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Apr 29, 2010
Climbed Volcanoes
High Volcanoes >3000 M
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By Handjono



Mount Lawu (3265m) is different from any other mountains in Indonesia, we should know it when wanting to be at its peak. For you’d be surprised if you were not ready. Yes, there is a warung only 15 minutes walk from the very peak. It must be because of the pilgrims who have frequented the peak for centuries, I do not really know since when. Mbok Yem, the warung proprietor, practically lives there on the 3170m high Hargo-Dalem. The supplies are carried by her aides once every a while from Cemarasewu 1820m down there.

Semarang – Tawangmangu
Sunday 19/7/09. Intentionally I left my car in Semarang and took a public bus to Tawangmangu. Semarang’s Terbaya bus station was dusty and bumpy. The a/c bus to Sala was slow along the busy highway. It stopped frequently, it took 3 hours to Sala’s Tirtanadi bus station. It was 16:00 o’clock at Tirtanadi. From Sala the bus to Tawangmangu was non a/c and more colorful with mbok-bakul (elderly ladies who sells almost everything in the market) and bapak-tani (farmers). After 30’ stop at the Karanganyar junction near the railway crossing, the bus arrived at Tawangmangu almost 18:00 o’clock. After the ride on the long and windy road from Sala, approaching Tawangmangu from the bus window, the naked brown peak of the mighty Mount Lawu was looming and inviting gently, when reflecting the last sunrays of the bright day.

Tawangmangu – Cemarasewu
I had my dinner in the humble cat-rice (nasi-kucing) stall next to the minibus. The cat-rice with the sate-ayam was delicious, also the tahu-goreng. The superb dinner was concluded by a glass of hot black coffee of extraordinary taste. All for Rp.8,000. The chats and the information were free. The L-300 got enough passengers and we climbed the steep road to Cemarasewu. I stopped at Cemarakandang, the Central-Java part. It was lonesome and quiet. I met Martono, the sate-kelinci (rabbit-satay) warung owner who I had contacted to be my porter. He was there as he promised, and 30’ later we walked together to Cemarasewu, 300m from Cemarakandang crossing the East-Java border. The registration post at Cemarasewu is another different thing you do not see at the other mountains. Perfectly like a safari or amusement park ticket office, a little weird for a 3265m high volcano. The ticket was Rp 5,000.

Cemarasewu – Pos 1
Seven thirty (19:30) when we started the climb. The path was clear amidst the darkness of the woods. There were no crops at the beginning but later on close to Pos 1 I saw many. The macadam trek was nice and not steep. There were some 5 campers on the side of the trek. All the way to Pos 1 the macadam was quite straight and about halfway the vegetable leaves on both sides of the path were shining after my headlight. A little while before Pos 1 the 4-WD trek ended. Then at 20:20 we arrived at Pos 1.

Pos 1 – Pos 2
Pos 1 has 2 shelters and 1 of them was a closed warung. We did not stop but continued to Pos 2. The trek to Pos 2 was similar, quite straight but not so steep. It was of macadam and wide enough so the weeds did not wet my trousers. Gaiters are not needed. Some curving parts along the trek but the meanderings were short and the total distance was/is not increased significantly. The curves looked like made intentionally to ease the ascent. Vegetation was not clear in the dark but the trees looked dense and tall. Some little mice ran slowly in the bushes. Their hairs were long and thick, like jackets in the cold. Pos 2 was reached by 21:15. Along the way to Pos 2 and actually since Cemarakandang we came across many hikers on their way back to Cemarasewu. Many of them did not bring many things. A team of 4 young hikers even did not bring any flashlight. They walked very slowly hand in hand. Good team work but not very safe. Maybe ok if you are still teenagers.

Pos 2 – Pos 3
From Pos 2 to Pos3, Martono warned me it was to be steep and long. Still macadam trek and almost straightforward overall with mild curves. Could not observe the vegetation clearly due to darkness but they must be pine trees.  The steepness was a little exhausting, after passing a shelter with many campers (it was not Pos 3), we stopped to boil and drink ginger tea. The 25’ stop was rewarding. I felt faster marching towards Pos 3. It was around 23:00 when we reached Pos 3.

Pos 3 – Pos 4
The mild ascent from Pos 3 to Pos 4 was good but at the same time made me sleepy. We stopped for a while and I slept for 15’. No sleeping bag, just half sitting half laying on the trek step.
 The macadam disappeared in some parts of the trek. Pos 4 was quickly appearing in front of us around 23:30 and there did not seem any shelter. After a few minutes of confusion on where to go, we continued to the famous Hargodalem (Pos 5).

Pos 4 – Pos 5
hargo-dalem-sanctuaryLeaving Pos 4 the trek was almost always flat. Only a few mildly ascending parts, the macadam at some parts discontinued. Those dirt treks were dusty but the night hid the dust.  The flat trek made me quick. The cold made me marching almost running to the lights in the distance. I even doubted it when Martono told me we were already at Hargodalem area. I expected 1 hour and it was only half an hour to the last Pos where people usually spend the nights.  A few minutes before it there were some shelters and campers tents. One of the shelter was a horse shelter. Yes, you can ride a horse from Cemarakandang to Hargodalem for Rp 700,000. Then on the right side of the trek, the Jalatunda well with a few water in the dry season.

Pos 5 (Hargodalem)
Hargodalem was dotted sparsely with some lights. The first bright lighting was a large house, old Javanese style with wide veranda. The owner must be highly influential for the permit must be not easy to obtain. The lamps were electric, and the humming sound of the genset was just convincing me there was actually an electric power working on the summit of Mount Lawu. Two hundred meters forward, then the famous Mbok Yem’s warung was there, lighted with electric bulbs. Inside there were some 15 people. Some were sleeping and some were gathering and in silence practicing a Javanese spiritual rite. The men in black were really like them in TV action movie.  I quickly changed my wet cloths with the dry ones and quietly slipped into my sleeping bag. I felt so sleepy, unlike the other nights on the other mountains. Was it because of the magic wave stemming a few meters away?

The Hargodumilah Peak
at-g-lawu-peakIt was actually already late morning and bright when I walked out the shelter. Already 6:00 and after a sip of hot coffee I rushed to the Hargodumilah Peak. It is only 10 minutes away to the 3265m peak but I needed more because of the blackberries lure. The peak was already frequented by the hikers and campers. There was a pillar an adult man height marking the peak. The sky was clear, the view from the peak was 360° wide. Looking for Mount Merbabu and Mount Merapi in the west but I could not locate them. Mount Lawu’s peak area is not simple plain with drop-offs around the peak like the other mountains but having complex contours. So the peak area has valleys and hills. There some peaks with similar altitudes but Hargodumilah is said the highest. To the east the valley was wide and there is another peak in the distance, with an antenna tower on it. I guess it had to be Hargopiruso peak. To the west the valley was even wider with some obvious strips that could be the descent to Cemarakandang. In the distance the Hargotuling peak was quite clear but there are not many hikers go to see it except the highly spiritual ones or them who have many extra energy plus time.
 drop-off-to-the-northAt 6:30 I descended back to Hargodalem to have my breakfast and to pack my stuffs for the return to the lowland. On the 10 minutes bush path down to the crowds place I passed the Hargodalem sanctuary where the pilgrims pray and meditate. The house was clean and looked nice for a night rest but the air was a little mysterious. A little further the man-made Pondok-Botol that was built from the plastic bottles. The hut’s door was locked. The minaret was funny for it was made of utensils and cans. Certainly I prefer not to see such a creativity on a summit, but it is better than letting the wastes colonize the serene summit. Really …………..


Peak – Cemarakandang
I decided already since our departure to descend to Cemarakandang for wanting to know what it is like. Cemarakandang route is said to be nicer and about halfway it passes a deep ravine called Jurang Pengariparip. It must be dramatic, for it means the ravine where the souls rest while waiting for final judgment in the after life.

Seven thirty (7:30) in the morning when we started walking west. The trek was flat and clear with grapefruit bushes abundant along it. Some edelweiss bushes were in between. Certainly I did not skip the ripe purple grapefruits. They were sweet sour and very refreshing. Our descent must have been slowed down a little bit but who wants to skip the nature’s gift like the precious grapefruits. Do not miss them my friends, when you climb Mount Lawu, I would say it is a must. Sometimes I did not pick them but directly ate them from the stalks.

The Cemarakandang route was largely cliff on the left and ravine on the right. A few times the other way around, the cliff on the right and the ravine on the left. The trek was gradually becoming meandering rather than straight forward. But it was still not extreme.

The descending trek was quite flat and there were even some ascending part. The vegetations were sparse, so the morning was warm amidst the mild chill of the mid-year wind. Only a little over 30’ when we spotted a shelter amidst open area that must be quite hot in the high noon. The shelter on the right side of the trek was marked as Pos 4, Cokrosuryo, 3025m. There was a large stone near the shelter, and behind the shelter directly a deep ravine. The view to the west was open and far. Martono, my porter, told me that Pos 4 had been the coldest camping place and there had been climbers fell over there of cold.

Downward, after a few minutes on the right side of the trek, lied the beautiful open valley of the north west foot of Mount Lawu. The green blue valley was so inviting to be trekked but Martono told me that the trek was really wild and nearly un-navigable due to unpredicted path ends and dense forest at its lower half. One day maybe.

And the mighty mountains over there that CopiPanas had climbed before, Mount Merbabu, Mount Merapi and Mount Sumbing, waving their mighty invisible hands to me, asking me to extend their warm regards to you guys, CopiPanas lads…

Then on we descended towards Pos 3, with truly meandering trek. There were many “cut-off-paths” downwards skipping the longer paths that must have been carved centuries ago to ease the descent. In the dry season actually it was fine to take the short cuts for they were quite navigable – not slippery. But my 51 years old knees told me a little different story. So, we took the 4x longer flat path descending. Actually it was nice because the trek was clear, free from head-level horizontal tree branches, shady enough, and having the nice view to the west side of Mount Lawu. Sometimes the view was open blue horizon of Central Java plain, and sometimes the view was deep ravine.

Pos 3 (2900m) was not so far from Pos 4, less than 1 hour we have reached it and took a very short break for drinking. Then we walked again along the same meandering stretches which I estimated around 50m each direction. Therefore I estimate the meandering trek was 4x longer than the straight trek. From Pos 3 to Pos2 it was more than 1 hour and shady so it was the longest and I was a little sleepy. On the way we passed the famous Jurang Pengariparip which was deep, green and must be scary to pass in the night. Well, actually it was not so bad because some hundred meters long steel cables fence had been installed there with steel posts securing them.

Approaching Pos 2 (2500m) after almost 1½ hours the zig-zag trek became less and the vegetations change. They became denser. The Pos 2 shelter was lively with some hikers resting over there. The Candradimuka crater at the left side of the path was said to be approximately 500m away descending a valley. I decided not to visit it for time constraint. A few minutes later after a left turn, the roar from the crater was so loud. It must be a very lively crater and perhaps that’s why Mount Lawu seldom erupts. Its energy is spilled out constantly.

The trek to Pos 1 was less meandering and the vegetation was dominated by pine trees. Shady but dry, the trek was nice although somewhat steep. Only about ½ hours later we reached it. The shelter was larger than before and was equipped with porch benches. I chose to lie down on the camping ground beside it. A little sleep should be good for the final descend to Cemarakandang and then bus trips to Tawangmangu, Sala and Semarang.

From Pos 1 (2250m) the descent was nice amidst the pine trees and frequently we met other hikers passing. I spotted 1 of them carried a genset back from the peak. He descended so quickly like carrying a small bag while I knew the genset must weigh at least 15kg. It was not carried out with a backpack but bare hands and shoulder.

Finally Cemarakandang gate at 1900m, where I greeted pak Sarno the PHPA officer who I met before. It was great to know he was still there for I believe he takes care of Mount Lawu whole heartedly. I crossed the road to Martono’s warung. It was 11:15 so it took 3:45 hours to descend from the peak. The sweet hot tea was so nice and fulfilling. But it was only a while, for very soon I sensed the hunger creeping inside me. The Sate Kelinci and Sate Landak took 20 minutes to grill on the charcoals. The mist over Cemarakandang was back again slowly, and some minutes later a strong chilly wind swept it over to return the sunlight back to the Mount Lawu foot. I greeted some people who sat with me in the warung waiting for their sate and grilled corn. They asked me why I wanted to spend my time and energy to climb Mount Lawu. That I could not answer.



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