Legazpi – Mounting Mayon
The first thing you notice when you arrive in Legazpi is that there is a huge smoking volcano at the end of the street. Mount Mayon is one of four major active volcanoes in the Philippines and its cone is famous for being the most perfectly formed in the world. It’s a beautiful sight with it’s lush green slopes cut through by rivers and lava flows. You have to get up early in the morning for a clear view though. At this time of year the mist rising from the trees will hide it from view by late morning.
I stayed at the Legazpi Tourist Inn on Quezon Avenue in the centre of town. It was cheap (no breakfast or restaurant) and the rooms were basic but ok. On the second floor of the same building there’s a tour company that organises treks and activities around the local area, including the volcano. I hired a young guy called Raymond to take me up Mayon early one morning. After a brief rain shower it turned into a beautiful day and we caught a couple of rainbows on the drive to the bottom slopes. After cutting across the inevitable golf course (owned by the same guy who has the hotel and the tour company) we were soon surrounded by trees, the path populated only by a couple of water buffalo and the odd farmer carrying wood down the hill from clearing scrub for his crops.
As we got further up the nature got more intense with wildflowers, jack fruit and a strange edible red fruit looking like a rosehip being some of the attractions. After a while we got to an empty river bed, the old course having been diverted by the last eruption. The old river bed was polished smooth by all the rocks that must have been brought down by the water in the rainy season.
After about 3 hours of hard climbing, we got to the edge of the most recent lava flow from a couple of years before. In the pictures it’s the black dribble on the left that contrasts with the green of the forested slopes. The flow is still too sterile for nature to have got a proper grip on it yet, but there was the odd sapling starting to get a foothold among the crumbing rocks. This was as far as we got, about one third of the way up.
It’s a two day trek to go to the summit according to Raymond. You have to camp overnight to have enough energy for the last push to the top. You need proper climbing equipment (the last little bit is pretty much vertical) and also a gas mask to protect your lungs from the sulphurous gases seeping from the crater, which form the small white cloud you can see above the peak in the photos.
It was a good enough work out for me though, about 5 hours round trip, although I wasn’t too knackered by the time we got to the bottom. I would happily have walked back to town but instead we hung out on the golf course drinking sodas and chatting with the groundsman who gave us a lift back. It was a great day. Salaam mapo, thank you, Raymond.
Another nice thing to do during your stay is to get up at dawn and go for a walk along the seafront promenade. You won’t be alone, on the Sunday I went it seemed as if the whole town was out and about getting their morning exercise (jogging, walking and dancing to Zumba). It’s also a good time to catch fantastic views of Mayon which often clouds over later in the day. The wide promenade runs all the way from the port area to Sleeping Lion hill, about an hour’s walk. You can have a fresh coconut for breakfast and take a seat on the sea wall to watch the world go by.