Mount Kerinci, located in the province of Jambi, is known for being the highest volcano in Indonesia and having the highest peak on the island of Sumatra. It is surrounded by the lush forest of Kerinci Seblat National Park, home to the endangered species of Sumatran Tiger and Sumatran Rhinoceros. Kerinci is one of the most active Indonesian volcanoes with eruptions virtually every year. The mountain can be accessed from Village Kersik Tuo, which is 6 or 7 hours away from Padang by car or bus. The climb to the summit and back takes about 2 days, with an overnight camp at one of the checkpoints. The area around Kerinci has 15 lakes, of which the biggest are – Kerinci Lake and Gunung Tujuh Lake. Gunung Tujuh Lake is also known as the Seven Mountains Lake, as there are 7 peaks surrounding it. At 1,992 meters, it is the highest lake in Southeast Asia.
We took a Tiger Airways night flight from Singapore to Padang. The 1 hr flight departed Changi Airport at 8.55pm and arrived at the Minangkabau Airport at 8.55pm (Indonesia time). Our mountain guide and his driver picked us up in a private jeep from the airport to his homestay in Kersik Tuo village.
We dozed off and woke up repeatedly throughout the 7 hrs bumpy and cold jeep journey. It was cold not because of the weather or the air-con but because the driver’s window was not wound up completely; allowing the chilling wind to blow through the gap into the cabin. We deducted that the jeep air circulation system was faulty, therefore the driver had to wind down the window to let the fresh air in. On hindsight, the air circulation system could be functioning, but the driver was merely doing it out of habit. We were suffering in silence because we were simply too embarrassed to ask the driver.
We reached the homestay in Kersik Tuo at around 4am. We were assigned a queen-size bedroom with an attached toilet, the bedroom was actually partitioned out from the living room. Our guide and his family occupied the quarters at the back of the living room. The guests would enter and leave the house via the front door while the family members would do so via the back door. The living room served as a privacy barrier between the guests and family members.
My travel mate did not have the habit of sharing a double bed, and so he sacrificed the whole bed to me and went to sleep alone on the sofa of the living room. It was not so bad as the sofa was quite big and cushy.
To catch the remaining hours of sleep, we went to bed without filling our stomachs or shower (for hygiene’s sake, we did brush our teeth). But we were woken up at 5am by mosque prayers blasting through the loudspeakers – this was more potent than our alarm clocks as we couldn’t hit the snooze button. In the morning, our guide informed us that we had to abandon the climb today as the summit “weather forecast” was not favourable. He got the weather information from his fellow mountain guide friend who started the climb yesterday. We postponed our climb to tomorrow and visited Lake Gunung Tujuh instead.
He hired a young man (we can’t remember his name) as helper cum mountain porter for our trip. Our mode of transport during our stay in Kersik Tuo was the motorbike – an economic and efficient way to manoeuvre around the narrow village lanes. The real riders were our guide and his helpers; we merely pillioned, enjoying the scenery during the ride.
The trailhead to Lake Gunung Tujuh was in Ulu Jernih village, located 14km away from Kersik Tuo. The ride to the trailhead was quite scenic, as we passed by villages, tea plantations, padi fields and ponds along the way and saw groups of children walking home from school all by themselves. The carefree children were prancing and teasing one another happily down the road. This was in contrast to Singapore where our primary school children, with their push trolley school bags, are always accompanied by their maids or grandparents, often looking lethargic and disinterested after school.
A nominal fee for park conservation was payable at the small park office beside the trailhead entrance. The 6km hike from the trailhead (1,400m asl) to the lake (1,992m asl) was relatively easy except for the last hundred metres section where some arm strength was required on the way back. We took about 2.5 hrs to reach the lake from the trailhead. Our speed was quite fast with little rest in between, therefore hikers at leisure speed should be able to reach the lake slightly beyond 3 hrs. The trail ascends all the way till the crater rim (2,112m asl) where we saw the first glimpse of the lake below. From the rim, the trail drops down rather steeply to the left for 120 metres or so.
At the lake, we saw a group of young Malay hikers who were on their university graduation trip to climb all the major mountains in Malaysia, Sumatra and Java! Hmm…something interesting for them to write in their resumes. They have climbed Mount Kerinci a few days back and spent one night camping by the lake. There was another group of local hikers who were fishing by the lake.
There were two dugout canoes by the lake. According to online sources (http://www.gunungbagging.com/tujuh/), some locals who stayed around the lake could be hired to bring hikers across the opposite side of the lake in the dugout canoes. Think twice – the lake is 3km by 4km wide and up to 45m deep!
After visiting the lake, our guide brought us to Telun Berasap Waterfall, only a few kms away from Kersik Tuo. The waterfall is easily accessible by car or motorbike; no hiking was involved at all. A sheltered viewing platform with close-up views of the waterfall was accessible via a series of descending concrete steps. The 50m tall waterfall is not considered high but its flow was extremely high and powerful. The whole area including the shelter was engulfed in a mist of rain. Do remember not to bring your camera to the viewing platform without waterproofing it! The waterfall is aptly named as Berasap, which means smoke in Barisan Indonesian.
We returned to the homestay for bathing and dinner. The water in the bathtub was icy cold and there was no water heater in the guest bathroom.