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At 3.30pm, we reach Ranu Pani village. Stretching our arms and legs, we carry our backpacks near the souvenir shops as we have to wait for the organizer to settle porter and permit issues. Bun have to pack his backpack in order to separate the clothes he does not want to bring to Semeru. Lucky him, his clothes will be kept at Ranu Pani village. Arrangement has been made by Dody for lunch. We have to pay rather expensive for a plate of plain rice and an omelette. It is IDR20,000.00 each.
After a briefing and recital of doa by Elyudien, all of us start our first day trekking to Ranu Kumbolo. The distance between Ranu Pani and Ranu Kumbolo is approximately 10 kilometres. The estimated time for the trekking is 4 hours depending on how fast a person treks. My trekking partner throughout the whole trip is Bun who keeps up with my rants, the many stopovers, and slow pace.
We are finally going to hike Semeru after months of preparation (money especially). When I set foot in Bromo in 2009, never did I imagine that one day I would hike the highest peak in Java, Mahameru Semeru. So when Dody invited me to join a group of Indonesians to hike Semeru, I said yes immediately. Ok, to avoid confusion, I’ll explain the difference between Mahameru and Semeru. Mahameru is the name of the peak of Mount Semeru. Semeru is the name of the mountain. Get it?
It is a leisure trekking to Ranu Kumbolo. Pretty easy for Bun and I as we are on high spirit. Tell you the truth, the walk is nothing like 5cm. We walk in a long line where other hikers stop as and when they like. Some give way to us while the others block our way. We know we have to maintain our pace in order to keep our bodies warm. So the lesser the stops are, the better. When you stop for a long time until your last drop of sweat dries up, your body will be chilled and cold. You will easily get a cramp attack.
Since we hardly know other person in the group, we walk as a pair so Bun can look out for me just in case anything happens. Usually, in a hiking trip, ice-breaking will take place along the track to the summit. Since we are separated with the rest, the ice-breaking does not take place. We still have a lot of time to spend together.
There are four shelters from Ranu Pani to Ranu Kumbolo. Make sure to stop for a rest at Shelter 3 for you probably need a breather to ascend 45degree hill.
And we see the peak from close distance. Mahameru.
Half way through Ranu Kumbolo, we bump into a boy who is waiting for his friends. He has been waiting for few hours. The three of us walk together until Ranu Kumbolo. It is his fifth time climbing Mt. Semeru. And our jaw drop to his statement. Fifth times, yaw! Hard core hikers in the house. This boy is one of the strangers whom I have met and remain in my heart albeit the short term interaction. He offers to host us in Surabaya and send us off to the airport on our last day in Indonesia. There are many unpleasant experiences I suffer during this trip, but when I think of the human spirit I encounter I feel blessed that I am part of this trip.
One time, the boy suddenly goes missing. We look back and wait for awhile, but there is no sign of him. As it is nearing Maghrib (Malays believe that during Maghrib the bad spirit will roam around), there is a tinge of uneasiness when he is not with us. Bun calls him out. He answers and let us know he diverts as he can’t hold his bowel any longer. We are relieved!
As we near the mountainous lake of Ranu Kumbolo, I have massive headache and my hearts pump faster than normal rate. This is the first sign to acute mountain sickness.
Acute mountain sickness is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travelers at high altitude (typically above 8,000 feet or 2,400 meters).
Acute mountain sickness is due to a combination of reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes.
The faster you climb to a high altitude, the more likely you will get acute mountain sickness.
Even before I start the trekking, I know I am at high risk to suffer acute mountain sickness. A week before I was due to Surabaya, I undergone a physical test by Celebrity Fitness Gym that indicates I have low blood pressure. I already have lower quantity of oxygen in my blood.
Arriving at Ranu Kumbolo at night, all we could see is light reflected on the surface of the lake. As we walk closer, we see hundreds of tent scattered on the ground. It is as if there is a scout jamboree of some sort. It is a night festival. We find a place to sit while waiting for the rest. When most of our group mates has arrived, we have to bid farewell to our newly made friend. But we insist in him and he mutually promise that he would catch up with us later. We point to him the way we are heading so that he could find us. But we forget they are hundreds of tent at Ranu Kumbolo that night making it impossible for him to find us.
We walk to the other side of Ranu Kumbolo. We are wronged when we think the porters have prepared the tent for us. We have to sit in porters’ hut while waiting for the organizer to arrive. One person is injured, so delay is expected. With shivering cold, we all sit on the floor. We pull out our gloves, mitten, fleece, sweater and jacket to keep us warm. I remember Bun gives me some food to eat. It is after waiting for one and a half hour that the organizer arrives.
Apparently, the porters are on protest. The organizers are not preparing food for them. Porters are being lazy and we are victimized.
When the tent is ready, we went to our respective tents. We are starved that night. I do not know what goes wrong but it seems to me that the organizer has failed to manage the trip well. After 4 hours walk and several hours of waiting, the food is not prepared by the time I go to sleep. All I know is that one of the guides whose tent is beside mine, cook banana fritters for him to eat. The boys next door are heard lamenting over starvation. We sleep with an empty stomach and it is still a long journey.
The treatment I receive at Mount Semeru is very different from the treatment during my hike to Rinjani. Rinjani provides world class treatment as tents are made up long before we arrive. As soon as we reach our camp site, hot drinks of choice will be offered to us. After we clean up, food will arrive at the door of our tent. Service is good in Rinjani. I do not expect the same treatment in Semeru. But I also do not expect being near to famish. This is not the services you would expect out of any hiking expedition.
We sleep well though as we are very tired.
You have to wait for next post if you want to see Ranu Kumbolo’s pictures.