Indonesia is home to over 17,000 islands. Tourists from all around the world often flock to the emerald of the equator to enjoy the sandy beaches and its shopping paradise. However, there is another side of Indonesia that appeals to another group to tourists: the adventure seekers. Indonesia is located at the convergence of the tectonic plates of the Asian, Australian, Indian and the Pacific Ocean which make it home to a recorded 129 volcanoes to date. Hot as it sounds, the collection of volcanoes in Indonesia has given rise to the country being dubbed the Ring of Fire. For the adventure seekers and hikers worldwide, this information will certainly erupt the desire and passion in them to try and climb the fiery mountains of Indonesia. Here is an insider’s guide to hiking mountains in Indonesia!
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Yes, timing is everything. Indonesia’s rainy seasons lasts usually from November to March. You will be at least be guaranteed dry conditions between the months of April till October. This period is also best to experience the surrounding natural phenomenon like wild flowers blooming. Avoid trekking during the period of July to August as these are peak periods for trekking in Indonesia. The mountains will be sure to be filled with locals and tourists alike. Weather conditions are crucial during hiking as rain might pose a safety hazard during your hike. Wet conditions such as high humidity and slippery surfaces might affect your hiking experience and even cause unnecessary injuries along the way. On another note, check for updates on the mountain you are about to hike regularly, in a case where there is an eruption or volcanic activity recently. This may give you time to set up a contingency plan and change the location of your hike due to volcanic activities at your previously selected mountain. Side note, if you are looking for a more surreal experience, try arranging your hike on a full moon. You will thank me later.
START OFF EASY
Choose the mountain you are about to hike based on your experience. If you are a first timer, selecting a mountain with a shorter distance and less steepness might just do you good. Read up on the mountains before planning your trips as every mountain offers something different such as the trail and difficulty in getting to the top. You might want to try hiking Tangkuban Parahu, Mount Bromo, Mount Ijen and Mount Talang if you are just starting out. For the experienced hikers out there, the choices of Mount Kerinci and Mount Rinjani will be sure to excite you.
FINDING THE GUIDE/PORTER
A responsible and experienced guide is definitely crucial in your hiking trip. This is the person who you will go to and help you during difficult situations. The guides are usually locals who have scaled the mountains countless times and even are comfortable climbing the mountains with slippers whilst carrying a heavy load on their backs. Guides are usually really outgoing and will provide you with insights on the mountains during the hike. Another thing to note is to select a guide that is fluent in English if you cannot understand their native language as communication is vital during the hike. Guides usually offer packages which include a home-stay option. You can try Pak Tasrip, if you are planning to hike Mount Semeru; this friendly and outgoing guide makes the cut.
You will be rummaging through tough trails and rough terrains. Wearing proper footwear what has a lot of grip will go a long way in helping you to reach the peak. Gloves are highly recommended to prevent abrasions and cuts to your hands especially when you have to climb over a certain obstacle along the way. Waterproof jackets and windbreakers with hoods are a must to keep you warm during your stay at the checkpoints or shelters where you will have your rest before hiking again. Bring along a headlamp instead of a torchlight which is more convenient for your hands. Most importantly, your own supply of water for consumption during the hike, stay hydrated! Nearing towards the summit of Mt Kerinci, the trails got very muddy due to the constant drizzles and high humidity as we went higher in altitude. Army boots can be useful in replacement of your trekking boots. Nearing to the summit, paths tend to be more rocky and sandy, so apart from having the proper gear, focus on every step your tread on. Some mountains tend to have lesser vegetation, so apply adequate sun protection to avoid getting sunburnt.
MENTALLY PREPARE YOURSELF FOR WHAT’S AHEAD
Be mentally prepared and make sure you are fit before starting a hike. Don’t let your flailing spaghetti arms or your weak hamstrings be a hindering factor to your hike. Also, do not embark on the hike if you have recently recovered from an illness, for example fevers or an allergic reaction rash. The harsh conditions during the hike might just trigger back the fever and leave you with a bad experience. Expect unforeseen challenges when scaling the mountains. It may come in the form of safety concerns and even supernatural experiences as you hike up. You can ask your guide for some stories in the day if you are not bold (enough) to hear the hair raising stories in the dark of the night. Hopefully it motivates you to persevere instead of having you chickening out because of your fears.
THE VIEW FROM ABOVE
The sense of accomplishment upon reaching to the peak accompanied by the sun setting/rising, has got to be the greatest feeling of your trip. To adequately capture and admire sunrise, during my recent Rinjani expedition, me and my group of friends had begun embarking on our trek up from the last checkpoint to the summit, at the stroke of midnight with the help of our trusted headlamps. Five hours of pure determination amidst the dark and unstable grounds, where we occasionally encountered wild monkeys along the way. What awaited us when we finally reached the summit, was a surreal experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. We were told by our porter, that Indonesia’s military and army troops often use Mt Kerinci as their training grounds, completing their trek within a day. It would definitely have been nice to bump into them, maybe that would have made me complete Kerinci a little faster than three days and two nights. Some motivation perhaps!
Well, who says adventure comes with a hefty price tag?
Photo credits: Nurul Islam