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.