A 5 year old boy waved at me today, while taking a shit on a hillside. But more of that later...
I hardly slept last night. Partially due to the noise from the bar, partially excitement. 5am, and I'm up, showered and dressed in ten minutes. Edwin and his 18 year old son, Jens, were waiting for me in a 4x4. Would have been a cheaper trip had The Colonel and Jocky been in tow. But I've always said it's better to regret what you've done than what you haven't. So I shelled out the 90 quid.
Heading out of town, I got chatting to Jens; a likely lad, he's studying avionics. Once you get him going, it was difficult to stop him. Being a film buff, I thought we'd have a lot to talk about...but he had a typical youngster's taste in films. "Have you seen American Pie? Have you seen Scream 3? Have you seen Love Actually? Have you seen...?" I groaned inwardly. "You look like Hugh Grant." I asked him if we all looked the same to him, and he laughed. We talked about a lot of other things, though...and his history knowledge was quite good; we talked about everything from the Vietnam War to 9/11.
Pinatubo is an active volcano, and last erupted in 1991. A volcanic lake sits in its crater. The drive up there sets the scene for you, roads of grey ash and deep streams need to be traversed to get to the jump-off point. I was trying to take it all in, but Jens was beginning to get on my tits. "Have you seen Wimbledon? Have you seen Bend It Like Beckham? Have you seen...?" Is this a wind-up, I asked myself?
Luckily for my ears, and sanity, we reached the point we had to walk from. Willy was to be our guide, a local who spoke minimal English. Off we went, at a right old pace which led me to nickname our guide "Steamboat". Any request or question was just met with a smile and a Yes, so I didn't find out much info about the volcano we were climbing. Good old Wikipedia, eh?
"So when did this last erupt, Willy?"
But there's no chance we'll all die here today?"
"Willy, we're going a bit fast...are you trying to make me hate you?"
And so it went on, me gleaning bits of info by guesswork as we went.
Halfway up, and Jens starts playing tinny music on his phone.
"Mate...can you turn that off, please?" I asked, wincing.
"I'm tired...it keeps me awake..."
"So all this amazing nature and climbing doesn't?"
"Well I've been on too many buses in Hackney, so can you turn it off?"
The summit is incredible, worth the climb and the money (just). We were the second group there, and I was first in the cobalt blue, cloudy sulfurous waters. Lovely...just what you need after a hot trek. I managed to get Jens and some other Filipinos in, and was howling with laughter at their faces. Not cold for us European types, but they thought it was freezing.
I met two Belgian lads who were heading for Baguio that afternoon, so I got Edwin to rush me back to check out of the hotel...saving me a night in Clark. The summit would have been a great place for a picnic, but the list of films Jens asked me about was tempting me to drown him. Driving back down the ash roads, we passed a village where a little kid was happily sitting, pants round his ankles, having an al fresco dump. He gave me a big wave with a (thankfully) clean hand. I laughed and waved back.
We headed back to town, and passed the scene of an accident we'd seen the aftermath of this morning. In the darkness we'd only seen a smashed-up scooter in the highway; on the return trip, we saw a smear of blood around 20' long. Didn't bode well for the rider. These Filipino roads are very dangerous indeed; lots of people ride home drunk, and many don't even use their headlights.
So don't miss Pinatubo if you go North. Just make sure you can get a group together.