If you desire to spend a week-end deep in a natural environment like you have never seen before, and without western tourists (for now), but a great deal of local kids taking selfies… ascend Papandayan!
The mountain stands two hours drive south of Bandung, if there’s no traffic of course, which is impossible during day time: reason why we left Jakarta at midnight.
From the parking, it is about 30 minutes’ walk to the wide crater of around 15 minor craters, most of which you can get close to. They are simply a manifestation of the earth farting, so you might want to keep a scarf in front of your face! Otherwise, enjoy them, their smell, their color, their heat… I found it very stupidly entertaining to throw stones over the holes and watch them jump around the mini farting craters!
From this magical spot, we continued with the caravana of Indonesians on an adventure, down the other side of the hill all the way down, running to the river. We stopped for a swim in the fresh, some might say freezing, waters from the mountain. I washed my back (that after 4 months in Jakarta looked like a volcano site itself ) in the mineral-rich waters and relaxed, listening to the sound of the stream. The vegetation up there is truly remarkable, with plans and bushes I had never seen before. So it was essential to enjoy a few minutes,taking it all in.
Audi and I were then ready for the next, much harder challenge. We loaded our large backpacks onto our backs and ascended the steep and narrow red path through the mountain jungle, occasionally stopping to catch breath and admire the stunning view of the rolling bright green hills. At a wide corner we were able to catch sight of the river’s waterfalls again, we entered a small canyon that brought us into a lush valley. Here, we found a small hut selling snacks and another showing the signs “register” and “volunteer”. I understood from Audi that everyone is to register there and give a donation, thereby committing to looking after nature and being an actively responsible hiker.
We took the path to the left from the hut, and within 15 minutes, we reached Camp I. As well as the usual teams of scouts and friends, there was a political party reunion, so all in all there must have been at least 300 people camped around the scented Eidelweiss (Anaphalis Javanic) bushes. It felt like a summer festival, with people’s excited yells replacing the music!
We found a nice spot under some trees to pitch our tent, and as soon as it was up, the rainy season weather made itself felt. It rained about 2 hours, time enough for a nap to restore our energy. When I woke up, Audi was making gado-gado on the mini cooker with fresh vegetables from Pasar Santa. We spent the evening playing music next to the fire, as it was way too cold to be anywhere else.
At six the next morning, everyone was already up, decamping and getting ready for the days’ hike. Many of them were heading for Papandayan summit, but we felt like we would be doing enough exercise by settling to find the dead forest and the two beautiful, blue pools that we had seen from the path before reaching the camp.
First, we went to the Camp restroom to drink fresh spring water and fill up our bottles. We set out, balancing on trees trunks that created a path over the muddy grounds surrounding the camp. We followed the path, and slowly found we were leaving the green bushes behind us, as we approached the dead forest. This is volcanic relic is an unforgettable sight, even more so since it stands on a cliff over the wide yellow crater. We spent some time enjoying this mystical place, practising yoga and smoking a joint of spicy Sumatera bush weed.
When we set out to find the pools, Audi and I had opposing plans on how to find them. He wanted to descend from the front of the cliff, while I wanted to head back towards the camp and follow one of the small lava-carved canyons downhill. We attempted my plan, found a small stream, but soon got stuck in the undergrowth. So we returned back on our steps of the previous day, and walked back past the camp, the volunteer stop and the gorge back on to the wide path, and at the wide corner, after standing on the side to let a couple of crazy Moto crossers pass, we turned right. We attempted going upriver, jumping from rock to rock perilously with our heavy bags. After 3 or 4 terraces of small pools, we were stuck. We stopped for lunch and some coffee at a pretty small green pool.
IF ANYONE FINDS THE WAY TO REACH THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE AND GREEN, DEEP-LOOKING POOLS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE PATH TOWARDS CAMP I, LET ME KNOW!
But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a site that only wild animals can reach. I will have to settle for being there in my dreams.
Lastly, of noteworthy interest, on the way back I saw a road on which tens of food sellers exhibited scrumptious pumpkins, at least in December.