Mt Marapi, at 2891m (9485′), is Sumatra’s most active volcano. Located in the Bukittingi plain in West Sumatra, it dominates the landscape together with dormant Mt Singgalang at 2877m (9439′). In the last 200 years, Marapi has erupted more than 50 times with many fatalities, the latest in 2004.
Mt Marapi is the ‘+’ in the centre of the image below, just 20km southeast of Bukittinggi.
Serene morning view of Marapi from our hotel room in Bukittinggi. Looks harmless enough from here. 🙂
And glancing to the right on our room balcony, we see Mt Singgalang, a dormant volcano at 2877 metres. Very photogenic hill.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Today we are climbing Mt Marapi. We should have started the ascent at midnight last night in time for sunrise on the peak, but the unseasonal heavy rain put paid to that plan. So instead, we find ourselves starting the 7km trek at 7.40am.
The trail starts at a telecom tower, and we walk along a narrow metal road serving the vegetable plots which extend all the way to the edge of the forest.
Along the way our bunch bump into a guy and his trusty rickety Vespa.
Note the telecom tower at centre-left, the spot where the van from the Bukittinggi hotel left us to start our journey. We are now at 1500 metres above sea level.
We pass fertile land …
… with its rich, dark volcanic soil which can grow virtually anything, …
… such as this very healthy chilli.
Nafis with assistant guide Ansor as the last person, who makes sure nobody gets left behind as the group moves.
A place to stock up drinking water. From here, freshwater is not easily available. But we each carry a 1.5-litre bottle of mineral water which should be sufficient for this day trek.
We are now in the jungle trail proper.
First obstacle – a footbridge of loose bamboo stems across a deep stream. Being wet and slippery, crossing it is a bit tricky.
Guide Fahmi makes us a bamboo pole each. Extremely useful when trekking as a 3rd foot, especially when the ground is slippery, wet and soggy after last night’s rains.
Aina and Nafis happy with their poles, while Shafiq awaits his.
White flowers of wild ginger plant.
Mountaineers and their poles, still in good spirit 2 hours into the trek. This bamboo species is ideal since it’s light and tough, but elastic.
We huff and puff, and there seem to be periodic clearings which are ideal to catch our breath. We also take the opportunity to check for pacat or leeches. When the ground is wet, they are most active.
The walk up the slope is mainly over slippery surface roots, and the occasional rocks.
The rare bit where the trail is level and smooth, but pacat everywhere.
Apart from the occasional signs showing the way to the top …
… there are also the odd ones reminding us of God. I’m always at the back of the line, taking pics and videos, so Ansor has to make sure I’m not left behind. 🙂
Base of a tree trunk surrounded by thick moss.
At 1700m, another rest, and guide Fahmi tells a joke or two. He has a huge backpack of supplies and gear.
Aina and Nukman. Note the still-clean gloves.
Photo opportunity everywhere, especially for Nafis.
First serious jungle-trekking for Aina, and she’s worried about the dirty gloves and pants.
Another rest at 1800m and suddenly we are free of leeches. Too cold for them, I presume.
We start spotting wild berries. Edible but a tad sour.
More climbing through the slippery surface roots at 1900m, and Aina takes a breather.
Parts of the ground are black volcanic rocks now. Not as slippery as the roots.
This is now typical of the trail as it gets steeper. Makes climbing Mt Kinabalu seem like a walk in the park – see our gallery HERE.
Another rest at 2000m, and 5 hrs into the trek. We are progressing slowly.
A curious ‘tunnel’ through the undergrowths and roots. This tunnel was gouged out by running water.
Look at the debris above the tunnel. The walls are made of earth, and is just wide enough for a person to pass.
As we cleared the tunnel, it drizzles, and out come our waterproof-wear. We are at 2300m, and I start to have a slight headache at the back of the head – altitude sickness due to lack of oxygen. The ground is basically black rock now, and no more tall trees.
As the rain clouds move away, we have our first view of the magnificent valley below. And if there are no clouds there, we should have a great sight of Mt Singgalang, a dormant volcano just 14m shorter than Marapi.
The valley is the Marapi-Singgalang ‘saddle’ which is about 1150m above sea level. To the extreme right of the valley, we can see the town of Bukittinggi, our base.
Beautiful upper montane blooms.
Pitcher plants too, different to the species I saw on Kinabalu. This one is large, elongated, and green.
Nafis gingerly scales a steep rock face.
But soon everybody is on the other side, except me!
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