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31 May 2011

The Arjunouts

AirAsia Social Media team

By AirAsia Social Media team

The Arjunouts ( L – R: top ) Daryl Ong Wen Jia, Jacquse Anak Sibut, Lim Choon Heng, Pipat Pluemyart, Nirat Suwannawichai, Mohamed Shaheed Bin Abdul Rahim, Narathon Boonpasook, Zeffri Azry Bin Nasir, Surendran, Muhammad Rasjidi Bin Abdullah.
(L – R: Middle) Shahrina Aman Shah, Yvonne Lady Diana John Brian Anthony, Adzhar Ibrahim.
(L – R: Bottom) Zaety Syaifa Ismail, Khairul Nizam Bin Mahyiden, Kanchana Jasaen, Lingeswarran A/L Veerasolan, Masino bin Gelong.

How does it feels to stuck at the peak of the mountain as high as 3,339(10,955 ft) meter above sea level for more than 6 hours due to thunderstorm and lightning, it felt terribly scary, strangely lonely and made you reflect on lots of things in your life.

Mt Arjuno is the second highest volcano in East Java after the famous Mount Semeru, with all rock material on summit, and one of difficult trek for Volcano adventure in east Java. On the 15th of April 2011, group of AirAsia Red Outdoor Club; or Arjunouts (name we called ourselves after we survived the ordeal in Arjuna), bravely embarking on an expedition to Mt Arjuna, Surabaya. Reaching Tambaksari village, we hike pass scenic Coffee plantation till we reach the First Post in Sepilar. Before we reached Sepilar, we were forced to take shelter at one of the Pondokan due to heavy rain. After the rain subsides, we continue to walk in the dark and slippery rocks to reach Sepilar. When we reach Sepilar, we were relief to know that it was a proper ‘pondok’ (shelter) by the side of an ancient shrine (where they made human sacrifice hundred of years ago) and ancient cemetery (which we discovered the next day). There were slight hiccups as the organizers have to find extra potter due to the volume of the backpack that they did not anticipate and they arrived fashionable late and all of the climbers were hungry and cold.

We woke up the next morning and were amazed by the beauty of the surrounding area and after simple briefing and breakfast we started our journey up the mountain. When the first ray of light touches the earth, all my doubts and worry vanished and I treasure every moment before it past.

We were told that the shrine was dated way back during Srivijaya era and it still look impressive over the time and survived many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It was one of the ancient relics that I am thankful to be able to see it before it vanish with time or destroyed by the Mother Nature.

The climb was steep and the dense bushes at the surrounding area make it more difficult. There were couple of times when the clouds engulfed us and when it passes us, we took a long deep breath, filling our lung with the fresh and sweet air.

Rasjidi was the first person that reached the top, followed by Lingeswaran and next was me and Jack, it was about 3:00pm and the cloud gathering momentum. Me and Jack managed to snapped few photos before we literally have to dive under the Flysheet as the thunder rolls in carry with it heavy rain and lightning. I have fear of lightning and to hear and to see it struck all over the rocks around us was beyond description. We were out of water, no food and sheltered with only the Flysheet while waiting for the next group to arrive. Our climbers team from Thailand arrived next and by then there were no more place for everyone under the sheets and they have to take shelter among the rocks. It was very cold and most of us not properly dressed as we know that we will be able to climb up fast and go down fast, we underestimate the temper of the mountain and paid heavy price. The temperature dropped very fast after the sunset and we were freezing cold, exposed to the elements.

Taking shelter under the flysheet with my climbing buddy; GD

Finally, when the next group arrived, it was already about 9:00pm, we were told to break the camp and move forward as we were being up too long. As we pack our staffs, the last group that arrived made their way thinking that we will be able to catch up with them. Unfortunately, one of the climbers; Shaheed shoes was torn and needed to change it with one of other climbers, Rasjidi. Me and couple of others tried to catch up but on the third hills (right at the ancient cemetery on the top of the mountain), we lost their track. To top it up, non of us are smokers, thus no one has lighter to build fire, and we were afraid that it will rain again. We tried so many ways to keep warm; including embraced each other for body warmth. We were praying for the last person; Khairul and the sweeper to find us. When they finally arrived, it was already midnight. The sweeper urged us to leave the place and we walk further to start fire. The warmth of the fire shots through my vein and refreshed with the bread and weak coffee, we were pressing ourselves to move forward.

Trail down under blanket of the night.

The trail was hard and it was endless, we walked and walked, climbed and slipped hours and hours under the blanket of darkness. I slipped couple of times due to the lose rocks and pricked by tree roots. The time we reached the base camp, it was already 6:00am. The moment I arrived, I gave instruction to the potter to prepare some food and drinks for the last group that yet to arrive. After quick breakfast and few gulps of water, I ran to find they last group along with Zeffry and Rasjidi. We met them half way and after they refresh themselves, we continue our way. I was so relief when I saw them safe and sound and to see them in a good spirit, especially Immy, I felt like bawling my eyes out. There were nothing in my mind for the entire journey down then the safety of team; it feels like a whole world has been lifted up from my shoulder.

After quick bath, simple lunch and rest, we break the camp at 12:20nn and start our journey back down to Tretes. The walking journey was supposed to be 7 hours. We split into two groups; one group taking a dangerous looking jeep and another one walking. Instead of walking, we decided to run all the way down, it was way easier than walking and less impact on our knee, but, as a result, we cant walk properly the time we reach the finishing point. The trail however terrible it was, filled with big lose rocks that throw you off balance and injured your ankle, the surrounding area scenery took our breath away. We managed to descend down in a record time of 3 hours plus.

Upon arrival, we stayed at Homestay and had our first real dinner and despite my hunger, I could not eat much. After dinner and freshen ourselves up, me, Lim Choon Heng and Rasjidi went to discover the town and found out that most of the shops were already close. But we manage to join the fun by drinking by the roadside (on the pedestrian walk) with the locals. When we arrived back at the homestay, me and couple others had a great massage and went to sleep right after.

I was rudely awaken by the bright sunlight at 5:00am and jumped up from my bed thinking that I woke up late when I am suppose to meet the rest at 7:00am for our waterfall trip and coax to go back to sleep by Immy. I didn’t know that the sunrise at 4:00am.

At 7:30am, 5 of us went to the waterfall and when we reach there, we were impressed by the height of the waterfall and proceed to play in the water. I had great time lolling by the hammock while others frocking in the water.

4th on the left, Sugi of Kupubuku foundation, the organizer for this trip.

After lunch, we made our move to SUB airport, leaving behind a story that each of us will never forget. The experience taught us many important lessons in life and above all, it created a meaningful bond among us. Your climbing buddy or your group buddies will definitely be your lifeline when you are out there, take this from me, chose them wisely because you can’t measure the temper of the mountain, but your climbing buddy will be the person that you can count with your life and make sure that you will do the same. At all times, keep your temper checked, no matter how hopeless or how hard the situation you are in, because everybody is feeling misery, so point of saying it out loud. That is one of the important things that I learnt from all my outdoor activities and I am glad that everyone managed to stay cool under the harsh condition. Bottom line: true to Allstars spirit.. we survived Arjuna because we “Believe the Unbelievable” and stay as ONE Family!