EXPAT Mount Kerinci, West Sumatera

It has been a very very long time since I updated this page. Since taking up road cycling, I didn’t know what to write in this blog anymore. I have not been shooting that seriously too. However the recent trip to Mount Kerinci is very special, so I decided to write a short entry about it.

The trip to Sumatera Barat involved 7 people. Me, Ali, my good old buddy; Arey, an experienced outdoor friend from KL; Faisal & his brother, Firhat; Ustaz Abu & his neighbour, Pak Hashim, a 60 years old pensioner. I flew to KL on 8th June & stayed overnight at Capsule. A very practical concept to rest comfortably. The very next morning I met with the rest of the gang. Checkin & baggage drop were flawless with AirAsia in KLIA2. We arrived in Padang in just 40 minutes. But the wait for the charted bus was like forever. Eventually the bus arrived. It was an old bus under the name of Sahabat Kerinci. We went for lunch first. We had Nasi Padang of course. Nothing special there. Then we rode the bus to Sungai Penuh, Kayu Aro in the Province of Jambi. Wow! It was a very long 5 hours ride. Stopped twice.

We stayed at Pak Subandi’s house. A very nice gentleman. Been serving many hikers to Mt Kerinci. If you need his help, please call him at +62 812 7411 4273 or through his email subandihomestay@gmail.com.

For this hike, I have decided to carry my own stuff. But I did give my 2kg tent for the porter to carry… heh heh. I only carry Fujifilm XT1 with its kit lens and a Samyang fisheye lens. And of course a Travel Fotopro tripod. All in all my stuff was about 15kg.

One significant point to note about our journey this time….is the weather. It was not a good time of the year. It has been raining everyday in Sungai Penuh. When started the journey on the misty 9th June’s morning, the weather was very overcast.

We departed from Pak Subandi’s homestay at about 7:45AM. We used a small truck to send us to the trailhead. After a quick briefing by Arey, we moved in the tropical jungle. Basically there are 3 campsites, which is called Shelter i.e. Shelter 1 (2500m), 2 (3000m) & 3 (3200m). There are 3 small stops before Shelter 1, Post 1, Post 2 & Post 3. Unlike mountains in Java, this mountain is a tropical rainforest and 90% of the time, we walked under a very thick canopy. We started from about 1500m. We reached Post 1 in less than 30 minutes, then about 40 minutes to Post 2, 1 hour to Post 3 and about 1.5 hours to reach Shelter 1. We regrouped at Shelter 1, and we had our lunch & prayers there. It started raining at Shelter 1 and we  even prayed in the rain. After a short discussion, we agreed to camp at Shelter 3. Most guides prefer to bring their guests to camp at Shelter 2. I think now I know the good reasons; one, it is already tough if one hike from the trailhead to Shelter 1 and two, Shelter 3 has no tree at all, hence not protected from the wind.

The journey from Shelter 1 to Shelter 2 was the longest….and about 2.5 hours later, we reached the destination. I was walking with Arey all the time. We met Pak Hashim who arrived earlier there. Then we proceeded to Shelter 3. The route from Shelter 2 to 3 was horrible. It was not easy to hike the steep terrain with 15kg bag on your back. It was very slippery and cold. We reached Shelter 3 at about 5:30PM. The porter arrived earlier & they already set up tents for us. We moved inside the tent & had some hot chocolate while waiting for others to arrive. It was very cold and windy up there. And the wind never stop. That made us so lazy to go outside. Maybe about 9PM Ali & Faisal arrived. We then realised, there was miss-communication. There should be 3 tents, but we only have 2!! So Arey stayed with me in my 1-man tent, Ustaz Abu, Pak Hashim & Firhat in another tent and porters gave their tent to Ali & Faisal. They stayed under a flysheet. We asked them to stay with us, but they refused.

The sky cleared up that night and the stars were very bright but no one want to get out from their tent & shoot them.

Later in the morning, about 3AM, few members woke up & shot the milkyway. I did not, because I was preparing for the summit. So, at 4:45AM, after Fajr prayer me & Arey started to summit….believing it will be a 2 hours journey. Unfortunately it was not!! The trek is not as bad as the summit of Rinjani or Semeru but it was a long hike. We stopped somewhere between Shelter 3 & Tugu Yuda for the sunrise. Then moved on to the summit. We reached the summit at 7:30AM. It was so foggy and the sulfur smoke was pretty thick. We stayed there just for 20 minutes or so & descended immediately. Apart from me & Arey, only 3 other local guys reached the summit that day. All the ‘bule’ didn’t proceed to the summit because the danger of the poisonous sulfur gas.

When we met Ali, Faisal & Firhat, we told them about the situation; and they decided not to proceed for safety reason.

We descended to Shelter 3, had our nasi lemak, packed the bag and tent & before 12noon, we started the journey home. By that time, my knees and both lower limbs were very weak & painful. Just after Shelter 2, there was a heavy downpour. Oh my God…. that was the most difficult descend I’ve ever made in my life! It was like forever! Every step was painful. I had to use both of my trekking poles to support my legs. I reached the trailhead at 5PM. Pak Hashim arrived abour 30 minutes earlier. And 30 minutes later, Arey & Ustaz Abu also arrived. Ustaz Abu suffered severe knee pain as well. Arey had to carry his bag from Shelter 1. Ali, Faisal & Firhat only arrived at the homestay at 1:40AM!!

The hike to Mount Kerinci is very tough in such weather. I can’t think of any worse condition than this. When I had a chat with Pak Subandi that night after a wonderful dinner, he told me… “Mereka yang sudah puas dengan gunung gunung di Jawa, dan maukan tantangan, mereka akan mendaki Gunung Kerinci!”! I was like….OMG! What have I done! From someone who is originally from Java, I believe him. Those who wish for a challenge, go and hike Mount Kerinci…..

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One final note. We are not pure hikers or climbers. We hike mountains to shoot its landscape. We carry heavy gears. Kerinci is a rainforest. Meaning, it is wet & hot. It does not have beautiful scenery if we compared to mountains in Java which have more temperate weather. So personally I don’t recommend Kerinci for a landscape photography. If you wish to do so, I advise you to hike Kerinci slowly. Maybe you should camp at Shelter 1 so that you could do macro photography along the way. Then on day 2, you can proceed to Shelter 3 aiming for sunset view. But I think there eon’t be great view even from Shelter 3 because the west side is blocked. You can summit in day 3, then descend back to Shelter 1. Only in day 4 you should go back. In this way, the journey won’t be that tough & you get to photograph many things.

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