Volcanolovers in Indonesia
September 2015 was actually a bad time for trekking the mountains in West Java and Central Java. Most of the higher mountains were closed either due to forest/ bush fire or the combination with abnormal volcanic activity. G Gede – Pangrango, G Ciremai, G Sindara, G Sumbing, G Merbabu, G Merapi and G Lawu were all closed due to fire or fire risk prevention. G Slamet was announced in fire and still in “alert” status due to volcanic activity. Fortunately our diligent checking was fruitful when we were assured by Pak Kusna in Palutungan that G Ciremai’s Palutungan approach was already open and actually safe.
Jakarta – Cirebon – Palutungan
On September 12, 2015 from Gambir, Jakarta to Cirebon we rode the Tegal Bahari night train, arrived by 23:00 pm. It was late more than an hour. Found a rental car in the station, then we rode it to Palutungan along the quiet Cirebon city and the Cirebon – Kuningan highway. Palutungan (1100 m) was chilly by 24:15 and Pak Kusna the basecamp coordinator was waiting for us and hosted us to spend the night in his warm house.
With a full scale logistics from Jakarta and Palutungan we started the trekking at 8:15. In 1.5 hours we reached Cigowong or Pos-1. The trek was initially steep but in a few minutes it turned to become gentler. No slippery parts and the trees were quite dense, so the trek was cool and nice. Pristine water was abundant in Cigowong and the vast camping site was notably quite clean and quiet. Two or three trekking teams were taking break over there. Afterwards in several hours subsequently the Pos Kuta, Pos-2 (Paguyangan Badak), Pos-3 (Arban), Pos-4 (Tanjakan Asoy) and Pos-5 (Pasanggrahan). The trek was still cool and gently ascending with Pos-3 to Pos-4 a steep ascent. But it was only 15 minutes and nowhere difficult. Fine dust was a problem but nowhere serious. Pos-5 or Pasanggrahan was reached at 14:00, and usually many trekkers camp over there because they arrive quite late already, almost dusk and plan to do the summit attack in the morning.
Along Cigowong to Pasanggrahan, in general the jungle was not dense but still quite good. Some black monkeys played on the trees. They sometimes scream when spotting you and jumped away quickly to the further inner large trees. After Pasanggrahan the trek became gradually steeper and open. The soil was very dry and dusty you would want a dust masker. Pos Sanghyang Ropoh was a very small plot, good only for 1 medium size tent. Afterwards the trek became steep and really dusty. Some parts were slippery due to dust and sand on the rocks.
Around 15:55 o’clock we got to the Simpang Apuy or the intersection between the Palutungan and Apuy treks. There were sign boards over there. After Simpang Apuy in 20 minutes we reached the Pos-6 or Goa Walet. Goa Walet (swallow cave) is actually some 20 meters below the camping site of Pos-6. The cave was large and in front of it there is a large camping site which was not recommended by the porters for it is a lot colder in the night. Pos Goa Walet was quiet, no other trekkers camped over there but some young fellows who were descending back to Apuy after completing the summit attack. Quietly we sat on the warm ground facing the west, watching the sun beautifully set into its bed. The whitey clouds covered the G Ciremai foot, and the feather like clouds would become the sun’s bed for lying peacefully for the night.
The night was very cold with the clear sky and the bright stars. Fortunately the wind speed was almost zero. The camp fire was alighted then from our bags appeared the dinner, warmed over the fire. The chats were automatic, unprecedented by anything but was merry and lively. The dinner was closed with many cups of hot tea. Afterwards around 20:00 slowly the tired trekkers slipped into their sleeping bags. My sleep was initially not very good as like the nights in the other mountains. It was also due to some interesting sounds outside our tents. I heard some night creatures played around our camp site making little noises when walking amongst the utensils and the plastic wraps. But after some time, the eyes became uncooperative and the dreams came into the scene …..
The morning was lazy but much warmer. After a quick breakfast by 5:30 we rushed to the summit and were a little bit late for the sunset by 5:50. The trek to the summit was dusty and in general steep. Combination of sand, gravel and rocks, it was quite clear and easy to navigate with bushes everywhere. The summit area was totally quiet, only us and the crater when we arrived. Later on a team of very nice young lads joined us. The summit of G Ciremai was as serene and beautiful as before when I was there on August 16, 2009. The clear sky allowed us to enjoy the warmth of the morning sun and the peek on the G Slamet top cone in the east.
The highest point of G Ciremai is actually some 30 minutes away on the northern rim of the crater summit. I walked slowly to the 3078 m point to find the place was devastated by the bush fire. The fire was already extinguished but you could clearly see the black color of everything over the northern rim and slope. The path from the south east rim where we arrived to the north rim is shorter if we take the clock-wise approach. The path was safe and quite clear.
By 7:30 we went back to Pos Goa Walet for repacking and then descent to Palutungan and then by 8:30 we left Pos Goa Walet for Palutungan. The descent was easy and pleasant. Some high land birds played on the ground and in the bushes. A team of young lads was on their way to the summit and told us their encounter with some boars which came around their tent in Pasanggrahan Stop. The boar was gentle and vanished into the bushes upon flashlight focus. Then on the lower land the black monkeys welcomed us back by playing on the dense trees. Overall the forest was cool and Cigowong was reached at 12:00 o’clock. After an hour of lunch and plenty of spring water drinking, we descended back to Palutungan. Palutungan was breezy warm when we got there by 14:00 o’clock. Pak Kusna told us that it rained heavily the night before.
From Palutungan to Cirebon railway station, we rode the same car that took us from Cirebon. After a 90 minute of merry ride, thanks to Kang A’an the nice driver, we got to the Cirebon station. Early dinner of Nasi Jamblang was closed with Es Durian. No one would complain about the tastes. They were just perfect. By a little over 19:00 o’clock we said goodbye to each other for we split. Jakarta and Yogya (then Singapore) were waiting, ready to discharge our energies before our next trekking trips.
4. A’ang (porter)
5. Ira (porter)
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