I was particularly looking forward to visit the volcano Pinatubo. The spectacular images of the devastating 1991 eruption impressed me even back then as a schoolboy who was beginning to take an interest in volcanoes. What I remember most are images of pyroclastic flows, clouds of hot ash hurtling down the mountain. More destructive, however, were the lahars, mud flows that buried fields and settlements like raging rivers of concrete freshly emptied from the concrete mixer. They were triggered by a typhoon that swept over the volcano during the eruption and whose precipitation eroded deep furrows into the fresh tuff deposits.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any of this. The volcano is a restricted military area — I don’t know why this is not mentioned in the guidebooks — and can therefore only be visited when there is no shooting going on. And twice a year, the US Marines come with tanks, jeeps and helicopters to compete with the Philippine army for a fortnight of shooting. For this reason, unfortunately, I could not even get close to the volcano….