CAPAS, TARLAC & BOTOLAN, ZAMBALES, PHILIPPINES — Revered as one of the top destinations for a fairly easy adventure, the 4×4 drive and the consequent trek to Mt. Pinatubo’s crater lake offers a taste of its sandy plains with lahar formations that stand tall against the remnants of the once tall mountain (1700+ MASL).
MT. PINATUBO (960+)
In 1991, the once dormant Mt. Pinatubo dented out a violent eruption that took lives and homes, bringing forth desolation to the agitated nation. In the recent years, the barren, lahar-stricken land, despite its catastrophic past, brought forth a different kind of adventure.
Mt. Pinatubo, which is located in Botolan, Zambales, can be reached via three known trails. One is via Delta 5 (Sapang Uwak) Trail in Porac, Pampanga, which is the preferred choice of most mountaineers. Another possible route, is via San Marcelino in Zambales. The third, and the most popular route, is a 4×4 ride via Capas Trail in Tarlac followed by a 2-hour trek.
Our trip was a product of a quick, spontaneous decision: “Pinatubo Tayo?” “Tara?” “Tara!“. After two days we were already in the jump-off at Capas, Tarlac. A large group of tourists were already processing their forms when we arrived. To avoid the crowd, we hurriedly completed the registration and took off with our 4-wheels. We were lucky there was a light rain the dawn before, making the notorious lahar dusts of Mt. Pinatubo at bay. The 4×4 ride was an exhilarating part of the adventure itself as you try to grasp on anything just to prevent the bumpy road from ejecting you from the vehicle.
It was also the first time that I used my “GoPoor” version of budget action camera, SJCam SJ5000. Get yours at Lazada!
I’m not sure if we were lucky or what not, but we had to skip the two-hour trek and proceeded to the “20 minutes to crater” marker while boarding the 4×4. A military exercise was scheduled in the noon at that day, so the tours have to be cut short and thus, the two-hour trek was removed.
After the volcanic eruption, series of monsoon rains crafted a lake from the caldera of Mt. Pinatubo. Presently, Lake Pinatubo, is the main attraction in Mt. Pinatubo. Boat rafting and swimming in the lake were allowed before but was prohibited again. The lake varies in color depending on the season, with the luminous blue-green being favored by many.
TRAVEL GUIDE / TIPS
- A DIY trip is possible and is actually not much of a hassle as others thought. Just inform the Capas Tourism Office beforehand of your intended tour schedule. You may contact Wendell Mercado (president of Pinatubo Four-Wheeler’s Club) at +63919-608-4313.
- HOW TO GET THERE. Ride a bus bound to Tarlac, Pangasinan or Baguio. Fare from Cubao is about P180, 1.5 hours travel time. Alight at Capas Junction near McDonald’s – Capas and hire a tricycle to bring you at the jumpoff (P300/tricycle, good for 3 persons). Start early because the registration is only open from 06:00 AM to 08:00 AM.
- FEES. At the registration area, accomplish the necessary forms and waiver. Pay the following fees and you are good to go: P3000 for the 4×4 vehicle (up to 5 persons capacity), P500 for the tour guide (for a group of up to 5 persons), P650/person for the conservation & IP fee. An additional P800 is charged for foreign tourists.
- Make sure to pack your lunch and an ample amount of water. I suggest at least 2 liters of water.
- If you need to wash-up, there are a lot of houses from the jump-off that offer use of their amenities, usually at P50/pax.
0200 Assembly at Victory Liner Cubao
0230 ETD Victory Liner Cubao
0500 ETA Capas Junction
0600 4×4 ride
0730 Start trek
1000 ETA Crater Lake; lunch
1200 Trek down
1400 ETA Jump-off; wash-up
1500 ETA Capas Junction
1600 ETD for Cubao