Almost all my CopiPanas lads have gone to Mount Semeru and off course I did not want to stay silent when they talked about the mighty fiery peak of Java Island in our dinners. So on May 25, 2010, I took the night train from Jakarta to Malang for I like travelling with train. It is relaxing and cheaper than airplane. The Gajayana train left Jakarta at 17:30 and I slept nicely from 20:00 to 24:00. In Purwokerto the train stopped about 30” and the snack vendors woke me up with their yells.
Afterwards I did not see Jogya, Sala, Madiun, Nganjuk, Kertasana and Kediri. I woke up in Tulungagung by around 7:30 and then in Blitar by 8:00 I got out of the train to get some delicious snail satays. In Blitar I always spent some minutes at least to admire the antique wooden structures that support the railway station roof. No place else I believe.
Malang – Tumpang – Ranupani
Malang was a little bit shady by 10:00 and I quickly took a street car to Arjosari bus station. It was only 10’ and then I continued on another car to Tumpang. The streets and the highway of Malang were different from the old days when I was 10 year old and visited my sister who studied in Malang in the sixties. Could not recognize the places anymore.
Tumpang was busy. The market did not look very friendly somehow, and there was an ancient temple (candi) only 50 meters behind the market. I took an ojek (rental motorbike with a driver) to Ranupani with an 1hour stop at the Forestry Office 2 km out of Tumpang market. The permit was not issued for me although my papers were perfect (health certificate and ID copy). The reason was because I was by myself. I was advised to go straight away to Ranupani and pushed my luck. Off course I would and off I went.
The motorbike ride to Ranupani was 1½ hours and not very good. With the rucksack and the short seat, both driver and rider had to be careful when maneuvering along the meandering road. Some parts was full of potholes and paving breaks so my old days motorbike experiences were very useful for quickly disengaging before a fall.
Ranupani – Ranukumbala
The Forestry Office at Ranupani was closed when I arrived at 13:00. The officers were having lunch. The registration was quick and neat. Unlike the Tumpang office which was confusing. I was denied for a permit but then asked to make another medical certificate photocopy. The photocopy shop was 2 km away. But when I returned with the photocopies the guy did not want to issue a permit. He told me to proceed to Ranupani. I wasted 1 hour for that nonsense.
Left Ranupani at 14:00 pm with a porter. The trek to Ranukumbala was nice although a little bit boring. Pos-1 and Pos-2 were quite close from Ranupani. After Pos-2 there was a 5 meter long wooden bridge crossing a deep gorge. All the way the trek was green, vegetated soil wall to the right and green valley to the right. The ascent was mild and the view to the left (east) was green hills peeking from amongst the tall bushes.
After Pos-2 the trek ascended somewhat steep but not exhausting, for the steeper part was only a couple hundred meters. Afterwards another rather flat and undulating trek. The thick bushes and tall trees cool the afternoon. To the right is the rather locally famous Mount Kepolo which is like Semeru’s nephew for its distance from the magnificent peak and its peculiar shape.
Pos-3 was uphill and then a little further at 16:30 we saw the nationally famous Ranukumbala lake. The greenish water reflected the clear sky and partly the pine trees around its shore. I sped my steps for wanting to arrive at the beautiful lake shore before the darkness crept. Ranukumbala from the height in the afternoon was serene and inviting. But I knew a dip would not be wise in the cold of the 2200 M.
As I guessed, the little house on the prairie at the southern shore was not very close like it looked. By 17:00 after passing the down lake looking Pos-4 we arrived at the camp base. Some other campers were already there and I chose one of the rooms in the 2nd house at the back. The 1st house’s roofs have been partially damaged so in the night the dew drops would wet me. There were also already some campers over there.
Soon I stored my stuffs in the room and headed the lake shore for washing my face, strolling around and greeting the other campers who came from many cities. Then the evening crept and the lake slowly darkened. The evening around the fire in the house was lively. After dinner we drank tea and ginger together and changed stories about what else? The other mountains we climbed from the days when we were younger until the previous months. Looked out to the lake and the moon was on it with perfect roundness. Its silver ray was so bright the mountain looked cheerful all over the places. But the cold air stopped me from strolling too far.
The night arrived too soon but I had to rest in my room. Something crept over my arm, pulled my left leg around midnight but I did not care so much. In my sleeping bag I prepared myself for the long trek to the peak. But admittedly I thought about the spirit who might want to shake hand with me and perhaps drink coffee together. Maybe some other time with another hiker braver than me, my friend.
Ranukumbala – Kalimati
The morning was already late when I got up. Breakfast was quick but the packing was not. We had plenty of time, my porter said. But I did not really believe him so I immediately rushed towards the end of the Tanjakan Cinta (Love Ascent) south of Ranukumbala. The steep ascent was actually only 15 minutes but quite hard for them who are unprepared. At the hill top we could look back and enjoy our gorgeous lake.
Surprisingly after passing the steep ascent I saw a leveled part of a meadow on the hill. Some dogs barked at me but they just wanted to get acquainted. One was smeared with blood and it must be from the deer it bit. They were a deer hunters pack led by a stocky built middle aged man of high pride and suspicious look at me. But very soon the tense vanished when I spoke to him in Javanese language and told him that I raise dogs at home.
The Ara-Ara Amba (Wide Plain) meadow was very beautiful from the hill I stood. The path to cross it was long, straight and somewhat slippery. The descent took me 15’ and then we walked across the meadow with the tall giant lily flower bushes. Cool and serene.
After 30’ or so the meadow ended and we entered a mildly ascending trek of bushes. The trek was quite straight and after about 15’ it turned right towards another bushes with taller trees in the scene. But all the way the ascent kept its mildness and the sandy trek slowed me down a little bit. After some turns and some changing meadow to short woods, then appeared in front of me the mighty Mount Semeru so clear with its lava paths. The trek to the peak was distinct. I wanted to rush very much to make it to the peak for it looked pretty near.
Some parts of the trek even descended I wonder if we would be struggling the following day because Semeru peak looked high although close. The sandy trek slowed me a little. The porter told me carefully that there were tigers around the trek. He did not spell “macan” or “harimau” but “tiger”. I believed it was a taboo to name it directly with the local language. The bushes and the sparse woods indeed looked like ideal place for those big cats to dwell.
By 10:15 I spotted a sign on the tree saying “Kalimati 1 km”. I could not believe it for I thought Kalimati was still far away. A few minutes later the sandy plain of Kalimati appeared and the shelter house stood there alone at its edge. The Kalimati plain was different from the other high altitude places I had seen. It was so quiet and somewhat mystical. The air was just different.
The sky was cloudy and the house was a little dilapidated when I checked it at 11:00. Still very early for further ascent to the next stop at Arcapada. So I decided to take a long rest and walk to Sumbermani the less known water spring near Kalimati.
There must be some hikers went to the peak the night before for there were stuffs kept there. I lied on the warm sand and had a nice nap. Inside the house the cold crept quickly despite the fire we made from tree branches. The lunch was good because we had plenty of time and could prepare it better than the other times.
After lunch we walked to Sumbermani along a dry sand river bed. The place was eerie and the all dark grey surroundings made me a little uneasy. The 4 meters wide trek descended and meandered deeply into unspoiled spots with fallen tree trunks and large stones. After 15’ or so we located a small spring at the right side lower bank and the water was so small it would take many minutes to fill in a bottle. So we continued to the next spring 5’ away. At the right bank of the river there was the ice cold Sumbermani spring. The water came down from the upper part of the rock cliff. The cliff was green with bushes, trees, lichens and all the greeneries you could expect to see. No wonder the water flows down so gently without concerns.
We filled in our plastic bottles, but ideally we should have used bamboo tubes for the beautiful water at Sumbermani. The ice cold water freshened me when I washed my arms and face. Without a second of hesitation I drank the water for I know it is pristine and curing. If not for my body then for my soul.
Back to Kalimati camp in 15’ and then we re-packed our stuffs for a hike to the last camp at Arcapada. Kalimati is said to be 2700 M and it was cold when the sun did not shine. The place was somewhat strange to me even when there were a crowd of students coming back from the peak. My feeling was just different, I do not know if there were many different things over there.
Kalimati – Arcapada
Two pm sharp, we started our hike to Arcapada. We walked to the east for a few minutes descending to a dry creek. Then ascending some 30 meters to the edge of the Kalimati savanna and then entering the woods. The sign to the peak direction was nailed to a pine tree and we followed the arrow sign. Very soon the trek became steeper and steeper. And the woods were not very dense. It was not so straight like the trek to Kalimati from Ranukumbala but somewhat zig-zag following the hill’s contour. Some resting places were available en route but I did not stop except for a drink or two.
After an hour we arrived at the Arcapada camp site. The site has 3 camping plots close one another. Each plot is good for 3 medium tents so overall it is spacious. The large pine trees made a whiz sound when blown by the wind. We set the tent and camped. Fire woods from the fallen branches were plenty, so our night was warm. The 3 students joined us for a chat and then by 8 pm we slipped into our sleeping bags.
Arcapada – Peak
Two am in the morning we got up and cooked our quick breakfast of instant noodle and coffee. Then by 3 am we set to hike the last part of Mount Semeru, the famous sand trek. Kelik or the Monument plain was reached 15’ from Arcapada. Then a few minutes later, under the moonlight appeared the fearsome steep ascent to the peak. The darkness helped a little, the blackish sand and stones were not so obvious like in the daylight. Otherwise I could have become groggy.
The 2 steps up 1 step down story was all true. My years of 5 times a week times 80 minutes were like nothing when applied on the 45° slope of G Semeru peak. Perhaps some parts were 60° indeed. It was just dreadful. The 1st hour I was still fine with the moon shone over the ridges all over the slope. Then the cold combined with the feet sucking sand trek formed an exhausting situation. I stepped so slowly and used my wooden stick a lot for fear of lower legs cramp.
The 2nd hour was as tough although some parts were good for a sit rest. Luckily there were only 5 of us so the dust was not much and the rolling stones were minor. It would have been pretty dangerous if you ascend below many hikers. The stones could roll over you.
Then the 3rd hour where I started to think if I should continue but off course you know the answer. Slowly but quite sure I climbed and sometimes crawled to the peak. Occasionally I stumbled out of balance. The sand treks did not become more solid but the other way around. At least that was what I felt.
The 4th hour was better for the sun was already quite high and the cold was almost over. I took a 30’ nap on a nice small sand niche and almost jumped when awoke. Quickly I rushed to the peak after drinking my sweet drink. Closer to the peak the trek looked like ended into some large stones fence. Turned left and back to the south direction, and then the peak …………….
It was 8:00, the misty windy and rainy morning was actually cold but the extremely good feeling of being at the highest place in Java Island was really overwhelming. The cold was only a nuisance for the proud. I spent a few minutes at the monuments for the fallen and missing lads. Then the mist began to move away and the Tengger complex at the north was sweeping my sight from the east to the proper north direction. The world famous Tengger and Penanjakan were clear and inviting. Well, they are famous as the place for looking south to the mighty Mount Semeru where I stood.
Move west then you see the sharp peak of Mount Penanggungan north of Mojokerto. It peeked from amongst the white clouds covering the Malang – Surabaya plain. A little west was the mighty Mount Arjuna with Mount Welirang backing it up a little further west. Beautiful and souls binding. The white clouds covering the mountains feet were magical and serene. Gave a sense of highness although not nobleness.
South of the ± 1000 sq meter peak was a vertical cliff to the crater. You do not want to stand on it edge for the white fume stemming from the crater. I waited for 20’ for the famous black fume but it did not come out. They said the fume did not come out once every 10’ like it had before. So I decided to start descending by 8:20.
The descent was heart throbbing for the steep descent looked like ready to swallow the uncaring ones. Only a few seconds after the 1st turn, I stumbled upon a small stone and did a beautiful salto. Landed on my right side, I stood up and checked my members. Ok and continued the descent to Arcapada. It was quick at 1:30 hours including a 10’ chat rest at the end of the sand trek.
Arcapada was not very nice anymore like the previous afternoon and after a lazy breakfast we packed and then descended to Kalimati by 10:00. Kalimati was quiet and we continued to Ranukumbala. Closer to the Ara-Ara Amba savanna I stopped once every a few meters to pick-up the berries and the sweet sour ciplukan fruit. I would not explain how good it was, just go and pick them your selves. They are the fruits for the ones with the strong legs.
It was 13:00 when we got to Ranukumbala. En route we came across many hikers going up. An hour rest at Ranukumbala for lunch and hot tea, then by 14:10 we left for Ranupani. A quick descending hike indeed. Then at Pos-1 when we rested, some one asked me if on August 17, 2008 I had been at Segaraanak Lake of G Rinjani. What a good memory, for my friend recognized my leather rucksack my wife handmade for me.
Ranupani was quiet and almost dark when we arrived. Hired a motorbike to Tumpang, rode along a chilly evening along the winding road under the bright full moon, the brightest moonlight ever. Tumpang was still lively when we arrived at 20:00. Had a delicious dinner of fried chicken, then continued to Malang.
Goodbye Semeru, see you again someday ……………
Semeru GPS track: