The Gamble at Surya Kencana Valley

Gede-Pangrango National Park has the busiest climbing traffic in Indonesia, holding the record for many years before the booming of the movie “5cm” that skyrocketed Semeru mountain popularity. Now it stands side by side with Semeru as the superstars of Indonesian mountains. According to the official website, with up to 80.000 visitors per year, Gede-Pangrango produce more than 15 tons worth of human feces per year, making it the biggest outdoor toilet you’ve ever seen. I kid you not.

I climbed mount Gede in April with several friends, we chose Gunung Putri as the starting point. At 7 AM on Saturday morning, the whole team was ready to do some serious hike. The sun was shining bright, the sky was clear. Ah….the good ol’ weather was on our side today. We headed to the registration post then walked through the damp thick rainforest. The trail was pretty challenging but not that I, and my dearest trekking pole, couldn’t handle. At 13:20 PM I reached Surya Kencana Valley (2750 m), the home of thousands of edelweiss flowers, the place where most climbers erected their tents to spend the night. It was 6.5 hours walking, not bad for a guy with knee, back, and shoulder problems.

The valley was pretty crowded, reminded me of Kramat Jati Central Market, the busiest market in Jakarta. Many visitors were in groups with average 10-20 people in each group. In my rough estimation, there were at least two hundreds groups that day, swarming the east and west Surya Kencana with tents, A LOT OF tents. With so many people, I could only imagine what the place would be when these people started to do their “morning rituals”. I found it the next day and it wasn’t pretty.

At night, on a clear sky, the moonlight was shining so bright that I could se the parade of tents in the whole Surya Kencana Valley as far as my eyes could see. I stunned outside for awhile then went back inside the tent because the temperature had dropped to 6 degree Celsius. Inside the tent I had an idea of not having a summit attack tomorrow. Instead, I thought that I could photograph the sunrise from the valley. The decision was based on a simple visual observation in the afternoon after watching the sunset. It was a gamble because April was still a rainy season, if somehow rain and fog covered the valley in the next morning, I’d be getting home without any good picture. Nothing.

On a chilly Sunday morning, I woke up at 4 AM and prepared the cameras: Horizon 202 and Fuji DL-15, my two underrated plastic cameras. So far, the weather was pretty good, I went outside the tent and started to hunt some spots. As it turned out, the sunrise was perfect and the view was breathtaking. I didn’t know how Mount Gede summit  looked like that morning but I was sure as hell the view at the valley was none to compare, just like heaven.

It was a good gamble.

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