What could possibly be one of the coolest things you could tick off your bucket list? Why, conquering an active volcano of course. It was in March, summer was on its way. Our outdoor group planned a week-long holiday in the coastal Bicol. Our mountain destination? Bulusan Volcano.
Bulusan Volcano’s jump off point is Bulusan Volcano National Park, Sorsogon (Bulusan Lake). Whenever I visit this lake, I am taken back to the various times my family and I visited it in the past. It has developed into a much more desirable destination from how I remember it in my childhood. The park now boasts kayaking and water biking in its 20-foot deep lake. The traditional trek around the lake is still a popular attraction. Of course, for the more audacious visitors, nothing could quench the thirst for adventure more than climbing an elevation of 1,500+ MASL.
Registration is required in climbing Mt. Bulusan, this is usually done in advance. Every climber undergoes a quick medical checkup prior to the hike, and guides are required for safety and security purposes.
The actual hike starts at the other end of the lake. We were to either kayak across the lake or trek along a concrete pathway, but the choice was easy. We kayaked for a while, nobody really wanted to let go of their paddle– lounging in a kayak seemed more appealing than a day-long climb.
The trailhead leads to a rainforest that boasts a wonderful display of flora and fauna. It was also in this trail that I had my first encounter with a wild snake. Our guide remained impressively calm and fought the snake away as if shooing away a puppy. More or less 1.5 hours had passed when we reached a tree house called the Ranger Station.
One of the requirements when hiking Mt. Bulusan is planting your own tree. Upon resuming our trek to the camp site, each of us proudly planted a seedling. This a great program that reminds all climbers of environmental responsibility.
It took another almost 2 hours before we reached Lake Aguingay.
Without failing to admire the enchanting campsite, we started pitching our tents. Despite still being early in the afternoon, the surroundings were dimmed by the engulfing fog, not a bit of the summit or the trail leading to it could be seen. As soon as we were settled, we decided to explore the rest of Lake Aguingay.
Our assault to the summit commenced before the sun rose the next day. Despite the warning, I was still surprised at how difficult it was. It also rained, though not very heavily, it made the steep slopes slippery. And, as if we were all wanting to starve ourselves, almost everyone forgot to bring trail food. I was soaked and hungry by the time we reached the summit.
The clouds would taunt us with a glimpse of the region below but it covered the panorama most of the time. Everyone was awed and would let out a sigh of wonder every time a view was caught. The wind was strong, I shivered in my wet shirt, so I would stoop down behind the giant boulders that encircled the caldera and watch the slow rising of the smoke. From the other peak, a faint silhouette of Mayon Volcano’s almost perfect cone could be seen.
Photos below by Jo Flestado.
It was a rewarding experience, and I would not think twice about climbing Bulusan Volcano again.
Today’s lesson: Discover your own.