Gunung Ciremai – West Java

 
  • Written by:  Heinz von Holzen
  • Date Posted:  January 17th, 2012
  • Category:  Java
  • Comments:  No Comments »

The setting:

The island of Java by our calculation is home to 13 volcanic peaks that are over 3000 meter high, and it was our early aim to be as quickly as possible on top of each of these gigantic volcanoes. If it was just the scenic beauty and the general appearance or the friendliness of the people, then Gunung Ciremai would be long forgotten in our memories. Yes the climb is hard, tiring and strenuous, but the views from the summit are kind of limited. Yes the crater is appealing but not spectacular, and our experience with the locals was very different than in most other parts of Indonesia where the friendliness and the warmth of the people is most memorable. However there is one specific memory we took home from this mountain that will stay with us deeply forever. Trees and bushes that were decorated with yellow liquid filled plastic bottles and plastic bags.  Gunung Ciremai really taught me a very important lesson for all my future climbs. It is essential before the adventure to find out how to get to the mountain, from where to climb and what else might be of importance to consider. To really get to enjoy each and every mountain it is well worth looking a little into the mythological aspect of these volcanoes. For centuries most of these prominent volcanoes played and still play a most important aspect in the spiritual every day lives. This brings me back to the plastic bottles and bags that we will explain at the end of this report. Then if I ever return to Gunung Ciremai then it will be definitely for the simple reason that I know now what those bottles and bags contain. Trekking @ Gunung Ciremai West Jawa

Majalenka – Desa Maja, 25 km:

Maja, starting point

After the provincial town of Majalenka the road slowly starts to climb towards Maja, which is a very scenic and very beautiful drive. In the lower areas you drive passed beautiful terraced rice fields and then in the higher regions you cross miles of vegetable plantations. During the good one-hour drive Gunung Ciremai acts as a wonderful backdrop. Hiking @ Gunung Ciremai West Java

Desa Maja 1200 m, and our three lovely guides:Maja

Set in the middle of thousands of hectares of vegetable plantations. All vegetables from the surrounding areas are here collected, re-packed and loaded on to trucks for transport into the villages and cities surrounding the mountain. Despite the fact that we climbed during Ramadan it took us less than a ½ hour to organize our guides. Well it took perhaps two minutes and the rest of the time we had to listen to all these horrendous stories about the many dangerous beasts living in the woods up on the hill.Maja Tigers were feared and our Chief guide showed us rather large scars that were caused by the attack of a wild boar. Then for the fact that it was Ramadan and people are fasting we were “ordered” to climb with three guides in order to lessen the burden each one had to carry. Obviously we have gone through this type of stories countless times and knew that the only reason for it was to get a higher price per porter. Do not expect the strongest porters. Trekking @ Gunung Ciremai

The ascent through the  vegetable plantations:

Maja

The first hour of the climb is rather steep and leads through more beautiful vegetable fields. Well this section will take roughly an hour, but in our case it took a lot longer for the simply fact that once the last roof of the last house of the village was behind us our porters needed to stop for a rather lengthy smoke break. Then 10 minutes later when the last house was in the far distance the next break was essential for a large “Nasi Bungkus”, this despite the fact that we were told that all three porters were fasting. Hiking @ Gunung Ciremai

The forest:

The second hour is comfortably steep through very beautiful virgin forest seemingly untouched. Perhaps some of the prettiest we have seen anywhere. Again it was rather sad to see, or better to hear, that this forest just like so many other forests throughout Indonesia seem completely deserted from any type of life. We could hardly hear a bird and remembered the myth about tigers, wild boars and many other wild beasts. Rather scary. Trekking @ Gunung Ciremai West Java

Dense Forest with lots of steep steps:

The next two hours are without doubt the hardest two hours of the entire climb offering a tremendous work out. Lots of roots, steep steps and many other obstacles will seriously challenge your physical endurance and abilities. Then about half way up this section, around the 2000 meter altitude, we started to notice many 1 ½ liter water bottles that were half filled with a yellowish fluid. Our first thought was that due to the fact that there is no water source on the mountain these bottles would serve the thirsty hiker in need of an emergency drink. Beside these bottles we found frequently small black and white plastic bags hanging from different bushes and the branches from trees. With our open creative imagination we figured out that these bags would contain some emergency refreshments…… Obviously with every step higher the forest gradually started to get thinner and gave way to scrub and bushes that stayed with us all the way to the summit. The going was slow but our spirits were motivated due to the fact that the weather was great and the prospects for a great sunset were positive. Hiking @ Gunung Ciremai

The ridge:The ridge

At around 2500 meters you will leave the forest behind you and the trek continues on the ridge with deep ravines on both sides. The views are stunning and within 45 minutes you will reach Goa wallet the overnight camp. With no porters in sight for perhaps a few hours we decided to continue our journey to the summit, which was only a further 35 minutes away. Obviously at this altitude and with a lack of oxygen the going gets slow and even a short distance seems to stretch forever. The trek here is mostly on volcanic loose stones and rocks, which needs a little extra care. We reached the crater rim around 3 in the afternoon, which gave us a fantastic hour basking in the warm afternoon sun, enjoying the interesting mountaintop as well as extensive views of the villages surrounding the volcano in the far distance. Eventually it was time to return back to Goa Wallet to set up camp and get ready for yet another long and restless night. Timing this time was perfect. The same moment we arrived at the camp, the first of our three porters arrived rather exhausted. He brought with him a rather important message and explained to us the reason for the many bottles and plastic bags that are hang on to the many bushes and trees further down. Well this ended our belief in a free munch on the way down. As with any other campsite in this altitude we often find it rather difficult to get a good night sleep. Despite the fact that your exhausted bodies want to sleep, the quick gain in altitude, a lack of oxygen and a different air pressure does not give the system enough time to adjust. We always bring a stack of playing cards that keeps us well entertained well into the night. Hiking @ Gunung Ciremai West Java

The summit 3078 meters:Summit

Our alarm clocks that really were not needed were set for 4 am which gave us plenty of time for a quick coffee and break down of the camp. Then at around 4.45 we were on our way to the summit for an almost picture perfect sunrise. As we were enjoying the moment again for conquering yet another volcano, our three rather inverted and not very out spoken guides made their early morning prayer which was pleasing to see. After 30 minutes of rest we slowly made our way along the western crater rim to the southern end.  That took a comfortable 30 minutes. In this area there are several spots offering plenty of space for several tents. However one should take care to camp here as this spot is rather exposed to the elements. Trekking @ Gunung Ciremai

The descent to Linggarjati:

The first hour of the descent is steep, rough, dusty, slippery uncomfortable, slow going and rather littered with lots of debris left behind by previous hikers. This garbage is a harsh contradiction when you consider the content of the many water bottles and plastic bags that hang from the many trees, bushes and branches. The trek then remains steep but gets slightly better at around 2600 meters when you slowly get back in the forest. However through out the forest there are countless complicated, tricky root sections where one needs to scramble down often several meters almost vertical. These sections are best mastered in “ 4 wheel mode” or better on your backside. Please keep in mind that there is no water supply on the entire mountain, therefore it is wise to drink smartly, especially on this side of the mountain, which is exposed to direct sun light. It was then a great relief when we reached after about 2 ½ hours a small hut that was stocked with lots of very sweet soft drinks and some simple snacks, and of course lots of water. After this welcome stop the trek is no longer that steep, but remains very dusty and dry. Then after a further 30 minutes you will leave the forest behind you and gradually make your way into Linggerjati. Trekking @ Gunung Ciremai

Our friendly guides:

This must have been the only time on any mountain throughout Indonesia that we where not able to become friends with our porters. We never have come across more reserved individuals then on Gunung Ciremai. We did not seem to be able to make any conversation and found it difficult to get some information about the local culture, spirits and mythology surrounding the mountain. The only time they actually approached us, was when we reached the center of Linggerjati and English was no longer a challenge. Hey Mister, Money……. We paid as per our negotiation the previous day, handed over the money which they counted again, distributed the funds among three and were on their way. No thank you, no nothing, just crossed the street and left…..Hiking @ Gunung Ciremai

Mythology, bottles and plastic bags:

The region around Gunung Ciremai including the costal city of Cirebon is one of Java’s most densely populated areas, and early historical finds date back thousands of years. Local stories will tell you that the origin of the people in West Java come from the foot hills of Gunung Ciremai. As such it is still today common practice to worship ancestors and ask for blessing of the soil, fertility, prosperity and welfare. Legend has it that Maman the caretaker of Gunung Cirmai requires special prayers if you want to survive a safe journey to and from the mountain. There are several posts along the route and it is required that at each post a short prayer is done.  Kneel down and say Assalamualikum three times and each time touch the ground. This will guarantee a safe adventure. Beside these short prayers certain abstinence is asked from the traveler. You are not allowed to think or talk bad on the mountain, and foremost Maman will not allow you to follow the call of nature, which explains what the many plastic bottles and plastic bags contain that hang from the trees, bushes and branches. I just wonder what everyone has done prior to the discovery of plastic………. Then again it is ok to litter the mountain with plastic wrappers and trash. Trekking @ Gunung Ciremai

Summery Gunung Ciremai:

    • Elevation: 3078
    • Coordinates: 
    • Summit: -6.896093, 108.411627
    • Maja: -6.903421, 108.351717
    • Linggarjati:-6.878966, 108.472438
    • Location:   West Java 100 km north east of Bandung
    • Difficult Grade V3 Advanced
    • Physical Challenge V3 Advanced
    • Hiking time: 5 hours up and 4 hours down
    • Water source:  Non- 4 liter recommended
    • Guide: Not essential, but makes the journey more comfortable
    • Permit: Registration essential in Desa Maja
    • Transport: 
    • From Cirebon in West Java it is a good 50 km to Majalenka:  Cirebon-Plumbon-Klangenan-Cipanas-Rajagaluh-Sukuhaji-Majalengka
    • From Bandung in West Java it roughly 100 km to Majalengka: Bandung-Rancaekek-Tanjungsari-Sumedang-Cimalaka-Tomo-Majalengka
    • Accommodation: Plenty available in Majalengka

Direction to Gunung Ciremai:

Trekking @ Indonesian Volcano Adventures

 

 

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  • Welcome to Trekking and Volcano Adventures in Indonesia

    Unfortunately Indonesia is far too often for the wrong reasons in the lime light of the world press. Terror, tsunamis, earthquakes, destructions of rain forest and corruption seem to be the favorite subject of the media. To my great disappointment far too few people talk about the incredible cultural diversity of the nation, the enormous size, and totally forget to focus on the unbelievable beauty of this great nation.
Beside the incredible beauty of Indonesia, a nation is only as good as its inhabitants. I cannot think of another place on earth where you would find so many incredible kind people that will be delighted to look after you in a way normally only kings and royalty are treated.
 Hopefully these colorful stories will encourage many readers to pack a good pair of quality hiking boots and a backpack big enough to store the impressions of the countless memorable discoveries awaiting one throughout Indonesia. Selamat Jalan and happy trekking Heinz von Holzen Trekking @ Indonesian Trekking Adventure
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