16.TRAVEL GUIDE TO TAMBORA
Getting to Tambora is not without its challenges. Visitors usually come with a tour group or hire a car and driver from Bima and drive the three or four hours it takes via Dompu and along the Sanggar Peninsula coast road. Much of the road at the time of writing is in good condition, but there are sections where it is deteriorating and potholes are growing bigger daily. Two sections of dirt road still exist, but work has begun on sealing them. Self-driving cars or motorbikes is easy and the route there is straight forward with few other roads to confuse.
Another way is to hire a boat from Sumbawa Besar and journey across Saleh Bay to Calabai, and from there seek a car or a motorbike to transport you up to Pancasila. The road up the hill is recently new and still in good condition.
In Pancasila there are two places to stay. Pak Saiful’s guesthouse is on the far side of the football field. He has five rooms containing double bunks. In 2014 he was charging 100,000 Rp per night.
The other place is the Tambora Guesthouse, which takes about 15 minutes walking after passing through Pancasila. It is an old coffee plantation homestead and many of its guests are groups on organised tours. They advertise they are willing to pick you up for 40,000 Rp from Pancasila in their vehicle if you ring ahead.
Pak Saiful displays the walk times and distances on the wall of his barugaq and in the guest book. They come from the Kelompok Pencinta Alam Tambora (KPAT, the Nature Lovers Group of Tambora and I found the times suggested were surprisingly accurate, particularly on the way up and I assume the distances are accurate also (they were probably measured using a GPS). The climb to the summit is divided into six stages, and the descent follows the same path.
Total Return 41.8 km
Stage Time Up Time Down Distance
1 Pancasila to Pos I (Post 1) 3 hours 3 hours 7.9 km
2 Pos I – Pos 2 2 hours 1.5 hours 3.5 km
3 Pos 2 – Pos 3 2 hours 1.5 hours 3.1 km
4 Pos 3 – Pos 4 1 hour 45 minutes 1.2 km
5 Pos 4 – Pos 5 1 hour 45 minutes 1.2 km
6 Pos 5 – Puncak (summit) 3 hours 2.5 hours 4 km
“Pos” = Post
Source: Kelompok Pencinta Alam Tambora, Pancasila Total
Return 20.9 km
Distance: 41.8 km
Stage 1: Pancasila to Pos 1
This is a long walk of 7.9 kilometres. It is not particularly strenuous as the climbing is gentle (although it seems never-ending on the return walk). The track starts by following roads through coffee plantations for forty minutes, plunges into the forest for another ten minutes and then follows an old forestry road, now overgrown with bracken ferns, fishbone ferns and raspberry bushes. In the late dry season it may be possible to be driven this stretch all the way to Pos 1 on a trail bike. In the morning dew and after rain, brushing up against the plants makes walkers very wet. Suggestions are to wear a long sleeved shirt to avoid scratches from the raspberry plants and two pairs of socks as protection against the leeches, which are numerous if the track is wet.
Pos 1 is a barugaq (shelter) in the forest with a piped spring a few meters away providing clean water. A rest here gives you a chance to check for and remove any leeches and have a meal.
Stage 2: Pos I-Pos 2
The track from Pos I to Pos 2 starts climbing in earnest. The path is narrow and overgrown with many roots and fallen timbers and vines. Leeches are everywhere. Some sections of clear hard soil are incredibly slippery so beware. The track rises to Pos 2 with long inclines. There are many logs to climb over or under.
Pos 2 has another tin roofed barugaq. This one is next to a fast flowing stream. There is a flat place to pitch a tent but the clearing is small.
Stage 3: Pos 2-Pos 3
The trail starts to climb more steeply. The forest here has never been logged, but it was completely destroyed by the 1815 eruption. There are steep, slippery sections both up and down through gullies and many fallen logs to climb over or duck under.
Pos 3 is the usual camping site for two-day treks and the clearing for tents is large and open. There is a barugaq here also. The water source is about 200 meters off to the right on a narrow path. You can see the crater rim from here lit up in the afternoon. After six or seven hours walking up it’s a relief to get here. Most two day trekkers rise at midnight and leave at 1 am to climb to the summit to see the sunrise. It is cool here, but not cold.
Stage 4: Pos 3 - Pos 4
Leaving by flashlight you follow the steep path up along narrow ridges. The forest is thick and ferns press in on each side, along with other plants that release sticky seeds on your clothing. Then the track enters a thick area of stinging nettles called pajatan (or jelantik) which are painful, even with a slight brush against the skin.
Pos 4 is a clearing between among very tall, straight trees. It is surrounded by the pajatan nettles. Here at 2.30 am it is cold. There is no barugaq or water source.
Stage 5: Pos 4 - Pos 5
Soon after leaving Pos 4 there is a log bridge about twenty meters long through the nettles to walk along – beware, it is very slippery and to slip off means painful stings, even through clothing.
There are numerous tree ferns beside the path, and numerous flowering plants and bracket fungi that are worth pausing to look at (on the way down when the sun is up).
The track rises steeply and breathing becomes more difficult with increasing altitude so numerous short rest breaks are necessary. At this altitude there are no leeches.
Pos 5 is a clearing among Casuarina trees and grasses. It is cold here at night but a good place to camp if you have the gear. The guides will suggest you rest here until the right time to make an assault on the summit and arrive at sunrise.
Stage 6: Pos 5 – Puncak (Summit)
The track rises above the tree line steeply. The forest turns into grasslands as the Casuarina trees peter out. Eventually the grasses stop also and are replaced by sparse alpine vegetation like edelweiss. Look out for kijang (deer), who live at this altitude.
The track flattens out and becomes a weathered rock-scape looking like it belongs on another planet. The crater rim is a plateau several hundred meters broad and the summit is to the right, easy to spot and an easy climb. The views of the crater are incredible. It is seven kilometres in diameter, 21 kilometres in circumference and 700 or 800 meters deep. It is still active and clouds of gas blow up in the wind. You can see a green lake on the bottom if the air is clear.
Looking west, Mt Rinjani in Lombok and Mt Agung in Bali rise above the haze. Look down to view Moyo and Satonda Islands. Look east and you may see Sangeang Api, a small volcanic island north of Bima, which erupted at the end of May 2014.
The way down is long and tiring, if you are going all the way back to Pancasila it means a 12 hour descent. Going down is where good boots are most needed as you need to avoid the continuing pounding on your toes.
The daylight allows you to look at the views and vegetation you passed when it was too dark to see. Listen out for birds: the Casuarina forest has many different types that call to each other regularly and you can see them because the forest is open (in the lower, thicker forest it is very hard to see any birds, but you will hear them). There are wild pigs (look for the damage they do to the ground) in the forest and deer in the higher regions. There are macaque monkeys that live around the Pos 1 and Pos 2 level.
Watch out for a vicious palm, locally called duli, whose fronds work like a climbing vine and its thousands of sharp hooks will dig easily into your clothing and skin.
Pak Saiful’s “Guest Book” requires you to record a phone number when you register to climb. Make sure it is a number a rescue party can ring to get help for you, rather than a phone that you carry uselessly in your pack. Ask yourself who you would like the authorities to contact if you are in trouble and provide that number.
Carry a credit card or insurance documents – hospitals will want to see these before providing any service (this is good advice for anywhere in Indonesia).
Wear long sleeved clothing against the scratching of the raspberry bushes and ferns.
Stick to the paths – it would be very easy to get lost in the thick forest.
Keep away from the edge of the crater – it gives way regularly. You will hear rocks falling.
If you are alone, two guides are recommended in case something goes wrong.
CONTACTS and COSTS:
Pak Saiful: Phone (+62) (0) 859 3703 0848, or (0) 823 4069 9138. Pak Saiful operates a guesthouse for 100,000 Rp per bed, and can provide meals at 25,000 Rp each. Pak Saiful does not yet have internet access.
Tambora Guesthouse: Phone +62 (0) 613 5337 0951 email@example.com, www.visittambora.wordpress.com : 75,000 Rp per bed, 40,000 Rp for meals, and transport from Pancasila 40,000 Rp.
Guides and Porters charge 150,000 - 200,000 Rp per person per day depending on their experience. They will carry the food, water and camping equipment you need. A few have basic English. Pak Saiful may have some tents available for rent. Small shops in Pancasila sell simple foodstuffs like noodles and rice and local fruit and coffee, anything else you need you should bring. Calabai has more shopping opportunities as it is a larger town.
There was no phone access during my visit to Pancasila or Tambora, though Pak Saiful says sometimes there is using the XL network. (I did successfully use my phone by going about three kilometres down the hill towards Calabai).
In 2014 there is no ‘park fee’ or permit system to climb the mountain like there is for Rinjani so there are no hidden costs.
 2014 prices - they are subject to change