Tuesday one week ago Yazir gave me a ride to the railway station and helped me buy the ticket. Yes, finally I made it to one of the final destinations of the south sumatra railway network. There is only one train in the gay and one in the night and the connection time to the other branch is horrible. Nevertheless it’s my preferred way of travel, so in essence take that option for sure. The landscape didn’t change to much and we were mainly riding through some kind of plantations and crossing several creeks. Therefore, not that spectacular but much more pleasant and calm than any bus in Sumatra. After Muara Enim there’s a second track. That’s due to all the heavy coal trains running south. Getting the other black gold our of the jungle. In the afternoon my host Tiyas picked me up at the train station. I stayed at the house of her parents. Her mother was very funny and jealous to her, because she didn’t understand what were were talking at all. In the evening we got some traditional delicious food on a local market, which is typically only offered during Ramadan. Afterwards we met with Kerry, a friend of her, in a small café and enjoyed all the food. Prabumulih is the centre of the oil and gas industry in South Sumatra with lot of domestic and international companies operating here. There’s even a museum dedicated to that, but even if it’s already finished, it didn’t open yet since half a year.
Monday morning one week ago I catched a shared minivan infront of the homestay. Due to the road conditions in Sumatra you should start early in the morning in order to arrive at you planned destination at the same day, especially if you expect to change the transport several times. It’s a bit like hitchhiking, just that you’ll need to pay for it, as nobody knows when the bus, minivan or minibus will depart or arrive. The angkot in the morning was really small, so in essence I needed a complete bench for my own, but this was luckily no problem. Unfortunately, the minivan had a flat tire in between. Hence, it took in total almost 2 hours to get to Sungai Penuh. There the driver accepted to drive me to the location of the other company, even if it was on the map so I knew where we go. But in the end he wanted to have a ridiculous high price of 30k rupiah, just for about 35 kilometres. That was a bit in high. Then at the other bus company they told me there’s no through bus to Lubuklinggau, instead I need to take a minibus in the direction to Jambi and change again in Pasar Sarolangun. As I arrived shortly before 9 o’clock I guess the minibus just left, as in the end I waited one hour at their office before the minibus finally left. Again I got the seat in the first row, which is nice for the view, but again probably more expensive. Due to some language barrier I didn’t investigate that issue further. The road went further down, and with each 100 metres it got warmer. But as the road was pretty curvy along several creeks and deep valleys it took a lot of time until we arrived in the afternoon. The driver even made a break for lunch, which I didn’t expect. But for some rice and chicken I was supposed to pay 40k rupiah…again a scam at this day. After sitting in the bus again I was really upset about that. Luckily the last bus came pretty quickly. As far as I understood, it was a long distance bus running all the way to Jakarta. It was pretty full and somehow I might be the person too much in the bus, as another guy needed to stand. Unfortunately, just a few minutes after leaving the official bus station, we stopped again for some food. Everyone who was not fasting could get some food, and after again one hour, we finally continued the drive. Luckily I was only about 2 hours in the bus, as the smell was already not very nice…I had no idea where this bus departed. Finally I went out of the mountains after entering it just after Medan on the way to Bukit Lawang more than two weeks earlier. As the bus stopped suddenly in Lubuklinggau to break the fast my host Shellee picked me up at this gas station. We met with Yazir for dinner, with whom I actually was staying. Together with two other friends of them we visited the mosque in the evening and tried a local dried made from raw eggs, milk, sugar and ginger before we were heading to a night market.
Saturday morning two weeks ago I started hiking up the Kerinci volcano. I stayed in the Paiman homestay, which is directly situated on the main road from Kersik Tuo. I could rent there beside a mattress, a sleeping bag also a tent for my stay on the mountain. There was another group consisting of 4 domestic tourists from Jakarta with their 3 guides/porters started at the same time. They only had very small day backpacks, whereas the porters carry about 30 kg. I was at my own and could therefore also go my own speed. Due to the additional stuff and food for two days, I guess my backpack was also about 15 kg. The route itself is not technical difficult nor exposed at all. But I can easily imagine that it can become very slippery during rain. Furthermore there are sometimes different variants, and one can choose the way one prefers, because in the end all paths are going up. I took my time, I was not in a hurry and was just walking up a continuous pace. In the end I was in 5.5 hours at the camp 3, faster than I expected also because of the luggage. The campground is completely covered with waste and looks more like a landfill than a nice campsite in a national park. I pitched up the tent and discovered that it’s pretty huge and has space for 4 people. OK, no big deal, I just have a little bit more space…but, both zippers were broken. Hence, I can’t close the tent properly…not starting very well. Then I unpack the sleeping bag and saw two things: It’s only made for persons up to 185 cm and the comfort temperature is 15°C. As the camp is at 3,300 metres above sea level, the temperature differerence to sea level is, according to the standard atmosphere, 21.45°C…without wind chill effect. Hence, it can be expected that the temperature drop goes down to 5-7°C. All in all, the night might become a bit chilly. Then I started to look for some water, but unfortunately the creek was dried out because there was no rain since about one week. After searching around for about one hour I could find a small waterhole. Luckily I had my water filter with me, after used it the first time on my trip. The water tastes a bit sweet and like moss, but I think it was save to drink. I still had 1.5 litre of water after arrival at camp 3, but nevertheless during my search I was thinking of different options what to do, if I don’t have water. There was still 500 metres altitude to the top and then all the way down of about 2,400 metres altitude. So the 1.5 litres could be a bit short for all the way. But luckily I found water. When I returned from my water search there were 3 wild dogs chasing for my food around my tent. But I had put these on the old from from the hut, so they only could smell it, but not reach it. Nevertheless I was a bit afraid of them. Even if they were not (yet?) aggressive. I was more warned from Sumatra tigers, because these are endemic here. After early dinner and enjoy the sunset alone in camp 3, as the other group seem to camp elsewhere, I went into my tent. I put on 5 layers on my upper body, everything except my hard shell jacket, as well as 2 pairs of trousers, but only one pair of socks. As my feet get cold, even as I was inside my sleeping bag I could feel a steadily cold air stream, and even as I tried to temporarily fix the zipper with one of my carabiners, I finally put on my raining trousers. Just up to my knees in order to get my feet inside the pants, which was very effective. The whole night felt more like a bivouac than a proper sleeping, as one side of my body was always cold, maybe just due to some radiation. In the end it was the highest camp I’ve ever done, and it reminds me again, that outdoor activities with poor gear, can be a really bad idea. After having a small snack and getting off of most of my clothes, I finally started the summit attemp at 4 o’clock. Shortly after the camp the vegetation ceased. Now there’s no longer mud but a lot of loose stone on top of the rocks, which can be also somehow slippery. Even as I was going just a slow pace, as I didn’t want to start sweating, I already arrived after 90 minutes at the summit, about half an hour before sunrise. In the distance I could see lightnings and was a bit afraid they would come close, but eventually they stayed away. One strange thing occurred while I was on the summit, as I saw four different headlights on the ridge between camp 3 and the summit. I thought they were walking up. After it got lighter the headlights disappeared, and I thought the persons just turned them off, but in the end nobody else arrived on the summit, nor did I met anybody on the way back to my camp. I was pretty lucky as the cloud of dust and sulphur from the volcano was pushed to the east due to the west wind. If there’s another wind direction, it might be impossible to reach the summit, or the volcano might be active at all. Shortly after sunrise I went back to my camp. During that I broke off a loose large rock, because I thought it’s solid, luckily only my shin was scratched a bit, and the location was not exposed at all. During the descend I met the other group, which stayed during the night in camp 1 and another group just with two girls, which took care about their make up. Yes, that’s the most important thing you should care about, when you’re hiking a mountain. After I left the national park a local farmer gave me a ride on his scooter to Kersik Tuo.
Friday morning two weeks ago Ferdi drove me to the central bus which is situated in the town, which is unusual for Indonesia. Typically they’re situated inconveniently a few kilometres outside the town. I bought a ticket for a shared minivan and luckily got the seat infront. But I’m not sure if by accident, or if they charged me just more because I’m a foreigner. The advantage of this seat is also that you can “enjoy” the full power of the sound system, as the driver turned on directly the EDM music. But this time I was prepared, just used my earplugs and was listening to my own music. The car left even 15 minutes earlier that expected in order to pick up another guy, so it was a good decision to be 30 minutes before departure at the bus station. After that he was speeding as always, but also didn’t stopped at all in order to pick up or look for other passengers. Also there was no stop during lunch time, as it would be a bit useless for them during Ramadan. But also for this I was for prepared with snacks and drinks, because as Christian the 40 days fasting time is before Easter. Hence I’m for sure not fasting now. After squeezing between Marapi mountain we descended to lake Singkarak, where the remains of the old railway track from Padang to Muaro are still visible, but in a bad shape. Due to a landslide in the Anai Canyon before Padang Panjang the direct connection to Padang is already interrupted since the 1980’s. Until a few years ago there was still an operation from Padang Panjang to the railway museum of Sawahlunto, but probably due to only a few people this was not really economic successful. The railway section Padang Panjang – Bukittinggi – Payakumbuh disappeared completely and is nowadays build over. During the Japanese occupation in WWII a railway between Muaro and Pekanbaru was built mainly by forced labourer from Java and some POW’s. It had similar death counts than the railway between Thailand and Myanmar, but as it was just finished at the date of the Japanese surrender, it was never in operation and decayed soon after it’s completion. In essence there is no functional railway at the moment in this area and I needed to take a bus again. Shortly behind Solok we left the main highway and the road deteriorated to a track across the fields. Now this small lane winded up the mountains step by step until we reached the highlands of Kerinci with the largest tea plantation of the world. I ask the driver for a specific home stay but eventually was just kicked off, at another one directly at the main street in Kersik Tuo. As my remaining quota of my SIM card is still only valid for Batam (no I’m for sure not going back to Batam just to use my data), that’s by the way definitely a scam of telkomsel, I was looking for some WiFi in the village. But even there were a lot of cafés, non of them had WiFi, and I asked at several ones. The people in the village were very friendly and also called a “hello mister” once they saw me.
After arriving in Bukittinggi more than three weeks ago I got the first time really sick after one year of travelling. Instead of Tonsai Tummy, I actually got Sumatra tummy, and was forced to stay much longer than expected with doing literally nothing. Luckily I was hosted by Ferdi and his wife and the three sons. He’s really a great person with a warm heart. I was so happy to stay with them during that time. They’re living in the outskirts of Bukittinggi in a small house surrounded by a beautiful garden. Ferdi grows different kinds of plants and decorated the garden with a lot of flowers. He was also to open a small library for the local community. There was a contest about the libraries in the province during my last day, and I was really surprised as in total about 30 people came to his house and assessed his library. Ferdi told me afterwards that he won the contest of the province and now can take part of the nationwide contest. After this inspection I was invited to the library of Bukittinggi by the officials. There was not really another choice than to agree to it 😅. Ferdi sponsored one plant from his garden to the library and I had to honour to plant it there. The day before I also joined the literacy committee, with Ririn his sister, which was officially my host. This committee was newly founded and consists of young motivated people who want to motivate children, teenagers and adults to read more books in times when the smartphone is everywhere. Bukittinggi is inhabited by the Minang people, one of several tribes in Sumatra. They’ve there own language, but I couldn’t distinguish between Bahasa. They told me that in whole Indonesia about 500 different local languages and dialects exists throughout all the 17,000 different islands. At the last evening we set up a small farewell gathering with their friends from the committee. Therefore I offered to do “Wiener Kalbsschnitzel” to break the fast. I never did that before on my own, but I thought it shouldn’t be too difficult, if I get the right ingredients. Together with Ririn and her friends we went to the local market and got everything. Except for the lemon, which was really expensive here as it was imported from New Zealand. In the end everything went well and I got even the right tools to prepare the meal. The taste was also good and everybody liked it, except for the small kids. That’s true as the meat was a bit tough to chew, I regard this that the meat might not be the best…or it wasn’t a calf at all but an old bull.