Thursday, July 14, 2011

Volcano Etiquette

“A ghost led the American off the path,” says Ningot. “He was lost on Semeru volcano for days before we found him.” Ningot is a mountain guide, search-and-rescue worker, and cauliflower farmer based in the village of Ranu Pani, East Java.
We’re descending the 3,676m Gunung Semeru, through woodland and savannah, and later through fields of spring onions. It’s quiet: there’s little apparent wildlife. Dripping-tongue dogs weave between the legs of the hikers, tails high.

“They’re hunting dogs,” says Ningot. “Hunters are not allowed to use weapons here, but they can use dogs and traps.” The men are after wild boar and deer. One of the hunters has a small tree with white flowers poking through the top of his rucksack, perhaps Javanese edelweiss. “There are still panthers here, far to the east,” adds Ningot.
“What happened to the American?”
“He was travelling in a group, but grew tired at the summit and lagged behind. Eventually he was alone. He heard a voice and followed it. But it was a ghost, calling him off the path.”

There are several memorial stones at the Arcopodo campsite and summit of Semeru, noting the names and ages of hikers who have died or never returned.
“Another person got lost because they were sombong (arrogant).”
“How can we avoid being sombong?”
“Don’t talk about the height of the volcano and boast that you can climb it, or say that it is easy to climb. Don’t use dirty words.”
Ningot has climbed Semeru over 125 times. “The sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months are best for climbing. By November there will be rain and the volcano will be closed until May.”
Guides and porters for Semeru can be arranged from the Family Homestay in Ranu Pani. 


  1. Interesting piece. That's a common etiquette you may find anywhere in Indonesia should you heading for a mountain hike.