This article was first published in Urban Nomads website.
When Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991, it spewed out more than five cubic kilometres of magma and sent an ash cloud 35 kilometres into the air. It was the second largest eruption of the 20th century, exceeded only by the 1912 eruption of Mount Novarupta in Alaska. Today, if you drive out two hours from Manila to the historic town of Capas in the Tarlac Province of the Philippines, you can follow a 25-kilometre trail to the stunning crater of this 1,486-metre-high volcano.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles take you across approximately 16 kilometres of the terrain, through a deserted valley flanked by huge lahar mountains, formed by the tremendous volume of mud and ash deposited after the eruption.
After a somewhat jerky and dusty hour-long ride, I am dropped off at the beginning of the path where I begin my hike. Two hours later, as I arrive at the Crater Lake, the ridges of the volcano level down, and the panorama opens up before me. Steep mountain walls on all sides encapsulate the vivid blue-green lake, which is 2.5 kilometres in diameter, and about 800 metres deep – incidentally making it the deepest lake in the country.
Standing on the very edge of the crater, the landscape, which unfolds below, appears to belong to a new world – stunning, unexpected, and unspoilt. The lake, hidden away in the middle of the volcano like a glittering gem, instantly conjures for me the pristine scenery of the biblical Garden of Eden, so poetically depicted in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
It’s windy suddenly, almost chilly, and as if hearing me shiver, the noon sun comes out beyond the clouds, bathing the entire crater in a vibrant, warm glow. The water too, deepens in hue, altering in colour, to become even more luminous. Faced with so much raw beauty, all the distractions and noises fade away, and I lose all sense of time and space in this magnificent, immaculate setting…