Mt Pinatubo: Capas, Philippines – Dusty Daydreams

How does it feel to hike into the center of an active volcano? Dusty- but worth it! Our trek begins at 6am at the only McDonald’s in Capas. We checkin, sign waivers and then pass the military security check point to start driving to the crater. To reach the crater, we transverse the barren landscape in a 4×4, cross many small streams, buffalo, and indigenous families. Our jeep looks as if it’s about to fall apart – I can see the sand and and ash below my feet through the corroded metal. The car ride is about 1 hour long with a stop at the halfway point.

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We jump down to take some photos: the landscape is barren and local villagers stop by to take photos in hopes we will give them some money. They are really poor and despite the last eruption in 1991, those who survived chose to come back and live in this desolate place. They survive mainly off wild bananas and taro root. Those spikey hills are actually compounded piles of ash. During the monsoon season, the entire canal fills with water and parts of the rock wall chip away giving this hike the unique formations.

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The road narrows to a point where it’s no longer accessible by 4×4, then it’s another 5 I’m trek to he center of the crater. The hike needs you to cross several small streams and is relatively flat until the last 30 minutes where there’s a slight incline.

The anticipation builds as we get to he end and climb the last few steps before the vantage point. After crossing over the final peak the first view of the crater is impressive. Greenery surrounds and mountains while certain peaks remain grey and ashy. The soil is rich with nutrients and minerals left behind from he explosion. A few years back you would have been able to swim in the lake and there would be boats to take you closer to the center – but all these activities are now banned for safet reasons. Our guide says its so hot on the other side you can fry an egg on the surface.

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Coming on a weekday was a good choice to avoid the crowds. We used PinoyKeypoint as our tour provider – they were very knowledgable and responsive to online bookings. Going in a group will get you the lowest rate and you should ask upon booking if you can join another group (up to 4 persons max per jeep).

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Tour Booking: PinakeyPoint

Cost: 2,500 PHP / person (shared jeep with 3)

Distance from Manila: 3-4 hours

Town we stayed in: San Leandro (meeting point 30 minutes drive to Capas)

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