I probably should warn you first that this will be a very long post. Please, bear with me. 😛
I knew that Indonesia is the biggest archipelago country in the world and I am very well aware that we have at least 17,000 islands and almost 7,000 among them are unnamed. Talk about primitive civilization. Yeah. How can Jakarta stand so tall with buildings and shopping malls that almost turn this city into a giant olympic size pool on raining season whereas 7,000 islands dont even have names.
I am also aware that Indonesia, without doubt is one of the richest country, judging from the size and the natural resources it has. And no, I’m not talking about gold or oil, that is so centuries ago, I’m talking about the uranium. Turns out Indonesia has somewhat rich savings of uranium, one of the nuclear power plant energy, which is, obviously expensive. Well, Indonesia is also a very beautiful country that you can just close your eyes, point any random place at a map, go there and find fascinating things. Including natural scene and landscapes, festival, languages (241 in total to exlpore!), tradition, custom, folktales, music and so on. I don’t believe you can get bored here. And as far as I know, no one has ever explore the whole 17,000 islands of Indonesia completely yet, witnessing their land, sea, and people’s uniqueness. I think it’ll be great to be able to do that, someday.
So, fascinated by this idea, I did some research and was surprised, if it was not shocked, actually, that Indonesia is also very well known as…… the most volcanic country in the world. I’ll tell you what does it mean. It means at least 16% of the world’s most active volcanoes are located here in Indonesia, and that is huge! It also means that there are 129 volcanoes here and at least 83 of them are active (means it will, someday, erupted). The Pacific Ring of Fire, which occurred at the basin of Pacific Ocean circles Indonesia’s territory completely, like literally there is no single island in Indonesia that is free of Pacific Ring of Fire volcanoes. One of those volcanoes, Mount Tambora in Sumbawa island erupted in 1815 and set a global climate anomalies called a six year volcanic winter over Northern America and European countries. That included snowfalls in June and also mid-summer frost over New York.
Will you look at that. I didn’t know any of these facts before, except for the Pacific Ring of Fire because it was really famous. So I started wondering, what do they look like, the mountains and volcanoes, if I were to see them from a very close distance. In my simple mind, I thought that I might as well visited those volcanoes before they erupted, so someone will also remember their beauty and glory. Because personally I think mountain is a peaceful place, fresh with a lot of trees and flowers and also give a mysterious sense in some way.
Thinking of this I go asked Cindy (who has some experiences climbing mountains) about all sort of mountain climbing things and ta-daaa! It was decided that we will climb a mountain as my 23rd birthday project. I always wanted to do something different with my birthday, so since this is something new and different, I was really really excited. Cindy told me about this mountain, called Mount Gede located near Bogor city, outside of Jakarta. She told me that Mount Gede has beautiful waterfalls, magnificent forest and also a 50 hectare of Edelweiss ground and it was easily accessible from Jakarta.
And so it was decided. To Mount Gede we go!
By standard local rules, you can not climb Mount Gede with less than 3 people in your group. When I asked why, Cindy told me that if something wrong were to happen to one person, the other two will be able to back each other up. If the group only consisted of two people and one of them is suddenly injured, they they will be done for. Cindy kept talking about safety procedures and I was listening to her that time, but wondered what could possibly go wrong because we were just climbing a very famous mountain (I imagined then there will be a lot of climbers, hikers, campers and so on… so no need to worry, you won’t be alone anyway), right?
Never think of a mountain as “just a mountain”, and stop underestimating the power of nature, people, please.
Whether you travel with someone so experienced in mountain climbing before, be it there is a guide who helps you pointing the way, be it you walk with your best friends whom you can trust your life with, the mountain will still test you.
I started the journey of climbing a mountain for the first time of my life believing that this will be a group journey, something you do happily because you have your good friends with you. But then upon completing the journey, I realize that it was actually a very private and individual journey, it was.
So, I went with Cindy and Veli, and was almost sure that the climb would be a fun climbing-outdoor-activities for three days. We took a bus trip of around 3,5 hours leaving Jakarta for Bogor. Veli and I mostly sleeping in turn, Cindy probably was too nervous about 4 pm deadline to take our permission papers at the downhill of Mount Gede so she didn’t sleep, perhaps. But we finally got there, taking with us our huge luggage (super heavy) and spent the night at Montana Basecamp, because we are scheduled to start our climbing the next morning around 5.00 am.
Sleep was fine, I shared a sleeping bag with Amanda, the girlfriend of one of the Montana’s boys and use it as a blanket for both of us. The next morning, I was really sleepy but excited as I washed my face (The water was ridicolously cold. What was that? Ice-cold water?) and pick my carrier. We had some quick breakfast (tuna and egg sandwich) and saying our goodbyes and start to walk towards the forest around probably 5.20.
Among the very first resting posts was this beautiful bridge, that stands between the thick forest to a small clearings where the view of Mount Pangrango could be clearly seen. Of so many things I remember upon taking so many pictures on this bridge were:
1. (while gazing at the faraway Mount Pangrango) Are we seriously going to climb to the top of a mountain like that? In two days??
2. (while staring at the far end of the bridge) This bridge is so beautiful, so easy to reach I can’t stop imagining that this is the oasis for the upcoming storm and obstacles.
Cindy was mostly silent all the time. Probably she was remembering a dear friend she used to climb this mountain with. Probably she was just letting Veli and I, the totally clueless beginner to enjoy the view, the sun shines and the winds because she knew it was not an easy road ahead.
Mount Gede is the second highest mountain in West Java. It is 2.958 meters, or around 9,000 ft, approximately. Last eruption was on 1957 and she just stood there without any significant activities up until now. You can climb Mount Gede through two tracks. The first track, and this was the track the three of us (and one guide) took this time. It is called Cibodas track and was said to be the easiest way to climb the mountain (I can’t be 100% agree, but I’ve never walked the other track, so what do I know? :P). The second track is called Gunung Putri track and according to Cindy, there is nothing that make sense about that track. The rocks and the roads are too tiring to walk and somehow it looks like it has been designed that way by nature to act as training ground for forest rangers and not exactly the track you took for pleasure and sight-seeing purposes.
Translation: common human like Veli and I were advised to just take the Cibodas track.
Anyways the Gunung Putri track was actually closed for some maintenance during our time of climbing so as curious as I was, we had no choice but to travel through the Cibodas track.
It was such a trip, considering we cooked open-air, although they are mainly simple food (soup, noodles), but this was the first time I ever cooked in a forest! It was amazing because I think that this is not exactly something I do on, say, regular basis.Plus, the forest made of so many different trees and floras and home to different birds and other animals. I managed to see one or two squirrels, and some birds of course, but did not see much of other animals though. The wood of the trees have different roughness, some of them are sooo soft like it’s been polished or something. I touched here and I touched there and I remember feeling so grateful for the hands of God that painted these.
The climb to the top of the mountain……. I don’t know how to explain that in words. It was really an up and down journey. It was extremely tiring. We started out on usual pace but slowly, as the journey goes on we move even slower than before. I was dead tired, but I thought that me above everyone else has no single right to complain that my legs are failing on me, or that my backs feel like it’s going to break anytime soon, or that i think my chest are going to explode in no time, or that I constantly need to pee pee but no way I constantly doing that in the bushes of the forest, I dont have any right to complain. Why, I made the others do this. I dragged them to comply with my selfish wish of celebrating a birthday different significantly from my previous birthdays. So I tried to cheer everyone up, just… try to cheer them up. I do think God walked with me through that forest. It is as if He lent me pair of wings that lifted me up so I could survive the hard rocks and roads and keep my spirit high.
We arrived at a resting post where naturally people especially beginner will camp out there before continuing their journey in the morning. This post is called Kandang Badak (please, don’t ask me to translate that. Haha.
… Fine. It’s Rhino’s Den… lair… cage, something.. See? I told you not to ask. Haha.. xD) allright, so we sat for a while, discussing what would be best to do. Cindy said that she would like to continue through, but she needed us to share her luggage. Given the situation that her back is not as strong as before, she probably should’ve ask earlier for us to do this. anyways, we shared her luggage, and continued our journey.
But then when the night comes, I was really really tired, I felt like I could not move anymore. Veli was there (because Cindy was already ahead) and offered her hands every single time. She whispered words like “you are strong.” and “you are amazing.”
See, I did not expect that climbing a mountain will be this hard. It is amazing to think now that when we climbed that day, maybe it’s the mountain, maybe it’s ourselves, but we push ourselves pass our limit. All I think was that if we don’t make it to the next post, it will be really cold, really dark, and no flat grounds to build our tent, and that means trouble.
So then you rely to other people too. For spirit, for helping hands, for kind words. You rely to your team in terms of believing that you can do this. And you have to do this, to finish the journey.
I think, climbing a mountain looks so much alike with our journey in life. We walked with families, friends, and they helped us along the way. But in the end, this is YOUR journey. You decide. You fight with yourself inside, you talked inside your heart, you have mental conversation with yourself, you try to assure yourself, you reach to God, you wished a lot of things probably without letting any of these out of your mouth. You push yourself. The journey will take you to beautiful oasis, through the waterfalls, beautiful scenes, with the smell of the grass and the soil, and sometimes you walked in fairly flat ground.
But sometimes… it becomes too hard to walk. The climb is tiring, you can not feel your legs anymore. Probably your arms and fingers are bleeding — hurt, maybe. You needed a rest. You can rest as long as you want, but by resting, you are not moving anywhere. You can feel tired and you can camped out, but if you quit and stop the climbing, you will miss the best part of the top view. You will miss the glory of the sun shines, the heat that slowly warm your body up, replacing the cold wind of the dawn. You will miss the magnificent view of the cloud beneath your feet, cloud never felt that close before, believe me. If you quit, you don’t get to see these.
Don’t you think it is quite similar with your journey in life?
The mountain shows you, you know. It shows you who you are, when you are away from all the privileges of your comfort food, bed and bathroom. It shows you who you really are, when confronted with problems and tiredness. It shows you how you feel and react to life. It shows you, it does.
When we finally got so close to the top of the mountain, we decided to stop and along with some campers, we camped out there. By this time, I was mute. I was cold, I could not remember why in the first place I wanted to do this and I just could not think of anything. Cindy and Veli cooked some warm soups, and I helped with easy jobs. After that we discussed our plan tomorrow. So the idea is to climb to the top of the mountain and watch sun rise, and then we’ll have quick breakfast and start our journey to climb down the mountain rightaway. The Edelweiss ground is on the other side of the mountain and requires us to climb to the top, go down slightly to reach the Edelweiss Ground and since the Gunung Putri track is closed we have to climb back to the top and climb down through Cibodas side. Which, will be too tiring, so we decided to skip that. It’s too bad, thinking that we’ve made it this far and who knows when we will be able to come back again, but… well it was the best thing to do considering time and energy we had left.
So this is the view from the top of Mount Gede, the very first mountain I climbed.
Cindy was actually acrophobic, so i adore her devotion and determination to come along, through and through (because she could actually chose to stay in the tent) to the highest point at Mount Gede. Although she probably had other thing to do beside accompanying me, still, she has been so nice so kind, she has been… a friend to me. Thank you, I’m glad we did the journey together.
What did I feel? Mostly it was relief. That we made it here, it’s done. And then come the grateful feelings, the view was astonishing, the sun looks dazzling and the crate was scary (what? hahaha), the crates look mighty and while looking down below thinking I probably would not want to go down there, our guide told me, “these crates are one of the favorite spot for researchers”
Me: Researchers? What researchers? *could not believe anyone would go down there. Man, are they for real?*
Guide: You know, the usual.
Guide: Brave vulcanologist, and those who study the earthquake thingy, what were they called?
Me: Geologist. They went down there? Like… down there? *pointing to the crates*
Guide: *calmly nods*
Guide: Some brave final year geology and vulcanology students too, sometimes.
Me: God bless them.
Me: Can I go down there too? Now?
Guide: God bless you.
This is the crate in question ↑and for a better look↓
Fine. I didn’t get to the crates, all right. It looks great though, the view from the top. Because the crates standing side by side with, I don’t know, green hills or something. So it was a contrast view but beautiful nonetheless. And the longer we lingered there, the sun starts to come up, making it even warmer and you can see your surroundings pretty clearly. The greens, blues and white combinations was absolutely lovely. It almost has something magical about it, the colors, the scenery, everything. And to my sudden surprise, the narrow road we took this morning… it turns out to be…. a narrow road with ravines and crates on each of the side of the road. We literally could just slipped and fell and……..
I was petrified. And asked my guide, “Sir, this was the road we took this morning?” and my guide give a big nod, as if he knows what I meant by that. Because it was pitch black at 4.30 am I did not realize the road was…. was………. pretty much dangerous. The picture on your left, that is the road I’m talking about. On the right side of the road you can see a fence and on your left side, haha, it’s just small plants and bushes. *so grateful i’m alive, so grateful i’m alive*
I think I left my mouth open without saying anything because then Cindy looked at me as if she was ready to eat me alive and said, “Why, on earth, do you think I was trembling and could barely walk to the top??”
Cindy, I am so sorry you felt that way. Acrophobia sucks, I know. But girl, I was trying to process the reality that I could have just slipped hours ago, because I was almost dancing while walking that road thinking we’ll be on the top of the mountain within minutes. I was dancing! I am so grateful I came home safely and am writing this right now. *breathe in, breathe out, i’m fine and allright* damn, I was dancing there!! So dangerous.
Veli, although very much silent, still looked quite comfortable and enjoyed her view of the scenery. I think probably, she too, had her own personal monologue upon reaching the top of the mountain and seeing all the beautiful landscapes. Cindy was barely able to walk. First it is because of the height, obviously. Second, it’s because of the cold. She looked like she was going to freeze to death so I gave her my white coat, hoping that she will feel better.
Anyways, before we headed back, I opened my birthday card from Aloince (at this point neither Cindy nor Veli had said “happy birthday!!” to me just yet) and I found this:
I think she meant it as a joke. She could not possibly think that I do look like a….. that was a joke right? RIGHT??
Hahahahaha… anyways I don’t mind, the card was cute afterall. Hahahahha.. thanks Aloince, I heart you!
I think the most magnificent view is when the sun rises. First the rays of light illuminating the east part of the sky and it slowly spread to the west and finally the sun comes up waaay behind the series of mountains and shoo away all the fogs. Here are some of the pictures of the sun rise and the splendid mountain-top areas:
So after that we just go back to our campsite and start preparing for another journey. Yap, the journey home, climbing down the mountain again. I seriously thought it will be easier, because, it is simple physic right, it is not like climbing, we were heading down the mountain, the gravity should help us (what kind of theory is that xD).
Turns out, it was as hard as the journey up. Because this time you already saw the top of the mountain, you are so very tired, when you climb down you have to manage to hold your weight on your feet and your luggage, even if it was reduced, it was still heavy. Your only motivation was home, good bath, warm place, good food. We walked and walked and walked and walked. At some point I got blisters on my foot and heel and I needed to go as fast as I could and sit down for a while, using the time Cindy and Veli needed to catch up with me to rest. Because when I walked slowly my blisters were killing me. I totally understand now why small cuts hurt deeper.
When we went passed the hot springs and waterfalls, we came across this small spring, with warm water that feels so good to put your feet in. Our guide told us to take a rest here, and take a quite long rest, he said something about the heavy journey without rest ahead. Little did I know that this was….. Cindy and Veli’s grand plan for my birthday: to drown me in that warm spring!
Exaggerating, sorry. I was not really drowning, no, but they did manage to push me into the spring, leaving me wet from head to toe, and it was freakin cold, you know? Hahahhaha…Cindy and Veli should very well make a mental note that revenge comes fast and comes sweeter. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA *evil laugh*
Well then when all the fun was over, I changed my clothes and we continued our journey. Soon it was dark and raining and we almost had no energy left to walk. At this point people are getting very sensitive, unconsciously using harsh tones, very hungry, the road was slippery and everyone was easily irritated. Along this journey I have seen my friends weakest time, and they too, have seen me on my weakest. To feel your friends’ weight on you, emotionally and physically, in a dark and rainy forests… that was such an experience. You literally have to transfer what you have left inside you to them. Share your very last ounce of positive emotion… you feel weak yourself, but seeing them weaker, you know you have to be strong. You don’t know how, but you just have to.
Because they had been strong for you. Because if they could they will do it again for you.
Cindy and Veli are amazingly strong girls. They are stronger then they think they are. They are faithful and they are true friends.
That, was the last lesson from Mount Gede.
By the time we reached the base camp it was already 6.30 pm. I didn’t know what to feel, but I was so proud. So proud of the Lord, so proud of my friends, so proud of myself.
I tried to keep my mood high, to cheer everybody up, but probably that time it didn’t work at all. Because deep in my heart I was reflecting on so many things and not all of them were good things. But I do know one thing, the mountain, it teaches you a lot.
When I told this story to Crystal, she said, “life is hard enough, I don’t need to face its replica too by climbing a mountain.”
Hahahahha.. so true. I feel her, really. But if you ask me, climb a mountain. Climb it. Even if it is just for once in your life, climb it. You will go back to flat grounds as a different person, with different point of view, different things to think about. And you will, for sure, love your friends more. At least it works that way for me, in the time when I was not expecting any kind of lesson at all. So climb a mountain, climb it.
You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream and is gone into the unknown,I have a world apart that is not among men.
(Green Mountain, Li Bai)