Gunung Lawu (elevation: 3,265 m) otherwise known as Mount Lawu, is located on the border of East and Central Java, it is a mountain that I planned to hike. Even though I do like nature a lot, I have been told about mystical stuff on the mountain since I was a little child. Believe me when I say it did not make me want to climb Gunung Lawu. My uncles and cousins who really like hiking always came up with spooky stories about Gunung Lawu.

mountain climbing in Indonesia

Several days ago, Ghofar, a good friend of mine asked me to hike to Gunung Lawu. I did not reply immediately. There were two reasons for this. The spooky stories that have been planted in my brain were one issue. The second reason is my friend said they would be leaving at night. This meant I had only got (literary) 11 hours to prepare my stuff for the hike. I really don’t like to prepare things in a rush. It is not my cup of tea. I am not that kind traveller, especially when it involves climbing a mountain; this is very ‘ Nekad.’  Oh I can’t find a word that describes it better.

We wanted to climb the mountain so that we could get the best view of the Perseid meteor shower. Which, at the end, we did get a freaking beautiful show that was just unforgettable! This trip rewarded us with an amazing clear sunset, an indescribably pretty night sky (even though we needed to fight with the cold), and a super-mesmerizing sunrise. It was quite simply the best that nature could offer and I am really grateful for that. I digress, back to the journey.

gunung lawu java

We left to Tawangmangu (Karanganyar, Central Java) at 11pm from Yogyakarta. The journey took around 3,5 hours on a motorbike. We insisted on going there at night, not the next morning, because we wanted to stay overnight at the basecamp. We wanted to give our body a chance to acclimatize, which I think really important. We started hiking to Gunung Lawu from Cemoro Kandang basecamp, which is located in Central Java and we descended from the summit through Cemoro Sewu basecamp in East Java. Don’t get confused, the two basecamps are actually only separated by around 200 metres.

cemoro kandang gunung lawu track

We started our climb from Cemoro Kandang at 9.20 am. We walked slowly enjoying the scenery. Sometimes (very often actually) we stopped for a while to rest and adjust everything. Here is our breakdown:
– Cemoro Kandang to Station 1 (Taman Sari Bawah) 55 minutes walk
– Station 1 to Station 2 (Taman Sari Atas) 1-hour walk
– Station 2 to shadow station around 30 minutes walk
– Shadow station to Station 3 around 2 hours walk
– Station 3 to Station 4, oh we were taking ages from station 3 to station 4, because there are so many beautiful things along the way to look at. The scenery, the sunset, the sea on the sky and all the wild flowers, oh gosh I can’t really describe how beautiful it was.

Mbok Yem Gunung Lawu

At the end we arrived at Station 4, just after the sun had set. We needed to walk in the dark from station 4 to Mbok Yem’s place. Mbok Yem warung is a really special place in Gunung Lawu. Some hikers make a joke that Mbok Yem place is a resort on the top of the mountain. They are not being too much by saying this. A fireplace, a small ‘warung’, the ability to order a hot drink and eat some basic, but tasty food and a space to be able to sleep even if it was just a simple wooden house. All of these things could make this place a resort. Mbok Yem is an old lady that I believe can’t live without Gunung Lawu. I simply adore her.

From warung Mbok Yem to the summit takes only around 30 minutes and is an easy climb. The view from the summit is also amazing. You can see the lines of the mountains in Java. Gunung Merbabu, Merapi, Sundoro, Sumbing and Slamet. You could probably see Semeru as well from here.

climbing mountain indonesia

After enjoying sunrise and eating breakfast, we descended to Cemoro Sewu at 9.45 am. Along the way down we met a lot of local people, not hikers. These people had another reason to climb the mountain. It was not for the beautiful scenery. Why do I know that they weren’t hikers? It was because they all looked the same. They were male and middle-aged, wearing black clothing and mostly white shoes. They wore batik java scarves for headbands and only brought a bottle or two of water. Some of them brought unique things, like a pink suitcase. Yes, a pink suitcase. Oh, sometimes they would communicate with birds as well.

cemoro sewu lawu track

I realised that these people had come to Gunung Lawu on a pilgrimage. Even though they did not say this when we asked them. This is one of the spooky things that I totally forget about when I climbed Gunung Lawu. Thanks to the beautiful surrounding, I beat my fear! We arrived safely at Cemoro Sewu before 2 pm, safely, but with sore legs.

This ‘Nekad’ (please don’t read it as Naked :p ) adventurous travelling experience taught me one thing; being nekad is definitely not a crime. Being spontaneous means acting and living in the present. It means being responsible for your actions no matter what they may bring. Even though I was nekad enough to decide to hike a mountain with only 11 hours notice; I did my best to prepare for the trip. One piece of advice, if you are planning to climb Gunung Lawu, bring warm clothes. I ended up shaking all night because I only had a very thin sleeping bag.

places to visit in indonesia

‘Nekad’ is an Indonesian slang word that means something similar with daring or (somewhat) spontaneous in English. If you are interested in more  pictures visit Discover Your Indonesia’s facebook page.

Still need to book your hotel for Yogyakarta? Save yourself some time! Here’s a list of the best hotels near Malioboro for every budget.