THE LONELY GIANT
This is my 2nd trip to Mount Slamet and this time I planned my hike more carefully especially on timing. Mid December is wet as everyday it rains already. Movement is slower on the slippery trek and we need more clothes. Also I chose the different descent route for the sake of getting more complete experience on the mighty Mount Slamet.
Jakarta – Purwokerto on the Sawunggalih non-air-con business class train was fine although a little bit warm when the train stopped. The seat is also non-reclining so almost every 2nd passenger lied on the train coach floor to get a better sleep during the 5 hours journey. Off course I did it too.
The train left Jatinegara station at 19:15, stopped 3 X at Cirebon, Prupuk and Bumiayu. Prupuk and Bumiayu are small towns and the stations were quiet. Many food sellers got on board the train to offer their merchandises and off course they woke us up. But I did not mind for I had a lot of sympathy over the poor villagers. Hopefully their kids could do better than the parents and would have to do it again.
We arrived in Purwokerto by 1:10 then were driven to Hotel Mulia at the town central by a good friend living in Purwokerto. Riding on his car along the quiet streets of Purwokerto was a good experience for we rarely see a medium size city in the late night. Purwokerto was lighted with enough lamps so we could see the old colonial buildings that were still preserved. Some people were sitting on some colonial buildings’ verandas, and we could not tell if they were real or not.
Hotel Mulia was a simple but artistic old building from the Dutch time of 19 century. The hotel was nice and clean, the sleep was good but the night was short because we had to be ready at 6:00. A superb breakfast of nasi gudeg in front of Hotel Mulia, then we were driven to Bambangan through the famous Baturraden resort and then on along the quiet mountain road beyond Baturraden amidst the pine woods that were not so dense anymore.
Bambangan was alive in the morning, we arrived 8:00 and immediately engaged Anwar the villager who knows the trek very well also the descent to Guci. Re-packing was quite cumbersome as usual and by 9:00 sharp we started our hike.
BAMBANGAN – POS 5
After the Bambangan Gate the trek directly challenged us with steep ascents although the first 1 hour was still farm vegetations. One hour later we gasped our breaths to the Pos 1 that offers a good shelter. The shelter was built some 2 years ago. It was already cold for the weather was cloudy and somewhat windy. A short nap of 15 minutes or so then we continued our hike slowly to Pos 2.
The forest has materialized although it was not as dense as I expected. My memory said 2 years ago the forest was quite dense and the cold shade of the trees chilled me a bit, but now the trees look to me less dense. After some 40 minutes of mildly steep ascent we arrived at Pos 2, a small square with some garbage and tall trees. Garbage is always a disappointing scene you see at every stop (Pos) but you have to hike with it.
A very short break then we continued to Pos 3 with a similar slope of ascent. The forest became thicker but still less than what I felt 2 years before. It was 11:45 and we stopped for lunch under the plastic sheet for it rained a shower. I was chilled and quickly grabbed my jacket from my rucksack.
Pos 3 to Pos 4 was quick, at least quicker than it had to be because we discussed many things while walking. You do not feel tired when having intensive discussion over anything.
Pos 4 was again a plot of square ground with many garbage at one corner. Under the mid day shower of 12:00 we stopped for lunch. Our mini fly sheet made a good shelter for the lunch and then the nasi gudeg lunch. Superbly tasty, supposedly healthy and returned our mentality. The hot tea drink we cooked with the paraffin stove concluded the wet lunch.
Then slowly we ascended again to Pos 5 along the nice and moderately steep trek. We wanted very much to see Pos 5 as we knew we would be able to take many minutes of nice stop in the Pos 5 shelter.
POS 5 – POS 7
It was 14:30 and cloudy with mist drops when we reached Pos 5. Getting to Pos 5 is a surprise for it is at the inner right side of the trek on a higher leveled ground it could not be seen from a distance. You see it when it is so close. Pos 5 was so inviting to spend the night for the shelter was quiet, we could have it for ourselves. We did not expect the 3 student hikers we met in Pos 2 would be able to make it to Pos 5 that evening. Inside the shelter there was a 1 meter high stage inside, where 10 hikers could sleep on it nicely. Some 20 more hikers could sleep on the floor. Off course if they bring a warm sleeping bag each.
We went down to the water stream down below. Exiting the shelter you take the 2 o’clock direction and after 2 – 3 minutes of steep descent, the water stream was there. The water certainly was ice cold and we filled in some bottles.
Three pm sharp when we left Pos 5 for Pos 7. The trek was a water way, it was narrow with soil walls left and right. The ascent was nice, and some 20 minutes afterwards some tall trees welcomed us. No sign but I believed it had to be Pos 6 for there was a leveled camp site enough for several tents.
Some more minutes of moderately steep ascent and by 15:45 we got to the much longed Pos 7 under the afternoon chilling shower. The porch of Pos 7 was narrower than Pos 5 the log benches over there were wetted by the shower. So we directly entered the shelter and greeted the student hikers who had set their tent inside.
The wide stage still allowed us some rest area and soon we cooked our meals and hot drinks. We changed our wet clothes with the dry ones and then had a quick dinner. The most enjoyable was the hot chocolate. No way we could set a camp fire for the woods were all wet. It rained so hard immediately after we arrived and it last until midnight or so.
Pos 7 was not freezing cold, thanks to the Bambangan villagers who maintained the shelter quite well. Unfortunately the warm carpet was stolen so the stage in the shelter building was now of bare wooden planks. Luckily someone had put straws and dry grasses for cushion and warmth. After early dinner at around 18:00 we slipped into our sleeping bags.
POS 7 – SUMMIT
It was 4:30 when we woke up and started to prepare ourselves for the summit attack. The preparation was longer as we had to carry all our stuffs. We would continue to Guci on the other side of Mount Slamet given weather permitting.
By 4:45 after breakfast of noodle and pudding we started the hike towards the summit. Easterly G Sindara nd G Sumbing extended their warm good morning with the early reddish light of the sun. The warm hello spurred our spirit to resume the hike amidst the dark and wet dawn.
Initially the steep trek was complimented with wet bushes, then gradually the bushes vanished and finally the sandy rock appeared. It was around 5:15 but the headlamps were not needed anymore. Very soon we ascended on the steep slope. It was somewhat damp if not wet, and we had to be careful with the loose stones and loose sands. Several places we stumbled knee down but after a while we got an adaptation and slowly continued the march.
The final ascent to the summit of Mount Slamet from Bambangan side is indeed steep and somewhat slippery. Looking back was scary because you would imagine you would roll over continuously until the vegetation limit. The only way to get over it was preparation far ahead (exercise), not too heavy a rucksack, self confidence and proper pace. Pace is important. Do not hurry for you could easily get your leg cramped. Once you get it, the rest of the hike would be a torture.
After several rest stops finally the slope end was reached. The stops were not just for regaining our breaths but also for admiring the beauty of the twin sisters in the distance. Who else if not the famous G Sindara and G Sumbing. The sunrise was not perfect because of the clouds but their beauty was still intact amidst the bluish Kedu plateau. The green color of tobacco off course was not seen from the distance. The Kedu plateau is nationally famous as a tobacco country.
We got over the heaps of the rim and some meters forward, there were us, on the peak of Mount Slamet. The GPS said 3440m, the clock was 6:30 and the weather was clear although not very bright. G Sindara and G Sumbing were still visible but not as clear as a few hundred meters before. They looked somewhat lower than the point we stood, understandably because G Sindara is 3156m and G Sumbing is 3371 m.
I was so relieved for that was “revenge” for me. January 2009 I was at 3371m or 10 minutes from the peak when I had to return to Pos 7 for nausea and dizziness. Mount Slamet, here I come back ……….
The clear weather was not long. Gradually the cloud rolled over the summit and by 7:00 the cloud covered the summit and we hurried to start the descent to Guci through the caldera. From the 3440m peak we turned right north direction and descended to the sand sea through a rocky path near the end of the rim’s flat strip. The rocky descent was short but we had to be very careful not to twist our ankles walking over the loose stones.
Then the black sand sea with the vertical cliffs fencing it. Not so high as the G Sumbing sand sea cliffs but the mist and the wind dramatized the scene. Not really scary but somehow you would not want to stay a minute longer than you have to.
The sand sea was only a few hundred meters, than at its end gradually we walked through to the rocky ascent to the crater rim. The crater at the left part was some 50 meters deep and the fumarol was blown by the wind sometimes to our direction so we could smell the sulfur.
The trek was fine, no scary part and near the end of the rim strip we stopped by the marking made from a stick and stones. To the right was the quite steep descent from the summit to Guci.
SUMMIT – GUCI
The sand trek to the vegetation limit was good because it was damp and you could ski down without fear. The descent was not so steep and there was almost no sizeable stone. It was a nice 15 minutes descent and then the trek began to change with stony sand and we had to watch our steps. The stones were loose so we stumbled a few times and after a while I had to take some rest every now and then.
The vegetation limit was marked by a bright yellow plastic roof of a shelter. That was Guci trek Pos 5, quite clear from a distance but it was like hours before I got to it. The descent from the summit to Pos 5 was somewhat exhausting. We had to walk head down to watch our steps not to step on the slippery loose stones.
Breakfast and other things at Pos 5, then by 9:30 we resumed our descent to Guci. The trek was quite steep but fortunately it was not slippery. Thanks to the rotten and fresh leaves on the trek.
Pos 4 was near, by 10:00 we got to it. We did not rest too long and continued to Pos 3. The trek was less steep and again no slippery at all so we could race in the hope to reach Guci by mid day. Then along the convenient trek we subsequently got to Pos 3, Pos 2 and Pos 1. Pos 4 to Pos 3 was long, it was 45 minutes. Pos 3 to Pos 2 was shorter at 30 minutes and then Pos 1 was surprisingly only 30 minutes from Pos 2. At Pos 1 we took a long rest after a long race from Pos 4 along the convenient trek.
After Pos 1 the trek became quite leveled like no slope but some parts began to become slippery and then it changed to a stony trek with some intact asphalt paving at some sections. The trek had once to be a country or farm road for car. Pine woods appeared and the coconut cups were installed to collect the pine sap. The sap smelled very good.
The trek became wider and the porter took a left turn to a soil trek again to take a shorter cut. Then after 10 minutes or so appeared the paved road of Guci resort. Quickly we descended to the road and tried to hurry to get into the hot water spring pool. But our legs were heavy, heavier than the rucksacks on our backs.
In the hot water pool complex we did not care much about planning ahead for the Guci – Tegal leg of the homebound journey but quickly plunged ourselves into the pool together. It had to be some 60 C or so for initially it stung my skin. But after a while the warmth of the spring water gradually relaxed our muscles and then the hunger arises ……….
The other visitors looked at the wary hikers from Mount Slamet for our stuffs were different totally then theirs. Also our appearances, the dirt was still very visible on our clothes and our body members. One nice bapak asked me what we had done ……….
GUCI – TEGAL
Sate kelinci (hare satay) and hot teh poci (clay pot tea) concluded our nice and warmed afternoon in Guci, then we took an open pick-up to Tegal. The 50 km 1 hour ride was amidst the afternoon rain to the north direction through the quiet villages of Tuwel, Yomani, Lebaksiu, Slawi, Adiwerna and Banjaran. Slawi is a small town but quite well known nationally for being the hometown of the nationally loved Teh Botol (bottled tea brand). You see it everywhere, people drink chilled Teh Botol after their meals in any restaurant.
The rain stopped when we got to Tegal, then we tried our luck with the Argo Muria train from Semarang en route to Jakarta but there was only 1 seat left. So we decided to have sate kambing (mutton satay) and es buah (mixed fruit ice) nearby. The shop 200 m west of the railway station was popular with Tegalers and travelers. As like the other north coast towns of Jawa, the foods in Tegal are delicious and memorable. You want to come back for the sake of them alone.
Everyone we met in Tegal was very friendly, we were shown directions, advised the better buses to Jakarta and then directed to the long distance bus agent shop and the bus station. The becak ride was nice although the afternoon then evening shower came back. The streets of Tegal were not as busy as in the daylight.
The Tegal bus station was busy with to be passengers and the huge long distance buses in the standby row were to start the long journey of many hours to the west, to the east and to the south. West bound to Jakarta and Sumatra (as far as Banda Aceh), east bound as far as Surabaya and Bali, south bound to Purwokerto then Jogya. North of Tegal is directly the Java Sea.
The Dewi Sri bus still had some vacant rows, so we took 2 and prepared ourselves for the 8 hours or so journey to Jakarta. Our bus moved away slowly from the station and quickly we knew the aircon did not work perfectly but it was warmth was still bearable. Fortunately also no one smoked in the bus. Alham and me slowly we got into our sleeps but every now and then we were woken up by the opposite bright car lights, stops and starts, loud sound of the bus gears change and many things else. Jakarta was still far away but the Dewi Sri bus gave us a good feeling as the tickets were cheap and it ran slowly.
COPIPANAS TEAM: Alham, Handjono