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Hiking around the volcano

4 November 2011

I finally got a free (non-weekend) day to visit the local volcano, Tangkuban Perahu. Dormant, of course. In fact, Tangkuban Perahu is the name of a mountain pocked by an assortment of volcanic craters, of which two are really big. To see more photos and more scenery, click the photo above.

My driver, Aris, and I left my hotel about 8 a.m. Traffic was light after we got north of the core of Bandung city. The drive was really fun because it goes through the countryside, passes through a smallish town (Lembang), and then winds up the mountain, which is 6,800 feet high. The trip (about 19 miles) took an hour. We drove right to the top, and then I walked around the rim of a huge crater.

The word perahu means boat, and the name of the mountain means “upside-down boat.” I don’t have a photo to prove the appropriateness of the name, but it is apt (from a distance). The mountain is long and wide, and the top (the crater rim) is flat.

I felt disappointed when I saw the day would be overcast, but now I think that’s the perfect weather for this walk, because a fair bit of it is not shaded. Even though it’s slightly cool at that altitude, it’s still very humid. The occasional rain showers cooled things off. At one point the whole crater disappeared in a giant cloud of white mist! I sat down at a food stall and drank a glass of bandrek, an amazingly delicious hot drink made with ginger, black pepper and other spices, palm sugar, and (optionally) milk or coconut milk. Yum!

The one time the rain came down very heavily, I managed to make it to a handy shelter with a good palm-leaf roof and sturdy benches. A pair of 20-something Indonesian guys joined me a few minutes later. It turned out they had just completed an intensive English-language program in a town in East Java known as “Kampung Inggris” (English Village) because it has so many language schools. How lucky for them! They were stranded in the rain with a bona fide native speaker!

One of them had taken the course because he wants to apply for a scholarship to attend a university in Europe. The other one has his eye on a job that requires English fluency. We had a good conversation (their English was much better than my Indonesian!) until the rain stopped. Then they went on to see another crater, while I returned to the starting point to walk down the mountain to the see the boiling hot springs.

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