Exhilarating 4x4 ride, scenic views along the way, a gorgeous crater with cool turquoise water - it couldn't get any better than that.
As our lady companion aptly put it, 'you can't drive like this in Manila.' Damn right. You can't find a dynamic, rugged path like it in the metro too. Well, perhaps you can, but you won't find it as scenic as those ones in Mt. Pinatubo.
About a hundred tourists aboard the Victory Liner bus got off and huddled near the local tourism office of Santa Juliana, Tarlac where sturdy 4WD jeeps were lined up. The excitement was palpable amidst the loud chatter. Trekkers geared up for the adventure by emptying their bladder, stuffing their stomach with breakfast, applying sunblocks and readying their cameras. At around 7:00 in the morning, the trek organizers called out names for their 4x4 assignment. Engines started to roar, breaking the cacophony. The fun had officially started.
Nobody minded the heat. After all, trekking to the crater is not possible without the sun. "It's just too risky to trek when it's raining," our guide, Manong Mario Kadiang, advised us as the 4WD jeep slowed down on a sandy slope toward a rivulet. Some months ago, a foreigner and her local guide were swept away by the strong current of the river. The missing bodies were retrieved a day later. "The dead woman's leg was found a kilometer from her body." Understandably, treks automatically get cancelled when there is bad weather.