Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mt. Pinatubo: the People

Mt. Pinatubo blew in 1991, the 2nd largest volcanic explosion of the 20th C. The surrounding area was smothered in volcanic ash and such, up to hundreds of feet in some parts, from the explosion. The mountain itself exploded - basically blew its top, creating a huge crater in what was the mountain and this has since filled with rain water creating a large lake. A river flows from the mountain and this too was covered with a thick layer of ash (again, hundreds of feet in certain areas, hard too imagine unless seen - and I am still not sure if this was all entirely from the explosion - best get to the Google machine). The river has carved its way through the layer creating a canyon of now walls of compacted ash. It is the dry season now so the water flow is minimal, basically a number of small stream choosing different paths down the dry river bed. 

Getting to the volcanic crater involved several stages, the first originating in Manila with a 2:30 a.m. wake up call. The van from the tour group picked us up and two hours later we were deposited at the entrance to the Mt. Pinatubo national park. We met our fixer lady there who had arranged for the rest of the stages. We were a group of 8 and divided ourselves between two Toyota 4x4 land cruiser jeeps. These vehicles were beasts, and needed to be as 4 wheeling was very much a part of stage two. The jeep ride up the river bed was about an hour and a half including a stop for our bag breakfast of eggs, rice and a Spam like item. It was quite a rugged ride and a super uniquely barren landscape. We were deposited at the point where the jeeps could go no further and hoofed it the rest of the way. It was a rugged landscape but this expedition is done by hundreds of people on a daily basis so trails are maintained and obvious. It did involve crossing lots of streams and the volcanic ash and rocks strewn about made for some unstable footing. I wore flip-flops the entire time, reflecting the not so rugged nature of the trek. After about another hour of hiking, the path turns a corner and you are presented with a breathtaking view of the crater. The area within the crater where people can go is nicely maintained including a walkway down to the beach on the bank of the lake - no swimming allowed but a nice place to relax for a bit before repeating the three stages in reverse. 

Overall, definitely a worthwhile venture - side benefit, all the cool hairdo's you can do as the ash particles in the air result in a coating of volcanic hair shaping product on your head. 

The photos following are of the people relating to the trip.

One of the "Beasts" with its group of four from our crew - Andy, Therese, Kaille, and Kristy. In my "Beast" was Pete, Mart, and Jordan ... and the guy below.

View out the back of our Land-cruiser including the tour guide for the hiking part of the trip ... which wasn't really necessary unless something bad happened but it gives them a job and they were nice and helpful. Most of his face is covered because he does this every day and realizes that although the ash is not evident, it is settling into every crevice available for settling.

The original inhabitants of the area, the Aeta, lost there land as it is now a national park, but their presence is still there - particularly the kids - pop up here and there ... Ethnically, they are South Pacific looking - titly curled hair and other features similar to those living in places like Samao and such. 

Supposedly, the government is working to give them some land somewhere - but where they used to live, the effected area of the explosion is now govt land - and a money making venture supported by people like me wanting to see the phenomena. So they are landless ... 

Our crew stopping for breakfast. 

The Aeta, they do provide some services to the tourists, selling this and that but mostly I just saw kids playing out and about in the river and watching the tour jeeps jumble by. 

The Aeta, the little one in the middle clutching the water bottle I gave to them. I wonder how much they rely on items from tourists just giving them stuff. If that is the reality, unfortunately, they are most likely malnourished as people like me would give them stuff we were given as part of lunch or snack items we brought - both lacking in protein and veggies - desperately needed, especially for kids. 

So those who care - like teachers of geography, my family - another controversy relating to the reality that often tourist oriented ventures (many I have fully taken part in throughout my life) have a negative impact on certain elements of the society, economy and such.

And of course dogs ... #like the peace signs. 

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