Sirung (Kukka Taupekki)

Facts

  • Elevation: 1,344 m (4,409 ft)
  • Prominence: 1,344 m
  • Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
  • Province: Nusa Tenggara Timur
  • Google Earth: kml
  • Rating: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes) Add your rating
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  • Other names: Villagers in Mauta (Kakamauta) call one of the highest peaks Lagiga
  • Eruptions: 1852, 1899, 1927, 1934, 1947, 1953, 1960, 1964-65, 1970, 1987, 2004, 2012

Photos

Bagging It!

Gunung Sirung is one of the less visited volcanoes of Indonesia, but one of the most fascinating. The very same could be said of the entire island of Pantar itself, though in 2021 there is a small new airport operating regional flights. Perhaps the most mystical island in a very mystical nation, it is difficult to visit even for a day or two without having some very thought-provoking incidents! It used to have some of Indonesia’s worst roads but there is at least now a fresh asphalt route up from the main town of Baranusa to Kakamauta.

Gunung Sirung is the (second*) youngest and northernmost of a chain of volcanoes extending from the south-western tip of Pantar north-east to Beang Bay. The volcanic chain is about 14 kilometres long in total. Mount Sirung is the only active volcano of the range, with the latest minor eruptions occurring in 2012. The other volcanoes are overgrown with vegetation, including the highest point. The often-quoted figure of Sirung being 862 metres high is almost entirely meaningless as the commonly-visited parts of the crater rim are around 600-700 metres high, the crater floor around 400 metres elevation, and there is no specific peak or summit known as Sirung at all.

From south-west (south of Desa Delaki) to north-east (north of Beang Bay), the main peaks are as follows: Kukka Delaaki / Delaki (938m), Kukka Taupekki (1,344m) sometimes spelt Topaki and also possibly known as Gunung Sopak and also Gunung Dekali, an un-named minor peak 1,216 metres high on the Bakosurtanal map and less than one kilometre north-east of Kukka Taupekki, two lower peaks on the range with the north-western one labelled Kukka Boyali (1,080m) on the Bakosurtanal map and the south-eastern one known as Puncak Mauta (1,023m) despite being on the opposite side of the crater to the village of Mauta, and finally a jumble of minor tops forming the circular crater walls of Sirung volcano itself. Locals in Mauta call one of the higher peaks Lagiga, but it is not clear if it refers to the true highest peak or just one of the higher tops to the south-west of Sirung crater.

Route from Mauta to Sirung crater rim

Most trekkers visit Sirung crater from the village of Kakamauta (260m, commonly referred to simply as Mauta) and this can be easily accomplished in half a day as it takes less than two hours to the edge of the crater and around 90 minutes or less back down. Allow more time if you want to descend further onto the crater floor or begin from a different starting point (see below).

It is a very scenic walk but does not go anywhere near the highest part of the range. Note also that the locals say you must not enter the crater from June to September, because, if you did, Mount Sirung could erupt and destroy the cashew harvest. Similarly, you must not go down into the crater from December to April, because at that time of the year it would endanger the rice harvest. So usually you can do the trek in October, November and May only. In reality, this can change depending on recent events so a hike may still be possible, especially if you have checked with a local guide in advance.

Having arrived in Kakamauta, follow the main street through the village, passing the church and the mayor’s office on your left, and the football ground on your right, until you get to a T-junction where the asphalt road leads right. Turn left instead and leave the village on the dirt road leading south-west. A guide can be sought in approximately the fifth house on the left, which is the Rumah Kepala Desa (village head).

There are both advantages and disadvantages to simply turning up, as an advance guide booking by foreigners is likely to be more costly than just asking for someone the same morning, but either way a guide is very much recommended. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the trail is not clear and has no signs. Secondly, it is customary to take a local person from Mauta with you if you are hiking from Mauta. This means that even if you have an experienced local trekker from the main town of Baranusa with you as guide, you may well end up having to pay for a second guide to come too from Mauta. Mauta guides typically cost Rp100,000 for the morning’s hike, but you may have to pay a similar amount towards ‘the village’ and this Rp100,000 fee may be per person rather for your group.

After about 15 minutes, branch off to the left (south, 313m) onto a narrow path leading through high grass. There is no signpost and the beginning of the path is hidden in the grass 1 to 2 metres above the track.

Now follow the trail up to the crater of Mt. Sirung. The first section will take you through eucalypt savanna. Look out on the right for views to the island of Lembata’s easternmost peak called Ili Uyelewun in the distance. The trail soon drops down into what resembles and old, dry riverbed (363m) before leading up the other side and onto another ridge (389m) where there is a trail leading up from somewhere else. Those with GPS devices might like to make a waypoint here as remembering this vague turning on the way down is not easy!

Continue up the side of the volcano and via a second old, dry riverbed (412m). By this point, the vegetation diminishes owing to the rain of ash that fell on the upper slopes of the volcano during the eruptions of the past decades. Keep walking on the ridge over dark orange and deep red bands of earth. The views back over the north-western part of Pantar are quite spectacular.

The trail gets steeper and rockier and finally a cement shelter (613m) is reached on the outer rim. This would be of great use in the rain, although it is tiny. A pleasant cairn is just a few metres away. Whilst some of the higher peaks in the range which form the south-western wall and highest cliffs of the rim can be seen from here, the full extent of the crater and the lake within it cannot be seen from here. Most hikers will have reached this point in 90 minutes or less from Mauta.

To reach a better crater viewpoint, drop down, via some old half-burnt trees to the inner rim (579m) and a decent spot to sit and contemplate the view (582m). It is around 15 minutes from the cement shelter on the outer rim to the viewpoint on the inner rim and the trail is far from clear.

Inside the crater there is a large sulphurous crater lake and several active steam vents. The lake is called Danau Allibagis, although some locals may say it refers to a second smaller lake higher up somewhere. It is possible to descend onto the crater floor another 150-plus metres below, but you are not allowed to do so all the year round and it obviously requires further time.

Route from Beang Bay to Sirung crater rim

In previous years, some hikers have stayed at residents’ houses at beautiful Beang Bay on the south coast of Pantar. For those who charter small boats it is even possible to directly dock at Beang. Although Beang is further away from the crater than Kakamauta, it is worth considering, especially if there are issues with the cashew nut season preventing hikers from trekking to the crater from Mauta. The hike from Beang up to the crater rim is an easy 4 or 6 hours’ walk-up (the time depends on the route), mostly through beautiful eucalypt savanna. From Beang, there are two routes to the crater of Mount Sirung: one via Darang (Route 1, preferred), and one via Mauta (Route 2, less preferred as longer and easier simply to start in Mauta). It is alleged that there is also a route up from Alikalang which is between Beang and Mauta.

Route 1: Starting from Beang, take the trail heading south to the tiny village of Darang (175 metres above sea level, above Tanjung Darangemi on the Bakosurtanal map), where you will arrive after about 45 minutes. In Darang, the houses still have grass-thatched roofs. From Darang, a trail leads up the steep eastern slope of the volcano to the eastern side of the crater rim. Walking time is 3 hours. From where you arrive at the rim, you can head north-west, around the north-eastern side of the crater, to the canyon where the trail from Kakamauta comes up, though this is a considerable circuit.

Route 2: Starting from Beang, take the trail leading uphill to the village of Kakamauta. The trailhead is just behind the houses in the centre of Beang. The path will give you a stunning view of Beang Bay and take you through savanna woodland with lontar palms and eucalyptus trees. Shortly before you arrive at Kakamauta, you will pass small cashew plantations. From Beang to Kakamauta, it is a 2.5 to 3 hours’ hike. Where the path forks below an open, grassy slope about half way up, take the left branch.

Route to the summit of Kukka Taupekki (1,344m)

There is no regular trail to the summit of Kukka Taupekki and a lot of confusion about the best route to the top, the name, and even the height with some sources stating as high as 1,372m. It is labelled Kukka Taupekki in the usually reliable Bakosurtanal map, clearly similar-sounding to the alternative Topaki. Some Kakamauta villagers call one of the higher peaks Lagiga, but it is not clear if it is the highest. Other sources suggest Gunung Sopak as the name and finally some folk think the highest peak is called Gunung Delaki, although that seems to refer to the lower range even further south-west of the highest peak, on the very edge of the island.

Experienced local hikers will tell you there is no direct route from Sirung crater to the highest peak. You effectively have to drop down again and head up again via a different route. Very few hikers have been to the true summit, although it appears that Walter Denzel did in 2012 according to the Summit Post webpage where there is a photo of a wooden log cross at the top of a peak, plus a second photo looking towards the crater around two kilometres away to the north-east. But he calls it Delaki and says it requires trekking through pathless terrain. Even so, it may have been easier then, with less vegetation after a minor eruption. Effectively a trek to Sirung crater and a trek to the highest peak, whatever its official or unofficial name, should ideally be treated as two quite separate treks.

There are three main options for attempting to reach the highest point of Pantar.

From Desa Delaki / Koliabang: Desa Delaki is certainly the name of the village on the western coast, south of Puntaru which is where both the tourist beach of Pasir Tiga Warna (“the sands of three colours”) and the Gunung Sirung volcanology post are located. And it is clear that this is the closest chain of villages to the highest point of the range. It seems that Koliabang is the name of the place to enquire on the western coast for a direct ascent up to the highest peak of Pantar island. There is a hamlet up the mountainside called Jeri, Desa Tude, at an elevation of over 400 metres. If ojeks could be arranged as far as here then this is the preferred starting point for an attempt on the summit as there are no dangerous parts of crater rim to negotiate, or subsidiary peaks to traverse, drop down from and have to ascend again. But there is more vegetation on this side of the range.

From Mauta: It is confirmed that villagers from Mauta do go hunting up on the higher tops, but a start in Mauta requires an arduous traverse of various different peaks, some with reasonable drops in between them. In order to get to the summit or at least the higher tops after visiting the crater, descend all the way to the obscure junction (313m) between the two old dry riverbeds. From here, strike out with a local guide, heading for the higher tops as if on one of the Mauta villagers’ hunts, following the northern side of the range anti-clockwise. It will take you at least another 2 to 3 hours (one way) on pathless terrain.

From Darang above Beang Bay: A start in Beang requires an arduous traverse of various different peaks, some with reasonable drops in between them. This may mean camping a night is required. In order to get to the summit or at least the higher tops after visiting the crater, either follow the Mauta instructions above (anti-clockwise from crater along northern side) or attempt a clockwise traverse of the southern side of the crater rim (which may or may not even be possible).

Bagging information by Walter Denzel (July 2012), updated by Dan Quinn (May 2021)

Trail Map

Peta Jalur Pendakian Gunung Sirung
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.

* About 5 kilometres north-west of Mt. Sirung, near Desa Aramaba, you can observe how a new volcano is “born” – the Koralau: on a small, featureless hill, a gas eruption occurred for the first time in February 2011, burned the grass in the surroundings, and created a small crater of only about 10 metres in diameter.

Local Accommodation



Booking.com

Practicalities

  • Getting there: From the west, take the ferry from Wairiang, Lembata, to Baranusa, Pantar. It is 40 minutes by ojek from Baranusa to Kakamauta. From the east, you may have to charter a boat from Alor Kecil to Bakalang (1 hour, Rp300,000) or Tamakh (2 hours, considerably more than Rp300,000). Bakalang to Mauta is around 2-2.5 hours by motorbike and Tamakh to Mauta is around 1 hour. Note there is a new road between Mauta and Baranusa, should you be staying or travelling that way. Do not follow current (2021) Google Maps directions or you will need 2 hours from Kakamauta to Baranusa visa Puntaru on awful roads that can barely be called tracks!
  • Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Sirung information pack can be downloaded here.
  • Permits: Not required, although you are strongly advised to take a local guide (from the same village) and you will need the cashew nut gods on your side! See notes above on which months are difficult to access the crater from Mauta. Guides typically Rp100,000 for the short trek to the crater rim, sometimes with a donation to the village added on. More for the true summit which requires a lot of additional time.
  • Water sources: None available on the usual route from Mauta to the crater rim. Take enough of your own.
  • Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.

Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):

kupang

Location

Links and References

Wikipedia English
Wikipedia Indonesia

10 thoughts on “Sirung (Kukka Taupekki)

  1. I had hoped to hike up to the true summit of Sirung, and indeed the highest point of Pantar island, last week, but it didn’t happen for 2 reasons. The plan was to hike from somewhere near Desa Delaki, with a local chap who claimed to have done it before.

    I arrived on a boat charter from Wairiang (East Lembata). This is not cheap at 1.5jt for a slow 3 hour journey, and nor was it comfortable, the boat being filled with junk that I could barely get over onto the only little flat bit of surface to rest on that was protected from the hot sun. Wairiang pier is also a real mess with the infrastructure being of no use to actually getting onto or off a vessel – so you need to ignore it entirely, roll your trousers up and squelch across slippery mud into the water and pull yourself up onto the boat.

    Upon arrival at Baranusa I check in at the penginapan, but was rather concerned to find no fan available – it seemed the only fans were being used by other guests. Feeling quite under the weather already, this presented a real problem, with the room being so hot without any decent ventilation that I had to go to the mandi every 10 minutes and pour some cold water over my head to keep me from boiling up. The room itself was far hotter than outside at the front or in the bathroom – a massive design flaw of some sort. I had hoped this would improve as the evening drew on, but it didn’t, and someone in the neighbourhood starting playing some very loud, thudding disco music.

    I was pouring bottled water onto my head as I lay down on the bed, then I would lie on the floor (the tiles providing some temporary relative cool) and then a third position near the open window, hoping for a breeze that never came. This circuit continued all night, but the disco music did stop at midnight. I had needed a decent sleep in preparation for Sirung true summit, but had had quite the opposite. When my alarm went off at 0430, ready to depart at 5am with the guide, I tried to rouse myself but decided it would be dangerous in this state to try to do any hiking – heat exhaustion and so on are very serious issues if you are not in good shape.

    So my plan was to give the guide the arranged fee and apologize. Weirdly, he never showed up! Very, very odd. The other guests checked out and I dragged a fan into my room! I then realised that despite also having a plan to hike Gn Tuntuli, I would not be able to do much more hiking until I had recovered properly, so I ought to get to Alor as soon as possible and head home early. Pantar is almost impossible to recover on, with almost unfathomably limited food and limited accommodation. An ojek all the way to Bakalang was arranged – 350k sounds expensive but for the journey it’s about right really. Good driver, peculiar looking bike like it was from some alternate dimension, to be utilised by a cyberpunk. From Bakalang I had a boat chartered over to Alor Kecil within minutes for the standard 300k. I then got my antigen, got a rest and headed home. I’m still not back to normal yet – not really sure what the cause was but if you are not in good shape and full of energy then don’t risk making matters worse, even dangerously so, on the hot, challenging terrain of remote NTT mountains.

  2. I was a bit apprehensive about Gunung Sirung after my previous attempt 8 years or so ago when we were surrounded by stern villagers chomping on sirih / betel and talking about how if we did our hike the cashew nut crops would fail. Nuts are indeed important on Pantar – even the simple kacang tanah here are good quality.

    Anyway, it went fine in the end this time, but as seems to be the case with Pantar things take quite a lot of time to plan, and often the planning was a total waste of time anyway. Plus one person will say one thing and another the exact opposite, or even the same person say opposite things within 5 minutes. It can be a hard place to find facts about something until you have actually done that something!

    Just getting a motorbike to hire for 2 days was tricky. In Alor nobody would do it, either because we were foreign or because it was a different island or because the eastern end of Pantar was hit so badly by the storm in early April that the roads are like rocky beaches in several places. Or because of all three of those things.

    We ended up just getting a boat over to Bakalang, the shortest crossing to make from Alor to Pantar. Rp300,000 – quite reasonable. Once in Bakalang we found a losmen, the cheapest I have ever stayed at, just Rp50,000 a night. But very simple… no bed as such, just a room. Literally. A floor, some walls, a roof and a door. But a plug for charging your phone and friendly owners and great views over to Pulau Pura. At first they looked at us as if they had seen an apparition, but we reserved rooms for the next night.

    Continuing past the incongruously huge new Bakalang ferry terminal we asked folk about hiring a motorbike. We kept on being told to try another 50 metres down the road until one guy offered his ojek air, or water taxi. But ideally we needed wheels of our own for getting round this island and back again. Finally someone agreed, a chap originally from East Java. But Rp400,000 for 2 days – expensive. Perhaps fair enough given that we were taking it through a natural disaster zone and back again the following day.

    The road was extreme. Pantar’s roads were extreme even before Seroja struck. Now they are very challenging on the southern coast. But at least they seem to be being rebuilt in sections. Some sections are unscathed and others utterly turned to rubble. In one spot there was a collection of large tents for those displaced by the disaster. It was quite bizarre riding through and must have been horrific at the time. But all this is juxtaposed with some of the most glorious coastal scenery in Nusa Tenggara.

    Once up above Tamakh things improved although the Google Maps information is useless from this point on. They haven’t got a man on the ground on Pantar, that’s for certain. Once section of good road is completely missing and it then sent us via Puntaru on the west coast when we should have turned at Mauta and followed a brand new asphalt road straight to Baranusa. It took us 2 hours from Mauta instead of 40 minutes. Thanks Google. And the road turned into a river crossing and narrow track at one point, barely passable. At each junction we hoped the next turn would be onto something resembling a road instead of the surface of the moon, but it remained diabolical until we joined the new road just one kilometre from our Baranusa losmen!

    All in all, it took us 4 hours from bakalang to Baranusa but we could have done it in under 3 if we had turned at Kakamauta. Mukhtar losmen is the same place me and Nick stayed 8 years ago but possibly with a new name. Rp60,000 each room now, still very much a good deal and friendly owners.

    Quite typically, chats with possible guides for Sirung were getting more and more confusing. A few days previously a Mauta chap had said he could get us a guide for the true peak where locals go hunting. We agreed a price. But when the date was confirmed he said everyone was busy with the rice harvest. I said I’d look for someone else. Finally found a Baranusa resident who had never been to the true highest peak but was very keen and obviously understood what we meant.

    We arranged to meet at 7pm at the losmen to discuss the following day but then he never showed up. Meanwhile the Mauta contact sent me a message saying the youths of the village had noticed some bules driving through the village today. Perhaps they really don’t have anything better to do. Anyway, more importantly he said if you want to hike from Mauta you must take a guide from Mauta. I had feared such a thing might be a problem in Kakamauta. So I told our Baranusa guy we wouldn’t be able to do it with him. Then I asked the Mauta guy if he was going to be our guide or who it would be. He told us not him, and to message upon arrival. I told him 0630.

    The next morning we set off before sunrise up the lovely new asphalt road to Mauta which we had completely missed the day before! No signs though, so we did end up doing a 3 or 4km along a dirt track instead of the proper road at one point.

    Up at Mauta, quite typically, no answer from the contact there, so we just asked for the Kepala Desa instead. My mate nearly crashed the bike into a bush and wall, sending one old resident to almost run for his life after seeing this Dutch ghost cause such havoc at 6am!

    At the Kepala Desa’s we were nodded in and stared at before a friendly guy called Marcus led us up to the crater, with the highest peak sounding like it would be much better approached from the west near Desa Delaki, as previously thought. Great hike anyway, detailed above.

    Whereas in many villages, including the one at the foot of the previous trek Koyakoya on Alor, if you arrive back to a village house with plastic chairs then it usually means a feed and an opportunity to chat with the locals. Not here. I guess the chairs were for someone else entirely and when we got our bag and left, as foreigners actually really want to do many times rather than be asked the same question for the umpteenth time and almost held against their will, it was no problem at all and perhaps even hoped for. I think the Mauta folk had bigger things to do that morning than chat with a couple of white folk.

    We were back at Bakalang earlier than expected and it turned out that our informal bike hire guy had been in prison in Australia for over a year several years back. A snakehead transporting ‘illegals’ from Bangaladesh etc over to Australia!

    At one shop I asked what time they closed and was told that it’s 24 hours but it closes at 8pm. Only on Pantar! Great telkomsel phone internet at this end of the island, really impressive. Indeed there’s a luxury resort another 10km further up towards the tip and another foreigner has supposedly just put down some money on a lease to do something here. We had a red supermoon in the evening over Pulau Pura. Beautiful.

    The next day it was back over to Alor and some local sopi (red, Rp30,000 meaning medium quality, for a small Aqua bottle). Very pleasant. And the end of a fabulous trip. Hopefully I’ll be back later this year for Tuntuli, Taupekki and maybe even the true peak of Pulau Pura from a different approach.

  3. Always wanting to climb Mt. Sirung via Kaka Mauta, on my first attempt in July 2018, I was denied access supposedly because of the cashew nut flowering season in full force. However, a year later, on August 4, 2019, my friends and I rented motorbikes in Alor Kecil, chartered a boat and went to Pantar Island. Aware of the cashew nut flowering season, we opted to attempt the climb from Darang, about an hour-long hike from Beang, which we could reach on our motorbikes.

    The first part of our adventure involved a nice 45 minute boat ride from Alor Kecil to Bakalang. From there we took our motorbikes on the narrow road to Beang – here and there it was quite rough, especially with 2 people on the motorbike. The only place to have lunch is at Tamakh which we reached after 4 hours of bumpy ride from Bakalang.

    Once at Beang, we stayed for two nights at Pak Rehabeam/Ibu Agustina’s big house by the beach. The house features 5 bedrooms and the host served us three meals. Drinking water is boiled rain water. Bottled water is hard to find.

    A guide named Nixon came with us to Darang, our planned starting point for the hike up Mt. Sirung. The one-hour hike from Beang to Darang is beautiful albeit somewhat strenuous first thing in the morning. We later learned that there’s actually a direct path from Beang to Mt. Sirung. This avoids paying a permit fee and therefore Beang is a good choice and nobody will stop you to climb from Beang at anytime. Our guide Nixon knows the way. In Darang, we paid IDR100k (USD8) per person including an additional guide’s fee. The Village Head will tell you it is not OK to climb during the cashew nut flowering seasons, but after some negotiations and the aforementioned fees, everything was fine.

    The hike from Darang to the edge of the crater took close to 4 hours. I am sure it is possible to hike down to the crater, but this requires a very early start and would be best to do from Beang to save the two-hour roundtrip hike to Darang. It goes without saying that one must bring plenty of water and food.

    After all the hiking, fantastic water wells in Beang welcomed our tired bodies. The water has various temperatures, ranging from cold to hot. Bring a mini inflated pool with you to have a nice soak after the hike.

    We brought motorbikes to Pantar Island since it’s difficult to arrange to rent motorbike in Bakalang; Ojeks are available but then there is less freedom. A small truck is possible to hire, but would be a challenge to ride in.

    There is a daily ferry from Bakalang to Alor Kecil. The ferry arrives Alor Kecil around 8 AM, drops off passengers then continues its way to Kalabahi to pick up supplies then back to Alor Kecil to pick up passengers and departs around 11 AM.

    A video of our trip is on youtube: https://youtu.be/2H0TLzSdOrY

  4. Mt Delaki is listed as S 8° 31′ 59” E 124° 4′ 16” (https://goo.gl/maps/xvnrbwf13e92), which fits the 880m located 4km WSW of the highest peak of Sirung, according to GeoNames (http://www.geonames.org/advanced-search.html?q=delaki&country=ID&featureClass=T&continentCode=). Also, S 8° 33′ 1” E 124° 3′ 51” is “Tajung Delaki”, or Cape Delaki, the southwest tip of the island, just below that other peak.
    So I think Gunung Delaki is a different peak.
    That still leave the question of the correct name for the highest peak near the volcanic vent!

  5. Did this last week, a bit of a mixed bad really. Left from Baranusa, ojek to Mauta, where after meeking with headman they decided had to pay 100k for a “guide” and 100k to the village – non-negotiable.

    Ok start walking, about 1.5 hours in reach a clear split in trail where there is a rocky pass into the crater and another up to the rim. Here the guide demanded another 100k to go to either rim or crater. When I refused he started walking back!

    I caved and said ok, lets do the crater, go in and it is suitably impressive. When we come back out, he wants **another** 100k to hit rim and I tell him to forget it and we walk out.

    Is a relatively easy walk in and out, but very oridinary experience with the guide.

  6. Hi Dan,
    I wish I had known you were in Alor/Pantar in July. I was there too. It seems that the people of Kakamauta are overdoing things now – the idea that visiting the volcano will damage the cashew harvest. This may be due to the eruption of May 2012, although it was a small one. I last went up to the crater in August 2012 – via Beang and Darang. The mountain was still closed by order of the authorities. My guide was Pak Zabdi from Beang. He belongs to the tribe (suku) who owns the land, and he is an important person in his village. He said that no one would ever prevent him from setting foot on his own land and took me up to the crater (see photos and video). So I do recommend to take the route from Beang via Darang, or straight up from Beang (there is a path too), avoiding Kakamauta. Poor Feri Tai :)- I met him again in 2012 – he had come all the way to Koliabang to meet me.
    I recommend you go to Beang from Hirang Village on Alor. BTW, they have built a jetty now in Beang Bay. In Hirang you can enjoy the beautiful white sandy beach, Serani Beach. Check it all out on
    http://hirang.webs.com/apps/photos/
    Best,
    Walter
    PS: Dan, I hope you’ll come to Alor again next July/August. I’ll be there, and I’ll try my best to make up for the rather unsatisfying experience you had this year.

    • Hi Walter. Great to hear from you – I was a little worried you might have been sacrificed to the cashew gods! Next year would be great – I hope I can find the time for another NTT trip. Cheers for now, Dan.

  7. After coming down of Pura, we continued by boat towards Gunung Sirung on Pantar island. It took about 2 hours by slow boat to reach the tiny bay of Tamakh on the south coast. The trip, assuming your boatman does as ours did and hugs the coast the entire way, passes some lovely black rock formations and remote villages. Indeed, Pantar must be one of the most remote islands in Indonesia, with no proper roads, just dirt tracks, and clearly very little government money gets this far.

    Our arrival caused quite a commotion, with local chancers taking our bags and loading them onto motorbikes before we had even agreed to anything. Initially they wanted 75,000 for each ojek to Kakamauta, the village at the base of Sirung. Even given the recent fuel price increase, this is quite a sum for a one hour journey along a track. We managed to bargain them down to 65,000 each and off we went. The track leads steeply inland up the mountain and in places there are some lovely views of the Sirung mountain range.

    On our arrival in Kakamauta, we were surrounded by friendly but frazzled local chaps who had been chewing away on the betel nut all day. I mentioned climbing the mountain and looking for Feri Tai, the chap who had guided Walter up there the year before. Immediately they got very defensive and pointed to a nearby cashnew nut tree.

    “Our cashew nut harvest is not good, and if you climb this mountain, the harvest will fail and there will be many victims, not only in this village. We will not stop you, but there will be many victims”.

    Not exactly the sort of greeting we were hoping for. We decided to head to the house of the Kepala Desa to see if we could get any common sense out of anyone. Once again, a large crowd gathered, men asking for cigarettes, and nobody seemed to say anything of any sense. There was obviously a tension between the ancient belief of the link between climbing the volcano and having crop failure and the possibility of making some money by guiding us tourists up the mountain.

    As Walter wrote above, certain months of the year you are not allowed to descend into the crater, but it seems this has now been extended to climbing at all, regardless of whether you want to enter the crater itself. Perhaps there is a link between sulphur and poor harvests. But to warn people against climbing the volcano at all is really only going to have the effect of keeping Pantar in a medieval state with virtually zero tourist money coming in and an only precariously held state of basic morality.

    Given that there was no restaurant, shop and that we both hadn’t found a willing guide and had kind of caused a scene by even asking about the volcano led us to decide to abort and continue to the main port town/village of Baranusa, about 45 minutes and 20km away from Kakamauta. We asked the locals in Kakamauta about ojek prices to Baranusa, should we stay, and the first chancer suggested a whopping Rp200,000! Yes, this was the first part of the bargaining game but I find it offensive really. Take whatever you can, if the foreigners are stupid enough to pay it. No sense of ‘a fair price’.

    So we continued with our original ojek boys, who were being bullied a bit by the locals for not passing us on to them, and were glad to be out of there. Bad vibes. Who would want to be sacrificed to the gods of cashew nuts simply for climbing a volcano?

    Baranusa must be one of the tiniest port ‘towns’ in Indonesia. Luckily Homestay Burhan had basic rooms for Rp50,000. The public boat on to Wairiang on the east coast of Lembata leaves on Sunday (though these things change) so we had just missed it and without chartering our own vessel, we would be stuck waiting for another week!

    First things first, we had to pay the ojek boys for our journey. Nasty little swines they were, demanding Rp200,000 each and refusing to accept my very generous offer of Rp300,000 in total. But, as a foreigner in a very primitive place you have very few options. If we had agreed a price back in Kakamauta it would have been fine, but talk of 200,000 there and our lack of ability to clarify with our own ojek boys (as we were surrounded by villagers) meant we would have to discuss the final price in Baranusa itself.

    So, all this the same day as we climbed Pura. Not the best afternoon ever, in all honesty. Fascinating but ridiculous, especially as Sirung is supposed to be a brilliant volcano. Perhaps in another hundred years, the locals may start receiving some basic education, enough to help them realise that climbing a mountain and failure of cashew nut crops are not causally linked. Totally nuts!!!

    The electricity came on at 6pm and we got the helper at the homestay to go and find us some beers. Bizarre, microtonal synth strains began emanating from the nearby mosque and we had to watch our heads if we wanted to use the mandi, as there were a few wasps living in the doorway.

    After a coffee and a rice and noodles meal next door we fell asleep and dreamed of evil nut gods.

  8. News just in from Walter Denzel: “I’ve made it to the high-point of Mt. Delaki. An update for your page and photos will follow soon.”

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