Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mt Gede - Gede-Pangrango National Park, Java, Indonesia

It has been about a month since i have landed here in Singapore and having realized that there is not much i can do within this city, I decided to venture out into Indonesia. Indonesia has some wonderful volcanic peaks that are really enticing...

This hike has by far been the most spontaneous hike ever in my life.. There was no strong plan as has been the case with all my hikes in Canada and US. Madhav, my engg classmate, was in Jakarta and he offered to help me achieve my objective. So here I was, 5 days before the hike, without reservations, travel arrangements, park notfications. I decided to give it a shot with the following plan in mind.

Arrive Jakarta late friday night
Early Saturday morning - leave for trailhead.
Reach trailhead 10AM
Saturday night - Camp at Summit
Sunday evening return to Jakarta
Monday - Jakarta sight seeing
Tuesday morning - return flight to Singapore.

Not knowing what is to come, i assumed i would track to plan as i have in most of the hikes in the past. The journey starts with the first upset - Air Asia flight is delayed. I was able to reach Jakarta only by 130AM local time. On top of this, Madhav, who was supposed to drive me to trailhead was heavily drunk !! The only option was to postpone the hike by a day. We got up late Saturday morning and instead of heading to the trailhead early Sunday, we decided to go find a resort near by on saturday itself so that we can start hiking early on Sunday. It has been a while since i have travelled in a car in India-like environment and this ride was refreshingly pleasant.

Gudang Garam, the cigarette that is the starting point for most smokers in India

Snacks at traffic jams

We were beginning to see peaks at a distance

Madhav, my savior!

Agian, no reservations and we had no clue where we were going to stay. All we had was a 3G ipad which was put to optimal use. We found a resort called Bali Resort in Kota Bunga.

Late in the evening we had a nice full body genuine indonesian massage (it is not what you are thinking!) and I was all set for the hike next day.

We reached the national park at about 930AM and found the park to be locked. Then came a marine, who went in opened it from inside !!

Taman Nasional Gunung Gede Pangrango (Gede Pangrango National Park)

The twin volcanic peaks of Gede and Pangrango

The marine who helped us get in...

Apparently foreigners are mandated to hire a guide and a porter. You can negotiate if you can speak indonesian. But, since i had a ligament tear in my left shoulder i would not have been able to carry overnight camping gear anyways so we decided not to negotiate (Madhav knew a bit of Indonesian). We also met 3 dutch girls who were on a long vacation in Indonesia and were planning to do a 2hr hike on the same route - I offered to take them along till they wanted and they obliged. This way, even i would have company for the first 2 hrs..

Right before we started the hike

I asked the guide if we could stretch and cover both Gede and Pnagrango (Both are 9000ft+ and share the same trail half the way). He said that Pangrango is very risky in the rains and we should not attempt it. We were already into the wet season (Late Oct to Jan) and i too didnt want to take unwarranted risks. So we decided to wind up the hike with Gede only. The plan was to camp at Kadang Badak camp ground (7200Ft) and then do the last 2000ft early in the morning next day so as to witness sunrise at the summit.  

There are some beautiful spots a day hike if you dont have time and resources for a 2 day hike.

Small lake before the waterfall


Closer view of the waterfall

The hike until waterfall is relatively simple and offers some good views. The trail starts gaining some serious elevation progressively. There is a hot spring before Kadang badak camp ground. This is the last spot for day hikers because the trail is pretty steep beyond this point right until the summit.

Vapors coming out of the hot spring

Lots of branches to play with!!

Closer look at the hot spring

This hot spring crossing can be tricky and risky under heavy rains...

Vegetation is dense all through the hike

My guide and I took a crucial call to reduce the length of hike the next day. We decided to camp at the summit rather than at the base camp (Camp ground Kadang Badak). The were some disadvantages of doing so:

Water is available at Kadang Badak but not at the summit
The summit can be really cold and there would be no protection from rain
We might not have company even if we need help...

But, we decided to go ahead so that we could spend more time on the summit the next day. It was already raining and there was not much we could do anyways. 

Gede summit when i reached - No visibility at all. The fall from here is right into the center of the volcano crater !

I am not used to somebody else setting up camp and cooking food for me on hikes. Even when we travel in a group, all of us contribute towards something. Here, I was pampered with luxury. The tent was setup when my guide and I reached. Kitchen was setup and boiled water was made avialable for dinner. I kept reminding myself that I must not get used to this - else, i would have trouble when i hike on my own !
Fortunately, it cleared up the next day - we still could not see the sun rise though. Apparently, we were the only ones camping at the summit

The views were outstanding and we could see as far as Jakarta. 

Gede Volcano Crater - it still spews smoke !

Pangrango visible in the background

Romy (Porter) and Isaf (Guide)

Video from the summit

The return hike was a much more relaxed downhill hike, through Suryakencana meadows to Gunung putri.

Suryakencana meadows

I could understand why they dont recommend hiking during rainy season

The view from Gunung Putri

Gede at the distance - From Gunung Putri

Just when i thought i had completed the hike, i realized that i still had a 31/2 hr journey back to Jakarta. Came back in a bus standing on one leg (there was only room for one leg - reminded me of mumbai local trains) for 2 hrs - luckily found a place to sit for the last hour or so.
After reaching Jakarta, i was taken for a ride by a taxi driver - paid him atleast double of what i should have paid. Anyways, all it does is adds more excitement to the trip !!

If you plan to make this hike, here is some information you will find useful:

How to get there:
There are multiple entrances to the park. Cibodas is the most popular entrance - There are frequent buses from Jakarta. I started the hike from Cibodas and exited at Gunung Putri

How much:
Jakarta - Cibodas - 15000-25000 Indonesian Rupees - 3.5 hrs
Porter - atleast 400,000 Indonesian rupees
Guide - atleast 400,000 Indonesian rupees
Rentals - all inclusive ~150,000 (Sleeping bag, tent, kitchen)

This being my first hike in this region, this will always be special !! Currently looking at some more interesting ones both in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Up next: Kota Kinabulu (Malaysia) in Feb/Mar

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