My wobbly legs are waving the white flag and my heart is skipping around my chest. I stopped walking and took a deep breath. I’ve been panting but not a single drop of sweat escaped from me as the wind blew the cool breeze around me. As if testing my conviction, the scorching heat of the fuming sun pierced through my skin. This is my nth stop-over. I’ve been trekking for 2 hours now and still no sign of the cerulean lake atop the volcano that produced the 2nd largest eruption of the 20th century.
The trek to Mt Pinatubo crater was supposed to be an easy trek. The trek starts with a 30-minute range rover ride that passes through streams and rough roads. These vehicles will stop at the jump-off point where the 7km trekking starts. But for me whose only form of exercise is an everyday walk to the jeepney station, this one’s a backbreaker! As I look around me, there are only three things I see – the valley, the stream and the sky. Anyway, I took advantage of our frequent stops to cherish the once destructive beauty around me. The white valley enveloped us as if keeping us from the noise and babble of the city.
The stream assures me of life and provides momentary source of refreshment as we cross and soak our feet on its flowing waters. As if cheering me to move on, the white clouds waltzed playfully against the blue sky. It’s a moment of solidarity, I tell you, being in that enclosed space while the clouds danced above you. It reminds me of my childhood, sans the worries and responsibilities, when I used to climb on our rooftop and make out images out of the shapes of the clouds. With its arresting beauty, it’s hard to imagine that decades ago, these lifeless landscape of ash deposits have swallowed lives and pulverized properties.
Another hour of tramps and stops and we reached the pit-stop, and took our 15-minute rest and nature break before we made our final ascent to the crater. The surroundings took a 180 degree during our final climb. We still crossed the streams but this time, we’re surrounded by trees, the steps are steeper and the boulders are bigger. For 30-minutes, we passed through human-sized boulders (that must have been spewed out by the volcano) until we had the first glimpse of the imposing crater.
My heavy breathing was replaced by gasps of amazement as we move closer to the lake. Even the most beautiful images of the crater does not compare to the allure of the real thing. There she was, providing console to her fatigued visitors like a mother to her child. The view of the lake and the sky easily washed away all the exhaustions we’ve experience going there.
Her inviting jade-clear waters proved that even the most catastrophic event can give birth to something so stunning. This may have been her way of making up for all the lives she claimed and the staggering losses she unwillingly brought. Come to think of it, most of the time, she’s helping the locals and giving us one of the best views. This was my first real trek and I’m glad I did it in the sleeping giant whose only fault was to be awakened.