Getting ripped off: Climbing Mt. Pinatubo and Wakeboarding at Camsur Water Complex

Pinatubo-3767When travelling you will experience a lot of great and memorable things. It is fun, exhilarating and adventurous most of the time. But another part of travelling which you can’t avoid are the odd disappointments and hitting rock bottom every once in a while. It’s not all gravy when travelling and those moments are just part of it. After our great adventure in the Philippino mountains, we got a fresh taste of just that.
We left Manila with the plan to climb Mount Pinatubo, the famous volcano which exploded in 1991 taking a good 300 meters off of the mount and covering big parts of the area in ashes and lahar. With a big and crystal clear crater lake at the top, this seemed like another great adventure for the three of us. However, it soon became clear that it would be anything but that.

Overloaded Tricycle on the way to Santa Juliana, the jump off point to Mt. Minatubo.

Overloaded Tricycle on the way to Santa Juliana, the jump off point to Mt. Minatubo.

Getting to the little village of Santa Juliana, the jump off point for all of the excursions up the volcano, took us already a day. Once we arrived and checked in at one of the two places who organize the tours, we found out that the prices were higher than we had expected. But we were there so what to do? We decided to bite the bullet and book the tour. After a rather simple breakfast in the morning we left at around 7 am with a 4×4 jeep and our guide for the day. It took us about an hour to get to the starting point of our hike. The drive was nice, taking us across a moon like landscape with hills of ashes around, almost no vegetation and across little streams. The scenery was very special and the off road driving which was fun.


Welcome to the Moon!

Tking some pictures of the moon.

Tking some pictures of the moon.

Having some problems with the 4x4. No problem for our driver though.

Having some problems with the 4×4. No problem for our driver though.

Super Digger!

Super Digger!

Me and Chris actually got to ride the toy for the big boys.

Me and Chris actually got to ride the toy for the big boys.

We got off in the middle of nowhere and started our hike up to the peak. What started out quiet exciting, soon became rather mediocre as we just continued to walk down the jeep trail that lead us straight to the base camp, only 1km from the top. The walk was not at all challenging and not interesting. We made it to the camp in less than 2 hours. On top of that our guide did a very bad job. Not only didn’t he explain anything, he also just went way ahead of Dolf and I. At one point him and the two others of our group where just completely out of sight. Pretty bad guiding in my opinion.
We then made it up the top which took another twenty minutes. We arrived at the crater which was scenic but not an amazing sight like we had during our last sidetrip. We walked around the crater a little bit, ate our packed lunch, snapped a few pictures and then left again. All in all, the trip was mediocre and for that cost definitely too much money. The services we received were definitely not worth the investment.

Heading off again. Chris and I got to drive the 4x4 which made the experience a little more worthwhile.

Heading off again. Chris and I got to drive the 4×4 which made the experience a little more worthwhile.

Dolf and I trailing.

Dolf and I trailing.

The crater lake at Mount Minatubo.

The crater lake at Mount Pinatubo.



The worst bus ride of my trip so far
Our bad luck continued as we wanted to head to Naga to go wakeboarding at the famous Camsur Water Complex (CWC) which is supposed to feature one of the best wakeboarding cableparks of the world. Back in Manila after our Mount Pinatubo disappointment, we booked an expensive overnight bus to get there. We invested a little more to have some comfort. When we boarded the bus, we found out that they sold us the seats in the last row which were almost non-reclineable and featured minimal leg space.  On top of it, the bus was a freezer with the air-con blazing the whole ride. After my transportation experiences in Laos I didn’t expect to have a worse bus ride ever but this one was definitely the one.

The Camsur Water Complex – yet another great Hype
I was completely knackered when we arrived in Naga. It didn’t stop here though. We had made a reservation for the  CWC and when we checked in, we found out that the cable had ripped the day before. No one was able to tell us when it would run again but the most annoying fact was, that we were not told about the situation when we made the reservation. Having to deal with the situation, we still checked in with hopes for the park to run again soon. The park finally started to work at noon the next day, so by that time we had already wasted one and a half day. We received a little bit of a compensation for the inconveniences but when asking for free rental for the duration of our stay, they were pretty uncooperative. And also in general we didn’t feel to be treated well and not really welcome. The park itself is also far from being one of the best in the world with torn up and not well maintained obstacles and personal, that didn’t seem to be the most qualified.
We left after two and half days with only a half day of riding due to the repairs. The stay there left a pretty sour taste and we hoped that luck would be on our side again after those days of disappointments.

Last thoughts…
I can say that the last few days were rather unrewarding with lots of time and money we wasted. Being on a restricted budget considering those two currencies, it made the experiences even worse. But as mentioned before, those moments just belong to traveling as all the other great experiences which definitely make up for the majority. The secret is just not to focus too hard on those experiences and move on quickly. Things can change in a heartbeat while traveling – you can go from rock bottom straight to cloud nine within a day. This is exactly what we are hoping for now …
In terms of recommendations I would say don’t go to Mt. Pinatubo and don’t hit the CWC in Naga.

PS: I already want to wish all of you guys Happy Easter since I won’t be able to update again before the holidays. Have a great time and enjoy the holidays!

Categories: The Philippines, Trekking | Tags: , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Getting ripped off: Climbing Mt. Pinatubo and Wakeboarding at Camsur Water Complex

  1. I am sorry to hear that it did not go well this time. Haggling is a normal, so try to haggle as much as you can :D. It’s holy week there right now huh? Traffic would probably be crazy , but it should be an interesting to see.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Mikaela, thanks for your advice. We still have to improve our haggling skills but we are working on it. You are right and it is Holy Week. We have escaped to a little beach place in Bicol. It is nice here. We are camping by the beach with a bunch of locals who are having a surf camp there. It is a lot of fun but the weather could be better. Got rained out a couple of times already. After Holy Week we will head to Donsol…. Greetings from Gubat, Philipp

  2. Hi Phil, Sorry to hear about this trip dampening your spirits a little. I’ve had a few moments like this myself in Thailand already where I know I’ve been ripped off or something has been over-hyped/doesn’t exist anymore. Like you said in your post it seems to be a part of the travel experience. Hope your next destination is a better one! Cheers from Thailand!

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hey Susan, I guess it just happens and is exactly what you said, a part of the travel experience. For us it has already changed. We are staying at a quiet beach place, camping out with a bunch of locals who are having an Easter Holidays Surf Camp there. It is nice and a lot of fun. Weather could be nicer though. Where are you at in Thailand? I have only traveled the North this time which has been really nice. Will you hit the islands down south?

      • Hey Phil, I’m glad things have turned around for you. I’m sure its nice to be near the beach relaxing a little, even if the weather isn’t perfect. I actually just got to Sukhothai and will be spending a few days here along with Kamphaeng Phet & Phitsanulok before heading to Chiang Mai. I already spent a little time down south on Koh Phi Phi Island, in Bangkok and in Ayutthaya so I’m excited to get to see a little of the North before heading on to Laos.

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hi Wanderer, your plan sounds good and I hope that you won’t experience too much of the ricefield slash and burn up there. The North is great and I am sure you will have as great time.Enjoy your trip and greetings from Gubat Bay, Philippines.

      • Hi Phil, I saw a little slash and burn between cities, especially between Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, but I’ve been an urban dweller for most of my trip so I haven’t been exposed to very much of it. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time in the Philippines. You’re photos are beautiful! Cheers from Phitsanulok!

  3. victoriaaphotography

    So sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Best thing to do is write it off and move on……………..

    Travelling has its ups & downs no matter where you are in the world, but if we allow the ‘downs’ to get us down, we’d never go anywhere I guess. It’s good to learn by other people’s experience, although even a guided tour with every little cost covered, can be enjoyed or not – depending on the person and their ability to be flexible.

    I scored a terrible tent mate on a 9 week camping tour of Europe in 1976, but by the end of the trip, this terrible tent mate turned out to be a ‘good sport’ and endured the teasing and fun along with the rest of us.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Victoria, you are right, you can’t allow these moments to get you down. It sometimes happens to me and I get really caught up. Something I really have to work on I guess. But it is better when you are travelling with more people. Than you can cheer each other up and shake it off quicker. By the way, camping in Europe in the 70s sounds pretty cool to me. It must have been a great experience. Back then all the borders where not as open as they are today. Different traveling than nowadays I would think. Greetings from Gubat, Philippines and Happy Easter! Philipp

      • victoriaaphotography

        Camping for 9 weeks in Europe WAS pretty cool (to me) then. I’m a bit embarrassed to say we drank our way through central Europe, but it was an experience I’ve never forgotten. Part of the amazing experiences were due to the great people I travelled with (bus camping tour). The friend I travelled over to London with, went on a different camping tour and had some very forgettable experiences.

        I still have a photo I took out of the bus window of Greek soldiers around a camp fire out in the countryside. Greece & Turkey were in the midst of conflict around Aug 1976 and we thought we wouldn’t be able to cross the border into Turkey as war was about to break out any day. Anyway, whatever the conflict was about (I can’t remember) got resolved and we travelled in safety over the border.

        I also travelled through the beautiful Dalmation coast of the (then) Yugoslavia – villages & towns that were bombed and destroyed in more recent years in the Bosnian war.

        When I was in Manilla in 1975, there was a curfew due to civil unrest also. Mostly I was on guided tours but did go out with a Spanish/Filipino in Manilla (who carried a gun most of the time) and visited his family country estate/compound surrounded by barbed wire & an armed guard or two. I didn’t think twice about any of this – just took it in my stride.

        Thanks for the Easter greetings and travel safely in the Philippines wherever you are during Easter. Vicki (alias Victoria).

      • Hi Vicki, thanks for sharing your experiences. They sound really unforgettable sinceall of these parts of Europe were still pretty remote back then. It is definitely different nowadays. This has to be really short this time since I am in trouble here. I twisted my ankle very badly during trekking and am trying to find decent medical care here.It is not so easy and I am very worried that I might have torn my ligaments. I am really nervous and will have to travel two hours tomorrow to check out some hospitals. It really sucks and might ruin my whole trip. Please wish me luck. Philipp

      • victoriaaphotography

        My goodness Phil, I wish you more than luck, I wish you a miracle – finding qualified medical treatment, X-ray, ultrasound etc in a foreign country.
        Ice, elevation of limb and rest for at least 2 days (even if it’s not serious).
        Try to get hold of some Tincture of Arnica or the local herbal equivalent and soak your ankle in it.
        I am still suffering from a 1996 ‘sprain’, 1998 arthroscopy surgery and long physio and exercises. I haven’t been able to drive a car very well since. (and eventually sold my car in Nov 2003).
        Good luck with finding qualified medical assistance and ensure you give your ankle a lot of rest (even if you think it seems better in a few days).
        In your situation (with all the hiking & biking), its essential you stay immobile & keep off the ankle.
        All the Best
        PS you might find the local herbalist is helpful in the interim.

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hi Vicki, thank for your help and good advice. Medical service here were not so helpful I have to say. Due to the fact, that I had this type of injury before, I was able to kind of tell the doctor what I need etc. I got me an aircast brace and tried to walk with it which was fairly ok. I decided to keep on travelling with the guys but I a still not sure if it was the right decision. I just couldn’t rest for longer and now I hope, that everything will heal properly. Please wish me luck. I will update the blog today ……. Thanks again for cheering me up and being such a great help. I had a hard time I have to say ….

  4. maria

    Hello Philipp! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and I’m sorry to hear that you’re injured. There’s a clinic of Orthopedic doctors/surgeons in Makati behind the Makati Medical Center called the Phil. Orthopedic Institute. One of their doctors, Dr. Raymundo, treated my 84 year old mother’s hairline shoulder fracture and an aunt’s sprained ankle. Anyway, they’re both up and about now. They’re very good and you can probably try them out. Their contact numbers are (02)815-0764 or (02)892-1541. Hope you get well soon to travel more and give us more exciting stories. Take care!

    • Hi Maria,
      thanks a lot for tip. If I am in Manila I will look up the clinic if things haven’t improved. I am still having trouble with the foot and a little scared, that it might not heal properly. The thing is that until this point, I have not even gotten a proper diagnose. But yeah, thanks again for the contact details of these doctors, that really helps. I will be in Manila in about a month and then see. Greetings from Biliran, Philipp

  5. btw, it’s Mt. Pinatubo, not, Mt. Minatubo. you’re a little too harsh about it, but it’s okay. but for people who experienced themselves that tragedy 2 decades ago, the chance of climbing it is priceless.

    • Hi Olivr, thanks for the input. I already corrected the spelling. You are probably right, that the ascent is special to the people who have experienced that disaster back then. But then, especially for those people, the whole thing should be made more affordable. But then again, having those memories in their minds, the price is probably rather relative. Looking back at the pictures now still brings up good memories.

      • It’s really good to know that. We’ve been planning to go there actually, too, despite the expensive trip. btw, you’ve really got a nice blog. I’m actually inspired to travel a little more often.

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hehe, that’s good to hear. Thanks a lot. And yeah, traveling in the Philippines was by far the best. Such a great country, so much to see and people are super friendly. I definitely have to come back. Still a lot to see that I have missed.

  6. dines

    Oh, was so sorry that your trip to my.Pinatubo was not to your liking 😦 I was planning to go there myself with some friends 3 years ago and had already made reservations but due to misunderstanding, did not push thru. We used to guide visitors before in Zambales lahar fields during the height of My Pinatubo eruption as we were doing relief and rehab works and drove those moonlike landscapes. Better that you go to San Marcelino Zambales, there you can still see the laharfields and the lake high on the mountains. I’ll tour you there someday 😉 I would not ask you if there were still similar disappointing trips you’ve had in the PI, as it will spoil the suspense 🙂

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