A Fine Morning with Mount Sumbing

Going Up
Last month, I got an occasional job to Wonosobo in regard to commemoration of Indonesian independence. It was coincidentally matched with my friend’s plan to hike Mount Sumbing.  At first I just wanted to get my  job done then go back home right away. But after looking up about Mount Sumbing, I decided to join him to give a visit to Mount Sumbing after completing my job there.

We booked the bus tickets one hour before departure. I had browsed days before and found out Budiman that we chose undoubtedly because they provide two routes: from Bandung (Terminal Cicaheum) and Cimahi (Pasar Antri/Cimahi Mall) to Wonosobo (Terminal Mendolo). I had to be meticulously aware with their schedule from Cimahi because per last August they only served to Wonosobo only on morning (07.30) and afternoon (18.00). We were chasing a hike in the morning so we decided to go after sundown.

An hour before my going, I still had my stuffs and supplies unpacked. I could have packed them two days before but I was being laid-back. I admired some of my friends whose ability is to plan and organize things perfectly from little things. To be honest, planning things is something I actually don’t really like of a journey. However, everybody makes a plan and admitted or not, how impulsive we are, we do still make plans. Like one morning in winter, I woke up with a very painful sore throat. I needed to grab water. What did I do? First, I thought of getting up, putting my slips on, making steps to kitchen, opening my mouth under the tap water, and finally turning the valve. That was me making a very basic plan to get some water. If life is a series of small plans, I can’t imagine how many plans I have failed to execute and how many disappointments I have born. Years before, I was so zeal to make ridiculous resolutions and excited to achieve them. Then in 2012, I had lessened my resolution points. It was like whenever I looked at the mirror, I found someone who was obsessed with self-actualization. I was revolting. My justification, it was just nice to have some of my dreams manifested into retrievable targets. When one by one was checked, i felt like my dream really come true. But then I found a part of me that I don’t know existed. I was feeling grateful when some of my dreams didn't come true. I value a beautiful mess as much as I like to get things organized.

Also, many occurrences unpredictably happened that put a sunny smile on my face for a day or even a week. If not serendipity, it was a silver lining. I began to think it would be unfair if i crossed them off my resolutions just because i didn't plan any of them to happen. Maybe this is the particular reason why I stopped –or at least reduced- making resolutions. I don’t wanna be part of society that solely value themselves by some overrated life-goals.

We departed from Cimahi at 18.30. We paid Rp.90k including one meal at a diner in Ciamis. It quite surprising because it was literally one meal. I was portioned to only one side-dish plus rice. The food was far from good and enough. I had to pay Rp.18k for having two additional side-dishes: a very skinny fried-chicken and two spoons of watery soup. I was hoping to refill my empty tummy so I could sleep like a baby during the bus trip. And what I got was the trip on which i was not able to sleep at all because the driver was turning the bus into a roller coaster. I was feeling dizzy. My friend also felt something wrong with the bus. I had no idea, perhaps the tires. All I could do was snuggling inside my sarung all the time and praying not to puke.

We arrived in Terminal Mendolo Wonosobo at 03.00. As I stepped down the bus, the wind breeze pinched my eyes delicately.  The sheer of air in Wonosobo was not much different from Bandung: cold and sleep-inducing. I looked around and only few people were there waiting to pick up their relatives who had just arrived. We scooted to nearby bench and rested our backpacks. No kiosks were open at this hour. My body was still feeling the jolt of the bus trip so I laid down on the bench and closed my eyes as waiting for the sun to come up.

One hour later, I woke up in hurry and went to toilet for peeing and cleaning myself, paying Rp.2k for that. The dawn was getting closer as we heard the prayer recital from a faraway mosque. Many backpackers were arriving in groups. They mentioned going to Mount Prau and Sindoro but we didn't find those whose intention was hiking Mount Sumbing. Before continuing our trip, we went to a nearby minimarket and bought some supplies. I had browsed and found out that there is no drinkable water on the mountain so I prepared 5 bottles of 1.5 L for myself two nights on the mountain. I also used the opportunity to check in at the toilet which was free.

For almost an hour we were looking for groups heading to Mount Sumbing. My friend actually did most of the job, he actively spoke to whomever he met.  But we didn’t find any. We walked to the left side of terminal which full of local transportations. A driver of local transport offered us to regroup with backpackers going to Mount Sindoro. He said that Mount Sindoro and Sumbing were really closeby so he could drop us right before they stopped at the entrance to Mount Sindoro. The fare was Rp.15k but we bargained to Rp.10k because the entrance of Mount Sumbing is much closer than of Mount Sindoro. He okayed. 

Mount Sumbing from Afar

Mount Sindoro
The minibus was small and old with weathered exterior and torn seats. For sure, it was not a bitter pill to choke so I wouldn’t ask any more of this because the minibus was still hot-geared even if it was loaded with almost thirty backpackers. Make it thirty two, because the last two stood on the car door. I got lucky I sat during the trip.

It took us thirty minutes to arrive at the entrance of Mount Sumbing. We found out that the distance from the entrance of Mount Sindoro to Mount Sumbing is less than a kilometer. Funny thing is, the driver dropped the Sindoro group first because the entrance was on the left side and then he turned back and dropped us at the entrance of Mount Sumbing. By gas, it should have costed us higher, or at least the same.

At the entrance, we saw Mount Sumbing standing blanketed with morning mist. The atmosphere was like in Puncak, Bogor but less crowded. There was a small ojeg station at the entrance. We talked to the drivers and they said that we needed to walk 5 km to get to the basecamp. We just realized we had not had breakfast yet so we looked for breakfast in a canteen not far from ojeg station. The canteens were a dime a dozen during day time but in the morning only one or two opened. I had an egg omelet, one bala-bala (fried vegetables), two pisang goreng (fried banana) and sautéed vegetables and paid Rp.8k for whole nine yards. Before going back to ojeg station, the owner of the canteen talked to us. She advised us to be really careful because last week someone passed away. Her words silenced us. We looked at each other for a second and said thank you to her.

We decided to go by ojeg because it was 5 km and we just ate. Oh how often I made a petty excuse. I thought I wouldn’t be caught dead in justifying myself over something like choosing the easier way when available. I hated myself for that. It was easy because I only paid Rp.15k to get both of us there. At the basecamp, we saw backpackers gathering and talking. Some of them were sleeping inside their bags. We straight away registered ourselves and got a map and a trash bag by paying Rp.25k for two. I guessed the basecamp and Mount Sumbing was organized by locals and it was quite well-organized. Toilets were clean and free; they sell souvenirs and food, and managed Ojeg drivers to post 1 with fixed price of Rp.35k.  I made myself clear to my friend that we couldn’t take ojeg anymore. First, I reasoned, it costed an arm and leg by ojeg with that distance. Second, my self-esteem would be damaged even more. He nodded. I guessed he was convinced by my insistence.

At 09.00 I finished my job. I emceed a gathering for independence commemoration at TVRI transmission station with fellow backpackers and nature lovers. My job was crossed off the list,  I was free to do the hike. According to the map, there are two routes to get to the top. The first one is Jalur Lama which has been regularly used by many hikers. Second one is Jalur Baru which has been made recently. They intersect on Post 3. We got ready and started the hike right away.

After fifteen minutes walking, we faced two paths: Jalur Lama and Jalur Baru. At the drop of a hat we chose Jalur Baru just because the sign said, “worth trying.” We roamed into local neighborhood for another fifteen minutes and went deep into a bamboos forest. We kept following the main trace and it was really noticeable just like on the map. On Jalur Baru, we saw many vegetable and rice fields. The track was challenging because of the extreme up hill. As we ascended higher, we began to pant.  We caught a breath few times from a flat-land area to long up-hill. Along the way we met farmers, sometimes we took a break with them and said hello and asked if we were going right way and asked how far we were to Post 1, and asked and asked and asked. God knows we were being indolent.

The sun had rose up right above our head. We already rested few times including on the rocks of tea plantation area before Post 1. While resting there, I let my eyes watch the scenery with the profoundest satisfaction. The pleasant image beyond words, a Mighty Mountain of Sindoro was standing in front of me. I took very long breathes as many as I could.

Tea Plantation

Mountain teaches me that hurrying to the top is not the point of hiking, savoring every moment is. It’s not about how high we can ascend, but how high we appreciate a moment. Some of my friends kept asking me, “why mountains? Today you go up, tomorrow you go down. You just exhaust yourself. Meanwhile self-discovery could be anywhere.” I didn’t reason to that because I also had no answer to that. It was the same thing with my question why to Eat, Pray, and Love, one must travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia. I naively thought that self-discovery could be anywhere.

But then I challenged myself to ponder even more. I like food so much. I am hungry so I eat. Then I am hungry again so I eat again. What is the point of repeating it over and over I was asking myself. However, some of people whom I know found the joy in hunger, value what they have for eating, appreciate the ingredients, and craft a culinary heaven. They pity person with taste blindness, me. I can draw a line that we have same life but different ways of surviving, of living. If you can indulge your character in the crowd of a shopping mall, please do. Going here is my way, there is your way. I like listening to sounds o f nature, feeling the cold wind breeze, or simply being aware of my steps and panting breath. Well, I am not an avid mountaineer. My friend, he is. He chases mountains. I am not. I am only a casual hiker. But instead of a hiker, I sound like a preacher now.

We continued walking through vegetable fields. The track signs were clear like on the maps. We followed the map and made ourselves a way along a narrow and steep stretch. The atmosphere gradually changed. The woodly area was obscured by the mist. The sun didn’t expose my path any longer. As we walked, we were getting surrounded by tall trees and covered by gloomy mist. My friend told me, every jungle usually has what is called the Jungle Entrée. I didn’t like chill as it made me sweating cold. But it didn’t last long since fifteen minutes later we found an opening that led us to a freshwater source. 

I was in excitement for not expecting a water source on the track. It seemed a spring is at the top of the hill and the water flows down cuts the tracking path. I was wondering if the sky started pouring rain, the track would be blocked. I tried to keep that thought at bay. We put our bags down and slowly grasped the water. I splashed my face once and quickly got addicted. It was so relieving, washing away my exhaustion. After that, we took many pictures. Not long, we noticed two hikers were appeared from the track behind us. They joined us resting and chatted with us a bit. To my surprise, they were senior high school students from Semarang who rode motorcycle for almost five hours to get here. The tall one brought a daily backpack and the small one even brought even a smaller bag. We kept taking pictures while they excused themselves to continue walking. We followed them into the woods not long after.
water trail
We arrived in Post 1 after fifteen minutes walking. We didn’t stay there too long because I felt chill sent down to my spine. I found cigarettes and matches and snacks left there on the rock. Nobody would ever throw them away.

Post 1

An hour later, we arrived in Post 2 and saw the kids from before were finished cooking meals. When we sat down and stretched our legs, they excused themselves again. I wanted to cook meal too and do prayer but my friend suddenly told me to do that later and proceed walking soon. I wanted to ask why but I kept it later. Not far from there, we passed by a memoriam of someone passed away on the mountain. He wasn’t the guy the canteen owner had talk about before. We stopped for a while and prayed.

Time moved fast on the mountain, and to my surprise it was almost 15.00. The track became steeper with sandy soil. The soil was not solid. I was anxious we’d in a big trouble if it rained. Then to think of it, I had never let myself loose. I worried too much. Worry is needed to see what is coming. But superfluous worrisomeness is only a torture. I was still finding out if I was into a torture kinda thing.

After a five-hour hiking, I arrived in a flat-land area called Pestan. At first we thought we skipped Post 3 because the track was supposed to intersect at Post 3 on Jalur Lama. But actually we got a bit lost so we went up straight to the camping ground. A blessing in disguise, right?

The mist was getting thicker as we looked for a fit terrain to pitch a tent. Many tents were all over the place so we were only left a small space next to a big tent. It was not flat but still fit to pitch a tent. My friend wandered up to spot a better space while I marked our spot. He went back and told me to pitch a tent here. When it started raining cats and dogs, we hurried to unpack the tent. Someone from the next tent help us pitching the tent. 

Some of our belongings were drenched and the inside of front tent was filled with water. I hurried unpack bags and separated them on a dry side of the tent while my friend was hammering the tent pegs outside. Once finished inside, i immediately ran outside and helped him step the tent pegs as deep as I could. Having a trip with friends is important for me. I’m allowed to share my burden to them as they can rely their burden on me. It takes two to tango. We learn how to split responsibilities, manage our supply, and help each other. Last trip, the tree of us were being too dependent so we thought someone would bring this and that. I couldn’t forget my friend was forgetting the match or the lighter, an important item for outdoor night spending. If we had not checked and rechecked, we would be died of starvation. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Nature is not a joke.

The rain was getting noisier. We tried our best to make ourselves comfy: changing clothes, socks, and jackets, and prepare sleeping bags. I cracked some snacks to tame our hunger for temporary and slipped into the sleeping bags. Not five minutes, that hunger we thought once tamed resurfaced. We then prepared the cooking utensils and cooked noodles with egg (mandatory meals on mountain) inside the tent. I devoured the Kari Ayam and letting the hot soup pass by my throat. It was delicious as hell. I remembered arguing with a food nutritionist/my friend over the definition of good food. To him, food is food, nothing special with it. Taste is either yumm or yuck, our perception enhances the flavor. To me, some are special. They are crafted differently and resulting characteristically different tastes. They have personalities and broaden my  sense and perspective. But now I was getting what he meant. I ate noodles at home and on mountain. Noodles were the same but the taste was differed. It might be because of my perception of time and place was changing. Or maybe I accidentally poured some sweats and debris of my mediocre thought into my plate. Whatever, noodles are delicious and chintzy as always.

We were sleeping as the rain was not stopping  until 19.00. We did not come outside until then. At 20.00 the rain had completely ended. We went out to get some fresh and were presented with a beautiful night scenery: the landscape of city lights with Mount Sindoro as the background. It took my breath away. I wish I could capture it with my camera but I knew it was pointless since my camera wasn’t ready for a perfect night capture. To juice up the night, we boiled water and made a cup of coffee milk from instant sachets. Then I thought about my other friend who always prepared fancy food and drinks for a trip. I regretted not hard enough persuading him to come. Then I took the chance to brush my teeth and pee far in the bush while starring at Mount Sindoro. The sensation was too good.

I bumped into many campers who were enjoying the night too. They put some musics and danced. But the merry of the night was swept away when it  started raining again. We went back into tent and slipped into sleeping bags. I was stretching my legs and sniffing my brand new Dacron-Polar sleeping bag which was thicker and warmer than my wrenched parachute sleeping bag. Dacron and Polar and Kayu Putih seriously warmed my night. Before I hit the hay, I turned 20 alarms on for summit attack time at dawn.

A Fine Morning with Mount Sumbing
I woke up at 03.00, the third alarm. Not fully conscious, but I recalled opening my eyes few times due to the strong wind gusts hitting our tent. I was completely taken by surprise, because I read on Internet that Pestan was an open air camping ground with natural wind-blower at night. The air was truly chilly but my sleeping bag was really a night safer. I woke my friend up and told him to prepare for the summit but he didn’t budge. His sleeping was contagious. I was blank for couple minutes; sit down under the tent and listening to whatever sounds chirping outside, and considering going back to sleep. I slided back into my sleeping bag but couldn’t continue sleeping. Next alarm was ringing. I turned the alarms off and stretched my legs and hands. My friend was slowly waking up, gathering his consciousness. We prepared to go to the top.

At 04.25 we started hiking to the top. Of course the air was icy if not cold. I felt difficult to move my fingers. My eyes were glued they felt so heavy to open. I popped my hands in my pocket to seek warmth and comfort. The other time, my left hand continuously hold my right hand. I kinda felt romantic and pathetic. I was cursed myself for not bringing gloves and beanie. My feet were feeling heavy to make a baby step. I looked back and there were plenty backpackers hiking the mountain. Some of them were arriving and proceed to the top. Hats off.

"Baby step, baby step." It was my mantra whenever I moaned and wanted to rest. Not because I was fully worn out so I needed to physically rest but just because I wanted to rest. I thought I needed to follow what I exactly want but my body pushed me to keep going.

At The Top
At 06.20 we arrived at the top of the third highest mountain in Java. The view was breathtaking and utterly amazing. All tiredness evaporated into gratitude. It was a strange feeling of being small and weak but also being proud and tough. We took pictures as many as possible and ate some energy biscuits while resting. We went down at 07.00 to see the crater. It was not less beautiful.

At 09.00 we hurried come down and arrived two hours later at our tent. We took lots of pictures but too bad there was still vandalism scattered at the rocks we passed by. It started to pouring again.

At 13.00 we arrieved in our tent and changed clothes, afraid of catching cold. Then we cooked noodles and slept waiting for the rain to stop. My friend told me he felt a painful headache and dizziness so he wanted to rest until evening. The rain had stopped and I went outside to dry my drench clothes. There were still lots of campers around my tent. I went back to tent and started writing my journal and plugged earphones on.

Going Home
At 15.00, I went outside to check my clothes. To my surprise, the camping area was almost empty. There were two groups, one was demounting their tent, another one was preparing to go down. I told my friend it seemed we would be the only one camping here. My friend was sleeping but he suddenly said what. He woke up and check outside himself. He looked around he told me to demount the tent and prepare to go down. I didn’t get it. I argued that we were planning to stay for two nights. He said he’d explain later. I personally didn’t like going down or up at night. Visibility was my issue. But I wasn’t in the mood to play devil’s advocate.

At 16.20, we hurried going down by Jalur Lama. At first, I advised to use Jalur Baru as it was more familiar. But he shook his head firmly and told me to try Jalur Lama. I nodded quickly as the mountain was getting heavy mist with little rain.

Fifteen minutes walking, we arrived at Post 3. My friend suddenly changed his mind and suggested to camp there. I was confused and vexed. What was his point, actually? I refuted his suggestion and told him to keep going down. Apparently, Jalur Lama was more hikers-friendly. Not like on Jalur Baru, every Post on Jalur Lama could be used to camp. The track was less slippery, more visible and solid. We passed by some hikers going up and down. I pushed my own feet to make steps to compete against time. I was hoping to get at Post 1 around 18.00. The forest was still light at 18.00 and that made bit relieved. We finally arrived in Post 1 around 19.00. There were many kiosks and ojeg standing by. I know now why Jalur Baru was worth trying. We kept going from Post 1 to basecamp so we didn’t arrive there too late. Unfortunately, 20 minutes from Post 1, my friend asked me to proceed by ojeg. He said his leg was hurt. I told him to take ojek and I kept walking. But he insisted. While we were discussing, one ojeg stopped by and offered us a ride Rp.20k for both us on one motorcycle. Tartil aka Tarik Tilu. My friend begged me to say yes. For his hurting leg, I nodded. Three of us with two 60 L carrier bags rode an old wrenched motorcycle. It was so savage. And the track was rocky for the first twenty minutes.

It took us thirty minutes by ojeg to get to basecamp. We rested. I went taking a bath and it was mercilessly cold. My body was trembling and shivering. But at the same time, I was feeling a great satisfaction of being refreshed. My friend refused to take a bath and chatting with other campers instead. We spent a night at basecamp and went to Terminal Mendolo in the morning after. We were so lucky when we were looking for a transportation to get us there, there was a pick-up car full of campers going up. I talked to the driver and he was okay with Rp.30k for taking us to Terminal Mendolo. We made a quick stop before Terminal Mendolo because my friend wanted to buy some local food and souvenirs. We arrived in Terminal Mendolo at 07.30 and just when we were about to buy the tickets, the ticket counter staff said the bus had just left and the next bus was scheduled at 16.00. She said that while pointing her finger to a moving bus. The driver was really helpful. Before we said anything, he hit the gas at full speed to catch the bus. We made it and paid him more than we should. So, I felt lucky to spent a morning on Mount Sumbing. My respect for nature and wilderness became more profound and as one track sign we had passed by could probably summarize, it was worth trying.

Some snapshots:

At Crater

Mist Going Down


Entrance to Mount Sumbing, Desa Garung
Red and White

(supposed to be) Candid
Post 2