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Climbing Ciremai, the Highest Mountain in West Java.
The trek choices.
Mt. Ciremai can be climbed though 3 different popular or official treks: Apuy, Linggar Jati, and Palutungan villages. For some reasons among others practicality in finding transportation and the consideration based on brief study on every trek in the internet written by those who have experience in climbing the mountain, we finally chose Palutungan to be our starting point.
From some information I read about those 3 treks, Apuy is shorter but steeper. We have to go to Majalengka to reach Apuy and public transport to Apuy is not frequently available, especially at night. Linggar Jati trek offers more "friendly" to climbers due to its slopping route but consecuently needs longer time to reach the peak than the other two options. We considered Palutungan was in between those two choices in term of difficulty level and transport availability, so that was why we finally decided to go through Palutungan.
11 September 2015: Left for Kuningan.
We, my friend and I, left Bekasi when the clock had shown 8:30 pm. We left the city for Kuningan that late since after finishing our teaching activities (we happen to be teachers at the same English teaching institution). We left for Palutungan in Kuningan to be precisely, a small town at the foot of Ciremai where we were going to begin our trekking.
We'd planned to go to Kuningan by bus and it was not easy to find the bus to take us to the city because of our late kick off and delaying it until the next morning will only make us run out of time.
We preferred to wait for the bus at an intersection of the street to going to the bus station, again for the shake of time efficiency..lol. Thank God that we finally got the bus although it was not air conditioned bus we expected to ride.
Spent the night at a gas station.
The bus ride took around 5.5 hours and we got Kuningan at 2 early in the morning. We got of at a dark, empty road but we were happy that a gas station across the road was still open. It should take another 1 hour to go to Palutungan village but no public transport operated at that time to bring us there, so nothing we could do but took a rest and the only possible place was gas station.
After asking for permission to an on-duty officer at the station to let us stay for a couple of hours, we looked for a place to rest and finally chose a small grassy ground in the corner next to the toilet !. We just lay down there without shelter, only our sleeping bags kept us warm and made us have a short slumber well. We were grateful the weather was nice too to allow us to sleep under the open sky that night.
The first day in the morning served us a great view; we saw pretty sunrise in the east and enjoyable staggering Ciremai in west direction in the background of the gas station where we spent the night. We breathed fresh morning and got more enthusiasm to reach Palutungan village as soon as possible.
Palutungan was actually another district in Kuningan citi. It was located at the outskirt of the city and we had to take 3 different modes of transport to reach the village: 2 public cars and 1 motorcycle taxi or popularly known as ojeg.
Palutungan is the first post among 10 posts we were going to hike. Having arrived at Palutungan, we needed to report to the conservation office nearby. The office was located at an intersection of the main streets of the village and we had to pay Rp. 50,000 (US$3.9) for entrance ticket to the Ciremai National Park, a trekking map, a trash bag, and....a free meal !. Yes, we would get a free meal upon our return to the post on the following day.. hmm that was nice, since we'd never got such a treat in our climbing experiences before..
We made some additional preparations at Palutungan, we also bought 2 portions of take-away meals for our lunch at a food stall nearby since we would not have time for cooking. We'll have that ready-to-eat food us to eat on our ascending way later.
Ciremai is popular among climbers as an arid mountain, water is abundantly available only at Post 1 named Cigowong and don't expect to get water springs anymore after that. That's why when climbers get to Cigowong, they won't miss the chance to fill up their jars with fresh water which is flown to some taps inside a permanent building prepared by conservation authority. Many also take a bath to refresh their body on they way up or down Ciremai. Considering this water scarcity, we had to be sure we had enough water reserve with us. Although 600ml-bottled water gave pretty burden but each of us had to put 6 bottles of them in our carrier to be used for drinking and cooking back and forth. We had to be thrifty in using water indeed.
From the information on the sign board above, climbers normally take around 10 hours to reach the peak of Ciremai, passing 10 posts:
Palutungan, Cigowong, Kuta, Pangguyangan Badak, Tanjakan Asoy, Pasanggrahan, Sangyang Ropoh, Gua Walet, and the Peak .
Including the time for taking breaks, we estimated to reach the peak at around 19 pm. That's certainly not a good idea to enjoy it, so we planned to camp somewhere before reaching the peak and made summit attack at dawn, like we always do in reaching the peak when climbing a mountain.
At 8;30 am we started our journey passing a narrow ascending path at Palutungan areas. Local vegetable fields and cow farms were seen everywhere on the left and right sides.
Cigowong is the 2nd post, we took around 3 hours to get this post and that is understandable since it has the longest trek, 4.2 km away from post 1. This is a very nice shady post and here is where climbers fill up their jars with fresh water and take a bath for refreshment. Many also come here only to camp for one or two days and will go down. I think it is a good spot for photography too since the area is suitable for that purpose including the occurrence of birds for those who enjoy birding photography or bird watching.
We didn't spend too much time at Cigowong since we had taken rests several times before we reached it. We took time really into account and we already had enough water inside the carrier so that we passed Cigowong right away.
We greeted some other climbers who offered us place to rest but we just thanked them politely, telling them that we had had our rests and would go on.
We faced ascending fields all the ways and that really made our power drained quickly. We needed to take pauses for resting after every 20-minute walking to regain strengths. Jokingly said, the bottled water we sipped tasted like oasis water in the desert..lol. Some sweets also help supply us with energy.
Doing so intermittently, brought us to the 5th posts Arban. That meant we passed 3 posts before Arban, Kuta and Pangguyangan Badak for 2.5 hours and that caused us starved.
We had lunch and noon prayer at Kuta post but we didn't spend too much time taking rest here, again because of time constrain and another and harder post had waited for us : Tanjakan Asoy, a local name, jokingly means "very enjoyable" Slope. The name is given not because it's really enjoyable but due to its challenging, exhausting ascending fields.
Tanjakan Asoy .
Like I said before, Tanjakan Asoy is just a hyperbole. Its meaning Very Enjoyable Incline is jokingly given to this part of trek to encourage climbers facing the fact that it is an exhausting hike because of its steepness. Tanjakan Asoy or Enjoyable Hike is just a name, don't take the meaning seriously...lol
Along this Tanjakan Asoy, we could hardly get "bonus", flat paths to allow us to walk enjoyably lightly for a while before struggling facing the next risings. We had to hike up and up those rough trails like no end...
After facing it for about 1.5 hours Tanjakan Asoy finally ended and we arrived at Pasanggrahan, the 7th post. At this post, my climbing partner, Wahyudi, had suffered fatigue that we decided to set up our tent here. We arrived at Pasanggrahan at 5 pm, here we cooked some food for dinner, had enough rest although some animals, seemed to be some boars eating remains of food outside the tent, disturbed our sleep. Wahyudi was worried with the animal and tried to hush them by making some noises but I myself didn't care about them because I was too tired and really enjoyed my sleep.
Summit attack is the term when we wake up and rush up for the mountain summit before dawn with the hope to catch sunrise at the peak.
Pasanggrahan was very quiet at that time, our tent was the only one there. The companions we had were 2 posts away above us, they camped near the bat cave. So, we were confident to leave our tent alone for the summit attack.
We woke up late due to the boar annoyance last night so that we left for the peak at 5 am. We couldn't call it summit attack anymore for that late departure and the consequence the sun rise left us behind when we got to the peak.
The black starling
Fellow bumble bees and black starling showed us the way.
There were three kinds of animals that I must mention in this story, they are boars, bumble bees, and black starling.
Boars which bothered us at night during our sleep in the tent. Although I tried to neglect their presence at that night, but they successfully made us woke late for summit attack.
Second is the bumble bees. They kept swarming around me on my way up the mountain. I just free from them only after reaching the 7th post, Pasanggrahan. They were gone at this point and I had no idea their where about after that. They greeted me again when I went down somewhere after Pasanggrahan. They were a bit annoying that sometimes I had to deter them with my hands but then I realized their nice companion along the trekking.
The third fellow is the black starling. A black starling had shown us the way to the peak of Ciremai. It would fly and perched somewhere ahead of us all the way until we reached the peak. Luckily I managed to capture its picture using my camera which I show you together with this story.
Reaching the peak of Mt. Ciremai.
My dream of climbing a mountain above 3000 m high has finally fulfilled. My friend (Wahyudi) and I reached the peak of Ciremai (3078 m) in the morning at 7:30 on September 12, 2015.
Ciremai is an active mountain and had a huge crater. The crater rim was just narrow boundary that we had to be extremely careful when we tried to walk on it, not to mention the wind was very strong that we couldn't stand steadily there and walked like a toddler.
It was not an easy attempt for us indeed and gave us suffering burn-out and at one time it crossed my mind to giving it up. I felt climbing this mountain for 32 hours was too short and drained my energy too much. Three weeks after the climbing, at the time I wrote this story, I still had some sorts of pain in my right knee.
The Ciremai climbing was tiring but it also had left special experience in our climbing journeys.
Till we meet again in the next trekking.