Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Climbing Mount Pinatubo

Who would have thought that Mount Pinatubo, which disrupted the lives and destroyed the livelihood of so many people, would be the same volcano that would help rebuild dreams from the rubble?

The 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption—touted as the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century—devastated Central Luzon. Twenty years later, the majestic volcano served as an awe-inspiring experience to travelers and a source of income to locals.

The sun had not yet risen when the Lakbay Norte group headed to Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac, where the 4 x4 jeeps were waiting.  The adventure began with the 4 x4 ride on the lahar passageway. It felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie, searching for treasure.
Crazy ride
When we were on our way to their so-called “skyway,” we were literally all shook up as we passed the rough and rocky sloping road. But when we reached the top, we were welcomed by the cool breeze and the breathtaking view of the Zambales ranges. The 4x4 jeeps then parked at the drop-off point. The group began trekking.

Along the way, I saw red boulders on top of the sulfuric soil, which were remnants of the volcanic eruption.  The walk seemed to take an eternity. Thank God for the streams that cooled our tired feet.
We then saw a sign that told us that we were approaching our destination.  It was the old drop-off point. The latter leg of the trek began there. According to the signage, young people can reach the destination in 15 minutes while the middle aged and senior citizens can finish the trek in 18 and 20 minutes, respectively. 
After an hour and half, I saw the miracle of the deadly eruption—the turquoise lake waters surrounded by the majestic crater of Mt. Pinatubo.

The other world
To fully appreciate the grandeur of Mt. Pinatubo, we rented one of the six boats, which took eight of us to the other side of the crater. I thought we were in the Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth as we approached the other side. It seemed otherworldly. 

As the boat docked at the rocky shore, I saw smoke rising from the water. It signified that the water was hot. Naturally, I didn’t even try dipping in it. Since the depth of the water was unknown, swimming was discouraged. But some of my companions took a chance.

Our boatman willingly shared how grateful they were to the influx of travelers in the area. It was their source of income. Most of the foreign visitors were Koreans.

After twenty minutes, we headed back to the other side. We were hungry. Chocolate cup cake and water reenergized us.

We bade Pinatubo goodbye with a wacky jump shot at the view deck.  The Pinatubo experience did not end with seeing its beauty.  We even felt its volcanic ash.

Pampered by nature

The Pinatubo Spa Town in  Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas gave us the chance to be “buried alive” through the volcanic ash spa.

At first, I was hesitant to be buried. But I lay down anyway and was quickly covered with hot ash from the neck down. I felt the heat emitted by the pugon, my back perspired and felt relaxed. It was a natural sauna. After a twenty-minute nap in the ash, I rose from the pit and was ushered to the mud pool.

At the mud pool, we were treated to a natural facial, composed of sulfur mud.  The sulfur mudpack was cool on the face. After 15 minutes, the mud hardened. We then washed it off and gave a tightened and smooth skin. It was rejuvenating.

We capped off our experience with an hour of Thai and Shiatsu massage that relaxed our exhausted muscles. The therapists then gave each of us a glass of green tea after the session.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo was definitely worth the sweat. It’s proof that even catastrophes can be blessings in disguise.

By: Izah Morales, Yahoo! Southeast Asia


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