I have been planning to go to Anawangin Cove at the start of the year so I was so ecstatic when I found out about the Anawangin trip being planned by my mountaineering friends. I attended the pre-climb meeting at Shangrila during the weekend to finalize the itinerary and other details for the over- night fun climb. It was my first trip for the year so I decided to splurge a bit on some trekking gear. I also wanted to travel light so I reckon investing on portable and lightweight outdoor gear would make a good investment for my budding outdoors social life.
I headed to Bombproof at Robinson’s Galleria to get an ultra-portable sleeping bag, hydrating pack, trekking pants, and arm sun protection. While I was perusing over the sleeping bags in the shop, I met two Soti and Gay, two intrepid travellers who happened to be looking for another person to join them on their trek to Mt. Pinatubo. Before I knew it, I found myself saying yes to these two strangers.
I woke up at 1:30 in the morning to make it to our 3:00 a.m. meet-up time at Victory liner in Pasay. Unfortunately, there were no available buses and jeepneys so I took the cab instead from Alabang to Pasay terminal. Victory liner has terminals in Cubao and Caloocan but we chose Pasay because it was the only one with 3:20am departure time slot. I was the earliest to arrive and had to ask the driver to wait for my friends who were still on their way when the bus was about to leave. We left the terminal at 3:35 and had a 10- minute stopover at Dau, Tarlac. It was a short two-hour trip to Junction, Capaz, Tarlac – the pick-up point for our rented 4×4 wheels.
We were expecting a white open- air land cruiser but to my friends’ dismay it was an old greenish truck with close windows – a big problem if you want to take pictures along the way unless you are sitting on the front seat. We had breakfast at Mc Donald’s who let us in a few minutes before their opening time due to our relentless coaxing or should I say begging.
I didn’t bring lunch because I was hoping to buy food along the way and I wasn’t keen on getting my calorie fix from Mc Donald’s burgers and fries. I was expecting it to be something like Tagaytay where fruits stands and eatery line the road. Well, aside from interesting landscapes further beyond the road, I only saw burned patches of black soil and smoke coming from currently burning sugar cane leaves which was rather frustrating seeing a nice countryside landscape ruined by this method of farming.
We arrived at Mt. Pinatubo Spa Town at Sta Juliana at 7:45am and registered at the tourism office for 50 pesos per head. The Spa Town is set up to cater mostly for Korean tourists who want to trek this route. But since we had arranged for our tour guide and 4×4 transport beforehand, we were off to our adventure after the registration. The Pinatubo trek and visit to Tarukan Village were our only agenda for this day trip so everybody agreed to have a “pinoy style” phase of trekking- that is lots of photo shoot and taking time to enjoy each scenery longer than it should be or perhaps it was only our group.
There are two routes up to the crater from Sta Juliana. The traditional route is a three- hour trek from GMA, the jump-off point of the 4×4 transport for the “long way” trek. The other route is via “skyway” a mountain road that connects to the trail which is a 45-minute trek from the jump-off point called Kwadra or the campsite to the Crater Lake.
It took us almost 2 hours to reach the jump-off point for Pinatubo Sky Way which was supposed to be less than an hour of travel. We were having so much fun that we often got down from the car to take pictures and explore a bit further from the road while Soti even drove the 4×4 by herself.
A series of changing terrain welcomed us as we navigated the long stretch of white-sand ashes of Mt Pinatubo while occasionally stopping by to take pictures of the breathtaking landscapes around us.
Then, came the bumpy ride over the rocky streams and occasional splashing of water on our car until we reached the entry point to the skyway. This was another place to behold. We descended on a very dusty and rocky part from the base camp and right at the bottom of it was the point where the sky way and main route met.
After a few minutes of walk, we were greeted with boulders and streams along the trail. The trail began to narrow as it became steeper. But at this point lush greenery was becoming more evident. Grasses, ferns and trees had already grown along the trail. I can already smell the familiar scent of the forest musk and its sweetness and it brought back memories of my days working at Makiling Botanical Garden. I hurriedly walked this time anticipating eagerly the culmination of our trek.
Unfortunately, my friend’s shoe gave in just when we were a few minutes away from the concrete steps leading to the climax of our journey. After a quick DIY fix, we did the last push to the crater. At last, a spectacular view unfolded in front of us. It’s like a scene in one of my dreams – surreal. The gray ashen walls made a stark contrast with the gleaming water of the crater. It is indeed as magnificent as the pictures I had seen but this time it was way better. There were too many visitors at that time but you could still feel the serenity of the place.
My travel mates didn’t waste any more time after our endless photo shoot and descended to the edge of the very calm water that changed in different shades of green or was it turquoise.
I tried to feel the water hoping it would be warm. It was really inviting but I decided to just marvel at its beauty and take as many pictures to my heart’s content. It is indeed a very good subject to practice my photography skills. I just bought my camera three days before this trip so I had no idea yet how to use it.
I found my own comfortable nook, quite pleased that my unexpected trip here turned out to be a blast. After one last round of picture-taking, I had my last glance of this spectacular landscape wondering when I would return.
On our way back to Sta Juliana, our driver was kind enough to bring us to Tarukan village to see the Aetas. This side trip was the second best thing for me aside from seeing the crater. The kids were so friendly and I couldn’t help but admire their very cute and innocent smiles.
Then finally after refreshing up at Sta Juliana, we went back to Junction and had dinner before we headed back home. What a great place to start my adventure!
Total Expenses: 1300 each
Breakdown of our Expenses for the group of 5
bus fare- 170 one way
4×4 rental- 2500
Registration fee- 50 per head
extra fee for fetching us from Junction -1000
How to get there:
a. Our package - Take the bus from Caloocan, Pasay or Cubao en route to Capaz, Tarlac and go down at Junction in Capaz. The prearrange transport will fetch u here all the way to Sta Juliana and after registration, the same car will take you to Kwadra and fetch you from there all the way back to Junction . (call Wendel for package)
b. Bring your own car – Take the North Luzon Express Way and exit at Sta Inez towards Baguio if you are coming from Manila and either go straight along the Malabacat route and enter Capaz from the south or detour to Conception and double back from the north. But unless your car is a 4×4 land cruiser type, you will still rent transport once you reach the Tourism Office at Sta Juliana.
Cheaper Option A – still waive that extra 1000 pesos by taking the jeepney going to Patling for 30 pesos and taking the tricycle from there all the way to Sta Juliana for 50 pesos per head or by renting a tricycle in Junction all the way to Sta Juliana for only 500 pesos (I asked around and some are willing to take us for 300 pesos) But make sure to negotiate with your rented 4×4 to take u back to Junction because there are no tricycles or jeepneys in Sta Juliana tourism office.
Cheaper Option B – You can also waive the 500 skyway fee by taking the main route which is manageable even for beginners in trekking. (trekking option)sy fee by taking the main route which is manageable even for beginners in trekking.
What to bring:
- packed- lunch and trail food
- bottle of water
- hat and sunblock
- sturdy shoes or sandals