Triple trek trip

Ijen, Se­meru and Bromo – these three vol­canic peaks of East Java are a won­der­land of ad­ven­ture and amaz­ing scenery.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ADVENTURE - By VE­MANNA AP­PAN­NAH star2@thes­tar.com.my

WHEN I re­ceived a sur­prise in­vi­ta­tion ( via Face­book tag) to trek Mount Se­meru, East Java, I did not hes­i­tate to join up – even though the other 10 par­tic­i­pants were strangers.

Af­ter we touched down at Juanda Air­port, Surabaya, we were greeted by our trekking guide Agus, who is named af­ter the month of Au­gust. He made our five day, four night ex­pe­di­tion an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

Our ex­pe­di­tion be­gan with an al­most 10 hour, 300km drive in a mini­van to Sem­pol Blawan vil­lage. Af­ter din­ner and a trek brief­ing at our Ca­ti­mor Home­s­tay, we repacked the stuff needed for hik­ing and then hit our beds.

At 2am, we be­gan our trek up. Once we reached the Ijen plateau, we stood and looked down at the daz­zling, elec­tric- blue fire. This came from the burn­ing of sul­phuric gas, which was emerg­ing from cracks of the Ijen vol­cano.

As the sun slowly rose, the site looked even more sur­real, as the turquoise blue lake there un­folded.

The lake is the site of a labour- in­ten­sive min­ing op­er­a­tion, in which bas­kets laden with blocks of sul­phur are man­u­ally car­ried up from the floor of the vol­canic crater. The lake is recog­nised as the largest acidic crater lake in the world.

A two- hour hike is re­quired to reach the rim of the crater, fol­lowed by a 45 minute hike down a nar­row stair­way. De­spite its dra­matic set­ting, the Mount Ijen trek is a rel­a­tively mod­er­ate one, suit­able for any first timers. How­ever, a mask is a must to avoid get­ting choked by the thick and pun­gent sul­phuric gas.

Mag­i­cal lakes

Af­ter tack­ling Ijen, our next tar­get was to hike Mount Se­meru, which is the highest vol­canic peak of Java. Af­ter a tir­ing eight- hour drive to Lu­ma­jang town, Agus brought us to the lo­cal hospital to check on our blood pres­sure and body oxy­gen lev­els – our health cer­tifi­cates were re­quired to get the trekking per­mits.

The next morn­ing, we got all our lug­gage thrown into a 4WD jeep that took us to Ranu Pane vil­lage, where the trek was to start. The jeep ride was a lovely ex­pe­ri­ence, as we passed vil­lages and vegetable farms. The land­scape was sim­ply beau­ti­ful.

At Ranu Pane, we left be­hind the ex­tra lug­gage that was not re­quired for the trek. We also met our porters cum cooks who would carry two days worth of food sup­plies, wa­ter, cook­ing uten­sils and tents – plus our bags. Hik­ing with porters def­i­nitely made the ex­pe­ri­ence more bear­able!

Agus reg­is­tered our group at the ranger’s of­fice. The start point was at 2,100m above sea level. The stra­to­vol­cano Se­meru ( also known as Ma­hameru) is very steep, ris­ing abruptly to 3,676m from the coastal plains of east­ern Java.

The Ranu Pane - Se­meru route would go through a lot of beau­ti­ful scenery at Wa­turen­jeng, Oro- Oro Ombo, Ce­moro Kadang, Ban­jan­gan and Kal­i­mati, where we would camp overnight be­fore ascending Se­meru the next morn­ing.

Here is where I would like to wax lyri­cal on the won­ders of Ranu Kum­bolo Lake at 2,390m, mid­way to the Kal­i­mati camp. We had been trekking through pine forests and when we sud­denly stepped out, it seemed that we had stum­bled on an undis­cov­ered world.

The lake took our breath away. No man on

earth could have carved such a land­scape. Only Mother Na­ture her­self was ca­pa­ble of such a mas­ter­piece. It made me re­call a quote: “Climb the moun­tain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you” ( David McCul­lough Jr).

The lake was sur­rounded with hills filled with green pines, and white clouds were re­flected in the lake. A cool breeze re­moved the fa­tigue we felt from the hours of trekking. It was a per­fect get­away spot to recharge mind, body and soul.

The porters pre­pared hot meals for us and Agus pointed to a hill­side.

“You see the heart- shaped ter­rain?” he said. “It is known as Love Val­ley. As you climb up the val­ley and leave the lake, think of the per­son whom you love, make a wish and climb straight up. Don’t look back at the lake. Your wishes may come true”.

From the lake, it was a four- hour trek to Kal­i­mati base camp ( 2,700m) cross­ing the Oro- Oro Ombo and Ce­moro Kan­dang points. Kal­i­mati, which trans­lates to “Dead River” in Ja­vanese, had a sa­van­nah bush type of land­scape with plenty of small moun­tain flow­ers.

Tents were pitched. I put on my ther­mal wear and tucked into my sleep­ing bag to keep warm in the 10° C cold. Armed with only head­lamps and flash­lights un­der the starry night, we tucked our­selves in early that silent night.

Night trek

At 1.30am, we had to wake up to fill our stom­achs with some food and warm cof­fee. We wanted to get to the peak to wit­ness the sun­rise. The trek from Kal­i­mati would take about four hours.

We soon got to Ar­copodo, the last check point be­fore the as­cent to Se­meru. The trek be­came abruptly steep and our feet sank into the loose sand, mak­ing the climb even harder.

This was the hard­est part of the trek. Trekking in the dark, we re­lied on light from our own head­lamps, and also from those ahead of us. We had to as­cend the 45 to 60 de­gree gra­di­ent slope and the sand, loose stones and gravel made the climb three times harder – with ev­ery step for­ward, we were li­able to slip back down two steps.

There were no plants or trees to hold on to, and there was no proper trail. The climb drained our stamina. To make mat­ters worse, the air had less oxy­gen at this high al­ti­tude.

But it was glo­ri­ous when we fi­nally got to the peak. The slow sun­rise pro­vided a panoramic view at 3,676m above sea level. The splen­did land­scape un­folded as we re­joiced reach­ing the top of Se­meru. The cold, the al­ti­tude, the steep climb were all worth the pain once we set our foot on the highest point of Java.

Hav­ing en­joyed the scenic views, get­ting down was fun – what took three hours to climb just took less than an hour to slide down along the sandy slopes.

We packed all our stuff from the Kal­i­mati camp and trekked down. On our way back, our thoughts were on cross­ing the mag­i­cal Ranu Kum­bolo lake again. When we got there, we en­acted a Bol­ly­wood mo­ment, our own ver­sion of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

At Ranu Pane vil­lage, we col­lected the stuff which we had left be­hind, hopped onto the 4WD jeep, and headed straight to the home­s­tay at Ce­mara Lawang for our last des­ti­na­tion, Mount Bromo. The jeep passed through pic­turesque sa­van­nah- like fields and plains filled with fine vol­canic sand.

On our last day in Java, we drove up in the jeep to Mount Pana­jakan, the most pop­u­lar view­point to see the sun­rise at the en­tire Bromo- Tengger- Se­meru Na­tional Park.

Mount Bromo ( 2,329m) is an ac­tive vol­cano and its name is de­rived from the Ja­vanese pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Brahma, the Hindu cre­ator god. It sits in the mid­dle of a vast plain called the “Sea of Sand”.

The Hindu tem­ple here is a place of wor­ship for the Tengger tribe of the moun­tains of East Java. ( They are a rem­nant from the days when the main re­li­gion of Java was Hin­duism.)

At Pana­jakan, the sky started to change colour as the sun crawled up slowly, re­veal­ing the el­e­gant Mount Ba­tok in the mid­dle of the Tengger Caldera while Mount Bromo sat humbly be­hind it.

From afar, the majestic Mount Se­meru over­looked the vast caldera of the other two mounts.

We then went through a vast plain and reached the foothills of Mount Bromo. From there, it was an hour walk over 245 steps to reach the top of the Bromo crater. That was the fi­nale of our hike.

It had been a mem­o­rable trekking trip and I had made 10 new friends. What a great ad­ven­ture holiday!

— Photos: VE­MANNA APPANAH

Made it! the group at the peak of Mount Se­meru.

the writer ( left) with his trek buddy at the peak of Mount Ijen.

View at the Bromo crater with Mount Ba­tok as a back­drop.

the turquoise acid lake at the Ijen vol­cano with sul­phur fumes emerg­ing from rocky crevices.

Cross­ing the ‘ Sea of Sand’ to get to the Bromo crater.

the writer en­joys the mag­nif­i­cent scenery at ranu Kum­bulo lake.

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