Tambora Greets The World: A Journey to a 200 Years Old Piece of History

In April 1815, the eruption of Mount Tambora –located in the small island of Sumbawa, Indonesia–  was so powerful that it led to a period of climate change and extreme weather in a global scale. It was really fucked up that the following year, 1816, would be dubbed as “The Year without a Summer”. The civilizations near the mountain were completely wiped out and buried deep in the ashes of Mount Tambora. It was the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

200 years later, Indonesia wanted to embrace the history of this catastrophic event into one big celebration: “Tambora Menyapa Dunia” or “Tambora Greets The World”. Well, in 1815 “Greets” would have a completely different meaning as in “Tambora Fucks The World”. I usually avoid big event like this to stay away from the large crowds, but my birthday is in April so I think it’d be very different to celebrate it on the famous mountain that made the world a messed up place 200 years ago.

Day 1

I’m opening my sleepy eyes as the ferry makes a loud sound from its horn when it approaches Poto Tano harbor, the gate of Sumbawa. This is my second time in Poto Tano since last year and the view still dazzles me.

There are two ways to reach Tambora: The first one is to take direct flight to Bima then proceeds by bus/car in a 5-hour ride, it saves time but costs more on a plane ticket. The second one, which is the most popular, the one I take right now, is by ferry from Lombok Island, then continues the trip by bus/car in a 10-hour ride from Poto Tano to the far east of Sumbawa Island where the mountain lies silently, exhausted after its massive “ejaculation” two centuries ago.

I arrive at Poto Tano at 3 PM after two hours on a ferry with nine other friends. We continue the trip by rented cars heading for Doropeti village. The road is very smooth with very little bumps, we reach Doropeti village at midnight to get some rest before heading toward the mighty Tambora tomorrow morning.

Day 2

There are three different places to start hiking Mount Tambora. The most popular is Pancasila Village, it’s preferable for most hikers because there are many water sources along the path; while the second one from Doropeti is less popular because of its long trek without water source; the third one –Doro Ncanga–, is well known among off-road enthusiasts and made specifically for off-road vehicles. The ten of us choose Doro Ncanga route with a jeep and bring lots of water in several big containers since there is no water source along the path.

The decision to take Doro Ncanga route is based on the fact that the event “Tambora Greets the World” would attract lots of people in Pancasila village and could make the route jammed with hikers coming from all over the country to attend this special event. The Doro Ncanga route is a safe choice because it’s less crowded although it’s more expensive to rent a jeep. The “price” of Doro Ncanga route is it has no water source and only leads to Tambora’s second highest peak (the first highest peak is accessible through Pancasila Village route).

At 10:30 AM the jeep takes us slowly from Doropeti village to Doro Ncanga in an hour. The track from Doro Ncanga to the first post is easy with long, flat track. The savanna at Tambora reminds me of those in Rinjani. At midday, the sun is shining so bright that the temperature is burning up to 45° Celcius, enough to melt a butter or getting a nasty sunburn.

After the second post, the jeep is brutally rocking left and right on a treacherous terrain, it’s no longer a fun ride. I grab anything I can hold my hands to any part of the jeep, clinging my dear life to the driver and his old rusty jeep.

After several setbacks (stuck in a ditch and engine overheat), the jeep finally reach the third post (camping ground) at 4:30 PM. We meet with other people who have been here for a couple of days, some of them are Wanadri members –Indonesia’s oldest mountaineering organization– as old as 65 years old, rode all the way from Bandung in the white Land Rover Defender to celebrate the event “200 Years Tambora”. Light rain greets us, then after half an hour we’re preparing the tents and enjoy the rest of the afternoon with hot beverages and some snacks.

Continue to: “Blast from The Past”

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