Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Crazy volcano climb, or how we almost died

I know most of you won’t even start when they’ll see the size of this entry. But I really think it’s worth it. It’s one of the craziest experiences I’ve had in Indonesia. So sit back and enjoy.

The whole story begins on Friday at around 5 p.m. We were supposed to go climb the Singgalang volcano with a group of Indonesian students from Bukkitinggi. They asked us if we want to come and we said yeah, why not, it will be a nice experience.

So Friday at around 16:30 it starts to rain heavily in Padang Panjang, from where we are about to take an ankot to Bukkitinggi where we are supposed to meet the others. We don’t like the rain and refuse to go in such weather. It’s normal because we are not prepared for conditions like climbing the volcano in heavy rain, we don’t have proper clothes, proper equipment for that. So we tell them not to wait for us and that we will come and climb the volcano tomorrow morning and meet them at the top because they wanted to stay there for two nights.

Now this is something I need to tell you about Singgalang volcano. We didn’t know much about it and we always wanted to climb Merapi not Singgalang. So we knew Merapi wasn’t dangerous and the trek was pretty easy. We didn’t know shit about the one we were about to climb. So we asked people around and, well the reactions were pretty similar. People are scared of that mountain. We were told that many tourists have gone lost, we were told stories about some people living in the forests of Singgalang kidnapping tourists and shit like that. The kidnapping didn’t scare us because we knew Indonesians like to exaggerate and make up stories. But getting lost on the way was real danger, it could easily happen to us. So they told us to always stick with the group and don’t split. Go with some guide or go with locals. Well we were naïve enough to go alone.

Another thing was that one girl told us that the trek is only about 2 hours. So even if you get lost, two hours is nothing and eventually you will find a way back. So the plan was to wake up early in the morning, take our stuff and climb the damn thing

So we did everything they told us to do and we ended up in some warung at the start of the trek. We had some nasi goring (fried rice) because we didn’t bring much food, only two oranges and some nuts. It was only two hours walk and the group was waiting for us up on the top of the motherfucker. So I was being friendly as always and started to talk to the oldest guy in the warung. He told me crazy stories about people getting lost and stuff and so i asked how you can get seriously lost in a two hour trek. Well apparently it was a 7 hours trek, but we didn’t believe him because the girl told us its only 2 hours.

So we started to walk. I was dead even before entering the forest. But yeah whatever. So we went to the last gate before entering the real trek. Guy asked us if we are sure we don’t want a guide. “Yeah, no guide, we are fine.” So the first part was this bamboo forest. It was steep, slippery and you had to crouch the whole time, so crouching for an hour and a half, leeches fucking everywhere. Then we started to see some height signs and we were on 1650m above the sea level. The goal was to get to 2800m and so we realized it WILL be around 7 hours trek.

Long story short, trek was shit. It was steep as fuck and it wasn’t like steep parts, it was always steep so my poor chopstick legs couldn’t go on without making breaks. I had damn bar on my back with 4 x 1,5l water bottles and 5 x 0,5l beer cans. The air was very thin so i had problems breathing.

So we were on the trek for about 6 hours so far and we all were very hungry. I had eaten one nasi goreng that day and was trekking for six hours. But we didn’t have any food! So we kept pushing it, until it started to rain. Not a normal rain, it was a massive rain and because the path was so steep it started to make these little waterfalls. It was pure slippery mud and we couldn’t go further. We actually couldn’t do anything, and going back seemed more dangerous. So we found this so called shelter and waited there for the rain to stop. But it wasn’t stopping and the time was running. We couldn’t risk going on in the dark because we had only one torch and the condition of the way up was total shit. But as I said it was impossible to move in the rain. So it got dark, but i mean Dark dark, pitch fucking dark. We were wet and cold because we were above 2400m. The shelter wasn’t very good because it was raining everywhere. We couldn’t make fire because it’s a rainforest you know. We didn’t have sleeping bags or whatever. I was falling asleep while standing, other guy was dying because his feet were freezing and last guy was trying not to collapse mentally.

We decided we either stay there and freeze or we try to move on after it gets a bit better. The problem was that we had only one torch. So we were moving extremely slow. Fog was everywhere we didn’t see for more than few meters ahead but there was basically only one path. But then we suddenly were in the rocky part and we were supposed to be following an electrical cable so we always were. The rocky part was bad because it was basically one big river and our shoes weren’t good enough for that kind of terrain. It was one big steep river. If one of us slipped there, he’d be dead. Bam, finito.

We had to move on because we were hungry and cold and we had to get to the camp. But because of the fog we lost the fucking cable. It was so obvious that we are lost. Nobody was freaking out but you could feel the desperation in the air. The volcano is huge; if you get lost you are pretty much done. So we were thinking about finding a bushes and cutting through them so we can sleep underneath them or whatever. But how would that help? In that time we were trekking for 9 hours. So guys said we better keep moving and staying is bullshit. What i didn’t like because you just get more lost if u choose the wrong way, but yeah ok. So we found the damn cable and nothing felt better than that. We were so relieved. Nobody said it but without it we’d be pretty much fucked. 2600m above sea level, soaking wet with almost 0 degrees throughout the night. Not good.

We kept moving it was still very slow and shitty but we finally got to the top. By that time we were hiking for 10,5 hours. So we went to the lake because there’s a lake on the top. We didn’t see others camping so we decided to just scream. It actually worked out and we saw them right across the lake. But didn’t matter! We could feel the warmth of the tent and sleeping bags, and taste the mie goring (fried noodles). Out of excitement we went the wrong way. And from rain forest it turned into hardcore jungle. I almost broke my leg like 5 times but we were close. We could see their flashlights, so I just said fuck it lets get straight to them. So now we have cuts and bruises everywhere, ruined every piece of clothes we had.

After that nothing special happened except there was no tent for us and we slept with 17 other people in one tent, one guy constantly farting right into my face.

Next day we climbed down from the volcano, exhausted, hungry, and cold with a story to tell. After this trip my legs hate me but worth it! The whole thing was kind of impressive because in the time of desperation we didn’t lose it. We kept pushing it until we got where we wanted to get. I’m actually proud of us.

 But I still can’t move from my warm, warm bed.


  1. WOW, awesome man! Enjoy your stay in Indonesia :D

  2. See now THAT'S the kind of adventure I'd expect while on an adventure in Indonesia. Getting lost in a foreign land... that is the kind of adrenaline I live for!

  3. That incredible what a story!!! That's how lifelong stories are made :)

  4. You had to enjoy that adrenaline

  5. Finally the real account! But yeah man, the legs will kill after a very long and arduous trip like that. To stop them from hurting you have to lift them up when you lie down. Like how people with casts on their legs have to keep it lifted up in hospital for some strange reason. I think the blood stops rushing to the feet and relieve the pressure since it was really active.

    Get well soon bro!