A sight of parked motorcycles, small shops selling warm food and all kinds of hiking gears welcomed us, enticing the cold stomach of the newly arrived hikers, and those who are resting after combing down Prau’s. We rested our cumbersome carriers and stiff bottoms after almost five hours ride from Salatiga to Dieng area, a final preparation before the ultimate journey.
Patakbanteng base camp is one of six available base camps around Mount Prau. This place, which seemingly looks like a well-funded refugee camp, was our final checkpoint before the three hours hike onto the top of the famous Prau. The carpeted floor with no chair provides the hikers with a place to temporarily lay down. It somehow radiates and intensifies the togetherness and warmth among strangers. The contribution fee alone to hike the mountain is around thirty-thousand rupiah; fifteen-thousand for entering the tourist area of Dieng, ten-thousand for ticket to hike the mountain, and another ten for motorcycle parking fee (twenty-five thousand if you use a car).
Upwards under the starlight
Our hike started at night, around 9 pm. Though hiking at nights might seem dangerous due to limited vision, it is actually not as extreme as it sounds. First, the heat of the sun does not bother you. Hiking the mountain can be pretty tiring, thus you are very likely to sweat. Your body produces heat and the cold night can cool you right off. Secondly, for some people, the eerie sight of the cliff around the pathways might scare them. Hiking at night provides an illusion of a safer environment since we can’t see the danger. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. What about the descent you ask? Well I say that’s a problem for another day, you’ll be too tired anyway to care, at least in my experience. Lastly, simply the beauty of it. When you are resting, if you are lucky, the night sky will serve you the moon accompanied by a sea full of stars. This will boost your excitement, since you might start to have an idea what the view will be on top.
The track upwards the mountain is pretty ‘domesticated’. Stairs made out of rocks and small logs, structured by the locals, helped the mountaineers tremendously so they don’t have to find their own track and get lost. Along the one-third of the way up to the top, you can find some shacks for people to rest. Some of them even sell food and water. Around this one-third of the journey, you can also see the locals’ cabbages and other kind of plantations.
The second one-third of the journey consists of trees. This was probably the part of the hike that I like the most. The trees can protect you from the heat in daytime. They also make us feel closer to nature in some ways. When you descend, these trees will help you decelerate in case you walk down too fast uncontrollably.
You will be surrounded by rocks, knee-high grass and few trees in the last one-third of the track. This is the final stage before you find the camping ground. This part probably is the hardest. You need to collect your strength for the final push ascending Mount Prau.
The ultimate reward
Prau is famous for its vast and beautiful peak. The landscape is similar to that of children television show’s setting, which is why it is called the “Teletubbies hills”. At night, the temperature on the top could hit 14 degree Celsius. Three of my experienced friends started to build the tents while the other including me waited, trying to stay warm. Up here, a vast land of hills and savanna dominated the mountain top, ornamented with lush trees at a side. A hundred people were camping under the starlight, one-tenth of Prau’s usual visitors at peak point.
I was lucky. In the morning, I woke up to a picturesque view of the mighty; Sumbing, Sindoro, Merapi, and Merbabu. The sky was smiling clear as I took a deep breath, grateful that being a live can be this refreshing. When you can wake up early enough, the sunrise in Prau can be pretty alluring too.
When the sunlight finally shines the mountain, more of Prau’s beauties can be seen. Arrays of green brownish grass put the cherry top to the already sweet cake of the lining blue mountains in the distance. Speaking of cherry, me and a friend of mine, let’s just call him Rudi, were in desperate need of dropping our own cherry bombs. It was hard to find a place of solitude to answer nature’s call on the top of the mountain. Bushes and thigh-high grass were our solution. Word of advice, bring wet paper towel to help you clean after finishing your duty (We did bring it though).
I am a beginner in hiking mountains, yet I managed to do it. As long as you prepare and have an experienced hiker with you, everything will go smoothly. Just remember to follow certain rules set by the locals, such as not to litter, dug before you ‘dump’ and cover it after, and a few others.
So there you go, if you are interested in hiking, and Central Java is not too far for you to go, Prau is definitely a mountain to experience. The view up there, is without a doubt, worth every step of the way.