Surabaya: Mount Semeru

17:30

Welcome back on the second part on this Surabaya feature, focusing on my journey from to Mount Semeru, the highest mountain on Java! Here is the first part of the story if you missed it.



We begin the day at 7.30am from SM Bromo Hotel, where we had a night of much-needed restful sleep. They drove us to a convenience store where we stocked up on biscuits, and breads. Note: We should have bought more because hiking is some serious calorie-burning exercise.
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This red jeep took us across deserts and long stretches of distances. Even though it's not the most comfortable, I'm thankful we didn't have the walk all the way in (which would have taken weeks, probably).
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After that we cruised across the infamous Whispering Sands which I miss so much. This is the moment y'know? If you've watched Mad Max: Fury Road you'll know which scene I'm talking about - when Furiosa drives into the sandstorm. These dark sands are soft and lovely to touch. Obviously not everyone agrees with me because these particles don't get off their hands easily. But I'd realized it's impossible to avoid contact so might as well let loose and play a little :)
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Some of the sights on the way which included Teletubbies Hills - the reference is lost on me as I didn't watch this cartoon which was more of a horror freak show to me when I was a kid. These are cute little furry green hills mysteriously shrouded in clouds.
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One jeep broke down on the narrow mountainous path and our jeep couldn't go past it. We had to wait for them to repair it, so there was some time for photo-taking (can you hear the Asian in me rejoice). I was getting sleepy in the jeep - when you are tired, you can sleep anywhere, even in a rickety bouncy jeep - and a little walk is a good relief. After we lingered around the path and tried to make it a bit further down the road, our jeep came roaring behind us. We are back on track again.
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The jeep dropped us off at the village closest to the jump-off point, called Ranu Pani. Here, we had our lunch at the only restaurant around there. We had fries and mee goreng, which were so unhealthy but delicious nevertheless. It was real Indomie, and instant noodles really can't get better than this.
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Alert: the lowest temperature could get to -4 degrees Celsius (usually 0-4 degrees) but we didn't exactly internalize how cold that would be and went on our merry way!
It got really tiring quick for me, not unbearable, but requires quite a bit of concentration to not slip and fall. I was terribly unfit considering I hibernated in the thick of Melbourne winter for a month before being thrusted straight into tropical rainforest hiking. /cries silently
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For the first two hours of the hike, I didn't take many pictures because 1) I was huffing and puffing away like an old woman, 2) It was difficult to maneuver my bag and camera while trying not to fall, 3) I was afraid my camera would slip from my hands and fall away.
Luckily, I could remember the general process quite clearly. We entered into a forested zone quickly after we left the village path, with a clear cobbled path at first before it tapered off into a mud path.
There were portions (pictured above) where the entire path was nearly wiped out by rain and landslides only with a flimsy fence between us and a deadly hundred feet drop.
Somewhere along the way we tried to cut through the forest vertically instead of going the long, winding way. It was actually quite exciting to rough it out and helped us save quite a bit of time, but it's neither easy nor recommended.
Then we also missed a turn and went on the wrong way, downslope instead of up, and had to somewhat rock-climb the face of the mountain to get back onto the mountain path. It was easier than expected, though it doesn't make it less dangerous. I cheated and grabbed onto the weeds rather than rocks to scale it. Sorry, weeds.
DSCN3312DSCN3334DSCN3335After the mini rock-climbing session, we reached this beautiful lake Ranu Kombolo right before 3pm. Most trekkers would set up camp here for the night, but we are tight on time so we simply had a short rest before going onto the second base camp. Little did I know the slope in the background of this picture is such a killer.
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A better view of the slope. Halfway I had to stop to take a break, it was so slippery and after two and a half hours of hiking, my legs just aren't as robust as when I first set off.
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Then it was another 3 hours before Kalimati base camp! There were more different terrains and landscapes, some parts involved trudging through banal foliage and others, through winding narrow paths with jaw-droppingly beautiful views of the cliffs and mountains. I didn't take a picture because losing my camera to gravity is extremely likely... but the best memories are kept in my head for sure :)
The last stretch before I reached Kalimati was very, very tough. I was nearly completely dependent on the trekking porter (his duties do not involve helping me, so grateful that he kindly did) to pull me up the slopes. I tried to talk to him in my extremely limited vocabulary of Bahasa Melayu - which is quite different from Bahasa Indonesia - and found that he is 19 years old and lives in Ranu Pani. Um, useful information I guess.
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First sight of Mount Semeru, the mother of fiery monsters on Java sputtering out sulphuric clouds. /shudders
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Night was fast approaching and temperatures were dipping madly. It was super cold, I couldn't even hold my camera properly anymore so I gave up on pictures! It was also impossible to sustain a fire in the winds with slightly damp firewood, so we had to make do. Our porters helped to set up the tents. The plan was to have dinner by 7.30pm, catch a sleep and wake up at 11.30pm to begin the ascent up Mount Semeru for the sunrise.
I didn't manage to make it though because I was too tired and my legs were aching like crazy when I woke up at 11.30pm! So I gave up at this point on the journey :( I stayed behind in the base camp while the rest went up to scale the monster.
It wasn't exactly scary being alone in the tent, except that there were phantom wild animals sounds in the distance and I kept wondering if they will attack the tents. It continued to be very cold - below 10 degrees for sure, and I tried to catch some sleep in my nest of sleeping bags. I woke at 5.30am again and couldn't sleep anymore with too many thoughts racing through my mind.
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When the sun came up, it became warmer by the minute, much to my relief. When everyone returned from the summit, we started to head back the way we came from. The return journey always feel shorter, but the last stretch was much more mental than physical because it never seemed to end (it was '1km more' for two hours). My first hiking trip and it really taught me a lot on how I should pace myself and the amount of endurance I needed. For a different perspective and more information on our trip, read Jade's recount here. We had a knack for remembering different highlights, and she did make it for the summit - so read that if you are interested ;) Till the next time <3

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