Mount Tangkuban Perahu

I have been traveling to rural area these past few days for produce survey. Although my handphone showed notifications from wordpress, it was not easy for find good enough moments to read the many notifications that popped on my handphone screen. When I finally had time to read, the signal was not good enough to browse, open and read the articles. The other important factor was energy. When traveling in rural areas, energy stored in my handphone is a very precious commodity. Although I brought a couple of powerbanks and also had car-lighter adaptor to charge, the tendency was to conserve as much juice as possible for using it on navigation, messaging and phone calls. The noticeably farther distance between transmitting cellular base stations forces our phone to crank up its emitting power to maintain reasonable signal-to-noise ratio and good connection to the network. Consequently, the battery juice got drained quicker. It is just a natural phenomenon.

Now that I am back in the city, I would like to share my short trip to a place called Mount Tangkuban Perahu. It may not be an exotic place, but nowadays it is a rare place to find momentary sanity in the middle of insanely busy life for me. In the old days, whenever I need sanity, I always picked up my backpack and went for short backpacking trips to climb mountains or hike the coast. Nowadays, I would feel lucky if I can get a few hours of solitude in a tranquil place.

Tangkuban Perahu is a volcanic mountain located about 4.5 hours drive from Jakarta where I live and work. Even though it is still an active volcano, it has become one of the most visited tourist destination in the province of West Java, because the visitors can conveniently go there using motor cars, all the way to the edge of the volcanic crater. I am not a fan of mingling among the tourists in a touristy place. I would rather find tranquil spots where I can just be by myself being immersed with the nature. This is why I enjoy going to the eastern side of Sierra Nevada Mountains way back when I lived in Arizona. The eastern Sierra Nevada is much quieter than the western side.

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Anyhow, since I had to do survey in some farming villages on the outskirt of the city of Lembang area, which is just about 17 km (10.5 miles) southeast of Mount Tangkuban Perahu, I was able to sneak out of the schedule and visited the mountain.

The last time I visited the mountain was a long time ago and at that time it was free. Now, it costs me Rp. 45,000 (about US$3.38) to enter the natural tourist conservation area, Rp. 20,000 (US$1.50 for me, the only passenger, & US$1.88 for the car). It is still cheaper compared to entering the Yellowstone, Yosemite or Sequoia National Park. Seeing that the area around the gated entry point is well maintained, I was very happy to pay for such price.

The pavement of the steep, winding road is very good and is quite smooth. The scenery along journey uphill starts with pine trees lining both sides of the road. Once in awhile, I passed incoming tour buses or motor bikes coming down from the top. As the elevation picks up, both sides of the road is now covered by typical (rather) thick rain forest shrubs and trees. This area on the slope of Mount Tangkuban Perahu is also used as the rain forest research location by the Forestry Ministry of Indonesia.

When I saw a small hikeable path on the side of the street, I found a spot where I could park my car safely. I entered and hiked into the forest following the small path, which appeared to be just used recently as evident from the cleared shrubs along the path. The forest floor is covered by many variety of tropical wild shrubs and I can hear quite a few birds singing in the forest. The most unique to this elevation are plants generally called Pakis Hutan (Genus “Cyathea“). They are parts of the fern family, which multiply through spores. Some of these plants grow short, but the others can grow up to about 10 meters (about 30 feet) high. The trunk of the taller Cyathea is hard and can be used as the material for an emergency crossing bridge over a small forest stream. Their leaf growing tips typically form a curl and the ones found in Indonesia’s tropical highland can be cooked and is quite delicious.

On the continuing way up, I drove by a few resting spots with nicely constructed resting gazebo. I was very disappointed when I saw trashes being scattered all over the gazebo. The irony was that there was a half-full trash bin right outside of the gazebo. Old habit dies hard (frown).

As I continued driving uphill, the trees start to get shorter and the fog started to drift in. I knew that I was close to the peak when I saw this unique shrub that only grows in this elevation. Locals call this shrub Cantigi (Latin name “Vaccinium varingifolium“), which can grow up to about 3 meters (10 feet) tall. According to the literature, it is related to bilberry, huckleberry, blueberry, cranberry trees. It bears purplish fruits about the size of cranberry. I tried biting into this fruit once. It does not taste good at all with sappy skin and bitter-sour kind of taste. Usually the tips of its young leaves are reddish (as in the featured image of this post). This tree can be found near every volcanic crater in Indonesia.

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Soon after I started to see this tree, suddenly I arrived at an open area with many parked tour buses. Yes, indeed I have arrived at the top of the mountain. The crater was formed from the eruption of the volcano long time ago. The oval shaped crater is about 800 meters (2624 feet) on the long side and 580 meters (2000 feet) on the short side. It is about 1,600 feet deep from the edge of the crater to the bottom. I could see the gas fume emanating from some parts of the crater and I could also smell the sharp smell of sulphur.

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The crater of Mt. Tangkuban Perahu. In Bahasa Indonesia, Tangkuban Perahu means “Upside Down Boat”. Indeed, from far away, the mountain looks like an upside down boat. The top of the mountain was clipped off during a strong eruption long time ago leaving a giant volcanic crater called “Kawah Ratu” (the Queen of Crater”) by locals.

I took some more pictures before driving back down. There were too many tourists and I had to almost continuously decline the locals offering souvenirs. Some of them offer me sulphur powder sold in clear bottles, while others offered me hats made of rabbit’s fur.

I slowly drove down again enjoying the occasional deep blue hole in the sky formed when the part of the fog momentarily cleared. It was not the most tranquil solitude I have had, but a few hours there was enough to clear some congested mind I had. I should do this more often.

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