Volcanolovers in Indonesia
Bima – Doropeti
After the night trekking to G Agung the in the weekend of August 30 – 31, 2014, we continued our adventure to G Tambora. For Jo this is a second trip because in 2011 the magnificent crater view of G Tambora did not materialize due to thick mist.
The team left the Bima airport at 11:00 and reached Doropeti village by 15:00, sooner than expectation. The 150 km road strip from Bima to Doropeti has already been improved a lot, although the section from Doro Ncanga to Pekat (north west of Doropeti) is still in preparation for hotmix paving. The quiet road from Bima to Doropeti was nowhere boring for the visitors as there were monkeys at the woods on the hills, cows and horses at the savanna, and the blue water of the Teluk Saleh to the west along the journey.
Doropeti is a sizeable village with good supplies for the trekking. We stayed overnight in Rijon’s house. Rijon, the Doropeti route informal trek coordinator is more widely known as Bang Jon and his house is also an informal basecamp. No sign, just stop at the Puskesmas (Community Health Center) by the main road to Labuhankenanga and ask around for his house. Planning and logistics were finalized in the night of Sept. 1, 2014.
Some 50 meters south of Rijon’s house was the Volcanology Office, where the 3 officers diligently monitor the volcanic states of G Tambora through 6 seismometers in the G Tambora slope and crater rim and with the help of radio transmission and sophisticated computers. The volcanology office also does not bear any sign. Kang Jaya, the officer from Bandung was very kind to offer us a stay in the office bedroom but we decided to stay at Rijon’s house. But we could not resist the very clean bathroom in the office.
The late afternoon was enjoyed with a walk to the beach 1 km away from the basecamp. The beach was very quiet with only 1 fisherman pulling out his net. Two medium size fishing boats parked on the shore, one of Bugis style and the other was of Madura style. The wave was almost none, and the sand was iron black. To the south east direction, some hundreds meters away there was a thigh deep riverine. Bang Jon assured us that the crocodiles over there would go away when they spot and smell human being. We decided not to venture further away across the riverine to the limestone cliff because of the sunset that was about to come. Also because of fear of wetting our clothes. The crocodiles, we tried not to think about them very much …….
The trek was started from Rijon’s house at 6:30 using motorcycles to the trek starting point some 30 minutes away along the Doropeti – Labuhankenanga mainroad then turn right to the unpaved village road passing the future sugar factory. In early September the roads were so dusty you better be prepared with a masker. A set of glasses would positively be required to prevent red eyes.
The trek was gently ascending along the villagers’ plantation then the sparse forest. The trekking route after an hour or so, joined with the logging trucks route. We hitched the truck and then after some kilometers we continued our trek on foot. At the end of the logging truck route we entered the woods and very soon the small water stream offered us the refill to our bottles. Sadly a giant kalango tree trunk of 1.5 m diameter lied on the forest ground. One of the illegal logging victims. From a distance, the roar of the chainsaw haunted our trek.
The hike started to become difficult as the trek had become overgrown. And indeed the forest was still thick over there. Some metal direction signs on the trees were spotted but after difficult traverses led by the porters cum guides, by 15:30 we decided to halt and return to Doropeti for the porters have given up. They simply could not find the trek to Pos 2 and beyond.
The descent to the starting point was quick and by 19:45 we reached the basecamp. The air was not cheerful but we quickly revised our plan. We stayed the night at the basecamp and would leave for Pancasila early in the morning on motorbikes. The nights at Pancasila was chilly despite its close proximity to the beach of Teluk Saleh.
Doropeti – Pancasila
Wednesday morning Sept. 3, 2014, we left for Pancasila on 3 motorbikes by 6:00. The road was fine with the nice views to the giant bay of Teluk Saleh to the left side and G Tambora to the right side. The very quiet road was hilly and has many curves. The ride without helmets was ok because the traffic in the chilly morning was very easy, almost no other vehicles else. By 7:30 we arrived at Pancasila after a short stop at Kedindi village for logistics. Kedindi is a village with a busy market located some 10 km lower than Pancasila. Over there you could buy logistics. In Pancasila, after registration and some chats at pak Saiful Bahari’s office, we headed to the forest limit.
Pancasila – G Tambora
By 9:00 after half an hour of preparation and motorbikes securing at the Hindu temple nearby, we started the hike. The trek was very gentle we almost did not feel the ascent. The vegetation was sparse and afterwards the sun ray soon was blocked by the forest thin canopy. The trek was clear and nice, straight with only few horizontal tree trunks obstacles. The forest was thin, and at 11:00 we got to the Pos 1. The shelter was intact, but marred with graffiti by the previous trekkers. Some 20 meters from the shelter there was the piped water free for trekkers. The water is piped to the village and a small branch was engineered complete with a secured wooden plug. The water pressure was quite high, you fill a 600 ml bottle in seconds only.
By 11:15 we left for Pos 2, along the still gentle ascent. The forest became a little thicker and the sound of silence was occasionally disrupted by the sound of birds. Partridges (ayam hutan) were many, sometimes surprised the merry trekkers in their way up. Then we got to Pos 2 by 12:00 and spend 1 hour to savor the superb lunch we bought in the Kedindi market.
Like Pos 1, Pos 2 shelter is also in good shape but is in appalling fashion due to the trekkers graffiti on its poles and structural members. Water is abundant in a small stream 20 meters from the shelter towards Pos 3 direction. Unfortunately the trekkers littered it with plastic stuffs. Another appalling sight.
By 13:15 we left Pos 2 and the trek became narrower and steeper. Still very clear that you would not lost your way. The steepest section however is not that steep. The trees were larger with mosses on the trunks. The birds were rarer and the partridges (ayam hutan) were not seen. Approximately 15:00 when we got to Pos 3, a wide plot of levelled ground good for many tents. A good shelter stood over there and the water spring is located at the right side of the trek, some 300 meters away. The debit was slow, it took 2 minutes to fill in a 600 ml bottle.
Pos 3 is well known for leeches in the wet season. It was dry, so we did not worry much about them. However we stopped only shortly and then continued to Pos 4. The trek became narrower and steeper with many jelatang bushes here and there. Jelatang is also called fire-leaf because it stings you upon a direct contact with your skin, then you jump and sometimes scream due to pain. The itch and pain stay many hours afterwards. We walked very carefully to avoid contact with the jelatang. Our steps became slower and we got to Pos 4 by 16:00. Pos 4 did not have a shelter, was cool and shady with the large trees canopy over it. The ground was good for many tents and levelled. But the perimeter was bushes of jelatang, just like a plantation.
After 30 minutes rest with the sun ray from the west drying our wet clothes, we continued our hike towards Pos 5 amidst the warm air. Well, it was somewhat cold but much warmer than the air in the other volcanoes. Exiting the Pos 5 shady area suddenly we were welcomed by a scary scene. A narrow strip of trek on a large tree trunk log, with the jelatang bushes on both sides of the strip. The 30 meters long strip made us a little nervous as the experience of overnight itch in G Argapura was unforgettable. I wore my jacket and safely cruised the jelatang strip. Imam dared the challenge and touched some leaves. He said the experience would not be complete without the jelatang. Along the trek to Pos 5 there were more places with the jelatang bushes, so you want to be careful. The trek ascended a little steeply but overall the Pos 4 – Pos 5 section was nice. The bushes were still thick and the afternoon was free from chilling breeze.
By 17:20 we got to Pos 5 and soon light our camp fire from the dried leaves and fallen tree branches. The camping site was nice, somewhat open and sufficient for at least 10 medium size tents. Jelatang bushes were here and there covering the perimeter of the Pos 5. We camped over there for the summit attack the morning after. The night was mildly cold without wind and with many stars above. The half moon lighted the serene night. The chats were even warmer, complimented with the perfect white rice and fried dried fish. The rice came from Doropeti rice field, processed traditionally by Rijon’s family. The small fishes came from the Teluk Saleh water in front of Doropeti village. And the chili came from the local plantation in Doropeti as well. And the cooking was on the camp fire. Those made the dinner in Pos 5 that was prepared by Rijon was so delicious, we agreed not to want to trade it with a 5 star hotel free dinner. The 5 star hotel dinner really would not be able to lift a finger against ours.
G Tambora Summit
The Thursday morning was lazy, we slowly crawled out from the tents and prepared ourselves for the summit attack. After a very light breakfast by 3:30 we marched towards the summit. The trek was preceded by a rocks formation just beyond the Pos 5 to the right direction. There were several water gullies but the water was greenish and apparently needs filtering if you want a drink of it. A clean cloth filtering and boiling would do.
The trek was initially gently ascending but after some 15 minutes the steepness started. Good to do it in the early morning when the air was cold. Some parts of the trek were sands but nowhere as loose as the sands of G Semeru and G Rinjani. The bushes were rare after 1 hour and the summit area was not obvious. Near the summit area the trek became very steep but has an excellent ground base you would not slip. Then after exactly 2 hours there we were at the rim of the mighty G Tambora. The summit was totally quiet and we were overwhelmed by the serenity of the caldera that was formed 199 years ago by the infamous eruption that cause the year without summer in Europe and killed 91,000 inhabitants in the vicinity. After the April 1815 eruption from 4300 m G Tambora became 2850 m, and at least 3 kingdoms in the vicinity vanished.
Very soon afterwards the sun rose from the eastern part of the summit rim, exactly across the caldera where we stood. Everyone was quiet and enjoyed the serene moment of the golden ray rising from the east. Afterwards we slowly moved to the peak, the point on the rim with the national flags posted by the trekkers some weeks before. The peak was a short 200 meters away walk and the terrain was safe.
From the peak the observation was wider and the Doropeti approach trek was clearly seen. The bush fire on the trek made us relieved we did not continue our hike along the Doropeti approach 2 days before. The morning breeze was chilling, everyone wore balaclava and hand gloves. A little lower from the peak, the crater was so obvious with the new volcano “kid” prominently standing at its south west edge. They name it Doro Api Toi or Little Fire Mountain. The fume from the miniature craters in the giant crater spew sparsely. The temptation to walk around the rim was so great, in order to completely enjoy the magnificent giant caldera. Rijon, the guide from Doropeti had taken some people descend to the crater. He said 9 hours was the time taken to descent and the same for the ascent. Ropes and skill are definitely required.
G Tambora – Oibura
By 6:30 we descended back to Pos 5, and the morning has been warmed by the sun. The sky was very bright. The view to the giant Teluk Saleh and Moyo Island was great, and to the north the Satonda Island was also obvious. Pos 5 was warm and we dried our clothes under the sun. After a hefty breakfast by 10:30 we marched down back to the basecamp. After an extended break at Pos 2 for lunch and nap, by 16:30 we arrived at the other forest entry point. Another path, passing a vast coffee plantation area.
With the help of our friend, the priest from Blitar we met at Pos 5, we spent the night at Oibura village. The coffee village was quiet but alive. The night over there was chilling, automatically the dinner was superb and the smiles of Pak Dominicus Riang family were unforgettable.
Oibura – Bima
In Oibura Friday morning we checked the archaeological site some 15 minutes of walking down the village. The site was a village that had been wiped and burnt by the volcanic hot clouds of G Tambora in April 1815. The wooden structures turned into charcoals were still obvious. They said there were also human skeletons as well as household remnants.
By 9:00 we left pak Domi’s house on motorbikes for an hour trip to Kedindi. In Kedindi you can get your cash through the BRI ATM near the intersection where the buses park. It was hot and quiet, and the bus finally left at 13:00 for Bima. The bus was so full inside and outside. On top of it hundred kilograms if not tons of stuffs were piled, the passengers on top of them. If you need to take pictures free of obstacles, then it would be the best seat. Just be careful of tree branches. By 19:30 we approached Bima along the scenic road at the southern end of the Teluk Bima. From the distance the lights in Bima has welcomed us.
GPS track : Tambora 2011
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