|Elevation:||1,523 m (4,997 ft)||Prominence:||1,246 m|
|Ribu category:||Kurang Tinggi||Province:||Nusa Tenggara Timur|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:||Uyelewun|
Ili Ujolewung is one of the best of the ‘less high’ mountains in Indonesia. Although infrequently climbed, the grassy terrain allows spectacular views across Lembata island, including the smoking volcano, Ili Ape (Lewotolo), to the west. The mountain is no longer active, but an ancient, shallow crater still remains clearly visible at the top. There is also a very old vegetable garden which is passed by the trail, apparently a historical place of retreat during wartime or to avoid capture by slave traders.
Assuming that you are staying in the small town of Wairiang at the base of the mountain, you will see that it is a ‘twin mountain’. The grassy top closer to Wairiang is, infact, a couple of hundred metres lower than the sharp, pointy one behind, and so an ascent to the true high point directly from Wairiang would involve ascending the lower top first, the descending and then re-ascending. If you want to spend a night camping up there, which would undoubtedly be very pleasant if you have the time, then this route would be great. However, those keen on making a day-hike of it are advised to get an ojek round to Meluwiting (about Rp25-30,000 each for the hour-long journey).
The trailhead (350m elevation) is an unmarked junction with a wide farm track leading up the hillside. You should be able to find a local guide around here if you ask (essential given the unmarked junctions). After an easy stroll up the track, it narrows and leads to the right up to a tiny hamlet (elevation 570m) of 3 or 4 huts (and usually several sacks of candlenuts ‘kemiri’). From here it is another hour and a bit through forest to the ancient vegetable garden (elevation 1,085m). There is a lot of birdlife on this mountain, thanks especially to the local people who, unusually, do not hunt them. It is at this vegetable garden that in centuries gone by local people would retreat in order to avoid conflict or capture by slave traders.
From this point on, the trail becomes a lot more frustrating, yet this is more than adequately compensated for by the stunning views of Lembata’s coastline and distant mountains to the west. From the vegetable garden, you have to follow a very rough, barely-visible, trail to the right, drop down very briefly, before reaching the lower end of the grassy part of the mountain, which has scattered eucalyptus trees on it, so beautiful that in sunny weather it is hard to take a poor photograph here. There are also some large boulders, and any signs of a proper trail are hard to find from this point as you basically just head ‘up’ the grassy mountainside, taking care where you put your feet beneath the grass.
The grassy ridge gets really steep all of a sudden, so take it slowly and sit down every now and again to enjoy the marvellous views. Finally you will reach what you think is the top – it’s actually the remnants of the ancient crater rim. Apparently the mound in the centre of the crater is where a village used to be many centuries ago, although our first impressions were that it was the overgrown volcanic mound itself inside the crater. Difficult to tell.
The true summit lies a little behind the crater rim. It is best to do an anti-clockwise circuit, which takes about 1 hour in total (including a little time to enjoy the views from the true highest point). You will reach a couple of large cairns (or graves) just below the true summit, which, much like Gunung Mutis in West Timor, has beautiful eucalyptus trees growing on it yet still allows tremendous views in all directions. Just beyond the highest point, at a place from which you can see the lower peak closer to Wairiang and just how much of a drop there is inbetween them, are two more ancient graves.
Ili Werung, Ili Labalekang and Ili Ape (Lewotolo) are all clearly visible to the west in good weather conditions and the top of Ili Ujolewung is one of the most pleasant summits in Indonesia. Allow yourself extra time so you can sit here in the perfect temperature for at least an hour.
Needless to say, the descent (by the same way down the steep grassy ridge) requires a great deal of care. A twisted ankle would be quite possible given the terrain. In total it takes about 4 hours to the top, 1 hour for a circuit and then 3 back down to the main road.
A thoroughly recommended gem of a mountain.
Bagging report by Dan Quinn (July 2013)