[simage=2094,200,n,left,] Kerinci, the highest volcano in Indonesia, has been demanding to be climbed for a few years, and we finally did it. We flew from Jakarta to Padang, and then had Pak Subandi and his driver from eponymous Subandi Homestay pick us up for the 7 hour drive to Kersik Tua in the picturesque Kerinci valley. The drive itself is not as brutal as it sounds, and after climbing out of the Padang coastal plain the scenery is very nice – in particular around the Dibawah and Diatas lakes.
Arriving at Subandi homestay after dark, we had our first taste of Ibu Subandi’s delicious home cooking (best tempe in Indonesia?) and got an early night. Kerinci doesn’t require an early start, so we had a pleasant breakfast and from Pak Subandi’s front porch looked at Kerinci towering above the valley and sending lots of gas up from the crater.
Our guide and porter was Pak En, who was excellent – knowledgeable about the flora and fauna and landscape, and an attentive guide. Starting at about 1800 m elevation above a tea plantation, the trail immediately enters pleasant and cool forest. On the trail we saw the endemic pitcher plants and glimpses of several local birds. It’s not too steep (all relative, of course) and the trail is straightforward to the camping area at 3,000 m. It took us around 3.5 hours. From close to the camping area, we had views to the valley below, but then then the afternoon cloud came in and it started to rain, thunder and lightening. Luckily our guide En provided lots of cups of tea and a great hot dinner to our tent (a little embarrassing, but certainly nice!)
At 3 am we got up to clear skies to make the 800 m, 3 hour, climb to the summit for sunrise. The trail from the camping area is much steeper and the first part is up deeply eroded gullies. Above the vegetation line the climb is up the rocky cone to the edge of the crater. We were a little too fast, and so spent 30 minutes freezing at the summit waiting for the sunrise. There was quite a lot of high altitude cloud, but great extensive views to the west (Indian Ocean), south and east. The view to the north was completely obscured by the billowing crater, and the sulphur clouds were a bit unpleasant at times. We learned later that the summit was closed a few months ago because of its activity. Descending from the summit around 6:30, we could see past the crater to the impressive Gunung Tujuh, which as the name suggests has 7 summits surrounding a large impressive crater lake.
We got back to the campsite in around 1.5 hours and chilled out while our porter made a big breakfast of noodles, eggs, and toast. It was soon time to pack up and descend another 1,200 m to the trailhead. By the end the trip we were pretty tired, but were glad to arrive with only a brief rain shower. At the trailhead, we had to wait for 15 minutes for Pak Subandi to arrive, which was timed just as torrential rain began. However, it quickly transpired that Pak Subandi couldn’t actually drive and was a bit late because he was trying to find a relative who could. In the end, he had taken the plunge and driven up the tea plantation road (only his 3rd ever emergency drive). Since it was assumed I was able to drive, I had to turn the car around and drive back down the bumpy plantation road to homestay in the heavy rain.
Pak Subandi was a great host, an we enjoyed a hot water “mandi” (bathe) and another great meal. After one beer from the local store, we got a well earned early night to prepare us for the 9 hour drive to the mountain resort of Bukittinggi.