Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tabrik to Gedeh plantation ring route

I agree with Alex that the ring route is dynamic. The route shown on the map has the advantage of including a lot of little-used forest tracks, which are fascinating to explore. The disadvantage is that some seem so little-used that they are difficult to follow or have not been maintained at all.

I recommend everyone using the WIPA guides to explore the delights of Puncak independently to proceed as I have done. Start with the easier circle routes. This will build confidence with the maps and make full use of Alex's clear route descriptions. Then move on to the more difficult circle routes and then the easier ring route sections, which are in the Ciawi sector and the Cisarua sector up to Taman Safari. The ring route there is at lower altitude, meaning the valleys are not as deep. There are plenty of farmers to ensure that the paths are well-used and to offer advice to the disoriented walker!

You will thus have lots of familiarity with the maps and terrain before you get to the ring route in the Cipanas and Cugenang sector, which counts more as an arduous hike than a weekend stroll.

Hopefully, with a few more walks we'll build up enough knowledge to advise on the current preferred routes for everyone exploring this beautiful area of Java.

There is certainly some great walking on the ring route in the Cugenang sector, which is a lovely area scenically, and largely free of the motorcycle noise that you get on the north side of Gunung Gede. The views, southward toward Cianjur, are quite distinct from those close to Puncak itself, and the people are less affected by the Bogor tourist bustle.

The two main difficulties are the steep and difficult valley crossings at the Ci Salande (map square O9, also a part of the E3 circle route) and at the Ci Binong (map square Y17, just before the ring route joins the E2 circle route). As Alex describes, sliding down on your butt is about the only way to make this second descent unless you have a pair of sharp climbing poles to dig into the soil; a simple wooden staff is not secure. Next time, we'll look at the next crossing lower down the valley, or perhaps just stay in the tea plantation zone, where the navigation is easy! With so few farmers or even woodcutters around in this area, it is very easy to get lost in the kaliandra, as seen in the photo!

It was certainly reassuring navigationally to be back in the huge Gedeh tea plantation , where the landscape is all open, with nary a tea shed to obstruct the view! Once safely in the plantation we were able to enjoy the sunset without fear of getting caught out in the forest overnight.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ring Route in Cugenang at the end of the Rainy Season

In the last few weeks, our team took two long days to explore the ring route in Cugenang, from Kmp Tabrik to the Gede tea plantation. There were four of us on both occasions: Me, John Hargreaves, Jody Randall and Chris Starkey. Dave van Dyke joined us on the first occasion. We were blessed by good weather both days –no rain on Saturday, 6 June, and a short and light afternoon rain two weeks before that.

The ring route is largely the same, but some of the recommended connections have changed. From Tabrik, it works out better to ascend the ridgeline for a few hundred meters before crossing to Pr Panon. From Pr Panon, it works out better to follow the pasir all the way down to a T-junction near its bottom, then go R to cross back over the river before going L on the lower leg of route E3 to make the traverse to Kmp Baru Kusuma. From Kmp Baru Kusuma, the crossing to Pr We above Cijoho is the same, except that the trekker may prefer a lower crossing of Ci Legokkuray if it is wished to visit the charming Kmp Loji Kolot. From Pr We to the Gedeh Tea Plantation the crossing is as shown, but be aware that the descent from the contouring path to approach the waterfall (Curug Leunca) is extremely steep – some of us preferred to slide down on our butts for a good 50m descent, believe it or not.

The crossing of the tea gardens is as shown until point 1314 at a water tank in block C’14. From there, however, the trekker will do well to diverge from the ring route on footpaths and instead follow route E2 on stone roads to an intersection with a major up-down stone road in block E’16, marked with a tea-shed symbol. Trudge up the long ascent on the stone road to rejoin the ring route at an elevation of around 1475m, then traverse to the tea shed symbol at the foot of Pr Culamega, in block I’13, shortly before “10 rasamala trees”.

During our crossing of the Gede plantation, I was surprised by the disappearance of familiar tea sheds that had long served us as reliable landmarks, including those in block B’16, block I’13 and block I’17. They appear to have been cannibalized, perhaps no longer needed. But the scenery remains stunning, particularly on the high traverse of Gede. In the two days we walked over 35km, but that included some backtracking. Actual distance on the ring route, from Tabrik to the was probably 25km or less.

The ring route is dynamic and needs an fresh guide from time to time. Such a guide, complete with GPS waypoints, may soon be under preparation by some members of our team.