TEMPLE, SAVANNA, BIRDS and BEES
Mount Lawu is frequented by thousands of hikers annually and they do it in whatever seasons. Many of them are pilgrims to the moksa place of Prabu Brawijaya V, the last king of Majapahit (moksa is departure to heaven body and soul). But many also go to the peak for the sake of the panorama. Some say it is mediocre but indeed it is beautiful.
Most popular approaches are the Cemarasewu and Cemarakandang gates which are only 500 meters away and connected by the provincial highland road. Both at the south slope of Mount Lawu. Horses can do the Cemarakandang trek, one just need to be tough when passing the cliff above the ravines. The less known approach is the Candi Ceta route, north west slope. Candi Ceta is a beautiful Hindu Temple from 15th century. It is still used as a pura (temple), very well cared of and visited by many Hindu pilgrims from Bali. The Ceta village population is mainly Hindu.
THE ASCENDING TREK
The Candi Ceta approach/trek to Mount Lawu summit is longer and started at 1400m (compared to 1800m Cemarasewu and Cemarakandang). A reasonably fit hiker can do this trek in 5 hours, an hour longer than hiking the Cemarasewu or Cemarakandang treks. The treks toughness are similar, none of the trek is extremely steep or difficult. Equally likely, the lower parts of the slopes are steep, gradually the treks become gentler and 1.5 – 2 hours before the summit the treks are gentle and nice.
Along the trek birds were plenty, a few of them sing but mostly quiet. They flew low from one tree branch to another like accompanying the merry hikers. One even walked along the trek for many minutes like leading our way, also letting it self photographed for many shots.
Candi Ceta trek starts a few hundred meters away from the main temple, just beyond the peak of the smaller Candi Ketek (Monkey Temple). En route to Candi Ketek you cross a small dry river. The trek beyond Candi Ketek is quite clear although narrow and bushy. The 30 minutes ascent to Pos-1 is along farmland, some sparse woods, gentle and nice and Pos 1 is a small square with a partly torn hut.
Similarly the trek to Pos 2 was also 30 minutes away. The ascent is a little steeper along a sparse woods but still nice. After Pos-2 the bushes became denser with many flowers in them. Pretty sight but the flowers were the favorite of the bees.
A few minutes after Pos-2 there was a 3” plastic water pipe partially emerged from the ground. There is a hole on the top you could tap water from it. In dry season the water flow is small so the pipe is not full and sometimes the air trapped in the pipe dances with the water making a frightening roaring noise. The trek to Pos-3 is nice and shady, somewhat steep but still enjoyable. Some 45 minutes was elapsed from Pos-2 to Pos-3. Pos-3, like Pos-2 and Pos-1 was small but had a better shelter. The shelter could sleep 10 hikers.
Beyond Pos-3 the vegetation changed to pine trees but the bushes were still dense and the ascent were steep. Some 15 minutes above Pos-3 another exposed plastic pipe also allowed hikers to tap fresh water that is piped from as far as the Mount Lawu summit, the famous Sendang Drajad water spring. It is situated some 15 minutes away from the very peak of Mount Lawu.
Another 30 minutes from Pos-3 there were 2 large pine trees about 1.5 meter one another forming a gate and they are called the Cemara Kembar (Twin Pines). Afterwards the bushes became sparser and some 15 minutes later appeared the intimidating green hill called Anda Rante (Chain Ladder). It looked very steep and somewhat unclear where to start the ascent from. But the trek actually was not very steep because it was not straight to the hill top but gently ascending towards the left (north) end of the hill. It was also quite short, for some 15 minutes later appeared the yellowish savanna of Bulak Peperangan (Battle Ground). It was not very large, about the size of a soccer field but it was windy out there in the afternoon and the high altitude chill makes hikers shiver. The walk along the side of Bulak Peperangan was not long, then the East Java and Central Java border point. The 50 cm high concrete post was somewhat eerie for it could lead you wrongly to the Jagaraga village far away down there in East Java part of the Mount Lawu slope. That is when you take the left turn. Instead go straight towards the long narrow grassy valley, the summit direction.
Also very quickly in around 15 minutes appeared the Tapak Menjangan (Deer Feet) where deer drink, but it only has water in rainy season. At the end of the savanna some hundred meters ahead the trek began to ascend gently. The trees vanished and bushes dominated the panorama. The sun has been low and its ray was shed by the hills so the chill of the wind was quite cold. Not very far over there was the easterly Harga Pirusa hill where a steel mast stood proudly watching the hikers coming to the summit.
At the end of the gentle ascent take the left turn to the Kepatihan strip that was not so long, and soon you get to the famous Pasar Setan (Ghost Market) where on certain Tuesdays you could hear the sound of gamelan and people trading. Pasar Setan was divided into 3 parts, namely Pasar Sayur (Vegetables Market), Pasar Klambi (Clothes Market) and Pasar Kewan (Livestock Market). The stony plain was not very wide and then at its end you can see some 500 meters away some red and white flags of Indonesia. That was the Harga Dalem, where people normally camp. The Harga Dumilah peak (3265m) is 10 minutes away from the Harga Dalem plain.
THE SUMMIT AND THE PEAK
You would be surprised with the amount of buildings and shelters at Harga Dalem (3150m), you can call it a complex. The center of the complex is the Harga Dalem shrine, the moksa place of Prabu Brawijaya V. Pilgrims pray in it. The shrine is a permanent building with tile stairs which are ice cold to step on in the late afternoon. Right below it there are 3 pilgrim shelters and west of it the always-locked Pondok Botol (Bottle House), the famous shelter made from bottles, cans and worn utensils. There are 2 houses belong to some rich people and 1 open wall public shelter. To the east of the shrine, only 30 meters away, stands the famous Mbok Yem’s shelter. She is 50’s and lives over there on 3000m altitude running her boarding business. The shelter sleeps 50 people and mbok Yem serves meals and drinks. The prices are inexpensive considering the altitude and the warming up session in front of the fire woods is free.
Harga Dumilah (Mount Lawu peak) is marked with a 3 – 4 meters high concrete pole with some scripts on it. A few meters away there are some good camping spots enough for several tents and there was also an enclosed 4m x 3m shelter c/w a door you could sleep in nicely free from the wind. The Harga Dumilah peak is pretty panoramic with 360 degrees view. South east is the ranging Mount Wilis, and the lower Mount Kelud. Still in the same direction, further east is the Mount Arjuna and Mount Welirang complex. To the north west is the ranging Mount Muria guarding the Jepara peninsula of Central Java. To the west are Mount Lawu’s closer siblings, the ferocious Mount Merapi, the quiet Mount Merbabu, the proud Mount Sindara and the shy Mount Sumbing. It hides behind Mount Merbabu but the eyes of the summit lovers would not be deceived.
THE DESCENDING TREK
The descent to Cemarakandang was nice and quick. All the way down the treks are almost all gentle with a few parts steep. Mount Merapi, Mount Merbabu, Mount Sindara and Mount Sumbing were looming in the distance befriend the hikers. Pos-3 has a small cliff water spring about 5 minutes walk above it, called Sendang Panguripan (Living Pool). Pos-2 was only 2.5 hours from the summit and the Candradimuka crater is sometimes clearly heard bubbling and roaring. The path to the crater is somewhat challenging as it descends steeply some 200 meters down and the crater itself is another 300 meters of steep ascent from the bottom of the path. The bottom of the path is a hot water stream coming from the crater. All the way, the descent to Cemarakandang is only 3 – 4 hours. And you are welcomed by many warungs that sell satays of chicken, rabbit and porcupine.
THE BEES ATTACK
On our way to the peak from Candi Ceta, some 15 minutes after Pos-2 we were attacked by a squadron of angry bees. Certainly not a swarm but their teamwork was good enough to cause a mess out of us. We did not really know why, but we thought it was because they were disturbed by our steps penetrating the dense bushes where they collect honey from the flowers.
When pushing away a thorny flower branch all of a sudden I felt the paralyzing pain within my right shoe, a few cm below my ankle. Yes, the sting penetrated my medium thickness sock. Then my right backhand, my left backhand and my upper right arm. Luckily they stopped while we ran away ascending. The pains were unbearable I walked in agony. Jo got 1 at her lower right arm and 1 at left leg. She was calm and continued the walk gently, while I almost ran mad. The 2 stings on my left backhand were the most painful.
We took a long rest at Pos-3 and the bees kept flying around us but this time they did not attack. The paralyzing pains continued and a paracetamol pill that I took really did not help. We were advised by Ngadino (the porter) to freeze when a bee is checking on us. It worked but after an hour of not so enjoyable rest we continued our walk slowly, amidst the flying bees. The ascent became quite steep and the bees were still present occasionally. So we made our progress slowly for we stopped every once a while to pacify the checking bees. The pain stays where it sat and the sting area was swollen. The stiffness of the stung members added the agony but we had to continue the hike no matter what. Overall the pain remains 3 days but the swell vanishes in 36 hours.
Down in Cemarakandang while savoring the famous rabbit satay, porcupine satay and chicken satay, Martono who went with me to Mount Lawu on 2009, told us that a bee sting is cured with our own urine. You can test it when hiking Mount Lawu from Candi Ceta in dry season. But I recommend you to limit the sting to 1 maximum.
July 21 – 22, 2012
CopiPanas: 1) Josephine 2) Handjono
Porter from Candi Ceta: 1) Ngadino
Sala – Karangpandan : Bus, 45 minutes, Rp 10,000
Karangpandan – Kemuning : Bus, 10 minutes, Rp 5,000
Kemuning – Candi Ceta : Ojek (motorbike), 15 minutes, Rp 15,000
Cemarakandang – Tawangmangu : Bus, 15 minutes, Rp 7,000
Tawangmangu – Sala : Bus, 1½ hours, Rp 10,000
Sala – Jogya : Train, 1 hour, Rp 10,000