“3 more days to summit. I swear.”
A signage with a trolling message at the beginning of the trail makes me laugh a little with a mixed emotion, the sign is funny and discouraging at the same time. 3-day walk to the summit of Mount Argopuro is a long way.
Argopuro, located in Yang Highland, has the longest trail in Java: 42 km. It’s accessible either from Baderan or Bermi village, spanning four regencies of Probolinggo, Jember, Bondowoso, and Situbondo covering area of 14.700 hectares.
This is quite extraordinary since Java is the most populated island in Indonesia and more than half of its 250 million citizens live in Java. Having vast highlands to preserve wildlife in the most crowded island in the country is a big accomplishment, and for avid hikers: a very big, fun playground.
Normally it takes 5 days walk from one highland to another, passing through rainforest and savannas to complete the trail from Baderan to Bermi or vice versa.
Because of its long demanding trek, and also the fact that hikers would not be able to see any civilizations for 5 days, not many people hike the mountain, approximately 10-30 people on the weekdays and 30-50 people on the weekends, very contrast against the most popular mountain in Java: Semeru, which has 1000-5000 visitors in a single day.
Into The Wild
Day #1. I start the hike with 7 other friends starting from Baderan. According to the officials , there are already 30 people hit the trail, probably 10 other more will follow after us. That’s as crowded as it’s supposed to be although we’re hiking on new year’s holiday.
After examining our registration forms, the officials take photo of each group for documentation then let us do our walk toward the highlands.
Those who start in Baderan village often use motorcycle taxi (ojek) from registration post to the junction that marks the beginning of the trail in half an hour, it’s a bumpy ride for half an hour on the rocky path.
But if you’re a hardcore hiker, you can start from the registration post walking through plantation for 2 hours. I choose the easiest way of course, by motorcycle.
At the end of the rocky path, the real trail begins: muddy and very slippery, especially after the rain. The trail has an odd “V” shape caused by constant pressure from motorcycle’s tires, making it harder for those who wear boots to maneuver.
Although motorcycle is banned from entering the highland, that doesn’t stop the locals to ride deep into the forest, searching for firewood or wild vegetables to be sold later in the market.
After two hours walking through thick rainforest with constant speed, we arrive at the first stop: Pos Mata Air 1 (First Water Spring). This place can hold up to 6 tents but since we arrive early and still have many spare times, we change the plan: Having lunch here then proceed to the campsite at Pos Mata Air 2 (Second Water Spring).
Entering The Highland
30 minutes after midday, with a full belly, we walk again. All of a sudden, the weather changes from cold to hot and damp. At 12:50 PM we arrive at the place called “The Regional Border”, it’s practically the highland’s entrance gate, marks the border between plantation area and the wildlife area.
4 hours walking (6 hours without the ojek) just to arrive at the entrance gate? This is madness. There’s a steel bar at the gate to prevent motorcycle from entering the highlands but the outlaws made a new path around it so they can ride further into the jungle. We proceed walking after taking enough selfies at the gate.
After awhile, the first savanna appears, it’s nice to see an open space after many hours walking through thick rainforest. Finally, at 2 PM the group arrive at Pos Mata Air 2, The main site has a capacity of up to six 4-person tents.
Not long after I finished pitching my tent, the rain falls, big one. I just realize the magnitude of the rain when I watch water surrounded my tent. It turns out that I pitch the tent in the wrong place, and it looks like a yellow boat floating in the middle of the ocean.
But it remains strong, no leak, no worry. Thank you, The North Face! You guys make an awesome tent. One hour later the rain stops, I scout another location then move my tent to a higher place. My previous site has become a pool of mud, yikes!
I pull out my stove and gas canister, the others too, and we begin preparing food for dinner. The sun has set, the dark creeps out, and everybody’s cooking. The campsite suddenly smells like my mother’s kitchen, it smells food, delicious food.
After the feast, we chat for awhile then creeping back into our tents, sleeping with full stomach, warm and comfy. That’s it for today, there’s a long journey awaiting us tomorrow.
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