Volcanolovers in Indonesia
Kerinci (3805), Talamau (2982) and Marapi (2891)
Trekking mountains in Sumatra is more expensive if we are based in Jawa. We have to fly at least 1 hour (to Palembang) or 1 hour 45 minutes (to Padang) or 2 hours (to Medan) then another at least ½ days of car ride. Some basecamps are even as far as 1 day ride from the nearest airport. That is the reason we planned a combined trekking to 4 mountains i.e. G Kerinci (3805 m), G Talamau (2982 m), G Marapi (2891 m) and G Singgalang (2877 m). Due to declining pace after several days of trekking, we decided to skip G Singgalang to prevent us from missing the flight back to Jakarta. Completing 3 mountains, we consider it a good deal considering also the unexpected amount of rains along the last 2 mountains (G Talamau and G Marapi).
G Kerinci (3805 m)
G Kerinci is 3805 m or the highest volcano in Indonesia, also the highest outside Papua Province. The 4700 m+ mountains in Papua are all non-volcanic. G Kerinci is situated in Jambi Province but is closer from/ to Padang, the Sumatra Barat Province capital and main city. It is situated amidst tea and vegetables plantations (east slope) as well as primary forest to the other slopes. The trek from the start-point of 1700 m to the peak is relatively straightforward and not very tough nor difficult. Most of the trek is moderately steep particularly the higher parts, with one exhausting “jalan air” or water valley trek before the last camping site (Shelter-3). The last 2 hours from the last camping site to the peak is very steep but not particularly difficult. Overall there are 6 stops i.e. Pos-1 (water available), Pos-2 (water available), Pos-3, Shelter-1, Shelter-2 (water available) and Shelter-3 (water available). From Shelter 3 camping site to the peak, the trek is open (no vegetation) and rocky.
Our trip started in Jakarta when the 3 of us flew to Padang on 29/4/2016 @ 7:30. Arrived by 9:20 we directly ride the “travel” 7 seats car to Kersiktuo (G Kerinci basecamp village). After some hassles in Padang that caused delay, and the 7 hours ride through the partially damaged quiet and meandering highway, the “travel” car dropped us safely in the Family Homestay by the south end of Kersiktuo village at 20:30. Subandi Homestay where we stayed years earlier was more convenient because it is situated closer to shops and the trek start-point, but Family is ok for a good night sleep.
By 9:15, 30/4/2016 we started the trekking with a caution from the registration office as the volcano indeed was in the state of minor eruption. From the distance we could see the dark grey smoke on the summit. The officers said when the smoke is yellow-white then we had to descent right away for it is poisonous. Black – grey smoke is safe.
The morning was cloudy but quite clear we could see the large volcano. Pos-1, Pos-2 and Pos-3 were quickly reached within half an hour each leg. The forest was dense and Sumatra tigers are said to dwell the area around those stops. Pos-3 to Shelter-1 was also quick and we savored our big lunch packs in Shelter-1 by 11:30. Shelter -1 is a more open area where we could see the lower land panorama. Rain water is collected in the plastic drums although the drums do not look very clean. Should be ok to drink the water but boiling it first will be better. By 12:30 we left Shelter-1 and the trek directly became steep and somewhat intriguing with narrow deep water ways. Meanwhile the vegetation was less dense than the previous parts. Within 2 hours appeared Shelter-2 where many trekkers camp. There are 2 sizeable plots for camping and a small water gullies some 50 meters down the camp site to the left direction. The water in the gullies come from small seepages droplets.
After collecting water, we continued to Shelter-3. The 2 hours ascent was somewhat difficult due to the deep and steep water way valleys. Some parts are as deep/ high as a tall person. You have to be able to haul your body and rucksack using hands and feet. Otherwise you could walk on the valley ridge strip which is vegetated with bushes. Wide rucksack would your walking difficult over the ride. Focus is important to prevent a nasty slip and fall. A fall to the valley could easily twist a member if not break it.
The open and windy Shelter-3 was therefore a relief although the state of cleanliness was appalling. Like a vast trash bin. The afternoon sunray at 17:00 dried our wet clothes and then the night came and we quickly slipped into our tents after a hefty dinner. The night at Shelter-3 was good without a rain shower and considered warm for a 3300 m high spot. Perhaps it was because of the rainy season and the active crater.
On 31/3/2016 after a quick breakfast of instant noodle and rice and coffee, by 4:00 we started marching to the peak. The half-moon lighted our trek and quickly we left the bushes for the rocky open trek. The trek was fine as it is steep but not slippery. It was almost 6:00 o’clock when we stood at the 3805 m peak. In the north east the beautiful Gunungtujuh Lake loomed. Proper north-east, from the deep crater below, the dense black-grey smoke blew. The peak is actually a narrow strip of some 5 m width. The north-east edge off course is the dangerous part, since the hundred meters crater is situated vertically down below. We approached the peak from the south-east slope and the other sides are only deep and steep cliffs. There is a short path down to the north part of the summit but it ends abruptly at a cliff edge. Shortly speaking, the peak is quite a scary place to stand, particularly if there a storm occurs.
The descent from the peak to the Shelter-3 was warm under the morning sun, and then the breakfast was fulfilling. Afterwards we marched down to the village with moderate speed. With a lunch break at Shelter-1 again, then we got to the trek start-point by around 16:00. Since we were separated one from the other, I walked alone in the lower part of the forest for quite a while. I looked back behind me quite often as the area is said to be the dwelling place of Sumatran tigers. There is also a story about the Small People of Kerinci which is said to look small (ca. 1 meter tall), hairy, naked, shy and unharmful. But like the other trekkers, we did not come across any of them. After a short transfer car ride, a warm water shower in Family Homestay was then followed with a big dinner in a modest local restaurant nearby. Our dinner was concluded with teh-talua (egg-tea, the West Sumatra specialty drink) and very nice black coffee.
G Talamau (2982 m)
This 2982 m dormant volcano is beautiful yet rarely trekked by many. This lefts it and its forest fauna, flora undisturbed. Although some little amount of trashes are spotted, it is nowhere dirty like the other mountains. The forest over there is still dense, bushes are thick and scratch body members. The summit area is very nice, quiet, peaceful and serene. The 6 lakes at the summit area are dark brown but the waters are clear if you come closer. No fish in those lakes. Between the trek start-point and the peak, there are 5 stops which are named instead of numbered. The 1st stop is Harimau Campo, the 2nd is Rindu Alam, the 3rd is Bumi Sarasah, the 4th is Bukit Peninjauan and the 5th is Padang Siranjano. Harimau Campo has a large and good shelter plus an office, a toilet and a kitchen. Andrianto, the G Talamau ranger manages the facility in good maintenance. The 2nd to 4th stops are small plots good for a few tents and the last stop, Padang Siranjano, is actually a good sized plain dotted with 6 lakes of different sizes. There are some good camping sites around Siranjano, the most often used site is Rajawali stop by the largest lake (Talago Puti Sangka Bulan).
From Kersiktuo on 1/4/2016 we rode the similar “travel” car back to Padang through the meandering and quiet Solok Selatan highway. Villages are situated far away one from the others, unlike in Jawa. Danau Diatas lake was cloudy yet beautiful but we did not have time to enjoy the view. After 7 hours we arrived in the travel firm station to be directly transferred to a similar small car to Pinagar. The break was only 15 minutes for bags transfer and natural call. Afterwards another 4.5 hours ride along the well paved road. From Padang to Pariaman the road was good and quite busy. Afterwards the car ascended gradually to the hills of Pasaman Barat area. The road was still good all the way to Simpang Ampat (4 hours from Padang), then the car turned right towards Pinagar through a smaller road which is actually the highway to North Sumatra. By 20:30 we arrived at Andrianto’s home in Pinagar village. Andri is G Talamau ranger and would be our guide. In Pinagar village there is currently no commercial accommodation but Andri’s family house. Some 10 km away from Pinagar there are some hotels in the Simpang Empat town. Andri’s house was very basic and we slept in the living room.
The morning of 2/4/2016, 10:15 o’clock we left Pinagar for G Talamau. The first leg of 3 km was travelled on motorbike taxis. The unpaved farmland access was stony and bumpy we had to focus on balancing our bodies and weights. The 30 minutes farming area trek was ended with a small river stream crossing. Wet your shoes or carefully step on the rocks.
At 10:45 when starting the trekking directly we were challenged with a 30 minutes very steep ascent amidst farming area. The short leg brought us to Pos Harimau Campo. In G Talamau the stops are not numbered but given names. Campo was a very good shelter where Andri keeps his stocks of everything from stove fuel to sugar and tea as well as cement for construction.
After a short break for warm tea, we marched along a relatively gentle trek to the second stop/ shelter of Rindu Alam. The 3 hours trek was initially gentle and quite open amidst coffee plantations but then it changed to a dense vegetation. About an hour from Campo we stopped for lunch under a coffee farmer hut. Half way to Rindu Alam, the trek became steeper but still fine. Arriving in Rindu Alam we started to check our shoes as Ganda, the porter began to pull some leeches from his feet.
We almost did not stop in Rindu Alam (1100 m) to avoid leeches but after Rindu Alam the leeches were so many and aggressive we were so busy pulling and scratching them out from our bodies and feet. The 3 hours walk to the Bumi Sarasah stop was an agony for we had to deal with the tricky creatures in our shoes and the other parts of our bodies. They climbed our shoes and got into them. Penetrating the socks is easy for them and after a while we found our socks red with blood. Not only feet but they also got onto our bellies, backs, shoulders and necks. Leech bite is itchy and after a while a leech becomes so full it inflates its body perhaps 10 times its original size. Off course with our bloods. Then it detaches itself from our skin and stays in the shoes or falls from our belly/ back/ neck/ shoulder. Another nasty thing, a leech put an anti-coagulation liquid into our skin so the small wound would not dry for quite a while (sometimes up to an hour) and blood comes out from it.
We observed the leeches as we pull them from our skins, they are of different colors. Black, brown, green and red. I am not sure indeed which one is they name as pacet-siamang (monkey-leech). But I guess the red one for it is the nastiest in term of persistence and greed. One more thing, 6 (six) week after the exposure we still feel the itches …
We camped at Bumi Sarasah by 18:00 and the leeches were still around trying to intercept us for blood but they were not successful as we were in better situation anticipating the attack. The night at the 1800 m stop was cool but nowhere too cold. The sounds from various creatures in the forest altogether made a nature symphony. The symphony of birds, monkeys, insects and other animals in G Talamau indeed was different from many other forests’. After a hefty dinner of rice and fried chicken we slipped into our tents. To prepare ourselves for the summit attack the following morning.
The morning of 3/4/2016 in Bumi Sarasah was busy as we prepared ourselves with the things we needed for the long day to the summit and back to this stop. By 8:00 we left Bumi Sarasah and gratefully no single leech was there. The trek was ever steep and the forest was dense. By 11:00 we arrived at Bukit Peninjauan stop where the vegetation has changed to bushes. From here we could see the lower land. The site is good for a few tents and our lunch was quiet. By 11:30 we quickly continued our march towards the summit area along the more open and partially steep trek. We could benefit from the sun to dry our shirts but the thick bushes scratched our skins. En-route we crossed a river stream and a small waterfall. Water therefore is abundant.
After a short gentle trek by 12:15 we got to the Padang Siranjano, which is a wide meadows dotted by 6 lakes or pools. The largest one, Talago (Lake) Puti Sangka Bulan, is about 4 x basketball court size, and the smallest is about a badminton court size. The lakes were all dark brown but when we approached the lake sides the water looked clean. I drank the water from Talago Puti Sangka Bulan because the shore is easily accessible, and it tasted perfect. The dark brown color appeared to come from the lake soil. The soil was dark brown and consist of loose fine sand, therefore the water easily became murky when disturbed even lightly.
The trek to the peak is along the right shore of the lake, and the soil is swampy. Must be careful not to wet our shoes. Half way the length of the lake the trek turns right towards the bushes, ascends gradually then abruptly becomes a steep rocky trek. The 1 to 5 cubic meters rocks indeed altogether form an easy steep trek. Just better need to remember the way down not to turn towards the wrong trek. This is particularly important when the summit area is cloudy and we could not see the lakes.
After 30 minutes we got to the Trimartha Peak of G Talamau where Andri and his friends stacked a 3 meters high steel pole with a mosque roof miniature on the pole top. The weather was almost perfect we could sense the sunburn on our rear necks. Shirts are dried from sweats and we had our warm tea while preparing our stamina for the long descent to Bumi Serasah camp site. The other 2 peaks of the similar altitudes were indeed close and there is a quite clear path to those peaks, supposedly eastward direction. However we skipped them due to time constraints and left the Trimartha Peak by 2:00 o’clock.
The descent was always nice but sometimes exhausting when the slope is steep. Some people like me prefer steep ascent than steep descent. We stopped to drink the pristine water in the small waterfall, then continued to Bumi Serasah. It was already dark when we got to the Bumi Serasah, and quickly we prepared ourselves for the dinner and then a good night rest in the tents. The voice of the forest creatures welcomed the night, they were loud but somehow sounded highly harmonious. Nature does not give us false notes …
The morning of 4/4/2016 was lazy and slowly we had our breakfast then packed our stuffs. The descent was still steep until Rindu Alam stop. Luckily the weather was dry and warm, the leeches hid themselves away from us. We stopped for lunch in the coffee farmer hut and some leeches were about to attack our feet. Off course that time we were more than ready to dismiss the tricky creatures. Afterwards another short stretch, less than an hour to Harimau Campo stop. Closer to Campo there were some farmers hut that looked alike we had to be careful not to go to the wrong direction. Fortunately the grandiose Campo shelter roof could be easily seen from the distance.
The rest at Campo was short, then we descended slowly through the very steep short trek to the trek start point. Fortunately the rain dropped only when were already at the levelled ground near the small riverine. After a jambu fruits fiesta directly from the tree near a farmer hut we were invited to sip coffee in Pak Budi’s hut, the farmer from Lembata Island in East Flores. His family’s hospitality, the sweet black coffee and the boiled nuts quickly returned our energy before he drove us to the Pinagar village, back to Andri’s house and his very kind family.
G Marapi (2891 m)
One of Bukittinggi’s attractions is G Marapi trekking. G Marapi is 2891 m and easily accessible from Bukittinggi. The summit has several peaks and the most frequently visited peak, the Merpati Peak, is actually not the highest peak. The highest peak is at least one more hours beyond the Merpati Peak but is said to be off limit for trekkers. The local people around G Marapi are against the exploration and exploitation of the true peak for fear of pollution, since the true peak is a densely forested area where the villages’ water source is situated.
From Pinagar on 5/4/2016 we rode the “travel” car again to Bukittinggi. The 4 hours ride was initially very fast as we rode through a perfect paved wide highway with only a few of other vehicles. Then we turned left towards a side road which had potholes. Still quiet but soon the view changed from plantations to a mix between plantation and forests on prominent hills. Then after a quiet small town of Lubuk Basung gradually we ascended to the quiet road that eventually passes the beautiful Lake Maninjau. The road is along the lake coast and the view to the lake was pretty with the giant blue water and the encircling cliffs in the distance. The lake was on our right side, the forested cliffs on our left. Houses dotted the rice fields, make the poetic lake alive. After some half an hour we reached the busy Maninjau village and directly ascended to the Agam highland through the infamous Kelok-44 (Forty Four Turns) road which meander along the slope of the hill and has some 44 sharp turns. With the not so wide road, drivers must pay focus their attentions to the road and the vehicles from the opposite direction. Going uphill and turning left is particularly challenging. After the uphill road that offers the beautiful view to Lake Maninjau, gradually the landscape changed to higher altitude scenes and then we arrived in Bukittinggi that has been changing to very busy mid-size city. After checking-in at the hotel, we attacked the famous Bukittinggi Nasi Kapau at the Pasar Atas eatery junction.
On 6/4/2016 at 6:30 we left Bukittinggi (900 m) on a rented city small public car to Kotobaru (1200 m). The road was still quiet and by 7:15 we got to Pasanggrahan (1500 m), G Marapi trek start-point, at a farmland area beyond Kotobaru village. It is situated some km beyond the mainroad from Bukittinggi to Padangpanjang/ Padang. After tickets arrangement and heavy nasi-padang breakfast, the team of 6 started the trekking towards G Marapi summit by 8:00.
The trek initially was mild for about half an hour along farming land and passing a camping ground then also a swift 10 m wide with logs to step on. Afterwards the trek became steeper and then within half an hour from there, steep all the way up. The trek was easy though, because of the natural staircase-like ground shaped by the large tree roots. There are at least 3 good shelters at the lower part of the trek, they must be food vendor shelters as each of them had seats and bench.
All the way up the trek was steep but easy, and after 4 hours the ground changed to rocky soil. Water is available here and there but we did not note them for we had enough water in our bags. By 12:30 we got to Cadas (2500 m), the open area with bushes and small steep river stream. Crossing it was easy, but there were no sign where to go. Luckily there were many students who camped over there and they directed us to the right trek, the left side direction from the river stream.
The final ascent to the summit was all rock trek. The slope was easy to navigate as the path was quite obvious and made meandering to reduce the steepness. Within half an hour we got to the Memoriam, the pseudo-peak. After a lunch break we continued our trek towards the Merpati peak (ca. 2800 m) via the dormant crater. Dedi, our guide said that the dormant crater field spews fumes when the volcano erupts. Beyond the crater field the path turned right towards the ridge that led us to the Merpati peak. By 13:30 we reached the Merpati peak. There were 2891 m sign boards over there for picture shooting.
The weather was foggy and windy, so we could only see the other peaks and the crater vaguely. We did not stay long over there and hurried back to Memoriam for the descent. The rain dropped hard but our descent to Cadas was quite easy as the trek was well surfaced. The curve that actually the waterway along the slope became white with the roaring water that ran down from the peak towards the lower grounds.
Continuing our descent under the rain that became harder, very soon the trek became small and shallow river. A snake crossed our path and then quickly vanished in the bush. Very soon the darkness came and it was totally dark except our headlamps when we stepped on the logs over the loudly roaring river. The roar was comparable to a waterfall. The power of rain water coming down from the height of the mountain was so huge …
Pasanggrahan was busy with student hikers who prepared to ascend to G Marapi summit. Amidst the rain they did not bother the coldness of the night and one by one vanished in the darkness towards the forest. After a roundup in Pasanggrahan we slowly descended back to Kotobaru and then Bukittinggi for our deserved night rest in Hotel Jogya and try some delicious local food near Hotel.
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