I’ve been watching a mini series from HBO titled “The Pacific”. A 10 episodes TV series similar to Band of Brothers since they both were created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg but the difference is that these are the stories about three different marines who fought in the Pacific theater. Here comes an episode when Sgt. John Basilone was invited to have a breakfast with his future wife, Vera, at the camp canteen.
Vera made Basilone a coffee and then Basilone told his story about the most delicious coffee he ever taken. It wasn’t at the coffee shop nor from the hotels that he visited during his campaign to raise the war bonds, instead he had his best coffee after he encountered the fiercest fight with the Japs in the Pacific. It then reminds me to my best Super Mie (Indonesian instant noodle brand) that I ever eaten for the rest of my life. It wasn’t from the Upnormal restaurant or warungs, but from the Mount of Merbabu.
On October 2013, I was lying down on a couch and my friend Yogi was sitting next to me. I told him that I really want to climb a mountain, at least once in my life after I heard his story about climbing up Mount Ungaran. I never did that before. Then he left me alone because he had something to do at the university.
Actually I did once, but that mountain was not challenging at all because you can climb that mountain by car. So I didn’t count that as climbing a mountain. It was Mount Telomoyo.
Not long after, he returned from the university and brought this good news, “Commandante (it was the nickname that he gave it to me), I just came from campus and I saw an announcement from Economic Faculty Mountaineering Students Association, they will hold a mass climbing to Merbabu Mountain next week!” Without any doubt, I answered to that call and then Yogi and I were volunteering to be participated on that event. I was so excited.
It was in the beginning of November three years ago when Yogi, Aji, Quni and I climbed Mount Merbabu with around a hundreds other climbers. We were all transported with three cargo trucks to safe the cost. The meeting point was at the multipurpose building of Diponegoro University. We left the campus around 9.00 AM in the morning. The journey took about three hours from Semarang to the climbing post in Getasan, Semarang Regency. Under the heat from the direct sunlight above of us, we began to move slowly. When we passed by in the village near the climbing post, the children were waving their hands at us just like we were heroes who just returned from the front line.
We arrived at the climbers base camp on lunchtime. When the door of the trunk of the truck was opened, we got off from the trucks. There we had our lunch before climbing the mountain. After we had lunch and rested for about an hour, the organizing committee of the mass climbing mustered us. To make the climbing easier for hundreds of us, all climbers would be divided into 10 groups of 10 to 15 people for each group and for each group would be accompanied by one experienced climber from the committee.
We started to climb around 2.00 PM. Among the rest of the groups, my group consists of senior students and also some alumni. I think the rest groups consist of piss and vinegar students, fresh year students and sophomores. Finally the climbing began, the committee told us that the journey to our destination, the post where we are going to spend the night and set up the tents, is about three to four hours.
At first, we were the sixth or seventh group who left the base camp, but because most of the members in our group are amateurs and seldom exercise, we stopped to rest quite often especially to Yogi since he’s a heavy smoker. I also lost my breath too because this is my first time climbing mountain. There was also a girl in our group too who also needed to rest a lot of the time too. Her name was Iga. She came along with her friend Ambar. We were at the same truck on our way to the base camp. That put us to become the last group and fall behind the rest of the group. Actually Aji is also a heavy smoker like Yogi, but he’s a futsal player at his campus and he climbed a lot of mountains. He also climbed Mount Merbabu before. Apart from Aji, there was also a highly energetic guy in our group named Rilo. His purpose to climb this mountain beside because it is his hobby, he was asked by Iga’s boyfriend to look after her. I bet that Rilo and Aji could climb up the mountain without stopping, but due to the sense of solidarity and because Rilo also mounted a heavy burden put on his shoulder by his friend, they were willing to wait for us.
There was a movie played in Indonesia about mountain climbing that was very popular before we climbed the mountain. The movie was titled “5 cm”. It’s a motivational movie about a gang of five young students wanted to climb Mount Semeru, the highest peak in Java. The movie told us that if you want to realize your dream so bad, you have to visualize or imagine it like it is only 5 cm away in front of you, so you won’t feel that your dream it’s still far away from where you stand.
To boost the spirit and morale of our group, Rilo also tried to copy that phrase but he modified it a little bit to “5 minutes”. “Come on guys, it’s only 5 minutes left to reach our destination!” Rilo yelled to us. Our guide also threw a joke to motivate us,”Actually our destination is not far, it’s just right over there after we turn right and turn left we will reach our destination. That’s it, there is no other ways. But I don’t know how many turns we are going to make.”
It was beginning to dark, the sun had disappeared. Finally we arrived at our destination around 6.00 PM. What a long journey. More over because I brought a lot of water on my carrier bag, around 4.5 liters (152 oz) of water divided into 3 bottles of 1.5 liters (50.7 oz) and when we reached our destination, there was only one bottle left. I have to save that water for our returning journey to the base camp where we had the lunch this afternoon.
The committee made an announcement that here is where we are going to stay for the night. The plan was each group would have to make a dinner and then go to sleep. The committee will wake us up at 2.00 AM to begin the climbing to the top of the mountain. The destination was to reach the top of the mountain before the sunrise to see the sunrise from up there.
Before we set up the tent, I was amazed with the view around me. The stars above the sky, the lights from the cities and villages around us. It made me think that surely, Java is the most populous island in the world because every where you see, you will see the settlement. I thought that it almost possible to get lost here. If you get lost, at night, just follow the closest light below your feet to find the nearest settlement.
After we set up the tent, we supposed to cook something for dinner as the committee had instructed, but we were too exhausted to move our body. So we agreed to sleep first and set our alarm to wake us up at 11 PM, then we should wake up to cook something for dinner then we go back to sleep again. When our alarms rang, no one woke up.
It’s already 2.00 AM and the committee woke us up to prepare us for the real deal, but our group was messed up because we skipped the dinner last night. Fortunately I brought some corned beef and there were other guys who brought the bread. We just stuffed up our stomach with whatever our hands could find just not to get starved.
To reach the peak easier, we left our carriers at our tents. The committees who are not climbing the mountain will look after our bags when we were gone. I just brought my small body bag with me. Each group was provided one 1.5 (50.7 oz) liters drinking water, portable stove and gas, and couple of instant noodle to be cooked for the breakfast on the time we arrive at the top.
I almost couldn’t see a thing because it was pitch-dark. My flashlight lamp was too small, it couldn’t event illuminate my feet when I pointed it from my hand, so I rely fully on the folks who walk in front of me. I could see the stars was above us, what an amazing view. Since we don’t bring our carrier with us, I also found that our journey was smooth despite of we had to climb up some rocks because there was no other ways up to the peak and we didn’t stop frequently just like when we came to the place where we set up the tents.
The sky began to become brighter because the sun was about to come in a moment. We finally reached the Kenteng Songo peak at 6.00 AM in the morning. When we arrived, the peak of the mountain was already filled with a lot of people who also want to watch the sunrise from up there. Unfortunately, we were not lucky this time because the top of the mountain was shrouded by the heavy fog. Our sight was limited around 10 meters (11 yards) due to the heavy mist around us. We were so disappointed but it is the risk that you should take if you are going to travel into the wild life, you cannot predict the weather.
After all of us were gathered at the peak of the Mount Merbabu, the chief of the committee led a ceremony. He said that we have arrived at the peak of Mount Merbabu around 3,142 M (10,308.4 ft) above sea level. It was the fourth highest peak in Java and fifth in Indonesia. I didn’t expect that finally I could reach the top after a total of 8 hours climbing and my first mountain to climb is the fourth highest peak in Java. I was so proud to myself at that time.
After the ceremony was finished, each group should look for a place to put their portable stove and begin to cook. Bad luck fell upon us one more time. When we were trying to light up our stove, suddenly the stove was burning and blazed in a fire. Spontaneously, Rilo tried to extinguish the fire with the only water bottle that we have but the fire remained. Then other people came to help us trying to extinguish the fire by burying and covering the burning stove with the dirt and cloth. Finally the fire was extinguished but we weren’t able to cook our breakfast and the only water that we had for the rest of the group was ran out too. We skipped the dinner now we have to skip the breakfast too. We ate the noodles raw.
That’s the good thing about climbing up in a big group, you won’t encounter any scarcity. After learnt the fact that our stove was burnt, other groups came to us to provide some aid like drink and breads. Afterward some people were taking pictures, some were bringing the messages written on a piece of paper and took picture with it. Yogi and Aji were taking picture as if they faced the hardship of climbing. I also took a chance to take some pictures too from up here. Not long after the strong wind blew accompanied with the mist came to us so we decided to pack up, left the peak and return to our tents.
Our returning journey to the camping ground was a little bit rough because our sight was poorer and it decreased to 1 meter (1 yard) only. We had to stop at some time not because we were exhausted but because the wind was so strong and it carried droplets as well. We waited until the wind calmed down a little bit then we continued our journey amidst the thick fog.We finally arrived at the tents around 10 AM and the weather at the tents was clearer although it was cloudy but at least without the strong wind and the droplets that could make our clothes wet.
When we arrived, I saw the committees were cooking the noodles. When I returned to the tent, Rilo came into the tent and told us that the committee is cooking us noodle, they knew that our group haven’t had a breakfast. What a great committee! They really took care of the people who come to climb the mountain with them. I do really appreciate their responsiveness. We came out from our tent and came to the committee and enjoyed the first meal after we were fasting for more than 12 hours and I told you that it was the best Super Mie ever.
Afterward the committee came to us to ask for our condition and they told us that in the next mass climbing, the delegates are not allowed to cook by themselves. I just said to myself, it is because of us they issued that policy but I think it is also for the greater good. Who knows that in the future there will be more than one portable stove that is burning, I’m sure that to handle more than one starving group is harder than to handle one starving group.
Our stomach is full now, now it’s time to rest. I saw other delegates were already sleeping. They just slept at any place they could find. Inside or outside the tent. I entered the tent and it was too hot so I decided to sleep outside the tent. The weather was lovely too, cool, cloudy and quiet. When I slept, suddenly I felt the hot feeling on my feet then I woke up. When I woke up, I saw that the cloud was moving so that’s why the sun was shining on me and rose the temperature on my feet. I saw the sun ray moved like a spotlight and swept the whole ground from right to left. I saw when one by one delegates were waking up as the sun ray shone and heated them and it move to the left to wake up the other delegates. When the sun shone us completely, we were all awaken.
Around mid day the committees gave us instruction to pack our tents and belongings as we were about to return to the base camp in an hour to get on the trucks and return to Semarang. I didn’t know what held us up, we supposed to move at 1.00 PM, but we left the camping ground at 2.00 PM and the rain started to fall. We climbed down the mountain under the light rain and I slipped several times due to the slippery terrains. Under the rain, Quni twisted her ankle. The committees responded quickly to helped her. They tried to make a litter from the stick but it didn’t work out. It always fall apart. I forgot how, but eventually they managed the way to save her because the committees said to me to go first. So Yogi, Aji, and I left Quni with all of the committees.
We arrived at the base camp around 6.00 PM and it was still raining. Not long after, Quni came with a lot committees along with her. When we arrived, a lot of the delegates were there . The trucks weren’t coming yet. While we were waiting, we had our last dinner and enjoyed some hot tea to warm our self up. At 7.00 PM, the trucks were coming. The truck was covered with the tarpaulin to protect us from the raining. The rain hadn’t stopped until we left the base camp.
I think we were all feeling cold and exhausted. The truck was so quiet, most of the guys were sleeping. We arrived at the multipurpose building around 10 PM and after we said goodbye to each other, we were scattered to return to our homes.
When I arrived at home, I still carried the feeling of excitement and satisfaction. My other self told me that, it’s going to be the last time I climb the mountain, but my other half said let’s go for another round. I favored my other half, I’m going to climb another mountain!
The last mountain that I climbed was Mount Prau. I climbed that mountain with Ardhi, and I’m going to tell that story in another post, so just stay tuned.
One day my friend invited me to climb Mount Semeru with him, but I think I need to make several preparations before climbing that mountain because from what I heard, it would require three days to reach the top and the climbing is only possible to be done during the night because after 9.00 AM, the mountain expels poisonous, harmful and dangerous gas that could threaten the life. I hope I could climb that mountain next year.