Incidentally, The Garut Regency (previously called Limbangan Regency), was founded by Lieutenant-Governor Stamford Raffles on 16 February 1813. He went on and founded Singapore in 1819!
Back to our story. After long hours on the road, we arrived at Kampung Sumber Alam Hotel in the evening feeling quite exhausted. So when Irwan suggested leaving at 3am the next morning to see sunrise at some volcanic mountain, we weren't too enthusiastic.
The thought of waking up so early didn't sound appealing but when we saw GC's eyes light up, we just couldn't bear to say no. And thank goodness we went! It was an incredible experience.
When we left at 3am, the air was chilly. The drive to the base of Papandayan took an hour, partly due to the bad conditions of the road leading to the mountain. We arrived at the carpark in pitch darkness. The air was so cold (around 15 degree celcius) that the park rangers were dressed in thick winter wear!
We needed a guide to bring us to the peak. We had no idea what the terrain was like as we were were only guided by a small torch. It was exciting to walk in the dark in a single file.
The ascent was not easy as the trail was filled with loose rocks. The air was thick with the smell of sulphur. Behind me, GC was constantly asking "Are we reaching?" It turned out to be a pretty long and tiring climb and the destination was getting elusive.
Somehow, we managed to get there before sunrise.
It was quiet and peaceful at the peak. We almost had the entire mountain top to ourselves. There were 2 other guys who traveled from Jakarta.
Slowly, the sun began to ascend, turning the sky into a beautiful palette of colours. As we witnessed the beauty unravelling before us, we began to understand why Irwan had insisted on bringing us here. Apparently not many tourists come here, so the site is unspoilt and free of litter.
For the truly adventurous, Mt Papandayan offers an exciting climbing adventure. The volcano is still active, hence offering a host of sights (beautiful edelweiss meadow, a dead forest and a steaming sulfur crater) and sounds of minor volcanic activities during the ascent. The highest part of the crater floor lies to the southeast. It is ~6600 feet (2000 m) high and sits ~800 feet (240 m) below the crater rim. You can read more here and here.
Only after the sun is up, we could truly appreciate the volcanic terrain in its full glory. The environment is so harsh that only very little vegetation can survive.
After its first historical eruption in 1772, in which collapse of the NE flank produced a catastrophic debris avalanche that destroyed 40 villages and killed nearly 3000 persons, only small phreatic eruptions had occurred prior to an explosive eruption that began in November 2002.
Papandayan is a complex stratovolcano which is found in a row of volcanoes. It has very distinctive yellow crater walls due to coloring by sulfur. Around us, we could see burnt trees, bubbling mud pools, steam vents and sulphur deposits.
During the descent, we could see the trail was covered in loose volcanic rocks and sand. Without proper shoes, it would have been impossible to hike here. Even in my walking shoes, I slipped and slid down some loose sand, scraping my knee in the process.
So, when we saw a local riding his bike up the dusty trail ferrying bottled water for a group of hikers, we were most amused.
I must say this was an amazing experience. If we had ventured further to the summit of Mt Papandayan, we would have been able to see the famous four craters, Lake of Colours and edelweiss meadow. Unfortunately we weren't really suited up for climbing that day. We could always return again considering Bandung is only a short flight away.
At the base of the mountain,the fertile volcanic soil is perfect for growing crops. A group of farmers were seen harvesting cabbage.
If you're visiting Bandung and wish to visit Mt Papandayan, please contact Irwan. You will find more details here.