The last few kilometres down to the start area for Mt Pinatubo is actually what once was the Death March Road. There's not much to see now as the highway follows the direct path of the road but Grace was kind enough to tell us of the statistics and give us heaps of info on the Death March road. While its mostly flat, it was a very similar situation to our Kakoda trail and an appalling example of POW treatment. I won't go into it here, I'll leave you to do the research.
Upon arrival at the gate if you are over 40 they take your blood pressure before you can go. WTF?? Nothing like scaring you about the 2 and a half hour trek up you are about to take! My bloodpressure was slightly elevated (mainly because I hate those damn blood pressure cuffs) so I had to drink a can of pinapple juice and wait for 10 mins. I have no idea what the pinapple juice is supposed to do however in 10 mins it was declared "perfect" and off we went. I've never had high blood pressure in my life and have often had the challenge of low blood pressure, however it all worked out and off we went.
The crater is spectacular and while its disappointing that you can't swim, its postcard material for sure. We did the star jump shot, had a very overpriced gatorade, sat in the shade for about 15 mins and then started the haul down. We passed a few people coming up who were dying! I mean absolutely shagged and wanting to know how much further. OMG - apart from the fact it wasn't on bitument it is just walking. You do ascend quite a way but because you do it over 8 or 9 kilometres its so gradual you can't even notice it. I'm not quite sure how someone decides to to Mt Pinatubo from their lounge chair and doesn't think they should do some kind of preparation, but it seems that's exactly what they do. Weird.
Once you get half way out in the jeep its at least 11am or 12 pm, depending on when you started and the sun has now dried the riverbed from the overnight dew and it's the dusty ride from hell back to the starting point. Of course sitting in the back of the jeep you get completely covered in that awful fine riverbed sand and we ended up without shirts over our faces and heads tucked into our chests trying to minimise our exposure. Fortunately they do have showers at the starting point, however I wasn't prepared for that and would have had to completely pull apart my very hastily packed bag to find clean clothes so I just did the wet one wash but Jake and Brad did shower and then of course bragged about it all the way back to Manila.
On the way back Grace was very accommodating with my questions about the Philippines and Luzon in general and for the two hour trip back to Manila we learnt a great deal about the Philippino culture, politics and lifestyle. Grace was an excellent guide and it was so great to meet someone that was happy to talk about her home and her people.
That aside, into Denwil's van we got and off we went on our overnight drive to Banaue.