48: Indonesia > West Sumatra > Atop a Volcano

About 6.5 hours of walking later, and we come to a zone where the bushes become sparse and the ground is full of rocks.

2400m and a photo

Black rocks pockmarked with little holes, a product of rapid solidification of lava which flowed while entrapping air bubbles. These are old basalt rocks. Walking on these loose pebbles is a real challenge – you don’t want to fall and slide down the hill.

Loose rocks and pebbles made from lava

Looking down, I admire the lush vegetation which marks the border between the green and rocky zones. We are close to 2500m.

Lush vegetation

Of course the mandatory pose with the valley (Marapi-Singgalang saddle) in the background.

Clouds moving in

At 2500m and we make camp here to have our belated lunch. It’s already past 2pm, and we are starving! The summit is still 300m above us in the clouds.

6.5 hrs of trekking and a belated lunch break

Ridzuan finds a comfy spot for a quick snooze …

Ridzuan finds a cosy spot

… while son Shafiq makes do with the plastic sheet.

Shafiq and Nafis

The clouds come and go, and with them, a drop in temperature and visibility.

New experience ...

This trek makes climbing Mt Kinabalu a walk in the park!

For me climbing Mt Kinabalu (4095m) was much easier

As the cloud clears a bit, we see Kotobaru. Our starting point this morning is somewhere down there.

The valley below

Looking up, the peak looks daunting. For this reason sometimes I prefer to climb when it is dark. Everybody rests as guide Fahmi prepares lunch, first by boiling some water.

After lunch we have to climb up the rocky caldera rim

The rocks and backpacks shield the flame from the cold, gusty wind.

Lunch in preparation

Aina takes off her shoes to admire her hardworking feet.

Aina checks her hardworking feet

But eveything is fine, except for soiled clothes.

Priceless experience

For lunch we have a 3-course meal: high-energy cereals, bread, and …

Anything is delicious now

… instant noodles. Here, everything tastes great!

... instant noodles

We soon wolf down everything edible, collect the wastes into a plastic bag to be brought down (though the mountain trail is littered with small rubbish) and are ready for the summit.

Slope up the caldera behind us

After packing up, I make for this odd plant for a quick pee. 🙂

Interesting plant, also my pee-stop

The others are making their move already, and usual, I’m the last in the line. We are climbing up the outer side of the caldera rim atop Marapi.

Final ascent

I pause to admire some hardy bush, hanging for dear life on the rocky slope.More interesting plants

My fellow climbers are already taking a rest, while enjoying the marvellous views.

Steep slope

In between the bassalt, another tough guy.

Life among lava rocks

The rocky slope is so steep that we have to zig-zag to climb the huge caldera rim.

Loose rocks and peebles can cause mini avalanche

At the head of the line, Shafiq and Aina.

Shafiq and Aina leading the charge

Suddenly another cloud envelopes us, and we have to don our raincoats again.

Nearing the rim

As mentioned, the slope is pretty steep, hence the very slow progress upwards. Also need to be mindful not to step on the loose pebbles as you can slide away (downhill).

Clouds moving in again

I climb over the edge of the caldera rim, and I find myself in this bizarre landscape … or ‘moonscape’ as they call it. This mountain has a flat top littered with rocks and stones.

Inside caldera atop volcano - 'moonscape' zone

I notice my 3 kids walking to a peak.

Nukman, Nafis, Aina walk to a peak

Yes, they are now at 2800m. Well done, guys!

We are at 2800m, 8hrs after starting the hike

In a distance there seem to be a crater rim, and we make our way towards it over the rocks and stones, and in the cold wind. We are in the Bancah caldera, 1.4km across in diameter.

Walking further into caldera

The rocks strewn across the moonscape must be a result of previous eruptions, extending to hundreds of thousands of years ago. Nothing seem to be able to grow here.

Definitely moonscape - loose rocks and pebbles

In the thickening cloud, I saw silhouettes of the others.

No plants at all

As I come to the rim of the crater, I see another flat area, layered with black dust and sand.

Windy and cold

Suddenly the cloud disappears and behind me I see Mt Singgalang, and our entry point into the caldera.

Suddenly cloud disappears and we see Singgalang

And in the flat sand-filled ancient crater, I found a film crew! I just could not believe myself. After more than 8 hours of climbing, we find ourselves atop Marapi, and a film crew?

We come to a depression, and we find a film crew!

As the weather improves, 2 choppers appear out of nowhere and land.

Then 2 choppers land, thanks to clear weather

Yes, they are filming scenes for Discovery Channel’s “Man vs Wild” series. See official website HERE, and for a more balanced view, click THIS.

[In Malaysia, Astro is currently showing “Man vs Wild” every Thursday night at 9pm, on Discovery Channel. Great programme, catch it!]

Filming of Discovery Channels 'Man vs Wild' in progress

And this is the hero himself – Mr Bear Grylls – gesturing to a landing chopper.


He then dashes to the chopper, …

... approaches it ...

… which makes a circuit and returns.

After a short loop, the chopper returns and Bear jumps to the ground ...

Bear jumps off and crouches on the sandy ground (with the videoman), shielding his face from the debris blasted by the chopper’s rotors.

... and covers himself from the volcanic sand blasted by the chopper's rotors

It is quite fun watching this unexpected show from Bear and gang. We spend some 40min here, which significantly delays our descent later, which is not good. By the way, Bear says this episode will be shown soon on Discovery soon (and according to his blog, this coming spring), entitled ‘Sumatra jungle’ or something. So look out for the show, maybe they’ll CGI us into naked natives … hahaha! 😀

> Please continue at the Next Chapter

2 thoughts on “48: Indonesia > West Sumatra > Atop a Volcano

  1. Hi Naim, followed your postings on malsingmaps here. Wow, sounds like you had a great time, AND managed to meet Bear!

    Your kids look like they’re having a great time with dad. Congratulations! I have a 12 year old who’s very much into the outdoors too.


  2. Thanks Joe, yes it was a very memorable outing for us, and the descent was done in darkness in heavy rain. Imagine walking nonstop for hours in the jungle along water paths, with only our LED torches to show us the way. Luckily our local guides were competent. Anyway the kids are now demanding another climb and we are thinking of Mt Kerinci, the 3800-m live volcano in Sumatra (highest volcano in Indonesia), for next March. 🙂

    Btw Bear did it the easy way – in and out by chopper! He wrote in his blog: http://beargrylls.blogspot.com/2008/03/we-have-just-made-it-home-from-sumatra.html

    “Tuesday, 25 March 2008

    We have just made it home from Sumatra where we filmed a bit of a marathon session of a desert island film, a volcano one and a jungle and swamp programme.

    I am really proud of how the crew managed out there in probably amongst the hardest and most dangerous conditions we have ever had. (and certainly the wettest and stinkiest!)”

    Wait for the double episodes called “Ring of Fire” in the next season of “Man vs Wild”.


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