Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake: A Beautiful Disaster [Travel Diary]

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake has been part of my 2015 travel goals and I am happy to scratch it off my list last week. Few days ago, I have posted a short yet informative Travel Guide to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake for those who are planning to hike the infamous volcano. Today, I am sharing a detailed travel diary write-up for everyone to use as a reference.

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There are several ways to go to Mt. Pinatubo – by car, public bus, or chartered van. Three days before our scheduled trip to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake, I reserved two slots to join a public tour to Mt. Pinatubo through Mt. Pinatubo Tours. For PHP 1699, the all-in package included roundtrip air-conditioned van transfers, 4×4 jeepney ride, meals, local tour guide, all tourism fees, and mandatory aeta fees. It was a good and affordable deal, so Oliver, and I decided to grab it. For us, it seemed to be more convenient than taking public transportation and cheaper than using a private car.

My Mt. Pinatubo Travel Diary

At 2 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, O and I went to the assembly place for the tour. We found our assigned van easily and met our friendly driver. Soon, we were off the road. I think we either used urban or commuter van and being petite, I didn’t have any issue with the space. However, tall Oliver had a hard time sleeping because of the limited leg room.

Travel time took three to four hours. When I woke up, we were already in the base camp. I was surprised that there wasn’t any mobile signal there. I also noticed that our driver was missing for a couple of minutes only to deliver several Styrofoam plates with our meals. Breakfast consisted of rice, breaded patty, and hard-boiled egg. A liter of water was given to each of us, too. O and I preferred to stay inside the car while consuming our simple food. At first, I was worried O wouldn’t eat the packed meal as he is very picky with what he eats, but was relieved to see when he started picking up his fork.

Arrival at the Camp

With renewed belly strength [laughs] , we were ready to start our day. We were told that we arrived early so before the orientation started, we took short naps (O), applied sunscreen (both), and retouched makeup (me). Talk about being productive while waiting!

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Selfie while waiting in the orientation area

Soon, we were gathered under this big tree where Ms Sonia Bognot, contact person for Mt. Pinatubo Tours, oriented us with what to expect and do in trekking Mt. Pinatubo. Next, she assigned us into groups of five for the 4×4 jeepney ride and introduced us to our local tour guide. It was very organized as each group had a number which she would call when it would be time to board the jeepney.

Before our turn, O and I introduced ourselves to the remaining members of our tour group. They were a family of three – a mother with two daughters enjoying a weekend together. They easily gave us friendly smiles. I noticed one of the kids had a walking stick and we asked where she got it. We then rented two of those wooden trek poles that are being sold in the camp for only PHP 20 each.

4×4 Jeepney Ride

Almost a quarter before 8, our group was called to board. I was excited! It was my first time to ride a 4×4 and the thought of finally ticking off Mt. Pinatubo in my travel bucket list made me feel more ecstatic.

We started driving slow out of the town. In less than three minutes, I heard a soft “thump” sound. We all looked back as we sadly see Oliver’s drinking bottle rolling off the street. I then realized I haven’t put it correctly in his bag. Oops. My bad. 🙂 We immediately forgot about it as soon we arrived in the lahar desert.

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Big smiles!

According to our guide, the drive takes one hour. However, it took us longer than that as we stopped in some spots to take photos.

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The drive through deserted lahar with beautiful mountains in the backdrop was long yet exciting. One should not expect a peaceful and smooth ride going to Mt. Pinatubo though. I felt being roughly shaken up the entire time. It was also a sunny day when we went there so the air was hot. Sunglasses and face masks should be prepared to protect one’s self from the dust.

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Awesome group photo along volcanic rocks and water streams

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake

At around 9:20 AM, we reached the take-off point for the trekking. I was surprised to see so many tourists! We looked like ants following a trail.

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Parking lot? Seems like there are many tourists today!

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another selfie before we start our trek

Contrary to my friends’ previous experiences, I found the trek to the crater easy. Oliver and I kept on leading our group as the other members were so slow. O even mentioned that it would have been better if it were only the two of us. Since our guide was busy assisting the family, O and I went by ourselves. We found out that a guide is really not needed as the trail is pretty established. Still, hiring one will help the livelihood in the area.

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mt pinatubo, pinatubo, trekking, crater lake, travel diary, gongjumonica, philippines, travel diary, travel blogger, travel

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I read that it would be better to wear trekking shoes or sandals. Since we weren’t prepared for such a spontaneous trip, Oliver and I were wearing our trainers. There were only shallow streams to cross anyway, so what we did was to carefully step on rocks so as not to get wet. It was effective! My shoes didn’t get any water or sand inside.

Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake Viewpoint

We knew we were now close when we reached this signage. From here, we could already see the impressive view of Mt. Pinatubo crater. I was able to climb up a bit to get a better shot.

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mt pinatubo, pinatubo, trekking, crater lake, travel diary, gongjumonica, philippines, travel diary, travel blogger, travelComing from the viewpoint, it took us a couple of minutes to descend the man-made stairs to the crater. As Mt. Pinatubo became touristy in this season, there was a human two-way traffic jam in the steps. I saw a couple of people having a hard time going up and down the stairs and others busily snapping pictures who contributed to the unmoving lanes going to and from the crater.  After a while, we finally made it!

Welcome to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake!

The crater was huge and beautiful. The lake was blue-green with brown-grey crater walls surrounding it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that such a disastrous event could produce such a beautiful scenery.

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It is indeed a beautiful disaster.

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Our group of five took the less crowded area of the lake by walking further to the east. There, we had our lunch of chicken adobo with rice prepared by the tour group. Sadly, O couldn’t eat such a meal. Good thing we packed Nutella sandwich toasts for our emergency snack!

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The Ascend from the Crater Lake

Around noon, I felt the slow drop of rain. We started to pack our stuff when a heavy downpour ensued. We ran to the nearest cottage and waited until the rain let up.

When it was only a drizzle, we started going back. Again, O and I led the way. There were times when we walked so fast that we had sword fights with our trek poles while waiting for the rest of the group. It was so fun to beat Oliver in this!

We then had a sleepy 4×4 ride back. All of us were drifting to sleep, but would be awaken by the sudden jolt of the jeep. At around 2 PM, we were back in the base camp and soon on our way to Manila.

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Not a bad first trip with this one. Cheers to more adventures!

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo crater lake was such an exciting and fun-filled day trip for me. It was nice to see beauty in a once disaster-struck area. Once again, my country amazed me by how wonderful and magnificent it can showcase its beauty with its 7, 000 islands.

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Truly, it is more fun in the Philippines!

To know detailed information on how to get to Mt. Pinatubo, things to bring and prepare, and other travel tips, head over to my Travel Guide to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake here.

17 thoughts on “Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake: A Beautiful Disaster [Travel Diary]

  1. I have never heard of Mt.Pinatubo or the disaster that happen there. I am surprised since my husband was from the Philippines. You tell a wonderful story and the pictures are amazing. I enjoyed your blog post. I would love visit their one day.

  2. Just what Kathryn said in her movie, “A beautiful disaster.” I agree with her. This is a cool and amazing place. No one will think that such an unexpected disaster would create something beautiful like this. It’s a good blog Gongjumonica! :))

Share your thoughts, I would love to read them!