Today Andy and I had an adventure together. We took a microlet (minivan-bus) to the Batu bus terminal and then another microlet to the base of Panderman Mountain. Then we started walking. It took almost an hour to walk up the steep road past the village at the bottom to the village at the top of the road. Then we found the trailhead. There was a cute little shed that said “Base Camp” and a trail paved with bricks for the first 10 minutes or so, then it turned into a dirt and mud trail. The hillside was terraced and each little plot of land had something growing on it: rice, corn, grapes, banana trees, papaya trees, cabbages and lots of other stuff that we didn’t recognize. Java is the most populated island in the world and it’s important to use the land for the most benefit. We asked some farmers who were wheeling down their carts filled with greens and vegetables which way to the top and they told us which path to take.
The path was made for farmers who would climb up to their plots. It soon became very steep. Andy and I got walking sticks to help us up the places where we had to wedge the sticks in and pull ourselves up. Many places we were holding on to trees or clumps of grass to keep pulling ourselves up. Andy went first and if there was a really slippery steep place he would hold his stick down for me to grab onto and then he would help pull me up. Several times he was holding my full weight and tugging to help me get up.
It took us several more hours to get to the spot where people camp at night. We stopped and ate our packed lunches: white rice, fried shrimp and chicken and tempe, bananas, guava and filtered water. That’s where we found that we hadn’t been on the main trail. What a relief to be on a trail where we could walk and not climb. That didn’t last long. Soon we were back to climbing up the slippery slope figuring out where each foot and hand should go.
It was a foggy day and we really couldn’t see the valley below. Thank goodness! I was a little freaked out at how steep it all was and it was reassuring that we could only see 10 feet or so in front of us. As we got close to the top it started to rain. I sat down on a root and told Andy to go ahead. There’s no need for me to prove anything to the world. He summated the last 5 minutes on his own and came back to my spot. I felt satisfied and it was beginning to rain a little harder and we figured we better get going. We needed to be back at the spot where we catch the mini buses by 4pm when they stop running. Andy led the way and I left a little space between us so the rocks and dirt and mud I was kicking down wouldn’t injure him.
Each step was tricky because it was totally slick and muddy. I laughed and said, “I might just land on my butt.” And whoosh, I was on my butt sliding several feet down the mountain. It was so much fun. I laughed like crazy. I wound up falling down 10 or 15 times as we descended. Andy managed to stay upright the entire time, although he did have several close calls. I only landed on my face once, so I think I did fine. A couple of times, it was so gooey, I just slid crouched down using my tevas as skis and didn’t even try to stay upright. It was really raining hard. Every time I fell I would laugh and tell Andy what a great adventure this was. My pants were totally covered in mud, my shirt was soaking wet, but I had my poncho covering my pack.
We found the better way down and made it back to the bottom village. Close to the bottom I tried to drag my butt on some grass to get some of the mud off but I don’t think it helped much. Total hiking time: 6 hours. At a little store at the intersection with the main road, we treated ourselves to ice cream and then caught the transport home. Andy told me that if he had been by himself he never would have gone up there and I totally agreed. He started to get in the wrong bus and I stopped him, so I figure he helped me a lot but I helped him too.
When I arrived home, my Ibu was horrified. There was a torrential downpour just as I walked in and I was covered in mud. She said I should take a mandi bath and I agreed. I stripped all the muddy stuff off and put soap in a bucket and washed the clothes at the same time that I was pouring cold water over myself, walking on the clothes on the tile floor to try to get some of the mud out and then scrubbing them with a scrub brush till the water wasn’t brown.
I’m pooped. I think I’ll sleep really well tonight.