Volcanolovers in Indonesia
I was shame and sad when we decided to postpone our plan to climb Mount Semeru only 9 days before Oct.17, 2008 our departure day to Malang. Well, better abort it in the planning phase rather than failing in the mountain. It would be painful and much more shameful.
My contact in Tumpang, Malang, told me the rain has been dropping frequently by then. Soon we revisited our plan and concluded without one additional day we would risk our trip dearly. The probability of success, we deemed becoming much lower.
Mount Ciremai was then our next destination a few minutes after our decision to postpone the Semeru trip. The following Monday we came up with an estimate cost that was quite close with Semeru trip. For 5 hours ride from Jakarta (Malang is 15 hours) it was not exorbitantly dear but dear enough for us to cancel it. Some other time my friends, when we are more than we are now.
The show must go on, for our feet have become itchy longing for the pressure from the stones of our lovely volcanoes. We knew that none of us has climbed Pangrango although Sus, Agus, Uli, Icha and Dody have climbed Mount Gede altogether more often than I drove to downtown Jakarta.
Seven o’clock, when the fully loaded 2 cars exited the Ratu-Prabu-2 gate. Directly we entered the toll road to Ciawi then uphill to the Puncak direction. Not really busy, but like the other mornings and the other “normal” roads, some places where there are markets, congestion is a daily breakfast. Maybe even daily lunch and also dinner. On the way we spotted a nice small eatery, a good place to acquire the energy stocks for the climb. Nasi-padang ……………
Have you ever bargained for nasi-padang my friend? Well, Agus did it on behalf of us and we did not only get the discount but also good wish from the nasi-padang owner. Thanks uda, may God bless you.
Packing was quick because we introduced “packing in Jakarta” method in this trip. So in Cibodas we and the porter only moved some minor things to balance the loads, as well as inserting the most important things for our trek. Water and foods. Only 30’ and it was 1/3 of normal packing time we used to consume when we did not do it in Jakarta. What a saving!
Eleven o’clock and clear sky. Sus’ GPS showed 1400 M altitude. The 8 climbers and 6 porters marched side-by-side gently to the south where our mighty Mount Pangrango sits in majesty and harmony with its sibling, Mount Gede. The quiet Sendangbiru pool was less than 30’ from the entry gate. Sendangbiru is a bluish pool beside a stream at the left side of the track when we ascended. There was a concrete shelter but it was too early to take a rest. We marched along the gentle slope of the thickly vegetated track towards the famous 2 siblings, Gede and Pangrango.
The Japanese wooden bridge was a little bit dangerous for those who are not cautious for there had been rotten planks that could entrap your feet. But the walk on the bridge was short and by 12 o’clock we were at the Cibeureum waterfall junction. The sound of the falling water was so inviting, I turned left and quickly walk towards Kandangbadak.
The stream now is on our right and the sound of the waterfall slowly cedes. About an hour later, all the time under the canopy of the cold humid gorgeous trees, emerged before our eyes the Batukukus small plain. It makes a good place for camping area-wise, but strategy-wise it would not, since it would be too early to camp and enjoy the nature. It was just 1800 M anyway, still many hours to the peak.
Some more meandering treks under the canopy of the large trees’ branches and there we were on a nice leveled strip wide enough for us to rest and have our lunch. The cold but delicious nasi padang packs soon glided passing our wetted throats towards the warm stomachs. It was 13:00 o’clock and the warm stream on our left was not only nice for washing our faces and hands but also caused the reluctance to move on.
The open sky was very soon masked again by the thick forest, and the ascent was gentle. I wished the trek would be the same for the rest of the climb ……… After some turns of choices – straight a little bit steep and curving more gentle – appeared the incredible hot water-fall. The 30 M crossing was really steamy. For them who wear glasses like me, the crossing is more difficult ‘cause my glasses became fogging. Thanks the national-park management who installed the poles and the rope along the crossing. The stones under our feet were not slippery, maybe the algae just can not live in the hot water. To the left is 20 M high cliff poured by the steaming hot water. It is not overly dramatic and outer-worldly but I never came across any place else like it. A little mystical and gave me a sweat. Wash your hands and face for the skin fat will be easily swept. The ruined concrete huts just did not attract us to spend any minute for we wanted to reach Kandangbadak as early as possible.
It was 14:30 o’clock when we crossed the Air-Panas waterfall, then the trek became nice with some level parts. By 16;00 we arrived at the famous Kandangbadak junction. The sky was dark and the shower started. We ran to the concrete shelter which was already occupied by some other climbers. But it was large enough to house the 14 of us. We waited for the sky to clear the mist. Already 2400 M and chilly, the mats were spread to bear our tired bodies on the cold concrete floor inside the shelter. A lot of laughs despite our sleepy eyes. Many of us passed the night before quite sleepless except the older ones. You know why, the excitement just did not let us doze more than a few minutes.
I wished the rain would drop and stop at 19:00 so we could decide to camp at Kandangbadak and light the fire to cook our must-be-warm-and-delicious dinner. But the weather was on our side (or not ……..). By 16:45 we decided it was clear enough to continue to Pangrango peak.
The sky was clear and the cold has crept beneath the shirts of the climbers. We left Kandangbadak by 17:00 and marched towards the peak. The trek was heavily shaded by the forest and the fallen trees add the trek’s difficulty quite dramatically. Beware of your forehead guys, and better wear your hat for it would save you the scratch of the bump. Some fallen trees were just there like a test to screen the serious and the easy. Indeed they were more difficult to negotiate than the ascent.
The ascent was ok but the cold was not. My light jacket was not very effective to hold my body’s warmth, like warming the entire forest. After switching on my head-lamp I felt colder and very soon I realized I was not alone in chattering my teeth. By 20:00 the 2 of us with 2 porters camped and let the rest to continue the hike towards the peak. Just spare the peak for us, guys. We shall overcome tomorrow.
It was 2800 M and ice cold. Paraffin, water, can, tea, ginger, bread ……………. Should be perfect but alas, they did not work. None of us gave a thought for a match, so we could not lit the fire and had to let those luxurious warm glutinous drink stay quietly in the cold. There we spent the night amidst the thick forest. By midnight the wind was howling on the top of the trees. Not a light one for the roar kept me awake for quite a while. Then something stepped slowly on the leaves just besides our tent. Could not be human feet for the steps were so light. It stopped for a while, separated from us by the thin tent sheet.
By 4:00 the climbers from Kandangbadak were already close. Their huff & puff woke us and reminded us about our plan to hit the trek in the morning. But the chill of the 2800 M outside and the warmth of the sleeping-bag made a perfect reason not to hurry to follow the early climbers. But by 5:00 we pretended to forget the cold and opened our tent. After a quick breakfast of bread we left the tent and some other stuffs attended by the porters.
Only 8 minutes ascent and we came across another tent of Agus and Icha. They spent the night over there for the cold and exhaustion. The batteries of the headlamps were weak too, supposedly. After a pictures session we marched again to the peak along the meandering trek shaded by the woods. The higher we went up, the density of the woods became a little less, not dramatically ceded at certain altitude like on other mountains. Perhaps it is because Mount Pangrango is a long-time-dormant volcano.
The closer to the peak, the easier the trek is. Quite different from the other mountains. Any steep short climb, there is always alternative path just a minute or two longer. So nice, my sweat wetted my sweater just a little. Then a long gently ascending strip of 50 M and a sharp right turn almost 180°. Afterwards, another long strip of 100 M flat and narrow. Woods to the left, and the trek we hiked to the right.
That was the peak, for near the strip end we came across a 3-wooden-poles shelter with a 160 cm concrete column. Actually the poles were 4 but 1 was broken just 20 cm from the base and the upper part did not actually sit on the lower part. We shook hands, drank and took our pictures with Mount Gede over there in our backs, separated by a massive valley. There we were, at the peak of Mount Pangrango. Sus’ GPS was 3030 M. A very different peak from what we have climbed for it was actually quite forested. Not a breath-taking view like we saw from some other peaks, but the sound of silence, then wind blowing and the warmth of the sun-ray over the narrow strip peak altogether gave me a quiet sensation of being in a majestic place.
We took a left turn near a few meters past the concrete column and descended through the woods towards the camping area of Alun2 Mandalawangi. Only 5 minutes away and some 20 M lower than the peak, the Mandalawangi plain is serenely beautiful. To the north is the Mandalawangi hill with some strawberry bushes and apple trees. The plain is dotted by edelweiss bushes, not dense enough allowing the climbers to set their tents. Hundreds of tents could be set on the plain. To the west, right by the wide gap of the hills, looming in the distance is Mount Salak with its many peaks.
Our team’s 3 tents were set there, about the only tents in the plain. Breakfast was ready for the late morning peak team. The fried sausages, meat-slices and breads were more than pleasantly fulfilling. Together in a fold, they ranked as one of the most memorable breakfasts in my life. I would not exchange it with a full month plus 2 weeks extra free breakfasts in the Ritz-Carlton. A closing entry of hot instant noodle was a lot more than luxury. The absence of the ginger and tea left at 2800 M was really nothing compared with what we had. I am grateful to our Lord who lets us having that kind of joy which only a few people else enjoy in life.
A doze under sunlight was very pleasant. For the moment the complexity of the busy and treacherous low-land world vanished. Then, it came the time for return. The sad steps back to low-land commenced at 8:30.
Downwards the gentle descent was good for my aging knees. Tried to spot my tamarind-wood-stick to no success. I lost it the night before when the cold and exhaustion were unbearable. Found another stick which I would keep it at home for memorabilia. On the way descending to Kandangbadak, Jufri told us a story about a lamp-light so bright and clearly seen near the peak the night before. It was the size of a distant moonlight. All 4 of them saw it as tall as a tree about 5 M and it did not move. It was large, round and yellow. It could not be a flash light or a lantern held by someone up there. After a short debate they decided not to go after it although initially they thought it was the light at the peak shelter. Where the electricity would come from? It might be a disaster path towards a deep ravine, we could only wonder.
An extended break at 2820 M where we picked-up Uli and had a chat with another pack of climbers. The young and slim girl who climbed-up with them was so admirable. She carried a fully loaded 80 liter carrier of at least 15 kg. I would not dare to try in an ascending direction. She was wiry and looked fragile but she started the climb ahead. The macho-looking guys were still packing and having their breakfast. What a girl!
The descent from the Pangrango peak was quite easy. My right knee did not suffer and I could speed and sometimes I left the young lads behind although not for long. By 10:50 we got over the last fallen tree trunk. A few minutes later the small wooden planks over a stream, then the campers tents, and there we were at Kandangbadak.
Kandangbadak’s trees canopy did not help us much warming ourselves with the sunrays. A little bit chilly so I put on my jacket. Lit the paraffin, put the pan on it, and boil the water. I prefer paraffin over gas although the flame is not as hot as gas’. It gives me the sense of real adventure for it takes more time to lit and it does not come with a can. The hot ginger drink at 2400m was really sweet and warming. Then the warm lunch of margarine-fried bread and sausages. Not to be exchanged with a luxurious lunch at any high-end restaurant anywhere in the world.
We were spoiled with the abundance of water in Kandangbadak. Pour it here, wash there, wet your head, wash your face, everything you want to do with water. Kandangbadak’s pristine stream is never dry. Do not bother the plastic wraps nearby. They are actually not very dirty, although not pretty at all.
A little encounter with the medical students and the other climbers cum campers. Told them stories about the other mountains we climbed. I did not like to leave the Kandangbadak, but my watch was already 11:50. Packing was quick and then we marched again descending towards Cibodas.
The Airpanas waterfall seemed close. The water does not contain much sulfur, so nice to drink. Then downwards again along the meandering trek towards Cibeureum waterfall junction. It was about 15:00 o’clock and the sky was cloudy. A nice and warm rest amidst the distant roar from the waterfall. Some other hikers were resting in the shelter but we did not. We would be simply too lazy to continue the descent had we nested inside.
The usual Bogor highland shower dropped but were not so warned. From the color of the sky and the sound of the blowing wind we knew it would not become a rain indeed. So we decided not to put on our raincoat. We knew too, that about 10 minutes downwards the woods would shelter us from the shower. So we marched on along the gently downward sloping macadam trek. It was a little bit slippery but still fine with a pair of good shoes. Bram and Jufri, the young ones rushed ahead of us, I believe not wanting to be the champ of the descent but it must be about the first to sip a hot coffee.
Fifteen to four when we passed the gate and 5 minutes later we were at the junction where my favorite tahu-baso was usually waiting. But it was not there, the bapak must have been out of stock. Ok pak, I will see you some other time.
Pangrango II Team: Susetiya, Jufri, Bramasto, Agus, Uli, Icha, Dodi, Handjono.
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