Climbing Mt Semeru

When I had the chance to go mountain climbing, I was sparkling with excitement. My first real mountain climbing experience will soon be happening!  All my feelings of curiosity, expectations, nerves and trepidation were meshed into one. I am so looking forward for it! Of all the mountains that Indonesia has, the choice went to Semeru, with Mahameru as the name of the mountain top.

Semeru is one of the highest active volcanoes on the island of Java and is also the fourth highest mountain in Indonesia. It is located in the province of East Java with a height of 3.676 meters above sea level. It is part of the National Park of Bromo Tengger Semeru (Kawasan Taman Nasional Bromo Tengger Semeru/TN.BTS) that consists of four area Regencies which are Malang, Pasuruan, Probolinggo and Lumajang.

On the first day, I took the road trip from Lumajang Regency towards the place where climbers usually start their Semeru journey on foot. As I passed the welcome gate of the National Park of Bromo Tengger Semeru, the lovely green scenery of the forest called Hutan Ireng-Ireng (Hutan means forests) starts to unfold. Pine trees, ferns and other types of flora lurks through the mists and every corner of the park. The car kept on going until we reached an area called Ranupani where the journey to ascend Mt Semeru begins. There are eight spots that we have to pass that offers beautiful scenery until the peak of Mahameru. In ascending orders, there are Ranupani, Ranu Kumbolo, Tanjakan Cinta, Oro-Oro Ombo, Cemoro Kandang, Kalimati, Arcopodo and the very end of the climber’s journey – Mahameru. There are three spots that are usually for the climbers to sleep, rest and build a tent. Two of the most common are Ranu Kumbolo and Kalimati because there are sources of water to fulfil the climber’s needs. And the less is Arcopodo because there is no source of water but it is the access pass where climbers go by to reach Mahameru. It is the final resting place for climbers before reaching the peak.

Ranupani

Ranupani is the first place where all climbers need to prepare and check their lasts stuffs, register and report to the TN.BTS before and after the mountain climbing. There is a Ranupani TN BTS Office Resort and a couple of small lodge in a row for the climbers to prefer and stay overnight if they wanted too but usually they decided to continue their journey and rest in Ranu Kumbolo. Right beside that place there is a 1 hectare of lake that could not be missed and a small population that are mostly farmers. Not to forget, if you do need a porter just ask around you for one then the locals will recommend you or you might meet the porter straight away because they usually hang around the place until the climbers ask and look for one. The price ranges around Rp.150.000 per day and could be less depends on our approaching skill to bargain. In that case, since I came with my 3 friends Feri, Muhdi and Siswanto; we need a porter to carry our stuffs and guide our way, we finally had two porters who offered their selves to help carry our stuffs until Kalimati. The porters in Semeru seldom want to join the climbers from Kalimati to Mahameru where it is the hardest tracks for climbers to approach the mountain top. Rather, they usually will take care of our stuffs down in Kalimati. Joko and Suwarno are our porters that we found who are young and are able to take heavy loads. The porters are trained naturally to take loads that are wrapped and tied on a long stick on their shoulders walking up and down the hills and through the plains until the trip is finished which made us amazed! Mind you, they walk really fast with their loads and it’s sometimes hard for us to catch up with them!

After all is prepared, we started the journey by walking on foot from Ranupani to Ranu Kumbolo. It took place around 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon where the weather was friendly and it was during the dry season when we entered the place. The beginning of the walk, we passed through some farms. It was wide spread with different kinds of vegetables that the local farmers planted such as cabbages, spring onions, carrots and potatoes. Some are along the hills and some are neatly planted on a flat land. It was such a peaceful view where the locals would simply wake up in the morning and breathe the fresh air when they go to work in the fields. Then we entered a small path, went up the hills, passing by all the green views into the thick forest. As the sun already sets home, the sky darkens. With the will to save batteries as much as I can, I use the left over lights that was captured by my eyes from the last day light and the waking of the moon and stars of the night to walk through the path before me. When I felt the torchlight is needed because we were entering some paths that are mostly covered with plants and trees above our heads; with a simple easy-to-carry torchlight I penetrated the darkness view around me with it. As the porters are already ways ahead of us out of our eyesight, it left the four of us walking at the only path hills that there is there and believe that we will meet them somewhere at the path. I was walking in front of the line thrusting my torchlight in front of me, making a circle of light just enough to lighten Feri’s walk too walking behind my back. Naturally, me and Feri are separated with our other two friends Muhdi and Siswanto, because without realising we have faster pace than them. Since there are some points of rest areas, we waited for Muhdi and Siswanto there while we had some chats with a climber community who are resting during the time we arrived. Funny that we haven’t met our porters yet which means they have been walking way steady fast then us! After we are reunited again with our two friends, we continue the walk and finally met our porters that are waiting for us at the next rest area making their selves warm with a small bonfire that they’ve made because it was a chilly night especially when we’re approaching a higher land more than 2000m above sea level. Then we decided to have dinner there.  After half an hour or so, we packed our cooking tools and logistics and prepare for another long walk with our backpacks each on our shoulders. Along the way we met some group of climbers again going to Ranu Kumbolo as well and we went in harmony together. Couple of hours passed by, when we were all going downhill, we could see someone from across the vast lake flashing a bright light towards us. That’s when we know that we finally have entered Ranu Kumbolo. After the downhill, we walked along the side of the lake until we found a nice place to make a tent. That was around 11pm at night. So, Ranupani-Ranu Kumbolo takes 5-6 hours walk.

Ranu Kumbolo

At night, when I walked at the side of the lake, the dark water so calm gave such a nice reflection of the moonlight. The soft wind made small ripples of water that adds the beauty of the lake. Ranu Kumbolo is a lake of 12 ha wide with 2.390m above sea level, positioned at a valley with surrounding green hills. Tired after the long walk, yet the night was so cold as we tried to camp in and sleep. We shivered the night away by covering our bodies with materials hoping it would give us warmness. Based on the info I get, the lake during the night time until the early morning could have a temperature until -4 degree Celsius, no wonder it makes us shivering! As I toss and turn inside the sleeping bag, had my socks on, covered my neck with scarf, zipped tight my jacket, hand gloves, covered my head with a head scarf and sleeping bag hoodie which the only body part that could be seen are my eyes only; and we all slept like a can of sardines all pressed lying side by side with the only hope that our body heat will warm us naturally, I was so hungry from my body shivering! The only thing that I can think of during that night is to dug for a chocolate bar somewhere in my back pack. Once I got it, it was already frozen because of the cold temperature that I guessed could be around 2-4 degree Celsius that night! It was hard as I bit my chocolate bar hungrily, then I tried sleeping so hard that I could finally closed my eyes for a short while. Since, I do not want to miss the sunrise at the early morning, I woke up and witness the beauty of the day through the wakening of the sun that rises high between the two hills behind the lake. The lake was covered with mists that slowly goes away while the sun aims higher to the sky. The lake was perfectly seen so pretty, with the fresh crystal clear water, little groups of fishes swimming at the shore, some dead branches of tree that artistically lay down on the lake, surrounded rolling hills with strong trees growing despite of the dry season and yellow dry grass everywhere on the field and on the hills; and Tanjakan Cinta view right behind our camp. After documenting this perfect scene, we had a simple breakfast, pack up the tent and leave.

Tanjakan Cinta

Tanjakan Cinta is a hill right behind where we had camp the overnight. So, it took us directly to that hill with more or less 1km distance until you reach the top. It can take us between 15 – 30 minutes walk. Trust me, it seems easy and near to go on that hill but it takes energy as we walk upwardly on the slope! Tanjakan Cinta has a myth that mostly climbers would give it a try just for fun. Basically, the definition of Tanjakan Cinta by word means climb or slope for tanjakanand love for cinta. In general it means ‘The Slope of Love’. So, the myth goes like this: Before climbing the hill, make a love and happiness wish for your relationship to grow stronger or to hope meet someone that you love and if you are a couple climbing, hold hands and make a wish about your love relationship. After making a wish and start climbing, you mustn’t look back or it will break the spell! It doesn’t hurt to try, so I made a wish and climb the hill. On top of Tanjakan Cinta, you could see both views, the Ranu Kumbolo and the next spot called Oro-Oro Ombo.

Oro-Oro Ombo

I set my eyes on the breathtaking view of Oro-Oro Ombo above the hill of Tanjakan Cinta. Although the flora’s are dry but it is part of the nature that gives an awe effect because it is such wonder to see a vast savannah field, a patch of dry lavender field, pine trees far away on the other side and yellowish green grass on some rolling hills. Oro-oro Ombo is located on a hollow behind the hills of Ranu Kumbolo. Documented some shots, I walked downhill passing the dry lavender field then in the middle of the foot path, I rested for a little bit on the dry lavender, body laying down facing the sun. The air is unbelievably fresh, quiet and peaceful as I take deep breathes. Since we have to go straight to Kalimati, our porters are already way ahead of us as we indeed scrambled on our feet and start walking again until we have reached Cemoro Kandang.

Cemoro Kandang

It would take around 30 – 50 minutes walk from Tanjakan Cinta to Cemoro Kandang. There, I have found our two porters waiting for us while they rest their bodies and talk to a local seller. It was such a nice shelter because of the group of pine trees that grows in that area. There are only two stalls that only sell simple food and drinks. As we rest again for a little while, we definitely need to continue our walk. Entering the forest slope full of pine trees and other floras, the air was fresh and chilly. We are passing through the forest slope of +/- 2.500m above sea level. Some grass were green and some were yellow, some pine trees were as if they were too dry to stand firm until they break leaving an artistically view and some ferns were dry and some were still freshly green coloured. Along the way, we found some dark purple berries. I tried some of it that I picked from the bush which tasted so refreshing on the mouth, sweet sourly flavour. Feeling more refreshed, I started walking again. I saw a white colour edelweiss flower growing not far from the foot path. Impressed of its beauty I took a little closer to examine it. I entered an area called Jambangan with a sign that says you are at +/- 2.600m above sea level. The distance was +/- 1 km walk from Cemoro Kandang. Usually this place is where the climbers rest for a little while and continue walking because Kalimati is not far from here. Sat on the ground, stretching my legs for a little bit, I just cannot wait to be at Kalimati. When I travelled approaching Kalimati, the vegetations are pretty. You would see many types of plants and trees, plains far away from the foot path, hills on the background; I sometimes think that I am outside the tropical island because it is something that you wouldn’t imagine when you stay at home in Jakarta, the bustling Metropolitan City. This view takes me wonder where Indonesia has such a variety of nature to be proud of. More and more edelweiss flowers are seen here and there during the walk. Indonesian is known as Bunga Abadi, the eternal flower. The view of Puncak Mahameru begins to enter but it was mostly covered with clouds. I took the picture of the mountain top with my camera and figured out on how we are going to climb the top because it was mostly covered with sand! My heart gave a sudden nervous yet curious feeling. Excited too with a mixed of pumped adrenaline! I just want to jump there and experience it straight away! Now, we entered into a much wider space and more edelweiss flowers grow in that area, it was a dry savannah field called Kalimati.

Kalimati

Finally, we have entered Kalimati, +/- 2700m above sea level. From far away I could see tents that are already been built firmly by other climbers like red, yellow and orange bright colours. Getting closer, I search my eyes for our porters. There they are already trying to build a tent on the spot they have chosen right to a next tree. I sat on the ground and stretched my legs from the walking and gave a look around the place. It is a savannah field and right behind our camping ground is the last climbing track until we reach the mountain top! I am so grateful that the weather has been really friendly until we reached this spot. Also, the Semeru Mountain was also safe to climb at that moment. So, all we need to prepare left is our energy and rest. Joko the porter came back with a bucket full of fresh water from the spring water near our camping ground for 1 km walk. We had a nice cup of coffee with such nice fresh air; the temperature was not as cold as in Ranu Kumbolo; it was just nice. Then we had our late lunch around more or less at 3-4 pm in the afternoon. I decided to sleep and rest as much as I can because we will have to continue our last climbing later at midnight which is soon!

Arcopodo

So, this time I could sleep much better because it was less shivering then in Ranu Kumbolo. I woke up around 11pm. I was getting ready, preparing myself for the journey at night that brings my adrenaline awakening. To be honest, I don’t know what to expect during the night climbing. Recalling the scene of the mountain top that I saw during the walk to Kalimati was impressive. I could not imagine myself being there at the sand area climbing, especially at the dark silent night. Aaaah! I will look like a tiny ant crawling slowly to the top from far away hoping that I won’t get lost and nothing stood in our way! All sorts of thoughts came into my head like a fast train, such as the local story has it that the climbers have to be in no group of three people. If they are climbing in three then something bad might happen. Maybe someone would get lost, fall to a cliff or not be found because they went in a group of three people. These kind of local stories are sometimes hard to digest but better follow the local rules or tradition then being silly. I still want to live and go for numerous adventures in my life! And rest in peace for those who had died during the climb towards Mahameru. Some said they died because of the poisonous gas, lost their way, fall into a cliff, hypothermia and many other different reasons. But also some are found alive again. Anyways, I shook those negative thoughts away. I immediately motivated myself and pushed myself mentally to think of only positive thoughts that all will be okay. And, of course back to my basic nature that I am here to see the beauty of Semeru Mountain, one of many God’s creation. I prayed all will be safe until the mountain top and back again and strongly believe that God is with us all the time. Normally, climbers put they’re stuffs in Kalimati. They do not need to bring it until Mahameru because the track would be steep and half way to the mountain top would be rocky and mostly sandy.  Our porters then took care of our stuffs. I had my jacket on, gloves, masker, a bottle of water, camera, some chocolate bars and sweets just incase I might need it. Ah! And of course a torch light. It hit 12 o ‘clock midnight when we started walking. All other climbers had started walking too. There were five of us at the group walking that night. The other friend that we acquainted at Kalimati from Bandung, West Java climbers community named Fajri joined in the group. He shared us information’s and his experiences about climbing which is useful for me. This is his second time climbing the Semeru Mountain but he didn’t manage to go to the summit at the first climb because he got sick in Kalimati. So, this should be the first time for him to be able to reach the Mahameru with us.  I walked in the dark night from the plain field, turned right, went down on short slope into the steep dusty mountain forest positioned at the back of our camps. Our flashlights illuminate the path in harmony with each footsteps movement. Through the flashing lights, I could see the soil dusts are flying as we stomp our feet passing through the thick forest. This forest is dominantly grown by pine trees. Some firm pine tree roots are good to step on as we climb higher. Along the walk there are memorials planted on the ground with carving names of the living memories of the dead climbers that are some from Indonesia and foreigners, who had died during the climb. Around two or three hours later we have arrived to the second last spot called Arcopodo. I saw a tent that someone has build either they slept the night there to continue climbing or they had rest after coming down from the summit. But usually Arcopodo is just a place to have short break because there is no spring water near around. Our friend Siswanto decided to go back to the tent to Kalimati during the walk. It was his decision because the load of the backpack that he was carrying was heavy with our valuable belongings. Along the way back where he told us after the trip later, he met three lost girls crying in the dark. He circles his torchlight at the surrounding forest to have found them desperate without a clue crying panicly down at a cliff. Luckily, there was no one hurt. They were grateful for our friend who had found them and went back home to the tent together. When that situation happened, we were climbing and climbing up the forest slope until we have met a sign post that said ‘Jalur Pendakian Ke Puncak’ – ‘The Climbing Path leads to the Summit’. The surrounding nature has changed. No plants and pine trees are growing in this area. It was dry and sandy. The vision of that Mahameru Top flashes my mind immediately when I remembered I had zoomed in at my camera this afternoon to see the sandy summit. My heart leaps instantly, that this is it! This is the sandy summit part and I look like an ant from far away when somebody sees from down there at Kalimati. I am that ant wearing a blue jacket crawling slowly to the summit! My adrenalin was overflowing but also very nervous at the same time, curious and also catching up my breath as the track goes harder. It’s a mixed up feeling! I just wanted to feel this experience until the top of the mountain! And here we go, my steps at the sandy area makes a crunchy sound like a delicious bowl of breakfast cereal grinding with your teeth inside your mouth. We have motivated each other since the first climb from Kalimati. At the left and right side is a deep sandy cliff. It gave me a sense of tingling feeling when I passed it at the narrow path. We have to focus on the destination ahead of us and don’t get distracted with the situation. Getting a bit further the area gets wider. There are many choices to choose for each step. But we musn’t step on a rock. It was a climbing etiquette that I was told earlier when there are other climbers behind your back. The rock you stepped might roll down and hit other climbers. So, it was a hard time walking up. Each one step I took will slide down for two to three steps down. Ah, the process was getting slower, harder, and it drains your energy. There were the three of us now at the group. My other friend, Muhdi was far down with the other climbers struggling. The more we go to the top the more breaks we took. My energy was slowly slipping away with the grain of sands under my feet. Every three to five steps, I took a break by sitting down, make my breathing normal and continue again. Our friend Fajri keeps on motivating and giving us spirit. I also realised that climbers are people who loves to explore the nature and have targets to climb until the mountain top to enjoy the God’s creation. What makes it interesting for me is, they also have a strong sense of family bonding. During the journey of climbing, a true climber tends to takecare of their friends. Although they are from a different climbing community, they would blend in straight away and takecare as a family without seeing your background first. Just like my journey along the way to the top from Kalimati – Mahameru, other climbers had offered tea and snacks and are not afraid to finish their stocks for their ownselves as we just acquainted on the way! This kind of attitude is something seldom that you would find nowadays especially in a big competitive city packed with hungry people. This brings my most human senses back where I stood still in the vast nature thinking that we are just social human beings who lives together in the same world with same needs for nature; just put away those social classes. We are just the same equal human beings! It was still dark as we were struggling on the way up. I did not check the time; there was not even a single urge to know what time it is. I was very focused on the climb and the slowly lost of my body energy was quite a distraction. There is something interesting when I figured out later after the climb that those twinkling flashing lights projected from the climbers are the most dominant scene during the night climb. I remembered after taking almost every break, I asked Fajri about the summit distance. Like, ‘How far is it until the top?’ or ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ and then my friend Feri keeps on asking the time, ‘What time is it?’ and ‘Are we able to reach the summit before the sunrise?’ Fajri, patiently keeps on telling us that, ‘if you see that dot of light moving upward, there…just there! Then we have arrived’ He explains confidently. As we try to see where he was pointing, there were many dots of light moving and we definitely saw the furthest and pointed and say ‘that must be it!’ Then Fajri said ‘No… Not that one. The other dot of light that is going to the left because that is where the summit is’ Frustrated already by looking at the far distance dot of light, I sighed and tried so many ways to motivate myself. I was also told long before our climbing days that a climber must not say negative things nor complain about a single thing. This was such a challenge especially when you are in a state of tiredness and about to give up. It seems forever to reach the top. When I look down, I could see dots of light too struggling their way up before me, some are far away in distance and some are nearby. Between them, I could see a long line of climbers holding a long rope together that makes the dots of light moves in harmony. I think there were about 10-15 climbers. Suddenly, I felt that we are all at the same struggle and at the same aim. It was just a simple thing but very challenging to do, it is just to be at the Mahameru top, to see the beauty of God’s creation. On the other side of the story, Siswanto who managed to be back at the camp has told us his perspective from down where he is in Kalimati. While he stands near our camping ground, he had seen those dots of light in the dark night so tiny from below crawling upwards slowly. Fascinated by the scene, he had imagined how those moving dots of lights owned by the climbers are struggling its way up and how he should have been there too feeling it. It must have looked like stars because those tiny dots of light seem so near with the dark sky. Then from up above, nearly reaching the summit, Fajri continued answering Feri’s question that we could be at the summit on time for sunrise if we keep on walking and have lesser breaks. We started motivating each other. There were some climbers along the way with varieties of reasons failed to climb then made a decision to slide down and find their way back to Kalimati. One got sprained; the other felt less power, and the next I did not want to know more about it because I am afraid it might give effect to my flickering spirit. I have to focus to keep my spirit burning until the top. This is quite interesting because I have thought that all climbers should reach the top. Another interesting story came from Muhdi who is struggling he’s way up to meet us on the top, had told me later that some climbers who  went back down had given him quite a demotivating advice which is to better make a decision now if he doesn’t feel the power enough to climb up. Luckily, Muhdi continued his journey way up! Could you imagine those illustrations where those beautiful dots of light seen from far away happening at the same time are those climbers that came from different homes has an interesting stories of their own to tell. So, we felt lighter and started walking again. Praying and pushing myself to keep walking, the more it gets higher the more I used my hands to help me climb. A friend said, it is better and lighter to walk up straight rather than crawling. But it just seems hard to do it, as your hands keep wanting to touch the sand.  Although your body feels heavier but it’s much comfortable for me to do it like that. And when you want to rest, you just turn your body and lie down. I saw some other climbers did the same too. Oh well, as long as I can reach the top, any kind of technique doesn’t mind for me. It was probably around 4am where the dawn broke. Orange colour light of the morning star starts sweeping the night away. My heartfelt lifts instantly seeing the sky changes colour from the Mountain View. It felt like the war is nearly over. The war within yourself that you keep on battling to fight over the feeling of losing, giving up and draining with the feeling of positivity, new hope, faith and strength. Sometimes in between the climb, I felt like having a tearful. I have thoughts like ‘what on earth am I doing here climbing in the middle of the dark far away from home all drained’, but I have strongly killed my tearful away with the spirit inside me that has keep me moving effortlessly. When there was enough light from the sky to see the scenery around us, we put away our torches and admire the beauty from where we stood. I looked at it in front of me like a map. There were hills, plains, forest, clouds at my far right and left side and somehow like a passageway where we walked through at the previous afternoon. Fajri said consistently to us, ‘Seperti negeri diatas awan’ – ‘this place looks like a land on top of the clouds’. I tried to grasp what he meant. The cloud does seem beneath us at far away but I think it has to be at the perfect point of view to see what he meant. There was one experience that I haven’t forgotten still; it was when I had another break sitting down facing the scenery. Probably this person has seen me drinking a bottle of water from somewhere, I didn’t realised where he came, then he was already nearby me and I don’t know his name. As far as I remember he had a pale face and a sweat at his forehead, outstretched his arm in a pitiful way almost like begging. He asked for water; but it felt almost like an instruction to give him my bottle of water. He said something like, ‘Mba, minta air…” –Could you give me the water please? There was a sudden resistant feeling inside me to give myonly bottle of little water left that I have succeeded saving it since the bottle was full from Kalimati. Knowing that my journey to the summit might take for another while adds my feeling of annoyance and thought of the lack preparation that the man had. I was having a quick self-debate within my own self and then the other side of me said ‘Hey..! We will never know what makes him had to do that to ask for water. The only reason who knows is the man itself’ ‘The more we give the more we get’ and this last thought of mine made me give my bottle of little water straight away without hesitance that ‘Don’t be afraid, I would get rezeki – fortune from anywhere because God is Great even when you are at a place like this’. He gulped the water saving a fair amount and gave it back to me. I felt a sense of relief after this situation and continued my walking again with Feri and Fajri. As the sun begins to show its colour, we didn’t regret to have not been on the summit on time for the sunrise. We were very focused on the target which is to be at the summit especially, before 9am. Because according to the info, it is likely to have sand storm or maybe poisonous gas at 9am onwards. We absorb the target by acting as a good teamwork. Taking care of each other specially the spirit within us.  After quite a long climb, the three of us took another break. I could see Fajri who was before very spirited and strong, turns withered and going in a slowly pace. Feri couple of times catching big breathes also slows down the pace. We all stopped. Sitting down again, I was aware of the present. There are so many things altering after the emerging sun. The atmosphere lifted from the dark mysterious night into a sublime peace with soft blowing wind; the night scene was cold and dry with the only look of sands and rocks, now as if the mountain wanted to give us a surprise with the actual scenery portrait that amazed us; the climbers who fight their way up in group was no longer to be seen, maybe some decided to give up and went down. All I could see are individuals or a group of two or three people climbing silently. Muhdi were still nowhere to be seen. We had thought that he decided to go back to the camp. Feeling my mouth in need of savouring food and my stomach scarcely hungry, I have realised that I am far away from sources of food and drink. Then I dug some sweet in my pocket pants while hoping those sweets would be enough to energize me, I ate three grape flavoured sweets. Both of my toes felt numb, my inner thigh strained annoyingly but thankfully I could still walk with it although it disturbs me. When I look at my back, I did not know how far it is left to reach the summit. Quietly, I stood up and continued climbing alone. We were too bothered to talk to each other anymore. We were in silence. I move forward without even bothering to think a single thought. I can only feel my tired muscles. Then I stopped at the steep sand for a little bit then turned my face to see Fajri and Feri still at the same spot resting. Not even bothered to look for me, I immediately continue the climb passing the bulging sand and rock that was there. It felt that I am climbing higher and higher, I stood for the moment to look at my surrounding then I saw a man standing in front of me but far away in distance above a higher ground mixed of rocks and sands. He was standing there, facing me but I am not sure if he was looking down at me or at the magnificent scenery in front of him or maybe waiting for a friend of his somewhere down beneath me still climbing. Probably he saw me standing still, he gave me a shout saying, ‘Mba, ayo dikit lagi! Ini sudah diatas!’ – ‘Come on, just a little bit more! This is already at the top!’ I softly gasp at the words he said because it was a mix of fact and motivation that gave me a feeling of relief. But probably this is just who I am. I need to prove it and see it myself. I didn’t had a tearful because I knew I already had it during the fight towards the summit at the previous hours. So now, what I had left is my spirit to prove it and I am thankful for the man’s information.

Mahameru

9.2

I walked forward towards a nice textured rock and sand wall; I examined it and took some pictures around me then turn slightly left. There l stood drifted at the passage way in front of me. It was narrow with rock and sand walls either side of it; well it wasn’t that tall just the same level with human height. The passage was slanted to the steep left and then right up. I felt that this was consciously made by the mountain to leave a feeling of wonder on climbers about where might the passage way brings you and what will you see after that. It’s like entering into a place that you wish to see the goods and not the bad of something. The walls seem to be the witness for all kinds of climbers who enter the passage way, knowing the truth but left the truth alone for the climbers to find out their selves. I could see the man still standing there as if he was looking out for me. I passed through the quiet passage lightly, admiring at the different kind of view that I finally see while climbing and I nearly forget that I was tired. When I finally saw the man again, approaching closely already, I saw there were to other woman and another man standing at the left side. They directly congratulate me happily once I arrived at the surface. As if, they were proud of me because I have passed a hard test towards the summit and had joined them with the ones who had passed the test at first. The man with the two women friends offered me straight away to take a picture of me with my camera because I was holding it with my hands. And of course, I let him did it. I thanked him and also congratulate all of them there finally aware of my surroundings that it is the top! The man was true when he shouted at me earlier. But I felt something is missing. We talked a little bit before I go to the direction where they pointed. There was a little more walk but it was a gentle slope. I did not bother walking at it at all. I read a solitary sign saying ‘Jalur Semeru – ‘The Semeru Path’. The signpost was short and rusty’. Trusted the sign direction, I saw a group of climbers already sitting down that I may have guessed already celebrating their climbing victory.  I said hi to them and they asked that if I came alone. I told them that my friends were still resting down there somewhere. Since I could not hold my patience anymore, I looked around examining the place quickly.  As I took the pictures at each side of the place, I said to myself ‘Ah, this is it. This is the summit. This is Mahameru’. I came quickly to the group in the middle again, congratulate them properly and took a picture of all of us together that have survived until the summit. I felt proud myself. The feelings were as if I have joined the winners on top after a long battle that I finally survived. I could imagine if I had given up, I would be at the bottom sulking; regretting that I should have pushed myself up.  Someone had informed about something in the middle of my victory feelings. It was the quiet explosion that the crater had produced. I did not even hear myself. The crater gave a smoke of white greyish colour that it looked similarly like the clouds at its background.  A climber offered himself to take a picture of me with the smoke background with my camera because he said that this is a rare moment and I thought that was a good idea. We were all told that all climbers must not get near the crater because it is dangerous and it might release poisonous gas. There was also info that one time, someone walked near the crater and got hit by a burning hot rock that the crater threw out from it and died. So, we all enjoyed it at a perfect distance. After that scene, the thought of me standing on the summit begins to sink in. I looked around the summit again. Walking and admiring it. I think I have arrived the summit around 6 – 6.30 am. While waiting for my friends, Fajri and Feri to come up, I prayed with deep gratitude to God for this lovely feeling that he has given me to experience the victory and being able to be at a summit of 3.676m high. After that, I pondered about my climb especially before I reached the top. There were some things that highlighted my journey towards the top. First, the three grape flavoured sweets that I ate had boosted my energy. I still felt the tiredness but it wasn’t as intense when I was climbing during the dark. Second, the end of the passageway and the discovery of the Mahameru including all the people that I met congratulating each other, felt like a journey towards the heaven. It felt like you have passed a really hard test and once you found the way and opened the door; you have entered heaven with a victory feeling. Third, far as I remember, I think I did not meet the person who asked me for a bottle of water because if I did so, we probably had meet at the summit here congratulating each other. Or if I don’t remember him, he should have remembered and approached me. I just felt such a pity if he did not managed until the top because we have met during the daylight which shows that we are really high if he decided to go back. All I could think of is all the best for him. Fourth, that missing feeling that I had earlier when I surfaced has now gone since I am at the top of the great Mahameru standing right in the middle of the Summit with the scenery so perfectly. Fifth, now I understand what Fajri had said about ‘negeri diatas awan’. I am seeing it at the right spot. Right at the Mahameru point of view. Now, I could see the clouds so thick and white, so clean and pure surrounding us covering the beautiful scenery beneath them. Only the view where we entered the Mahameru, we could see the scenery of green thick forest hills and yellow grass plains. Not to forget the silence. This was a different kind of silence. A peaceful silence, so luxurious that only the lucky people would savour it if they do seek for it in their lives. Sixth, now I have realised that not all climbers has the luck to climb until the summit. As a matter of fact, among the climbers that I saw climbing at night in groups of people, there are only less than 20 climbers who managed arrived at the Mahameru. It is very an interesting fact for me. Lingering for quite a while, finally after around 30 minutes later Fajri and Feri finally arrived at the Mahameru. I congratulate them like the other climbers did to me. Feri told me that Fajri had slept a little bit during the break. Well, now we all enjoyed the summit. We definitely took pictures and documented this precious moment. As time flies, it was already around 9.30am when we realised we should be starting to go back down. Wow, this is unbelievable because the weather was so perfect, the Mahameru didn’t show any signs of bad weather coming in. And one of the climbers said that we can stay until 10am maximum. And we did! We were so lucky. I was deeply grateful with full of appreciation that we stayed nearly around 3 hours. My friends who have been here before at the Mahameru only stayed for 10 minutes because of the storm and cold temperature.

 

P1120751Then something caught me in surprised by the view of our friend Muhdi that managed to succeed to the top. We were all happy that we were together and took pictures. Then around 15 minutes before 10am, we definitely prepared ourselves to walk back down. Feri prayed quite a while sitting on a rock and after that we all walked back down. On our way back after the passage way, there was one man who still struggles to be at Mahameru. I gave him spirit that he’s nearly there although he could only be there for a short time. Then we all slide down the sand. It felt like skiing.

 

(9.1)I slided down along the sand without any effort at all. I skied down the sand so fast while giving thanks to God and the mountain for giving us a wonderful treat and lesson for us to learn. The lesson was priceless as the experience was too. As I came down nearly to the path where the pine forest is, I was bewildered by the scene where we have passed it the night before. It was a sandy cliff with dead tree pines that looked breaked and pushed away by the sand slides. Walking forward more it was a decent pine forest. It took only more or less 3 hours to go back to Kalimati. It was faster rather than our way up that took us around 7 – 8 hours. Arrived at Kalimati, I felt like a new person. Physically, spiritually and mentally I was born into a new me after climbing the highest active mountain in Java island. I felt more ready and stronger to face the life ahead. The total climb for Semeru Mountain is 2 nights and 3 days.

 

 

Fiona Callaghan
Model, TV Presenter, Actress, Ambassador, Adventure Blogger, Adventurer, PLAN+

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