Volcanolovers in Indonesia
June 1-3, 2007 Hiking Journal. I did not keep my words when I said I won’t climb any mountain anymore. That was when I was struggling to fight the cold and hunger at Mount Merbabu in March 2007. I said to myself this is the last. It was only 2 weeks afterwards when I sent emails to my CopiPanas friends about climbing Mount Cikuray.
Of 2821 M high, Cikuray is quite frequently climbed mountain in West Java, although it is not as popular as Ciremai, Gede or Pangrango. It is a dormant volcano that does not offer the mystery of a fuming crater or serene wide caldera. But the beautiful view from its peak has always been luring amateur climbers like me. For, I thought, the climb must be not very tough and the view from the peak must be very rewarding. Who does not want it?
So, on Friday evening June 1st. 2007 , 3 cars left Ratu Prabu 2 Office with the 8 of us. The trip to Bandung was slow due to the busy traffic at the toll-road. After extended stop in Bandung for rest and late dinner in Garut, finally we arrived at the Cilawu TV Towers Station. All the prominent national TVs have their towers and transceiver stations up there on 1500 M altitude Cilawu hill. Just at the foot of Mount Cikuray.
It was 4:00 in the morning and we camped under a flysheet all in a row of 11 climbers since 3 others met us in Garut and Cilawu. Two hours of nice dozing complete with some snores. After a lavish breakfast at 8:00 of hot nasi goreng prepared by pak Yanto, our party-chief, we struggled to put together our stuffs in our bags. We packed lightly, since we could not find any porters. No-Porter is a new way of climbing in CopiPanas. Well, there is always the 1st time for everything. Let us just give it a try.
Yanto, Redo, Andhika, Agus, Slamet, Susetiya, Budiyono, Diah, Nanet, Yuvid and Handjono not really self-confident about No-Porter situation. But the 2 amazons and 9 warriors were only too eager to proceed rather than to turn back to Garut. We would not feel honored to taste Budiyono’s infamous Aladin-Noodle without having stood on the peak of Cikuray. So, by 9:00 we marched towards the mighty Cikuray. The trail started just at the right side of AnTV station where we camped.
The 1st half an hour was quite easy with open area on our left, vegetable farmlands of cabbage and carrots. Down a little bit to the south, the tea plantation was so green like a spread of carpet. The trail began ascends which slowly becomes steep within the next half an hour. After a short rest, the trail enter a densely vegetated woods. Not really a jungle yet but already damp for the sunlight can not sting the soil. And the ascent became steep, some 45° or more in some places.
We found a narrow leveled strip on approx. 2100 M by 12:00, where we had our packed lunch with hot tea and coffee flowing freely into our cold throats. It was already a little bit cold. Then by 13:00 we stood and marched again. Steep ascends, this time 60° at some places and 45° in average. We did not expect it, for we thought the trek would be gently sloping 30° at its most. Unconsciously we forgot that we expected 6 hours climbing to the peak.
After a series of short breaks amidst the dense woods by 15:00 we stood on a wide leveled area, we wanted very much it was the peak. We have been close to exhaustion due to the steep ascents. And there it was, a sign with “PUNCAK” (Peak) on it, but having a small arrow symbol pointing to the right/east. And it is true that it is not for the altitude was still approx. 2500 M. Oh boy, this is not the peak.
OK, the peak must be close. If not the good guys would not put the sign over there. So without even a minute rest we marched quickly following the trail to the peak. Very soon the even steeper trek was dancing under our feet. The wet soil with snake-like small and big roots were complemented with fell down big trees here and there. And all of them on a cruel ascent trail having no less than 60° at most trip. The cold air was compensated by the heat of our bodies. An hour has passed and the peak has not been spotted. Well, we could not because the woods were so dense by then. Without porter and guide we did not even know if the peak actually is that close like what we wanted.
Just a feeling that the peak was not too far because the ascent was quite straight, without too many curves and there is not any meandering part. Two hours of struggle against the roots and slippery soil, when we spotted the steel structure. Then the tall vegetation ended, and there was only a 20m steep rocky trail between the tower and us. The peak, here we are. It was 17:00 precisely.
The peak of Mount Cikuray is a flat spread of lawn tennis court size. There is a 12 M tall corroded steel tower, must be an antenna tower in the old days. For them who want to camp up there, there is a concrete shelter approx. 4 x 4 M with a door and a window opposite the door. All open without cover, so you could still have the chill.
Very soon the chilly mist replaced the warmer air, well, actually not so warm anymore at something <20°C at that late afternoon. The mist really did not spare us even a second for enjoying the infamous beautiful view to the Samudra Indonesia in the south and the neighboring volcanoes like Mount Galunggung, Talagabodas and Guntur to the east, as well as Mount Papandayan and Malabar to the west. But we could see it deep in our hearts.
Dinner was quick with instant-noodles, rice, dried meat and corned-beef. Then time to go back for we could not stay. We did not bring enough logistic to spend the ice cold night. By 19:00 it must have been close to 10°C because most of us had been reluctant to get out from the shelter. But we had to leave soon.
The descent was slow because of the dark and the steepness of the trail. The challenging but easy trail became difficult after the shower and then rain dropped. On the way down, we saw 3 tents separated 1 or 2 hours from the other. What a lovely rest we could have if we had tents and sleeping bags.
The 1st 2hours was difficult for it was steep but we still had a lot of energy. Then another 2 hours of decreasing power amidst the dense jungle and the rain did not stop. Agus felt something was watching us all the time from the woods at our left ……………The rain dropped until 2:00 in the morning, but when it stopped I have been so exhausted I slept while standing for even 2 minutes. It was tough navigating the steep descent on the wet trail in the pitch dark woods. This must be one of the longest night in my life. No one had the lust the check the altitude, just want to see the TV tower soon.
A wrong right turn brought us to a cliff. Climbed back on a soft wet sand for 15 minutes and then the right left turn. After a nice dark leveled trail of bushes then a wide track amidst the vegetable farm and tea plantation. And then the back fence of the ANTV. We jumped over the fence and found ourselves at the back yard. It was 4:00 and the station master made a hot glass of tea for each of us. It was like a million rupiah sent to our accounts in the bank. Then down to the parking lot where I erected my tent and slipped into my sleeping bag quietly. The morning shower wetted the tent but we did not care. Pak Yanto and some others slept under the fly-sheet, all of us dreamed already about the Aladin-Noodle in Garut.
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