Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pinatubo, 14 years after

It was only by a twist of fate and God's providence that I was able to join Erwin's Pinatubo trek/climb last weekend. Up to Friday afternoon, I have almost given up on the trip, what with a big presentation looming over us early in the coming week. But join it I did and it was long, arduous, but a thoroughly unforgettable experience. 

Hastily going home and packing at 8pm, Friday, made me forget a lot of my stuff, just to make it to the last bus trip to Dau at 9.45.  The bus had a minor breakdown just a few kilometers away from Mexico, Pampanga so made it to Dau by midnight. Kuwentuhan at kulitan pa kami ni Erwin up to around 2am. (Thanks buddy for being a gracious host!) Woke up at 3.15. jump-off got delayed, mga 6am na. The 6x6 delivered us to the Porac trail jump-off at around 7-7.30 am.

We were greeted by a vast landscape of lahar, stony paths, flowing water hemmed by mountain ranges on both sides. Good thing the sun wasn't so inspired in coming out in full force that day as the trek to the great caves took like 4-4.5 hours. After a hearty lunch, we set out for the campsite. A minor mishap (a lady in the first group struck her eye against a rough rock) galvanized our group into action. The relatively flat terrain rose sharply on the way to the campsite. The falls were a refreshing diversion as you'll encounter one after 30 or so minutes along the way.

We decided to go for the summit the next day na as it was already nearing 5pm and the long trek took quite a toll on our energies. After pitching my tent, I dozed off as the guys prepared to cook dinner. took a dip sa nearby falls -- a luxury I didn't enjoy in my other climbs. Dito, magsasawa ka sa water source. Not a lot of our climbmates were eager for the evening socials but our group had to have our fill of drinks and stories so nangapit-bahay pa kami. But it was a relatively early lights-out for us, mga 10pm so we can catch up on sleep. (But not after appreciating the star-filled sky)

Woke up rather early to a slight drizzle, before 4.30 just to find out that our Aeta guides are still asleep. So dozed off again until 6.30. After a light meal, we set out for the summit at 8. got there around 10.30. It was a challenging, steep climb especially the last 150-200 meters but seeing the crater lake was worth all the effort. It was simply breathtaking.

We broke camp after lunch and after passing a bit of time at the big falls, we set out for home around 2.30. Minding my baby steps and taking my sweet time, I moved from the lead pack to the middle. The trail signs are sometimes missing so there were times I thought I got lost. But it was providential as I was able to meet the other members of the group, like the super nice students from Philippine Christian University.  We may have known each other for just hours but when it comes to helping each other out lalo na sa river crossing (which were many), we know we can count on each other.

Inabot kami ng dilim sa trail and not a few times, we thought even with our Aeta guides, we may have probably got lost. The minutes stretched to hours and while we worried about running out of trail food and our growing state of tiredness, we worried more about the girls at the tailend. Kasi if it was tricky negotiating the river crossings in daylight, it was really extra challenging at night. So hintayan ang nangyari. It was my first time to do a real, honest-to-goodness night trek and being in Pinatubo at 9 in the evening, looking at the starry nightsky and the occasional fireflies is one heck of an experience.

In short order, we got back to Angeles at midnight, tired, weary, fatigued but enormously happy and fulfilled. Pinatubo, 14 years after its cataclysmic episode, is awesome, breathtaking and inspiring. It's a picture of nature at its rawest as much as a picture of nature making amends after throwing a big tantrum. If you want to give the Porac trail a try, just get in touch with me so I can patch you up with friends. Nah, it's not going to cost you a touristy-fee (well under a thousand bucks) and I can guarantee you many happy returns. Promise.


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