Tambora Greets The World: Blast from The Past

Do you know that Tambora was one of the tallest mountains in Indonesian archipelago in the 18th century with 4300 m elevation? It would be the second tallest peak in Indonesia after Carstenz Pyramid if the mountain wasn’t violently erupted and threw away half of its guts, leaving a huge crater with its highest peak only as high as 2851 m.

The mountain is still calm today, sitting in a comfortable silence, giving a warm welcome to the “pilgrims” from all over the world for its 200 years (eruption) anniversary.

Day 3

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, time for summit attack. Because we’re taking Doro Ncanga route, we can only reach the second tallest peak at the southern crater (2450 m), which is shorter than the western peak (2851 m) that’s only accessible through Pancasila Village.

The temperature is moderate around 10-15 degrees Celcius, the wind is blowing hard, sending chilly air across the savanna. From the campsite, it’s gonna be an easy 3-hour walk to the edge of the crater. The sound of howling wind creates mystical atmosphere as we walk through the rocky path of Mount Tambora. At 5:30 AM, the sun begins to appear on the horizon. Half an hour later, we approach the edge of the crater, there’s no one here yet, it seems that we’re the first group to arrive. The sun starts to illuminate the crater, which has a 6-7 km diameter. The view is nothing but magnificent.

So….. this is the culprit that created the volcanic winter, wiped out an entire civilization, and made people in the 19th century miserable. A mountain that created such a horrifying event on a global scale, left a gorgeous landscape that we, 21st century people, gladly enjoy today.

The temperature is rising rapidly with intense heat as the sun goes higher, it’s still around 27 degrees but at midday the temperature could reach 45 degrees. I strip off my insulation jacket, put it in the backpack, then continue photographing the crater. One by one people show up: journalists, photographers, casual tourists. All they want is a taste of history on the edge of the 200 years old crater.

I shot a few rolls photographing around  for over than two hours then walking back to the camp. Even it’s still 8 AM, the heat feels like hell, leaving burning sensation on my uncovered skin. It takes only 1.5 hours walk to reach the campsite. I walk in a hurry partly because I’m hungry, and partly because I just want to rest under the shade so badly.

I spend the rest of the day sitting around the campsite talking with others, sitting idly near the tents while enjoying the view of strikingly beautiful savanna, photographing the light parade before sunset and having one of the greatest days of my life.

Savanna #1
Savanna #2
Day 4

The sound of a jeep wake me up at 5 in the morning. Apparently the jeep drop off some officials for Tambora 42K trail run. Today, April 11th, is the peak of “Tambora Greets The World” event with lots of celebrations and competitions. The main event is centered in Doro Ncanga Village, where President Joko Widodo is scheduled to inaugurate Mount Tambora as a national park.

Two hours later while I’m enjoying my breakfast, a skinny white guy with a buff on his head holding a 250 ml bottle in his right palm, running towards the campsite. My guess he’s one of the Tambora 42K participants, later I find out that the guy is Zachary Thomas, winner of Mount Rinjani Ultra 2014. Two officials that arrived this morning are supposedly to arrive at the checkpoint on the peak before the runners arrive, but Zachary is running so fast that the officials that still on the third post are surprised because they don’t expect him to arrive that soon. After replenishing his water bottle at the third post checkpoint, Zachary runs to the peak, outpacing two officials behind him.

Because of the running event, our jeep which is currently on the second post can’t go further after the race is finished. The initial plan to leave the campsite at 10:00 AM is delayed for three hours until the last runner reach the third post. 1:00 PM is also the “cut off time” (COT) for Tambora 42K so any participant who can’t make to the third post after COT may not continue running.

We’re leaving the third post on the rusty jeep at 1 PM after having lunch. On our way down, we encounter a few jeeps and lots of off-road motorbikes heading to the third post. It seems that today the campsite is gonna be crowded with off-road vehicles. After 3.5 hours grueling ride with several incidents like two days ago, we arrive at Doro Ncanga. Although  the event is over, there are still many people in the field and around it where they celebrate the main event.  It’s a total mess, tons of garbage everywhere, from inside the field to the both sides of the road. We hang out for a while in this garbage-ridden field, sitting uncomfortably among discarded plastics and leftovers.

After an hour we decide it’s time to leave, heading back to Doropeti village, towards the sun that is about to set down behind the horizon, leaving Mount Tambora behind us.

Goodbye you magnificent mountain, you!


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