The rain was pouring hard when I was leaving Makassar to Baraka, so hard that I could only imagine what kind of climb I would experience if I encountered this kind of rain on Latimojong, surely not the happy-go-lucky one. I arrived at Baraka base camp –a two story house of Mr. Dadang– at 2 AM after a 6-hour crazy drive by car. I threw myself on the carpet inside then fell asleep in seconds. Baraka is the starting point to climb Rantemario, the highest peak in Latimojong mountain range, Sulawesi. Every person must report to Baraka police station to give a copy of identification card before hike the mountain. It’s also a place where you can rent a truck/jeep and organize logistics.
To reach Karangan, the last settlement in Latimojong, the only option is to ride a truck/4×4 jeep that only available in Monday or Thursday, local folks call it “market day”, aside from driving hikers to Karangan, they also haul coffee, onions, and other crops from Baraka to Karangan and vice versa. If you think riding a jeep is for pussies, walking through the most awful dirt road in Sulawesi for eternity would give a bad-ass impression on your Facebook status. The mission for the first day was to reach the second post at afternoon, made a camp for a night.
My group consisted of six people plus three guides/porters, we rented a 4×4 jeep to drive us to Karangan, it was supposed to be a 3-hour ride. The jeep was rocking hard left and right, made me grabbed the jeep’s reinforced steel frame as hard as I could. The road was really awful that I was relieved it wasn’t rain. The driver said, if it was raining, he needed twice the normal time to reach Karangan. No kidding. Normally, the jeep could pass through the road until the village, but I came when it was still being fixed in Rantelemo Village, so any vehicle except motorcycle was forbidden to go any further, so after 2 hours ride, we proceeded to Karangan village by foot.
Along the way, schoolchildren as young as 7 years old were giggling after outpaced me and my friends on the steep tracks to Karangan. They probably laughed at our slow, baby steps and tired face walking under bright hot sun. “Alright kids, I have my age as an excuse, no problem, laugh as you like”. We finally arrived at the village chief’s house, acted as a base camp in Karangan. It was a lovely village with many stilt houses surrounded by the mountains. Time should not be wasted, we had a quick lunch and a power nap.
At 1:30 PM the hike begun, we walked through coffee plantations to the first post. The path was wide and clear but lots of branches made me and three other friends lost. After retraced our steps and asked some farmers, we continued walking to the first post, then rain began to fall. After the first post, the scene changed drastically from an open field to the typical thick canopy of a rain forest, all the way down to the second post near the river. The light rain slowly progressed into heavy rain.
A lot of fallen trees and slippery tracks made the walk a little bit more difficult. We arrived at the second post at dusk. Wet and tired, we changed our dirty clothes with clean, dry ones, then ate our meals, sipped hot tea and coffee. I felt a big relief after 3 hours walking in the middle of the rain. Mission accomplished. After all the long trip from Makassar, I had survived day one. It was just half the journey anyway, I didn’t even meet the real challenge. Yet.