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Published: March 27th 2016
"I love to climb mountains you know? I can learn so many, many things doing so," said Eiger excitedly.
To which, I readily replied: "Yes, totally agreed, me too!"
This was 1 of the many conversations I had, during the supposedly solo trek up to Mt. Papandayan, a mountain so unique and hugely popular with the locals, yet still pretty much unheard of to foreigners. Neither did I know of it, prior to finding this gem through rare articles online and from local colleagues. But here I am, having spent 2D/1N here, with stories to share and a very fulfilling long weekend spent.
The trip started off from my apartment in Cikarang, taking a 5.30am bus to Bandung, then after an Angkot transfer, reaching terminal Cicaheum where I boarded a public bus towards Garut city, the closest city (1 hr) from Mt. Papandayan. In truth, the public bus was hot and stuffy, which I had to endure throughout a pretty long 4-hr journey. After a fuss-free lunch at Garut, I bought a sleeping bag from an outdoor sports shop (plenty here) before taking another Angkot towards Cisurupan town. In all honesty, I was trying my luck with the
Angkot as I wasn't sure where it was exactly headed for. My basic conversational Bahasa didn't help either. I relied heavily on google maps and thankfully, I dropped off at the junction of Jl. Raya Cisurupan and Jl. Raya Garut-Cikajang after another hour. (I've come to learnt that any angkot towards Cikajang/Cisurupan can be taken). Finally, an Ojek ride up to the foot of the mountain, and I've arrived here! Bandung - Garut:
Bus, 3.5 hours (15,000 rp) Garut - Cisurupan:
Angkot, 1 hour (15,000 rp) Cisurupan - Papandayan:
Ojek, 0.5 hour (40,000 rp) + entrance fee to Papandayan: ~12,500 rp
It started pouring just when I reached the 'carpark', where many shops lined up along the roadside. Thankfully, the rain subsided after an hour, and I managed to rent a tent for 100,000 rp. In fact, anything from sleeping mat, sleeping bag, tent to other camping equipment can be rented here! I also stocked up on some finger food and water before starting the ascent.
As mentioned, Mt. Papandayan is special as it offers vastly different but equally spectacular sceneries en route to the top. It started off with the craters (kawah) spouting
sulphuric smoke just half an hour through the volcanic rocks right from the very start. It's amazing how the fumes are constantly given off at multiple crater openings, filling the air with a pungent sulphuric smell. And then, the landscape transited to a somewhat dense rainforest as I followed other trekkers down towards the valley onto the ridge on the opposite side. That was where we went for the final push towards base camp Pondok Saladah, a plain, flat area with some trees sparsely distributed. And man, once I reached Pondok Saladah, I was amazed by the number of tents already pitched here. Definitely more than a hundred! I quickly did mine up with the help of my kind tent 'neighbour', before a night of heavy downpour threatened to dampen the mood again.
The next morning started at roughly 4.30am when I woke up to "Bangun!" (wake up!) shouts and cheers. People were already getting excited for the early morning climb for sunrise! After a quick Pop Mie breakfast (there are a couple of food stalls where one can buy food/drinks), I tagged along another group of trekkers in the dark towards the top. There are 2 ways up,
which I've come to know, of which we did the shorter but tougher one up. It was through a seemingly never-ending steep stretch of rocks and boulders, which totally reminded me of natural rock climbing. And man, was I panting heavily and catching my breath! Especially with a not-so-light backpack on my back. Thankfully, we were giving each other helping hands throughout and I felt that I already became part of the group climbing together. An hour or so later, we finally reached a flat plain of edelweiss bunches. On the Northeast foresty side, we found clearings where the view of the craters and other mountains in the close vicinity can be seen. The view from the top was beautiful. 2 distinct 'fuming' craters on the east, mountain ridges at the far end, and Mt. Cikuray to the North.
That's where I wandered off on my own again, in search of other lookout points, which led me to Pak Agung and his friends/family. We chatted, and he mentioned that he climbs, together with his 10 yr old son, at least twice a year in Java. He also kindly treated me to a cup of warm milk and biscuits at
the top! Other climbers joined in, and there were these 2 young college students who took pictures of written messages on paper against the backdrop. I've again, come to learn, that Indonesians love to do that! Bring along a marker and papers, leaving whatever messages you want (usually for loved ones) and take a scenic shot at the top. I followed likewise! I've no paper so I borrowed a market and wrote something simple on my palm instead. Pak Agung seemed amazed and he followed suit too! We snapped a shot together with our palms, and hopefully our loved ones get our messages 😉
After a prolonged break with Pak Agung, friends and others, I bade goodbye and wandered off alone towards Tegal Alun where a vast plain of Edelweiss greeted me. It's my first time seeing the plant and flowers atop a mountain so it was indeed eye-opening. The air here smells extremely fresh and crisp. This is perhaps the highlight for the locals, especially the cewek (girls), and many groups could be seen having breakfast and enjoying 'coffee time' here with their mobile stoves. After a couple of shots surrounded by Edelweiss, I searched for the other
route down the mountain, meeting many other trekkers climbing up. Along the way was where I meet Eiger and friends during a short break as we shared our passion for the mountains. We continued the last part down together, passing by the exotic yet picture perfect dead forest stretch, where bare trees are simply everywhere.
Reaching back to base camp, I got a simple Nasi Goreng for breakfast before packing my bags to leave this beautiful Gunung. Along the way down, I bumped into a few of my climbing companions again and it was really nice to know that even though I was doing this 2D/1N trek myself, I wasn't truly alone. I've meet so many friendly souls these 2 days, chatting with me, asking if I'm Japanese/Korean (seriously, the first impression I gave people!), offering me food and drinks, and in all, making the climb itself so memorable.
And back to loving mountains and the numerous lessons I can draw from it. I've learnt and understood so much more about the local Javanese climbing culture and their lives in general. Be it the school teacher who brought his students for excursion up here, Pak Agung and his
son, Eiger and friends, and the other countless climbing companions who cheered each other on throughout. Most importantly, I've felt the warmth of the locals here and they have taught me what the human touch really means in simple ways.
This 2D/1N Papandayan adventure will be an experience difficult to forget.
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