We reached Desa Pancasila at 6.30am when the village had just awakened from the night rest. A group of scouts also known as Pramuka filed on the field doing some aerobics and all time favourite poco-poco line dance.
We cleaned ourselves, re-packed our bags and cooked for breakfast. Those who took turns driving stealed the time by sleeping. Others were eager to start the journey to Tambora. At 9.30a.m., 3 of the climbers (Han, Abg Md. Nor & Abg Man) started the walk.
As I had enough sleep, I wandered around and ordered glasses of es teh manis and waited. It was until 11.30am that we finally started the walk to Pos 1. We had to register and paid a compulsory IDR10,000.00 as an entrance fee. This was covered in the package. We were then given a big black plastic bag, an indication that we must bring back rubbish. Be a responsible climber by bringing back your own rubbish.
The distance between Desa Pancasila to Pos 1 is 7.9km with a recommended walk of 3.5 hours. Although the track was easy, it seems to be a never ending walk following roads through coffee plantations and subsequently entering the forest gate. We were approached by a group of locals who offered their services to drive us on motorbikes to Post 1 on a trail bike. It was only later that we realized in conjunction with the commemoration of 200 Tahun Tambora Menyapa Dunia, a new track was opened to cater to the rising numbers of visitors. The old track was nearer by all means but it was kept as secret by the locals for they wanted to make money by way of bike services.
The long walk to Pos 1 was eventful itself. On track at the first shelter, we realized one of the hikers in our group, Mad, was sick with diarrhea. With three hikers already ahead of the rest of us, Haidar and I volunteered to be the sweeper so that the others could track the other three hikers who went ahead of us without any ration. If not for the long wait at each shelter, they would not be too far from the rest. I was unsure of Haidar, but having lost a dear hiker friend 2 years ago, I could not afford to leave the sick behind. Plus, I truly understand the agony of having stomach ache while hiking.
On the way to Pos 1, we came across many interesting characters. A young couple from University of Bima who narrated how they truanted classes for 3 days just to be part of the once-in-a-lifetime event of 200 Tahun Tambora Menyapa Dunia. They also told me that it was their first hiking trip and that they came unprepared for they did not bring tent and food. When asked how they slept, they found a cave opening at Post 5 where they took shelter, exposed to harsh cold temperature. They were lucky that Tambora was not as cold as the other volcanoes like Semeru and Rinjani.
Another boy named Rul, travelled all the way from Jakarta on bike, just to join thousands of hikers for 200 Tahun Tambora Menyapa Dunia. It took him almost 3 days journey to finally reach Desa Pancasila. Indonesians youngsters awed me with their dedication to explore nature and their love towards everything Indonesian. Flagging their “sang saka Merah Putih” on top of the mountain meant the world for them.
I would like to also mention the five boys from Dompu whom I met at the third shelter enroute to Pos 1. For the next two days, I had crossed paths with them on track more frequent that the others.
As we swept and continuously motivated Mad to continue walking to Pos 1, my feet felt heavier and heavier. Walking a thousand tads too slow and at times having to turn back to wait, I was mentally exhausted. I could only wish those ahead of us did not proceed to Pos 3 because of Mad’s conditions. We finally resorted to exchanging backpacks as the backpack carried by Mad was one of the heaviest as he was assigned to be one of the porters for the group. I carried Haidar’s 70L backpack, Haidar took Mad’s and Mad carried my less than 15kg backpack. 20 minutes later, I heard commotions from afar. I knew we would be arriving in a matter of minutes. It was a relief to see the group already set up tents and prepare dinner.
After cleaning up, I fumed with anger as the group resolved to continue the 2D1N Tambora hike and a day tour to Komodo Island, which is not viable at all given the time and distance. It was resolved that we would start hiking at 3am the next morning, summit attack on the same day and walk back to Pos 1.
The resolution simply meant:-
I would have to walk from Pos 1 to Pos 2 (1.5 hours / 3.5km), Pos 2 to Pos 3 (2 hours/3.1km), Pos 3 to Pos 4 (1 hour/1.2km), Pos 4 to Pos 5 (1 hour/1.2km) and Pos 5 to Summit (3.5 hours/4km). In total, 18 hours of walking on the next day.
Although I had clocked in 22 hours of walking during Gunung Mulu trip, I was not prepared to torture my body and mind for the sake of near impossible itinerary. I was the only one opposing to the ridiculous plan and having left no choice, I abided by the team consensus. I resigned to our tent and dozed off sleeping for my tiredness had overtaken my anger.
When I woke up, it was already 3.30am. I took a bite to the food prepared by the crew. I packed my DSLR, my raincoat, my mask, tidbits and 1L bottle. I accidentally left my jacket inside my backpack. All geared up, I trudged slowly with Mieja and Haidar to Pos 2. After 1 and ½ hours, we reached Pos 2. Pos 2 is located near a river.
While waiting for Haidar and Mieja to perform Subuh, I started walking to Pos 3 alone. I could not help but to reflect what it was like at the slope of Tambora in 1815. After awhile I caught up with Abg Md Nor’s pace and we paired up until we reached the summit. We waited for the others at Pos 3 until our sweat dried out and our body started to cool down. Fearing we needed to ignite our body engine again, we climbed to Pos 4 without waiting for the rest.
The hike was rather a long hike. At approximately 11.30am, we reached Pos 5. We continued our climb after having our lunch. Most climbers had already reached the summit and were packing to start their descend. When at Pos 5, you are exposed to the sun. Pos 5 is where the last water point is. I had asked a young boy to fill my bottle and he obligingly did that. I didn’t mean to be such a bully, the hike down to the water point was steep. I still had to reserve my energy for the summit attempt.
Abang Md Nor and I started to ascend to the summit at 12.30pm, at which time, I still had not seen the peak. It was quite stressful as you did not know what were you aiming for. Nothing to keep you motivated. 2 hours ascending, we encountered the loose rock and caught a whiff of sulphur. I knew the end was near. The cloud slowly made way for blue sky and I finally spotted the summit and plenty of climbers on top of it flagging the victory flags.
Having pushed myself off the limit, I reached the caldera. Almost dried up caldera. It was calm and serene unlike the monster that shook the world 200 years ago. Certainly not how Tambora Menyapa Dunia 200 years ago.
20 minutes ascending from the caldera, I finally reached the summit of Gunung Tambora.
I reached Pos 1 at 11.30pm after nearly losing temper for want of hot water.