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Published: February 15th 2022
Indonesia, located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, has the highest number of active volcanoes in the world. Of the total 147 volcanoes, Indonesia has 129 active volcanoes. It’s a shame if I, being Indonesian, had not climbed any volcano. When a friend of mine asked me to come along trekking to Mt Papandayan, Garut, West Java, early last year, I’d thought she was joking. Did she just ask me to go to a mountain? I had never camped in my life, let alone climbed any mountain. Luck must have been on my side as the initial plans got postponed due to nationwide lock down. Thankfully, Indonesia, being a big country, could not control the blocking of the roads completely that I had the opportunity to train myself by going to many waterfalls until the lockdown was over.
At 2,665 meter above sea level or 1,950 meter above nearest city, Garut. Mt Papandayan is known as a beginners’ mountain, suitable for anyone who don’t have any experience mountain climbing. The thought of mountain climbing was daunting initially, until I reached the base camp of Mt Papandayan which looked more like a tourism spot. It was the second week in 2021
after the mountain was officially opened, for with limited capacity, for visitors. As we arrived at the parking area, we were surprised to see many mini bus, private cars and motorcycles. Later on, we learned that it was relatively easy to reach the top, and to our surprise, there were a few motor taxis ready to transport visitors to the top!
The official direction mentioned it would take us 30 minutes base camp to the crater, but as we trekked like a snail, with numerous of pictures taken, we must have reached it in 45 minutes. The first leg of the journey was relatively painless as the trail was paved. The fact that our backpacks were carried by porters on motorbikes made it easier.
After having our coffee break, we continued the second leg of the journey, where we started entering the forest heading towards the second post, called Gubber Hood. It should have been a 45 minutes trek, but our group must have taken one and a half hour to reach it. The trail got more challenging and steeper but the view was rewarding. As we ascended, we started to smell heavy sulfur in the air as
the smokes was released from the crater. Within 93 ha area, the mountain has four craters: Manuk, Gold, Stone and Nangklak Crater. The unique feature of the mountain is the fade clinking sound, resembling blacksmith in the work, generated by the smoke coming out of the crater!
After trekking for about two hours, we reached Pondok Salada camping area, which to my surprise was flat and spacious! Thanks to our tour guide, GoEscape.id, whose team had left earlier and prepared the tents, located next to the savanna, for the 14 of us. I was relieved to spot a toilet nearby!
In no time, we explored the savanna located near out tents, and it was here that I, for the first time in my life, saw Edelweiss, mountain flower belonging to the daisy or sunflower family. Protected by the local government, the flower is known to have health benefits for abdominal and respiratory diseases. We were delighted to see a wild boar afar and thought it must have been our lucky day to spot such an animal in its nature. Only later on, we learned that the boar, called Doyok, is a regular visitor at the camping area. We
were advised not to leave any stuffs with fragrance in the tent while sleeping. A few months earlier, my friends’ tent was ransacked by Doyok because of the food left in the tent and had to relocate to a nearby hut!
As the sun disappeared from the horizon, we prepared seafood hotpot for dinner, a perfect choice as temperature started to drop to around 15c. To keep ourselves warm, we lit bon fire next to our tent, while sipping ginger tea, enjoying the sight of myriads of stars covering the sky. It was like a present from heaven; we managed to capture milky way photographs, and not only we got a few of good milky way shots, we also spot a falling star. What a treat! In that moment, we realised how tiny we are in the entire universe.
The next morning, we were too tired to wake up early and go for sunrise photo shooting. After preparing our breakfast, we got ready to visit to Edelweiss Forest and also Dead Forest. Located half an hour from our camp site, the Dead Forest would have been creepy if I were to visit it in the evening as those
dead trees remained intact for more than 250 years, post eruption of the mountain in 1772.
Heading back to the parking area, we deliberately took a detour to see the crater lake and hot water stream. As we trekked, all we could see was the hilly landscape of barren rocks, the feeling of which made us feel like we were in Mars! It was lifeless. Neither tree nor animals were anywhere to be seen. Only smokes coming out of craters were seen among these colorful rocks.
The hot water, rich in sulfur, flowing into stream was acidic, for which reason, we could not have a dip in the water. Longer than expected, the trail was tougher than the day before. Taking our time, we were relieved to reach the crater lake at last. Thick smokes coming out of the hill over the crater lake, which made us felt overwhelmed, being so close to it, knowing that this volcano is still active. Sitting by the lake had a restful effect that we regained our strengths to return to the parking area. After trekking for an hour or so, we spot motorbike taxi and could not resist getting a ride
back. Back in the car, drained, I was glad I had ticked one of my bucket lists. Had we come during peak seasons, this mountain would have covered by hundreds of tents. We were lucky to have visited it at the right time!
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