There are a lot of really good trekking places not that far from Jakarta for ‘over-urbanised’ people, but most people don’t know they are there and don’t get the chance to see dramatic landscapes and breathe clean air. On the other hand there are school students who are pointed at the hills and told to walk. British School student Robert Speirs was one who came to grips with the expedition organisation of trekking experts idGuides.
Requirements. That’s what we thought all this was going to be. A requirement for the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award that needed us to go on an adventurous journey for three days, nothing more. If we did this, we would complete the requisites and receive our Bronze Award.
It all started when we got off our small cramped buses. Being the long-legged creature I am, I struggled to be comfortable throughout the duration of our 2 hour trip. Getting off the coach was a dream come true for me. As I glanced around and took in our surroundings, there were two noticeable things I observed. The first was a nice view of the valley below and the second was the nice but not so nice view of the impending incline!
We had a brief briefing from our teachers and idGuide trek leaders and we soon set off. The first hour consisted of constant breaks to help students adapt to the less oxygen and to adjust rucksack straps and distribute weight between pairs. This was because some partners carried the tent, the trangia AND the food while the second half of the pair only carried their own personal items, such as clothes and a sleeping mat. This was a good call as I compared the weight of a pair’s rucksacks and there was a substantial difference between them. Following the adaptation period, we hit rocky and steep planes which hindered our pace. One meter paths cut down into 30 centimetre wide steps as we trundled through small streams. It seemed that everyone was struggling in the constant battle against fatigue.
But after what seemed like a whole morning, we arrived at a large grassy clearing surrounded by lush green hedges towering over two metres tall. We were told that this is where we were going to have lunch and that idGuides had rented the area from a local farmer so that we could enjoy lunch without hindrance. We nodded our heads absently and silently and then rushed to scourge through our bags for nourishment. Luckily for me I had two magnificent hot dogs prepared by my Mum. Before I could finish my second hot dog, one of my teachers, scooped it out of my hands as he had forgotten to prepare his own lunch. He even had the courage to say “Thanks Rob, this is pretty good”. With one hotdog missing in action inside my stomach and one stolen I sought further sustenance. Snacks. Fortunately I packed enough snacks to feed the whole of Indonesia with me so I wouldn’t get hungry on the bus. I scavenged and searched but to my disappointment I was only left with a handful of dried mangoes. I shrugged and thought, “Better than nothing”, and then devoured them all.
Only minutes after our arrival, the rain came to visit us. We expected it to be a light shower, but oh boy were we wrong. I had prepped for just the occasion. One rain poncho and - nothing else. Because it seemed that I forgot to bring my waterproof bag cover. I sacrificed myself so that I may enjoy being dry later rather than having the contents of my bag completely soaked. I was glad that other people thought the same. And when I mean same, I mean use my rain jacket to cover their bags as well. It led to 7 bags barely being kept dry by a large green poncho and a generously placed plastic bag. I guess sharing is really being caring.
The storm didn’t let up nor did it lighten. It worsened. The supervisors of our trek had an emergency meeting and they made the decision to continue with our trek, to the disappointment of some. I didn’t mind as this was a fun experience, and so we continued after a discussion about safety and were split into teams. This was to ensure that everyone had a leader within close proximity to call out if anything went wrong. It was part of a safety system where the team leader would do a roll call of its 5 or 6 members to confirm that everyone was there. After a few kilometres of plodding through damp and dense forestation we finally reached a gap in the trees and approached a small collection of farmer’s homes. The announcement of our camp only being a mere 300 metres away, encouraged all and we hurriedly stampeded to our campsite. Despite the hardships we came through during the stormy trek, there were still more surprises to come.
Follow Robert’s trekking adventures in next month’s magazine or contact idGuides on www.idguides.net to set up your own expedition.