A week after getting back from Flores, we grabbed our chance to bag Gede and Pangrango, two volcanoes that are located close to Bogor. We had intended to climb during the fasting month of Ramadan when the paths and campgrounds would be quiet, but the whole park was closed for “restoration” work. We hoped the park would be quieter after Ramadan as it was getting late in the season.
We set off from Bogor on Saturday morning and were dismayed that it started to rain as we drove up the Puncak Pass towards the park entrance. We decided to see how things looked at the entrance; the answer – blanketed in cloud. Having got up at 5 am and packed all our stuff we decided just to go for it. We spent some time arguing with the park staff about whether we needed a guide (you certainly don’t, but the park has rules, apparently….) and the cost of said guides and porters (astronomical), and eventually negotiated to take only one porter. We were eager to miss the heavy afternoon rain, which we assumed would be arriving early, so we set out as fast as possible to get to the Kandang Badak (Rhino Cage) campsite which is on the col between the peaks of Gede and Pangrango. Our porter, Pak Obik, turned out to be the fastest man on two legs carrying two rucksacks that we had ever seen, as well as being a really nice guy. The hike up is easy for the first 45 minutes, along a cobbled path than runs through forest and past a small blue lake. You can see monkeys here too, although they seem to have got into the unfortunate habit of peeing on the people below from the treetops. The path then forks, with one branch leading down to some waterfalls that are popular with day trippers, and the other climbing up to the col. The path to the col is still very good, and at one point crosses a hot spring that cascades over the path and down into a ravine. The water is scalding, hot enough to burn your feet, and everything is very slippery. We made it to the campground and got the tent up just as the rain started.
It was only 12.30 so we decided to bag Pangrango that afternoon, reckoning on it being a 4 hour round trip from the campsite. Pak Opik stayed behind to guard out tent and we set out. The trail was steep in places and very muddy, but we made it to the top after passing some very bedraggled school children on their way down. There isn’t much of a view as the top is forested and the whole place was swirling in clouds by that time. We didn’t hang around long, but still didn’t escape the torrential downpour that soaked us to the skin and filled out boots with water on the way down. We arrived back at camp like two drowned rats to discover our tent was in a small pond. After moving the tent we retired to eat noodles and listen to the rain hammering down all night.
We had made a plan to get up at 5 am and bag the summit of Gede, but it was still raining when the alarm went off, so we waited in bed until 7 when things sounded drier. We set off for the summit with soaked feet, and much to our amazement sun came out so that by the time we got to the peak a couple of hours later it was perfectly clear, giving us amazing views of half of Java including Jakarta, Gunung Karang, Gunung Salak, the Halimun range, and the mountains of the Bandung Massif. The summit of Gede is also spectacular, with a deep, sheer-sided crater surrounded by forest. After hanging around long enough to get sunburn, we headed back to Kandang Badak.
We packed our wet gear and raced off back to the park entrance to meet the driver to go back to Bogor. Arriving early, we sat in Pak Opik’s warung drinking pop and coffee for a couple of hours by which time the rain had started again. We’d put off Gede Pangrango for a long time but it was an excellent hike, although it is definitely better to go in the off season if possible, despite the risk of more rain. The weekend after the park closed for the rest of the year due to heavy rain so we only just made it!