Our real excitement in Indonesia probably started on this third day, after we spent a restless night listening to the endless noise of motorcycles and worrying about kidnaps / robberies due to the proximity of our campsite to the road.
Figure 1: I was still in a dreamy state when Toni got up abruptly and captured the orange sunrise just outside our tent
Figure 2: We walked around the marketplace at the base of Gunung Gede for breakfast and enjoyed the ephemeral peacefulness in the early hour
Since we were stricken by the bolt from the blue that the official trail to Gunung Gede was closed, Toni had been desperately searching on his GPS for alternative routes to the peak of the volcano. It turned out that there was a possibility to reach Gunung Gede via Gunung Pangrango, a much bigger volcano. This was great news for us (well, great news for Toni because he could conquer more mountains and great news for me because Toni would not be so moody in the next few days) and we departed the marketplace with joy and bliss.
Figure 3: we immediately fell in love with the exuberant village at the foot of Gunung Pangrango
Figure 5: beautiful rice terraces in the morning sun
Figure 7: crossing a wooden “bridge“
It was hard to believe that Gunung Pangrango was once covered in deadly ashes. Ironically, years after a volcanic explosion, nature had bestowed the gift of fertility to this land. As we walked past the village, we saw flowers, tomatoes, chillies and all kinds of vegetables, bespeaking of life, energy and hope. In fact, the jungle immediately behind the village was so dense that we soon lost our sense of direction. Since the trail was not frequently used, everywhere was now covered with plants and roots. The soil was moist and soft, and we had to mind our steps so that our boots would not fail the grip or sink into the mud. Giant hungry mosquitoes buzzed loudly and formed small dark clouds around our necks and faces. They even penetrated through my tights (oh why on earth did I choose to wear a pair of tights in the jungle?!!) and sucked away my fresh blood underneath, leaving huge swollen itchy bumps on my legs. The most frustrating part was the trail signs (red and white plastic tapes wrapped around the trees), which led us to the heart of the jungle, but disappeared abruptly with an apparently recent mudslide where a two-meter mud trough had formed. “We needed to find the correct trail and get out of here!” I shouted in my brain and gripped my teeth to control my panic. Even Toni became a bit uncomfortable and started walking with big steps.
I didn’t know how long it lasted, maybe ten minutes, maybe two hours, until we finally spotted a black trail whose location was right on Toni’s GPS track. It was narrow and only relieved us temporarily, because we soon faced a long, steep and slippery stretch of mud. There was a short rope but we had to crawl underneath / climb over a giant tree trunk to reach it. Toni and I were forced to stop and ponder hard about our risks. Going back would mean another few hours’ grueling trekking and a waste of the whole day, but going forward could land us in a really dangerous situation with no one to call for help. Judging by the steepness of the slope and the cliff immediately beside it, there would be no way back if we were able to overcome it, and we wouldn’t know if a similar, or even more dangerous slope would await us. Toni knitted his eyebrows, looked at his GPS a few more times, and asked me if I had the courage to go on. I made a mental calculation (by rolling my eyeballs up and down because my mind was blank) and told him that I would like to continue, if he could teach me how to get to the other side of the tree trunk and grab the rope and reach safety successfully. He observed the surroundings, and told me that I could leave my backpack with him so that it would be less likely for me to slip. I looked at him worryingly and asked him how he could manage with two heavy backpacks, but my worry was pointless because as soon as he pushed me to the tree trunk so that I could grab the rope and climb with my trembling legs to a small muddy platform where I could turn back, sit down and pray for his safety, Toni grabbed my backpack over his right shoulder, and jogged up with lightening speed (well, compared to my speed) to arrive at my side, only crouching his shoulders slightly to pass through the forbidding tree trunk. I hugged and kissed him when he passed my backpack to me because I was so happy that we were safe again, at least for the moment.
Figure 9: condition of the trail before we reached the muddy stretch
After a few more steep slopes, we finally arrived at a small peak which gave us a bird’s eye view of the surroundings. It was very discouraging because Gunung Parango looked even further away!
This time, even Toni became hesitant to continue. First of all, we did not have sufficient food; furthermore, the absence of any other hikers gave us an unpleasant foreboding about the trail ahead of us. Finally, after taking a last glance at the formidable trail to Gunung Parango, we decided to take another trail down to the other side of the mountain.
Figure 12: celebrating our small victory on the small peak
We were able to relax just a little bit more on our way down because as predicted by Toni, the north side of the mountain turned out to be a lot drier. It was a tiring journey, but we were able to appreciate our surroundings and marvel at the beautiful sceneries and colorful insects. That was, before we finally reached a road and took a bus to another destination – Gunung Halimum Salak.