Noisy crowds, loud music, fireworks blast, they’re all common things in Pondok Salada, Papandayan camping ground at night, especially at the weekend. Because of its proximity to the hipster capital cities such as Jakarta and Bandung, it’s so easy to find any kind of transportation available to Papandayan. Combined with its loose regulations, the mountain would attract every kind of people you could imagine (or couldn’t), making Papandayan one hell of a freak show on the weekend, unlike 2-3 years ago where the mountain still offered a calm nice atmosphere.
Aside from the freak show, the mountain itself is quite interesting with four key attractions:
The first one is the exotic Dead Forest, where the remains of dead trees, leafless, scattered on a field that used to be flourished with plants hundreds of years ago, until the mountain erupted and destroyed everything. The trees are still intact until now but they’re as dead as tombstone.
The second is its active crater that still bursts minor sulphur gas in a few spots, producing strong odor.
The third is Pondok Salada, a huge camping ground capable of housing hundreds of tents. It has water source and some kiosks selling snacks, mineral water, and soft drinks.
The last one is Tegal Alun, a vast field home to millions of edelweiss flowers. It’s the biggest edelweiss field in Southeast Asia (approximately 200 hectares) and Papandayan’s most lovable spot.
On the weekend, the parking lot at camp David (yes, it’s named camp David for some unexplained reasons) always full that it’s hard for a car to come out of the parking lot in less than 5 minutes. From there, hikers usually walk up to 3 hours to Pondok Salada. But if you’re a ridiculously lazy person, you could pay a guy to bring your backpack with a motorcycle from the parking lot to the camping ground, the motorcycle then blasting its way through the same path where the “not-so-lazy” hikers walk. It’s another example of Papandayan’s long list of mess.
From Pondok Salada, then it’s another one hour hike to Tegal Alun. The crater peak (2665 m) is less popular because the path is unclear and people tend to get lost trying to approach the peak.
Aside from its mess, Papandayan is still a nice mountain friendly enough for almost everyone: families, non-experienced hikers, the first timers, even for veterans, It’s used to be everybody’s favourite mountain until the mess began to accumulate nearly 2 years ago including the bloody conflict between the locals.
I’d love to come back to Papandayan if it has better regulations, applies zero tolerance toward the freak show, and when it becomes more convenient. Perhaps someday.