Dec 3, 2008

The Mysterious Pasir Kramat

In the 17 years I have walked at the foot of the twin peaks, I never once set foot on Pasir Kramat, a wooded ridgeline between two ridgelines that we often trod -- Pr Pancawati (in route B2) and Pr Pondokcateng (in route B1). From afar we thrilled to view the thick forest and hear the shrieks of the Javan gibbons (owa) on Pr Kramat, but never ventured into that jungle. The WIPA surveyors visited Pr Kramat some years ago. They told of a steep climb, a prime forest, and a holy place (tempat kramat).

Last month, Robert Baldwin, who lives in Kmp Pancawati, began asking about the mysterious pasir and my interest was piqued. We left his house early on Monday, 1 Dec, and headed up Pr Pancawati, as for the B2 route. After vainly exploring a turnoff to the right near the forest entrance, we proceeded to the junction shown on the map above 1200m. Thence, around 10 a.m., we veered right and contoured around the head of a small valley to reach the upper end of Pr Kramat. The crossing was easy, but the trail became hard to find. As we worked our way down the ridgeline, a faint trail began to appear on the left side at around 1190m, with some mysterious holes dug beside the trail. The forest here is in excellent condition, consisting largely of rasamala trees that may have been planted as long as 30 years ago. The ridgeline lost altitude very slowly as we proceeded "down" it to the WNW. Not until much further along, when we had descended to 1060m, did I notice a small stump had been cut by a sharp tool, meaning that the forest above was untouched by woodcutters.

Soon after, we began to hear the shrieks of the bands of owa, annoyed, we supposed, by our intrusion into their remote kingdom. Below 1000m, we crossed a notch in the ridgeline and climbed to a flat spot with some graves, said to be of holy persons. We then resumed a descent along the ridgeline that became very steep in places -- the very reason so few villagers venture here. By 2 p.m., it began to drizzle. We reached Kmp Pancawati at 4 p.m., our strength much depleted by a strenuous but very satisfying trek.

Oct 30, 2008

High-altitude Detour on Route C3 Mandalawangi

Among the 16 trekking routes in the Puncaktrek series of maps and books, route C3 Mandalawangi (in the Cisarua sector) at the foot of Gn Pangrango is the jewel. It brings the hiker deeply into the forest, undisturbed by road noise, with abundant flora and bird life. There is also the romance of visiting the site of a former outpost, a small settlement of perhaps 10 houses that was evacu­ated and burned by the Indonesian army around 1960, during the Darul Islam rebellion. The climb from the Gn Mas tea planta­tion is a gentle one on an old Dutch horse road, and leads to the site of the former Mandalawangi out­post at 1790m. From there, the climb to the Puncak is not for the faint-hearted, so the full route is only recommended for advanced hikers with a taste for adven­ture. Also, you should allow about 10 hours for the hike, so an early start is essential. Risk-averse hikers are encouraged to venture as far as the site of the former outpost and then to return to the tea plan­tation. In this way, they can enjoy the pristine envi­ronment while avoiding the rough patches further on.

During the last four weeks I have had the exhilarating opportunity to walk C3 three times with three differ­ent groups. This enabled me to explore an essential detour in the route, required by the recent blockage of the short path from points C to D on the north side of the site of the ex-outpost. The directions given below are adapted to our map of the Cisarua sector, and may not make much sense to a reader who doesn't have the map in hand.

On 29 September, I walked the first half of route C3 with Robert Baldwin and his wife Nina, who have a house in Kmp Pancawati (near the start of routes B1 and B2) at the foot of Gn Pangrango, with Pak Santoso of Green Radio, his friend Teddy Wibisana, and Teddy’s 2 children Bimo and Cemara, ages about 12 and 9. This was my first time on the route since early 2006, 30 months ago. We only started walking at 9 a.m. from Kmp Gn Mas and only reach­ed the clearing at the ex-outpost at 2 p.m., too late for the ascent to the Puncak, so we were for­ced to retrace our steps to Kmp Gn Mas in order to guarantee a safe conclu­sion of the trek for all mem­bers. While at the clearing, we learned that the path from points C to D was blocked by new growth of trees. The saga of this trip is recounted by Pk Santoso on the Green Radio website, with my comments appearing also on the site. Despite the setback, we were blessed with good weather and enjoyed this deep excursion into pristine nature.

On 13 Oct, I walked route C3 with Nick Andrew, Phil Rich and Pascal Arnaud of the Java Lava group, Dwi "Bolang" Suk­ma Nura, an outbound operator who had walked this route several times during 1999-2002 while gathering data for the Puncaktrek maps, and Pk Acep of Kmp Tajur Halang (who works at my vila on Gn Salak). We began walking at 7:30 a.m, reached the clearing before 11, and began climbing to the Puncak at noon. As plan­ned, we took a detour shown on the map, a detour that first proceeds a short distance ENE from the clearing at the ex-outpost, on a clear footpath leading to another side of the ex-outpost (with more foundations) in a small valley. From a branching point there (call it point C1), the path climbs NNE to Pasir Manda­la­wa­ngi, on a route shown on the map. On top, we reached a T-intersec­tion with a good ridgeline path (call it point C2), also shown on the map (at about 1900masl), and turned left to approach point D. From point D, we resumed the route marked on the map and narrated in the book. We contoured along the western slope of Pasir Gegerbentang in a direction that gradu­al­ly veered from ENE to NNE. The path was over­grown, closing up more the further we went. Never­theless, we per­se­vered, placing our faith in the GPS coordinates of the next point, E, as shown on the map. Although we managed to deviate from the trail for about 200m, we were able to return to the original path, to find the path that climbs to Pr Gegerbentang, and thereby to reach point E. By this time, it was already after 3 p.m, indicating that the trek from the clearing had taken us over 3 hours to cover a distance of a little more than 2km. From point E, we fol­lowed the Puncak ridgeline (which sepa­rates Bogor and Cianjur regen­cies), enjoying the occa­sional long views, and reached the highway at point F on the Cianjur side of the Puncak Pass. The day was mostly overcast, with only a brief drizzle to dampen our spirits.

On 27 Oct, I walked C3 with Henrik Schmidt, a businessman who lives in Ciawi, together with Robert Baldwin and Pk Acep. The four of us are shown resting at the ex-outpost in the above self-timed photo. A few minutes later, we explored a fine water source beside the ex-outpost (see the photo below, with Baldwin), perfect for would-be campers. This time after climbing to Pr Mandalawangi, we took the alternative route, turning right at point C2 (mentioned above but not marked on the map). We proceeded on the ridgeline a few meters in a ENE direc­tion, until the ridgeline disappeared at the foot of Gn Gegerbentang, which sits astride the Puncak ridgeline. Here was a fork in the trail, where a new trail, which is not on the map and which I have never explored, appears to head straight up Gn Gegerbentang. We, however, took the old trail that veers left to contour along the western slope of Gn Gegerbentang; this was in fact the route that I first explored in 1994-95 and tra­versed several times after that before 2006. The route proved itself to be even more precarious than I recalled. The slope was as steep as ever, and the path very narrow. The ground under foot was rather fragile, due to the steep slope, and one had to take care to avoid stepping on loose soil or a void. We crawled under or clambered over a number of large trees that had fallen onto the narrow path. In this way, we advanced 380m in 45 minutes (including about 15 minutes of heavy rain), to reach a cross­roads in grid square I27 on Pr Gegerbentang, call it point C3 (marked with the altitude, 1844). This is actually a main crossroads, with a path leading down to Kmp Pangsalatan in Cianjur Regency and another path leading up to the summit of Gn Gegerbentang. From here, we continued straight on a easy walk along Pr Gegerbentang to point E and thence to the Puncak highway. The entire journey from the clearing took 4.5 hours. The sky was overcast most of the day, with about 45 minutes of drizzle and a brief shower.

Given the drawbacks of these two routes, two alternatives need to be explored, both beginning at point C2 on Pr Mandala­wangi. The easiest alternative would probably be to go left and follow Pr Mandalawangi all the way back to the tea plan­tation, as shown on the map. This would not exit at the Puncak highway but would avoid the rough spots between points C2 and E. The path is open from point C2 to point D, and is probably open back to a branching point near the edge of the forest and just above point B on route C3. A more challenging alternative would be to climb the new path ascending Gn Gegerben­tang; this path would almost certainly connect to point C3, either by way of the summit of Gn Gegerbentang (which soars about 200 vertical meters above above point C3) or by way of a traverse below the summit. It would be a steep climb in either case, but might offer surer footing than the precarious traverse from points C2 to C3.

Would someone else like to explore these alternative routes on their own and report their find­ings on the web? Feel free to do so. I am unlikely to revisit the area for some months.

Aug 10, 2008

With Antony on Route B1

Toward the end of July, I walked route B1 again with Antony Sutton, author of several blogs on tourism near Jakarta. It was a hard slog for Antony, as he relates on one of his blogs, but he was a good sport and we managed to complete the trip without incident. See his blog:(

Aug 4, 2008

Newcomers to Route B1 Nangleng

Route B1 has become a sort of poster child for the circle routes in the foothills of Gn Gede and Pangrango, because of its scenic beauty, cool forests and easy navigation. (A free download of the map and narratives in 2 languages are available on the puncaktrek website).

On 27 June, I took an old friend, Aryati Mowll, along this route. She and I had explored the Ring Route on many occasions during 1993-96, so she was curious to see how the maps could be used to hike in this area. Aryati, now the mother of two children, climbed Annapurna and Acancagua before she was married. Now she is studying for a Ph D in physical education at the University of Minnesota, and is still a strong athlete.

On 7 July, Robert Baldwin accompanied me on route B1. He has become a local boy (bule masuk kampung), with a cabin in Pancawati village, overlooking the start of B1. We had been previously to the starting point of B1 when exploring the ring route south from Pancawati, so we agreed to meet offroad, at the bridge over the Ci Mande. I walked down from the start in kmp Nangleng, and he walked down from his cabin in Pancawati. The photo of Robert alone shows him in front of a sign at the turnoff at the junction of Pasir Pondok Cateng and Pr Cipakis. The other photo shows him with Pk Husni and his daughter at a lone house in Kmp Bangrung on Pr Pondok Cateng.

Toward the end of July, I walked this route with Antony Sutton, author of several blogs on tourism near Jakarta. It was a hard slog for Antony, as he relates on one of his blogs (, but he was a good sport and we managed to complete the trip without incident.

Jun 8, 2008

Back on the Ring Route

On Friday, 6 June I began walking the Ring Route again after a pause of some years during which I mainly walked the circle routes. We covered the distance from Kmp Cipare to Arca Domas, a distance (with all the twists and turns) of about 10km. Robert Baldwin, a New Zealander living in Pancawati, close by the ring route, accompanied me, and so did 6 other walkers. The nearly perfect weather was briefly interrupted by a light afternoon drizzle. We carried a GPS unit to record all the turning points along the way and ended up with about 30 waypoints for this seg­ment of the Ring Route. From Kmp Cipare, this sector of the route passes through the following kampongs: Leuwunglarangan, Cileungsi, Pondokmenteng, Pasirkoja, Cibedug Tengah, Ciaul, and Bojong Murni, before terminating at the German Cemetery in Arca Domas (its history is told briefly in the Ciawi guidebook, p. 34-37). This sector of the route appears on the Puncaktrek map for Ciawi (sector B).

We crossed 9 valleys, including two very broad ones, the Ciherang and the Cikereteg. Amazingly, after a hiatus of at least 7 years (in some places 10), the route is intact in all but one valley, a branch of the Ciherangsatim. In that small valley (the second from Cipare), previously planted in sawah, the land now belongs to Pk Rosadi of Bogor, who forbids further planting on it. So the former sawah has now become swamp (rawa), and the trails on it are now gone. By stepping in much mud we were able to find a way through the rawa, but I would recommend that we explore a new route next time from Cipare to Leuweunglarangan.

The high point of the trek was the crossing of the final valley, the Cikereteg, between Kmp Bojong Murni and Arca Domas. The floor of the broad valley bore a magnificent, lush carpet of sawah, in bright green, while the ridge­line ahead was covered with dark green pines. We crossed around 5 p.m., under high clouds and cool temp­er­atures, a feast for the eyes but a tad dark for photos. Instead I show a photo (above) from the midday crossing of the smaller Cibedug valley.

During the crossing from Cipare to Leuweunglarangan, we were accompanied by our friend Tides (Aristides Katoppo), who in his youth often explored the twin peaks Gede and Pangrango. He still walks with a firm pace, but is recovering from a stroke and gradually stretching his walking radius. He found the Ring Route to be suitable for his condition, as it allowed a car to meet him at one of the many road crossings along the route.

Hopefully there will be time later this year to explore more of the Ring Route. While the guidebooks do not narrate the Ring Route as they do the circle routes, the maps do show it, so an intrepid navi­ga­tor can find his way with the maps. If there is interest, I can prepare a file for download from the website, with GPS waypoints and brief descriptions. This would give GPS users a waypoint about every 300m on average. Just send me an email about this with Ringroute in the Subject line. The photo L shows us eating very tasty bowls of bakso, in Kmp Cibedug, at an establishment that must be doing something right because it has been operating in the same place since 1991.

May 27, 2008

A steady trickle of trekkers on route B1

On Monday, 26 May, I accompanied two Intisari journalists, Mbak Christantiowati and Mas M. Sholekhudin, on route B1. As usual we stopped briefly at the lone house of Pak Husni in Kmp Bangrung. Upon asking about the tourist traffic, I was surprised to learn that on average, at least one group passes by the house per week on their way up to the forest. If so, this would suggest there are more users of the Puncaktrek maps and guidebooks than I imagined. Not bad (lumayan)!

Here are some photos of me by Mas Sholekhudin: Sitting in the forest while looking at the map and walking barefoot on a path through the rice paddies in Kmp Leuwisapi, both with Mbak Christantiowati.

May 23, 2008

Another adventure on route B4

Somehow, route B4 always turns into an adventure and Friday, 16 May was no exception when I walked it with a friend.

At point A (see Puncaktrek map) on Pr Bobojong we suddenly ran into a dirt road that had not been there before and were puzzled why anyone would build such a road on an uninhabited pasir. (The name Pasir Bobojong was unfortunately left off the map but the reader can find the pasir by following the arrows for route B4 from point A upward toward point B.)

The new dirt road climbs the pasir, mostly along the previous foot path. As we had first noted a year ago, many pine trees on the westward slope of the pasir have been singed by fire and many of these are now dying, sad to say. This vandalism was said to have been car­ried out by youth who spilled the pinesap that was being tapped and set it alight one night in early 2007, perhaps as a prank -- a sad testimony to the ability of some people to spoil a good thing for no clear reason.

The German cemetery is a well tended, restful haven that never fails to impress one with the solem­nity of its fraught history. After a good rest, we proceeded to Pr Pari, where the appearance of a barbed-wire fence surprised us. (Sad to say, the name Pr Pari was also left off the map -- the toponymy team has dropped the ball for this corner of the map -- but the read­er can find Pr Pari by following the B4 arrows from point B across to the next pasir.) A villag­er explained the land now belonged to the Arca Domas Agro-Wisata-Rohani project under Romo Gabriel and Romo John. Curious about this new landlord, we took an uphill detour to a stone road where an imposing green house overlooked the valley of the former tea plantation. Fortu­nately Romo Gabriel was at home, preparing to leave for Bandung.

Romo Gabriel (R in photo), who is Italian, preferred to speak with me in Indo­nesian rather than English. He invited us in and told us of their plans to develop an eco-retreat in this secluded loca­tion. He mentioned that he had order­­ed the building of the road in Pr Bobojong so that a paved road could reach this serene spot (at present, visitors must traverse a rough road from Kmp Linja via the Arca ceme­tery to get here). We showed him our maps and explained that Pr Bobojong had previously been the pris­tine location of a section of route B4. In the future, we hope to persuade Romo Gabriel to main­­tain a foot­path beside the new road, as well as beside the barbed-wire fence in Pr Pari, so that walkers can con­tin­ue to use route B4.

Returning to the fence in Pr Pari, we traced our way on an obscure path beside the fence to its end, and then diagonally across and down the pasir to approach the pine forest. We continued on the standard route, enjoying the glimpses of the sawah below. This brought us to the its T-junction at point C, where we turned sharply R onto a faint descending path. The path was so overgrown from the rainy season that we had to guess at the trail – another adventure, but we guessed right and reached the sawah in the bottom of the Ci Sukabirus valley. Across the bamboo bridge we began to climb Pr Walahar.

What with various delays and detours, it was now late in the afternoon, despite our early start in Kmp Situ. We enjoyed a light breeze and the splendid views from Pr Walahar of the Cisukabirus valley. A downpour began as we came off Pr Walahar and climbed back to the main ridgeline. At 5:15 we reached point E and began to enter the Cisukabirus valley. The rain had stopped but the descent was slow on the slip­pery path. At dusk we waded across the Ci Sukabirus in our boots -- no time to take them off and too late to worry about whether this was the “right” crossing spot or not. We scanned the broad carpet of rice paddies for a well-trod path toward Kmp Situ, soon found one and hurried across the flat terrain to the small musholla, a landmark on B4. It was now after 6, nearly dark. Without a flashlight, I was reluctant to proceed on the standard route to the kampong, which involved a bit of steep climbing on slippery paths. A villager said we could follow the narrow paved bank of the irrigation ditch into a cluster of houses ahead of us, which we decided to do. Amid the houses, known as Kmp Sawah, a friendly group of pesantren kids kindly guided us further along the waterway and up to Kmp Situ. Another exciting day on B4, leaving me to wonder just how it took so long to cover only 6.6 km!

Route B3 -- With Pk Santoso

On Friday, 9 May I walked this route with Pak Santoso, the managing director of Green Radio, and another friend. An avid hiker, Pak Santoso had often walked in the foothills of Gn Pangrango while a student at IPB but never with a map. During our walk he read the map for this route assidu­ously and found it sufficiently clear and accurate. Meanwhile, we observed changes for a number of identi­fying elements in the text narrative for B3 – for example, some warung had closed and a second roadside bench has appeared in kmp Ciaul. It appears that the map will stand the test of time better than the book. If other hikers are interest­ed, there is much to be said for distributing the job of updating the narrative among users, and Pk Santoso was hopeful that Green Radio could support this kind of collaborative approach (gotong royong) with publicity via its website at

At the start in Kmp Pondokmenteng (near Tapos), we heard of other walkers who had simi­­­lar­­ly begun the B3 circuit, perhaps using the Puncaktrek map. There were similar reports throughout the walk, although less em­phat­ically and consistently than at the start, making us won­der whether some had gone only part of the way. A Western man (Tom Wright, I later learn­ed) had trekked here recently with his Indonesian wife and their 8-month old baby – many locals recalled the threesome.

In Kmp Babakan Bawah we met Pak Endi, owner of the lone house near the Ci Salada, which he is now trying to sell. The photo shows Pak Santoso (L) with Pk Endi. In Kmp Babakan Atas we saw a stack of recently cut wood with a strong aroma -- all that remained of a pete tree. Indeed, the wood did smell like the pete bean, and we wondered if a house built from this wood would smell the same.

On the last stretch of B3, as we descended into the valley of the Ci Pomndokmenteng from Pr Koja amid cinnamon and pine trees, we spotted a kiacret tree ahead in full bloom. The large red-orange flowers, visible from afar, had become a scenic attraction in this remote spot, leaving us to wonder how this exotic species (the African tulip tree, or sabado dea) had made its way here.

Before the end of the hike at 1:30, the subtle mass clicking sound of the uir-uir and tonggeret was heard. Here too the local locusts and cicadas had begun to greet the advent of the dry season, a bit later than on route B1, which is only to be expected given that the climate is a bit dryer in Nangleng.

Easy navigation on this route for us -- and for Tom Wright as well, according to his email.

May 22, 2008

Locusts and cicadas announce the end of the rainy season on route B1

On Friday 2 May I walked this route with a friend. On this trip we saw no monkeys but the forest was alive with a symphony of insects, which got louder towards afternoon (sore hari). For us, the perform­ance reached its climax around 3 pm in the pine forest on the north edge of the valley of the Ci Kutu. There were two kinds of insects: a kind of forest locust called uir-uir (or, locally, oer-oer) and a kind of Cicada called “tonggeret”. The uir-uir make a steady buzzing sound, while the tonggeret make their song in louder bursts of a few seconds. We were duly impressed with what Wikipedia calls the “remarkable acoustic talents” of the tonggeret.

Local lore has it that both species burst into song at the end of the rainy season – which may mean that the hikers are now relatively safe from mon­soon downpours, or that, if they occur, they will occur later in the day. The tonggeret are said to be noisiest in the late afternoon (sore hari).

The Wiki­pedia article on cicadas says that “Cicada song” is made by male cicadas with “loud noisemakers called “timbals” on the side of the abdominal base… Contracting the internal timbal muscles produces a clicking sound as the timbals buckle inwards… The interior of the male abdomen is substantially hollow to amplify the resonance of the sound.” More about tonggeret on:

During the same walk, we heard about a group of Indonesian schoolkids who had recently walked from Kmp Nangleng to Pasir Pondok Catang – the beginning of route B1. A heavy rain began after they had reached the forest and one schoolkid, unfortunately, slipped and twisted his ankle in the forest. He was carried out of the forest by the others, got some first-aid massage at the house of Pk Husni, and was then carried back to the road. This appears to have been the end of their hike. Sorry to hear of this mishap and better luck next time!

This was the first time in nearly two years that I had walked the last section of route B1, from point D to point E (see map) and back to the start, via the edge of the valley of the Ci Kutu (on other recent occasions I took the shortcut). I took the opportunity to notice a turn that was missed in the narrative in the published book (but not in the map). A correction is being issued on the Updates/Text Updates page of A recent change along the route is that the greenhouse of chili peppers behind Ibu Pipi’s warung is now gone.

Easy navigation, as always, on this route.