name, but most of her buds fondly call her that) character can be whittled down to these few facts. Chuck by the way, an Iranian raised in Australia, is my sister-in-law.

Murky is the new turquoise! Okay, so maybe it ain't, but sadly that's what we saw.

I was also informed that it was her burning ambition to see Mt. Pinatubo up close. So when I told her that we could in fact, walk on its crater, a giddy geologist went gaga. I even spared the detail of being allowed to swim in the crater lake and couldn't wait for her to find out.

Last March, on her second Philippines trip, she finally had the chance to fulfill this dream of hers. Though she and her boyfriend flew in the day before, she was already up and about at four in the morning. Coming from my parent's hometown Victoria, Tarlac it only took us an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Capas.

Our jeep driver (whom I booked through the president of the Pinatubo Tour 4WheelDrive) picked us up at 6, on the dot. We did a stopover at Pinatubo Spa Town to register, arrange a boat ride across the crater lake, and choose the theme for our lunch (meals included in the P1,500 package). We opted for Korean.

The loveliest geologist that graced the Earth's crust.

We wasted no time idling and quickly jumped back to our bright red 4x4. This time, we got an extra passenger, our assigned guide. Past the check point however, we were held up because we waited for another jeep for a convoy. Lone cruising jeeps aren't allowed. Chuck and the BF were thrilled to see carabaos stroll by, so I asked a local if they could briefly ride one to while the minutes away.

Almost half an hour later, a jeep arrived. Not just a regular tour jeep, but a military one. Followed by more military jeeps. Our driver explained that a few officers and soldiers are out for some R&R. They didn't look few to me.

Snapped a shot of this tank, with its cannon seemingly aimed at us, as we zoomed by.

The driver, with his face all covered (not to mention all the military men around), made me feel like we're on some war zone.

I semi dozed during the one hour and 30-minute, supposedly wild ride. And managed to wake up my senses when we got out of the jeep and onto the ash covered ground. Our driver pulled off a The Fast and The Furious move and overtook all of the other jeeps, which provided us a peaceful hike. I couldn't imagine how intense it would be to trek with armed soldiers (yes, they had guns hanging on their necks!).

Chuck took her time picking up rocks and scanning them with her geologic keen eyes. She was also carefully choosing which rocks to take home for uhm, souvenir research purposes. Battling sleepiness and exhaustion, I got lost in her full on academic discussion about igneous rocks. I thought, man she's so smart! Sometimes I wonder if people who don't know her take her seriously because she's still young (24!) and she sorta doesn't exude a geeky, scholarly aura (c'mon, with those hot pants?).

Falling far behind. I'm getting rusty at this.

She mentioned as well that Mt. Pinatubo's one of her favorite volcanoes because it's one of the most destructive in the 20th century. Apparently the more colossal a volcano explodes, the more awesome it is for her. I reminded myself to immediately shoo her away from displaced victims, should she have the chance to be with them, when she starts blabbering about how cool lava flow and ash fall are.

Our group reached the view point in forty five minutes. While my mouth was wide open in dismay because of the murky crater lake, Chuck's was wide open with delight. I voiced my disappointment about the absence of its turquoise-aquamarine hue, but Chuck didn't mind its state and even enumerated possible reasons for it.

The guide motioned us to head to the crater lake, where our boatman was waiting. We all hopped on together with a new acquaintance, an Israeli tourist (we were to bump into her days after in Sagada!). The boatman rowed rhythmically and swiftly as if we were on a dragon boat race. We got to the other side of the crater in just fifteen minutes.

It's safe, we swear!

Without hesitation (well, after our guide assured us it's not suicidal to do so), we jumped in the water. There were random ground patches that were burning hot because of the steam. On the contrary, the water was quite freezing. My head kinda got screwed whether I was feeling hot or cold, because in their extremest forms, I couldn't sense the difference anymore.

A geologist at work... wrapped in a towel.

In between dips, Chuck surveyed more rocks as she sat by the lake. Occasionally letting her eyes wander off and marvel at the surroundings that's crafted by nature's wrath.

Military men's day out!

She's one proud geologist who was able to make it to Mt. Pinatubo's crater. Next on her bucket list, experience an earthquake!

"Give peace a chance." Won't simply let this opportunity pass, gotta get on a military jeep!

Today is the 20th anniversary of Mt. Pinatubo's massive eruption. The Pinay Travel Junkie offers a prayer to the victims and their respective families.


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Markyramone said...
June 30, 2011 at 4:24 PM

I always wanted to date a geologist, must be a source of interesting stories. Good thing you were able to take her to Mt. Pinatubo - its a popular must see for geologists. When we went there there was also a bunch of German geology students.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
June 30, 2011 at 4:45 PM

Really Marky? Those geology students must have been so thrilled! Yeah Chuck was so happy with the trip. Now I wonder if she'll ever experience an earthquake.

DuNi said...
June 30, 2011 at 5:07 PM

nice trip!

i still haven't experienced Pinatubo... kainis!

Mel said...
June 30, 2011 at 5:56 PM

I can imagine how your sister-in-law can be so fascinated with Pinatubo. The 1991 eruption brought about a decrease of the worldwide temperature dropped by 1'Celsius, after all.

Sayang the crater lake was not a lovely cyan, it usually is the colder months of Dec-Feb daw. When I get my turn to go there, sana the local tourism office won't post exorbitant tour prices anymore. ;) Hehe. Awesome photos, as usual. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
June 30, 2011 at 6:34 PM

Seriously, Duni? With your blog's name "to volcano crater... and beyond!", I would have expected you've already visited it. Go soon, hopefully the crater lake's back to its awesome color by then.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
June 30, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Thanks Mel! I doubt if the tour price will be slashed someday, but let's keep our fingers crossed for that ;p

Tripper10 said...
June 30, 2011 at 8:59 PM

Im from Pampanga but I haven't had the chance to visit Mt. Pinatubo... :(

*mOmOt KuYiT* said...
July 1, 2011 at 12:02 AM

hi gay!

pinatubo was my first experience! parang s*x lang noh hehe.. i mean that was the first place where i decided to jump start my traveling dreams. sobrang namangha ako, we even took the longer trek sulit ang pagod ko, mas lamang lang siguro ng konti amazement reaction ni chuck sakin LOL! :)

adventurousfeet said...
July 1, 2011 at 12:48 AM

i think you really had fun riding that military jeep. The geologist is one hot chick i must say :)

fetus said...
July 1, 2011 at 1:07 AM

er. she's really hot. i'd love to hear her out talking about those magnificent igneous rocks and the possible reasons as to the murkiness of the water as well as it's weird temperatures. hehehe

Grace said...
July 1, 2011 at 2:14 AM

Ang ganda nga nung geologist. I still have not done Pinatubo and swimming in the crater looks so refreshing!

lakwatsera de primera said...
July 1, 2011 at 6:32 AM

In fairness mura na ang P1500 with lunch pa, 3 years ago halos ganyan na rin binayaran namin at DIY pa.

Christian | Lakad Pilipinas said...
July 1, 2011 at 6:48 AM

Uy bat murky daw?
Cool geologist ah =P

nathalie said...
July 1, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Dahil kay Falcon di ako nakapag Pinatubo..waaahh
nice post as usual. :)

bertN said...
July 2, 2011 at 6:59 AM

I hope your geologist sister-in-law did not miss a visit to Taal Volcano in Tagaytay. It's a volcano waiting to explode many times over. I missed its many rages in the past but I am not going to miss the big one if it happens in my lifetime.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Tripper10, you better should soon :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Grace, schedule a trip when you visit Philippines again!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Claire, they made the price competitive. Dami na kasing nagsulputang tour organizers.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Nathalie, aww. Andyan lang naman si Pinatubo. Hintayin ka nya. Hihi.

BertN, unfortunately she wasn't able to visit Tagaytay. Hhope she could shall she revisit the country!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Momotski, 1st talaga?! I bet unforgettable nga si Pinatubo for you :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Ca, getting on the military jeep's one of the highlights that day! The other one's getting a massage at the Spa Town.

Rizalenio said...
July 2, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Oh, it's still murky. Glad to see happy faces from visitors abroad. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 2, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Yup! Always my pleasure to give foreign visitors a tour :)

Arti said...
July 3, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Hi Pinay,
My first visit to your site, and its great!!
What a beautiful place you have shown me, heavenly!! Must have been quite an experience.
Do visit my travel blog when you are free, would love to hear from you - My Yatra Diary...
Have a wonderful Sunday:)

Islandvacations said...
July 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM

I dream also of visiting Mt. Pinatubo, not just to see it, but also say my silent thanks, though no thanks for the victims. I've been researching since my high school days on what are the possible grounds that Bucas Grande- my island home and the rest of Surigao del Norte would be spared already from our never-to-miss visitor- the typhoons. I then read that an advent of a very strong volcanic eruption capable of embedding its ash permanently into the atmosphere could alter the climatic pattern. True enough, since the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, we were hit by the last and final typhoon in the province in 1993. The typhoon belt had been altered thereby sparing our place from nature's wrath. Thanks for Mt. Pinatubo... typhoons now in Surigao are a thing of the past.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Thanks Arti for dropping by! I am sooo referring to your site shall we revisit India :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 3, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Didn't even know that Edelito! Thanks for such info. And yeah, at least Mt. Pinatubo did something good then.

Pinoy Adventurista said...
July 4, 2011 at 6:42 AM

What could have been the reason why the water is black? It could have been more beautiful is it’s still color turquoise… so pretty geologist... hehehe!! :)

JeffZ said...
July 4, 2011 at 7:16 AM

Though it did not boast it's attractive blue color, it's still as peaceful and relaxing.. I like that shot! :)

Hope to trek my way to it this year so I'll have one goal crossed out.. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 4, 2011 at 7:39 AM

Mervz, gas could be one factor. Haha! At least I remember one thing about her discussion.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 4, 2011 at 7:40 AM

Hey JeffZ, thanks! Hope you get to hike to the crater soon :)

Ed said...
July 4, 2011 at 8:19 AM

nice storytelling gay!
also, papicture talaga sa jeep ano? hehe. cool photo.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 4, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Ed, naku kinarir ko talaga yan! The military guy on the jeep was a bit snobby pero he allowed me to have a picture on it (that's why he ain't facing the camera). Kakatuwa.

kill3rfill3r said...
July 4, 2011 at 11:04 AM

nice post, when's the best time to trek in Pinatubo?

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 4, 2011 at 1:03 PM

About latter part of the year, I believe :)

docgelo said...
July 4, 2011 at 3:26 PM

i always find posts about pinatubo inviting to trek the path you've trodden. however, i don't think it's possible in the near future for obvious reasons.

on a lighter note, i agree with you and the other commenters; that geologist has the face that can launch an earthquake, hehe.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 4, 2011 at 3:28 PM

"that geologist has the face that can launch an earthquake, hehe." - And the best comment goes to... Doc Gelo!

lifeisacelebration said...
July 5, 2011 at 9:56 AM

that is an interesting piece of information, Edelito. Have not heard about how Pinatubo altered the "typhoon belt" --- so no more big typhoons in Surigao? I can visit those non-stinging jellyfish then.

Gay, did I miss it? How long did you trek up to the crater after the 1 1/2 hour 4x4 drive? You got a good package there.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 5, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Hi Tita Lili, we hiked for about 45 minutes I think. We did a few stops for Chuck to check to rocks :)

Liz said...
July 6, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Been there last month! :)
My post here:
I conquered Mt. Pinatubo

See you in my blog Gay! :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 6, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Okie Liz, thanks for dropping by!

Ooohneh said...
July 6, 2011 at 4:26 PM

I couldn't be more prouder to be a geologist.. though not as pretty as she is.. *SIGH!! haha!!

Been to pinatubo via the traditional trail in 2008.. hope to find time to blog it so I could share the experience though too many years too late..

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 6, 2011 at 4:59 PM

You are?! That is sooo cool! Hope you do find time to blog about it, would like to hear how your adventure went.

Ian said...
July 7, 2011 at 12:34 PM

It seems much nicer if the water is colored cyan but it still scenic... what could have been the reason?
Nice travel story. I enjoyed reading.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 7, 2011 at 12:44 PM

I *think* gas is one factor. Hihi. Di ko talaga natandaan sinabi ni Chuck :))

Tripper10 said...
July 8, 2011 at 7:47 AM

Sige Ma'am pupunta napo ako... :)
Sabi nyo eh... hehehe...
Mga ilang oras po yung trek Ma'am?

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 8, 2011 at 8:27 AM

Haha! Pressure ba? We did the trek in just 45 minutes. Depends sa pace :)

Aleah said...
July 9, 2011 at 7:45 PM

Was really disappointed in Pinatubo :( Still, as I said in my blog, I enjoyed the fast-paced trek and the beautiful lahar hills. Wouldn't go back there again though. Once is enough :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 9, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Hey Aleah! I think Anton of Pusang Kalye saw the same murkiness when they went. Would love the see the cyan crater lake but like you, I would not go there again.

Josiah said...
September 26, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Lucky to go to Mount Pinatubo with a hot geologist. I'm sure you learned a lot and I hope your nose did not bleed a lot with the geeky stuff of geology. Now I really want to travel with a geologist. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 26, 2011 at 2:54 PM

I had a "hemorrhage" Josiah. LOL.

ardee sean said...
November 22, 2011 at 12:40 PM

been here with his turquoise water.. though i forgot when or how the color changes.. :)

Travel Ria said...
January 2, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Mt Pinatubo is one of my dream destination! I wanted to go there but my friends advised me summer is the best time to go there

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
January 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Summer could get insanely hot, check if the crater lake's blue before you go :) Joined your contest. Weee!

DuNi said...
January 2, 2012 at 9:15 PM

my punchline was about Taal Volcano hahaha! i will probably do Pinatubo within this year, but Taal Lake fronting the volcano island is where i spent some of my childhood! and my primary target is to bike home to our house near Taal Lake... near as in a couple hundred meters from the lakeshore!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
January 2, 2012 at 11:58 PM

Wow! Must have been an awesome childhood Duni :)

DuNi said...
January 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM

awesome view but most of the time vacation were spent playing... i was actually hoping Taal would erupt during my vacation stay... i didn't even cry when our parents left us there and went back to Manila... i was hooked with my grandpa's story about the years they experienced when it erupted and things they did during World War 2...

chino said...
February 11, 2012 at 1:32 AM

what a beautiful sight. who would have thought this beautiful view killed many lives of innocent people .. I couldn't imagine being on this very same spot when I said yes talagang mapapa P.I. moment ka took my breathaway talaga. Thousands of people and homes were killed and buried . Two years old palang ako nun and I did not have any idea what was going on until I read about the disaster . Mixed emotion ako nung nakita ko ang pinatubo happy and sad . Most of us were happy seeing its natural beauty . I am sure there may be some of our brothers and sisters buried unknown without identification . I know they may be sad , lying there alone, maybe they’re forgotten .

titus said...
July 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM

ganda ng pinatubo... planning to go there this year together with other attractions in central luzon.

kim buenafe said...
July 22, 2012 at 3:08 PM

one of my dream treks. it really is stunning out there!

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