I have to admit right away that I didn’t intend it to be that way. My plan was to leave Solo, my base city, at noon and start climbing at 1:30 pm so I could reach the summit at dusk and walk down a warung to have hot food and to lay down my sleeping bag, and then wake up to a beautiful sunrise the next day. Things didn’t go as planned right from the start. Before leaving Solo, I had to rent a sleeping bag. Given most people’s limited English here, and my non existant Indonesian, it was a struggle to communicate what I needed, to coordinate, and to find my way to the shop (which turned out to be a students’ outdoors club). I didn’t get to Cemoro Kandang, one of the 2 trailheads at Gunung Lawu till a little before 3pm. After reassuring the folks at the registration office that I’d be just fine by myself, I eagerly started, and got lost almost right away. The next hour was spent huffing puffing as I ran up and down trying to find the right track. Turned out that a sign should have pointed up instead of to the left. It was 4 by the time I set out again, and I panicked a little, not so much because it was a late start, but because I had doubts about my skills now. It’d been a long time since I last hiked.

Fortunately I made it to Post 1 in good time, and again by Post 2, and by then I’d had a significant confidence boost. Lights were starting to fade. I calculated that if I kept up the pace, I could make it to the top by 9pm. That didn’t sound too bad. And more importantly, by now my body was getting used to it. My heart wasn’t pounding anymore; my legs kept pushing forward steadily. I was also motivated by what I glimpsed of what must have been a beautiful sunset. As the sun descended behind the clouds that circled around the middle of the twins Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu to the west, it cast a golden glow over the vast valley with towns snaking around the mountains. Though the night view had its own charm and peace, I really wished then that I hadn’t wasted so much time in the beginning.

hiking Mt Lawu, gunung Lawu, sunset


hiking Mount Lawu, gunung Lawu

sunset over Mt Merapi and Mt Merbabu

I was on schedule when I reached Post 4 and tackled the last leg. About 100m after Post 4, the trail leveled for a while and then sloped down. I panicked thinking I must have missed the sign again. I traced back, didn’t see any sign, walked that section again and still there was no indication. I couldn’t see the terrain and the mountains well to guess which way the trail was headed toward, and my experience in the beginning made me doubt myself. In the end, I decided to turn back to sleep at Post 4 and wait till the morning. Dinner was a bag of egg coated peanuts that I’d been snacking along the way. And I was out of water. I’d brought 2 small water bottles; one I dropped right from the beginning as I was running looking for the trail, and the other I just finished thinking I was close to the warung. I found a bottle lying inside Post 4, cap already twisted open, but the water inside still almost full to the top, and after much looking and smelling, I gave it a try. No taste. Lucky me!

Given my condition, I was surprised that I had a relatively good night sleep, waking up only once near the morning because I had to pee and then realized that I was hungry, thirsty, and cold. I semi fell back to sleep, turning left and right and left again with strange dreams. I dreamt that it was a popular sunrise hike and people lined up like pilgrims to walk up at midnight, including 2 friends from college. But of course not a soul was around. Like I said, there are 2 trails going up Mount Lawu. The other one is a lot more popular with Hindu pilgrims visiting a holy well and there are a few warungs servicing along the way, while the one I was on was completely deserted.

At 6, I finally rose and after 10 minutes examining the surrounding, determined that there is indeed only 1 trail. The morning was cold so I fashioned my sleeping bag as a coat and went the direction that I’d gone twice the day before. In the daylight, I could now see that although the trail descends, it doesn’t go down the slope to the left but wraps around the cliff to my right. Indeed only 150m after where I abandoned it the night before, the trail turns and the climbs up. I was kicking myself wishing I’d pressed on a little more. I was so close!

The rest of the trip was a lot less eventful and a lot more social. At the summit I met two young Indonesians and after half an hour admiring the beauty around us and taking photos with each other, they brought me down to the warung that I had hoped for last night. I was ravenous; the steamy hot rice tasted damn good just by itself. I met another group of Indonesians here, and one girl speaks very good English. She said this warung is extremely popular among Indonesian hikers as it has been there for 23 years, and you can indeed see all kinds of logos from hiking clubs all over the country.

I hiked down using the pilgrims’ route and started out with the newly acquainted Indonesians, but we parted away shortly after as I had to hurry down.

It was a half success half failure case. It didn’t work out the way I’d envisioned, but in the end, I summited and descended safely, saw some beautiful mountains, and regained a lot of self-confidence, which was very important, as Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia, was my next goal.

hiking mount Lawu, gunung Lawu, Indonesia

hiking mount Lawu, gunung Lawu, Indonesia


hiking mount Lawu, gunung Lawu, Indonesia


hiking mount Lawu, gunung Lawu, Indonesia