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An early morning trip to the north is not easy for a southerner like me. I decided to stay for a few hours at Gran Prix Econotel which is in Victory Liner Cubao’s compound just to make sure that I won’t be late for the 2:30 am call time. I didn’t’ get a good sleep because I could hear the noise outside. I still managed to ‘wake up’ an hour and a half before the call time, though.
I checked out at exactly 2:00 am and had breakfast before meeting up with Ayla and Eira – Travel Factor’s trip coordinators. We also met fellow bloggers, RJ and Marj, and we just clicked right away.
Our bus promptly left at 3:00 am and arrived at Capas, Tarlac by 5:30 am – 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Shortly after, we were handed waivers and the 31 participants were divided into 7 groups.
I shared the 4×4 with newfound friends, Mia, and Chee from Malaysia. I got a bit disappointed that we got a closed 4×4, but this turned out to be an advantage by the end of our trek.
The 4×4 ride was not as bumpy as I thought. I imagined I would be screaming like a 5-year old girl, or that my pancreas would fall off somewhere between Capas and the jump-off point. LOL Sadly (or fortunately?) none of that happened. Our driver was really good. He knows the terrain like the back of his hand.
It was still dusky at 6:30 am.
After kilometers of lahar, occasionally passing by puddles of mud, we stopped in one area where we could take some pictures. Finally, we could see some greenery.
Satisfied after taking some shots, our guide, Kuya Mario, suggested that we head off to the jump off point. Again, off we went in our 4×4 passing by more pleasant scenery. This time, there’s more greenery and interesting lahar formations. I tell you, it’s not easy capturing the landscape while being jostled inside the 4×4, but I’m glad I managed to get some good shots.
‘Time space warp, ngayon din!’ #Shaider
Some aetas still live here, but according to Kuya Mario, they would go up the mountain during the rainy season.
The ride took another hour before we reached the jump off point.
It was surprisingly cold, but I liked it because I didn’t sweat as much. The trek was not as hard as I expected. It was tiring, yes, but not that difficult. And that’s coming from someone who only counts going up the 700+ steps of Mt. Tapyas in Coron and the 500+ steps to Mt. Caglago in Caramoan as her ‘hiking’ experience.
After almost an hour trekking…this is just the beginning.
Almost 20 minutes after, we reached the ‘stop over’ where we can have our toilet break and breather. I munched on my energy bar and gulped as much water as I can. As soon as I saw other people arriving, I got up and we continued with the trek. Anyway, it was only 20 minutes away according to the sign. Senior citizen? Haha
We crossed several streams and rocky tracks before we reached the paved steps going to the crater. I was panting a bit since we’re already in an ascending part, but did not complain about it – a far cry from my old self who cursed Bangkok Skytrain’s flight of stairs.
We were one of the few groups who first arrived at the crater so we had ample time to take pictures and enjoy the place before the crowd came. We also went down closer to the lake, but the cold became unbearable so we didn’t stay long.
I dragged my weary body back to the pavilions. Social skills went out the window as I scrambled to find a spot where I could lie down. I needed a catnap; never mind if the stones were a bit jagged.
Everyone were already eating lunch when I woke up, so I brought out my idea of packed lunch – canned sausage and rice. hahaha
Still beautiful despite the gloomy weather
To be honest, it was a bit disappointing that the sun didn’t show up. We had thick clouds and the water was dark – almost grayish.
If I were still a neophyte traveler, I would have thrown a hissy fit because the lake didn’t have that picture perfect blue-green water and clear skies that I saw in other blogs. But that’s nature for you, ladies and gentlemen. It won’t conform to your standards of beauty. Either you go on bitching about it or see it in a different perspective. After all, you can’t do anything about it, can you?
Since swimming was not allowed – and even if it was, I doubt if anyone can withstand the cold temperature – and boating was not offered either, there was nothing much to do, so we were there for only a couple of hours then the group decided it was time to go back.
Again, we were one of the first groups to descend (yung totoo, nagmamadali ba kami?) Naturally, the trek going back was definitely easier.
It also started drizzling past halfway our trek. Thankfully, we were already close where our 4×4 was parked when the downpour started. I was finally able to appreciate that we got a closed 4×4 because we weren’t drenched in the rain.
I initially wanted to be chosen for this trip just so I could cross something off from my bucket list but got so much more. I made new friends, and more importantly, I learned that trekking tests your patience. I was also reminded that most of the time, you have to tread rough roads, endure the heat or cold to see and experience something beautiful.
For someone who’s sedentary, I was expecting to go home with severe body ache, or bruised limbs, or with a sprained ankle, but no, I didn’t suffer even a single blister. 🙂 That’s what I love most about traveling — I go in with self-doubt but always come out with a boosted self-esteem.
A lot of things didn’t end up as I expected, but without a doubt, I enjoyed this trek so it definitely won’t be my last. 🙂