Hiking in Mount Papandayan, West Java Indonesia

mount papandayan bandung indonesia

The desire to see a sunrise on top of a mountain never crossed my mind before. My friend, a mountain lover, persuaded me to come with him and his group to hike Mount Papandayan. Papandayan Mountain is located in Garut, West Java, a 4 to 5 hours’ drive from Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta. As I’ve never conquered it, I just tagged along and paid the equivalent of $24 for the whole trip.

This trip is the kind of trip everybody called a backpacking trip. The group consisted of 20 people from various backgrounds and I would be the youngest in the group. We all met at the Rambutan local bus station at 10pm on a Friday. After that, at 12 midnight we got into the public bus to Garut. The bus ride took about 4.5 hours time. By Saturday morning we arrived at Tarogong the pit stop and continued our journey using a pick up truck to the mountainside.

Conquered Mount Papandayan
Papandayan Mountain Conquered

Climbing a mountain is not easy but hiking on a mountain that has four large craters, each with an active fumarole fields was breath-taking. We had to wear masks all the time as we traveled to anticipate gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, and hydrogen chloride. Funny thing was, some other people still walked without their mask on. As if they were breathing normal air. Carrying a backpack weighing around 15kg to 20kg, they still had a smile on their face and were busy taking picture of the mountain and themselves wherever they went. From what I observed, hiking this mountain looked like a stroll in the park to them. My friend told me the weather at Mount Papandayan has never been this shiny yet windy ever. It was a perfect time to hike.

Read: A weekend gateway: Camping at Ranca Upas Bandung

mount papandayan gasses
A fumarole which emits steam & gasses such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, and hydrogen chloride.
Mount Papandayan, West Java – Indonesia

After struggling for almost 5 hours we arrived at Hutan Mati, literally translate to English as The Dead Forest. The Dead Forest is a striking grey and white area filled by dead trees from the effect of the Mount Papandayan eruption in 2002. As a result of the eruption, the Nangklak crater wall collapsed and caused the Cibeureum Gede River to be filled with the avalanche material. This caused severe flooding at that time. Seeing the Dead Forest does takes you to another world. The striking black color of the tree branches and light grey ground filled with sulfur, made this area surreal. Views like this are not encountered every day; it can be seen in professional photos or paintings but rarely in real life. Yet, here I was, in awe of the view.

dead forest mount papandayan
The ‘dead forest’ of Mount Papandayan

The final stop was Pondok Saladah. A 8 Ha meadow located on 2,288m above sea level. Upon arriving, we saw tents already set up by our group tour, and it felt like heaven. Apparently we were not the only group. There were more than 10 tents in the area, each tent consisting of 3 – 5 people. Our team decided to set up the area so we can start to cook. There were no public water facilities in Pondok Saladah. However, fresh Water can be taken from Cisaladah River. Cisaladah River water streams all year-long. The second most important thing there was the toilets.

Apparently, there were no man-made constructions on the mountain, only huge plastic revamped in such a way that resembled a small hideout place for people to use as a toilet. To make our life’s easier, some of our group decided to find a safe place near our tent to use as a toilet. The day went with lots of cooking, eating, and weird conversations. Around 10pm we decided to sleep early because we planned to catch the sunrise tomorrow.

At 4am the next day, a loud siren went off. Very annoyed being woken up like that, I asked what was all the fuss about. My friend told me that it’s their way of waking all the people up to inform them about the sunrise. “Oops, I better wake up in a hurry” was what struck me first as I usually need 30 minutes to wake myself up. Gathering in front of our tent, 12 of us started their morning walk to catch the sunrise. After 30 minutes walk we arrived at the sunrise spot. From our spot we could see Cikuray Mountain. The mist covering the mountain, silent, and serene feeling swept through me as the sun started to peak. The only sounds I heard were the camera being use, vague birds chirp, and the breath of our groups.

Next journey was to see The Edelweiss Flower. I knew about this flower just from one of my favorite childhood movie, “The Sound of Music”. Eager to see and touch the real flower, our group started walking to Tegal Alun. The track was quite difficult. There were many steep steps, Finally, after almost a 1.5hour journey, we arrived at a 80 hectare land filled with Edelweiss flower. Our group leader warned us not to bring the flowers home because it’s declared as a cultural heritage. So, the best thing to do besides exploring the area is taking pictures. Taking 10 to 20 pictures was not enough. Every corner, every flower we saw had unique details.

edelweiss field at mount papandayan
Edelweiss field at Tegal Alun, Mount Papandayan

I eventually got tired of taking pictures, and decided to sit on the ground and think about my journey. This was my first time hiking. It was the kind of hikes for which one had to be fully prepared. No basic facility such as tap water or toilet, no prepared food, and no access of heat or fire all of which made me feel very grateful to live in Jakarta despite how messy and chaotic it can be due to the traffic. The opportunity to meet people who are outside of my friend’s circle was very interesting. Listening to their stories and grasping their way of thinking about life was one of the most important experiences I had.

Our group stayed in Tegal Alun for 1.5 hours. Before deciding to go back to our camp, our team leader took out a folded cloth from his pants pocket. Turns out it is Indonesian flag. He tied the flag to a long branch and then we gathered to take our group picture. Happy from the different poses we did for the pictures, then we decided to head back to the campsite. As I walked slowly, I decided to look at the whole area of Tegal Alun for the last time. At that exact moment, it struck me how I have never done something so great before.

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