|Elevation:||900 m (2,953 ft)||Prominence:||630 m|
|Ribu category:||Spesial||Province:||Sumatera Selatan (South Sumatra)|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:||Serelo, Telunjuk|
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Bukit Jempol is one of the best-known landmarks in Sumatra due to its steep and impressive summit cliffs and its location close to the main road near the town of Lahat. It is so well known and striking, in fact, that it has at least three names: Bukit Jempol (‘thumb hill’), Bukit Telunjuk (‘index finger hill’), and Bukit Serelo. The trek to the base of the summit cliffs is fairly easy (but slippery in the rainy season) and it makes a pleasant half-day hike.
South Sumatra has a reputation for being slightly more dangerous than most of Indonesia – apparently the risk of having something stolen or being held up on a public bus is a little higher, especially at night. For this reason, you might have trouble finding a local guide willing to climb in the early hours of the morning in time for sunrise near the top. Local nature lovers tend to stay one night in one of the huts over the shoulder of the mountain (see below for more information) even though the hike is a pretty short one.
If you have a driver, or someone who can look after your motorbikes or car, you can ask them to wait for you on the asphalt road that snakes around the base of the hill. Note that there are no signs whatsoever, so you will definitely need to ask local people for directions unless you have a GPS. From the road at the base of the hill you could be up and down in less than 3 hours and perhaps wanting more. Given that there is a fabulous tradition bridge crossing the wide Lematang River between the main road and the hill it is recommended that you add an extra couple of kilometres of easy hiking on to your day and start at the village of Ulak Pandan (75m), which on the main road between Lahat and Muara Enim, less than 20km from Lahat (35 minutes or so by motorbike). You could leave your motorbike there if you take a local chap as your guide.
From Ulak Pandan, head towards the river and hill, passing through the neighbouring village of Negeri Agung before crossing the fabulous wooden bridge (if in doubt, just ask for ‘jembatan’) on foot. This is a super spot for taking photographs of the hill and its pointy summit. Once over the bridge, follow the small path down on the right that seems to lead along the side of the river. The trail then weaves through a couple of crop fields before reaching a wide farm track where there is a 4-way junction. Head straight across and up the hillside a little, past rubber plantaions, before reaching the tarmac/asphalt road which you then follow for 10 or 15 minutes as it winds its way up to a sharp bend to the right (100m) where you leave the road (on the left) and go straight up the track towards the shoulder of the hill. This is the point where you could leave your bikes/car with a reliable watcher if you want an ever shorter hike (see GPS tracks page for waypoints).
The path climbs steadily up the hillside and in a short time you will be at the water source (‘mata air’) (185m) where a source of cold, clean water seems to be reliable. Mata Air 2 is just 3 minutes further up the trail, which begins to get steeper and slippery (if there has been rain recently). After crossing a small stream (215m), a minor cliff face on the right side of the trail is reached. From this point you should check your boot for leeches – especially tiny ones which are difficult to detect at first. There are also quite a few mosquitoes.
The next major point on the hike is when you reach the shoulder of Bukit Jempol at the col separating it from a little grassy knoll to the east. This spot is known as Simpang Kedaton (410m) and is an important junction on the hill. As mentioned above, some local hikers like to camp on the hill. The spot they tend to choose is down the trail over the other side of the col (heading straight on) where there appears to be a small hut or house. For those just doing a day-hike, take a right here and up the increasingly steep and potentially very slippery trail for just 15 minutes after which you will have reached a collection of smooth and graffiti-ed rocks (540m). This a lovely viewpoint over neighbouring hills and lower sections of the summit cliffs. Also below is a particularly meandering section of the Lematang River.
The trail continues for just another 5 minutes, as it weaves round some large stones (known as ‘Kedaton 2’) which appear from higher up as three jagged rocks (590m). Just metres away at an elevation of 600m is the end of the hiking trail for ordinary walkers and the beginning of some serious rock climbing. Reaching the highest point is almost impossible without ropes, although the rumour is that a handful of Indonesian rock-climbing enthusiasts have reached the top without ropes. Either way, it would take several days to make a careful ascent and descent over very challenging terrain. Apparently the rock is andesite. It is not known what the exact height of the hill is. 900 metres is an estimate, and may be and over-estimate. However, it is likely to be over 800 metres, which means near-vertical cliffs of over 200 metres for climbers to negotiate!
After enjoying the view, which is a little spoilt by mining activity, ordinary hikers can be back down at the road in just under an hour, and back down at the bridge near Negeri Agung and Ulak Pandan villages in less than two hours.
Bagging information by Dan Quinn (December 2013)