In front of me lies a 70 degree climb, almost vertical. An old fix rope laid from above to help hikers climb up and down. There are few knots on the rope, either because the rope being too short when it first laid out, or the rope broke at one point in time and reconnected.
I’m anxiously waiting for my turn to climb. “Maximum 3 person”, was written on a wood board at the bottom of the climb. There are 3 people already on the climb, each of the, huffing and puffing to pull them up the hill.
“This is not so bad”, I said to myself when I reached the top of the climb. I catch up my breath and look to our guide, asking “Where is next?” He smiled, look and point to another fix rope next to him. “This way. There are 3 climbs to the top of Pasumpahan Island”
Pasumpahan Island lies at Teluk Bungus, where the main port of West Sumatra lies. During the road trip from Padang, we can see those big cargo ships scattered near the port waiting for their turn to dock.
Pasumpahan Island is not the only island in Teluk Bungus. It neighbors the more famous Sikuai Island and Pagang Island, where you can play some water sport. Both island can be easily seen as we sail to Pasumpahan Island.
The easiest way to get to Pasumpahan Island is to book one day tour. The tour usually include boat, snorkeling gear, lunch, coffee and tea. It can also be combined with a visit to nearby Sikuai or Pagang island. They leave early in the morning and will drop you back to the main land before sunset.
We were, however, a bit behind schedule that day. Loading 70 people into 3 boats was not easy task. Due to low tide, we need to use smaller boat to transfer to larger one that moored further to the sea. And the high sun didn’t help those who already on the big boat, waiting. Or maybe we should be grateful that it wasn’t raining. At least, all the bored ugly faces turned to happy smiling face once we set sail. The breeze of the sea and smell of the ocean was a good cure for boredom.
In fact, the trip to Pasumpahan island was far from boring. Some of us was busy taking selfies against the background of the islands and blue sky. Others asked me to take group picture. Few people sitting in the bow, taking picture of the scenery: calm water towered by green hills. Despite look calm, the ocean still hide a lethal power, as seen from white bubbles that formed when the surf hit a rock.
The hill of Pasumpahan island soon become visible on the horizon. It gets more intimidating as we sail closer, daring us to climb to the top. But when we get close enough to the shore, our attention turned to the postcard perfect Pasumpahan beach.
Coconut trees lined up on top of white sands of Pasumpahan beach. The hue of the ocean turn from dark blue to light blue. The ocean floor got shallower as we approach the coast. Coral fish visibly swim through the pristine water and hard corals, welcoming us to Pasumpahan island.
Once we set foot on the sands, I noticed that there aren’t really much building on Pasumpahan island. Right on the shore is a big dead tree branch. Several board hanging from the branch. Written on the board is various welcome message and quote about island life. Behind the big dead branch is few gazebo that we use to put our stuff. And behind the gazebo is the main reception building. There are no room. The only accommodation if you decided to spend the night here is to camp, just as like many people do when we were there.
We don’t waste much time at the shore. After taking group picture, we head directly to the climb. The sun is high when I complete the 2nd climb. At this stage, many people start to sit down to catch their breath, sitting under the shade of large trees. There are only 1 more climb that separate me from the peak of Pasumpahan island.
I decided to climb and grind my teeth instead of resting. At the final push, the steep hill in front unfold to reveal the most spectacular scenery of Teluk Bungus.
Island and mountain lined up as far as the eye can see. Each island is capped by trees, which seems like green helmet.. Some island have white sand beach at the shore. Others have rock wall boldly stand facing the ocean. The dark blue ocean turned lighter as it approach the sandy shore. But against the rock wall, it trashed violently, creating white foam. The wall stands, but the ocean simply keep smashing, knowing that one day the wall will fall.
Around 100 meters from the peak, traversing small rocky path infested by bushes, there are lower peak that directly fall into a cliff. From this peak, our boat is no more that white spot on the shore. Our friends who didn’t climb moved around like ants on the sands. In the distance a boat sailed, leaving behind a white trails that soon disappear. An Indonesian flag perched to mark the peak of Pasumpahan island.
When the weather started getting hotter, and more people crowd the peak, I decided to climb down. Standing on top of the first rope, I remembered one quote from Everest climber: Going up is only half of the journey. Sure that Pasumpahan peak is not Everest. But the task ahead to climb down does seem daunting.
Finished with the first rope, I heard someone asking for water. She didn’t look well, but coherent nevertheless. I passed her my water bottle, trusting that I will be at the bottom soon. Just before the second rope, another signboard with these words written on it: Be careful! No hospital nearby.
The situation get more tense when we were held for over 30 minutes at the third and final rope. Remember the limit of 3 people? Without spare water, the longer I stayed on the hill, the bigger the risk of dehydration.
Fortunately one of the local guide notice that we are moving too slow. He hopped around the cliff, without the need of any rope, and perched himself on a rock. He then held the rope to help stabilize it. And the traffic started to improve significantly.
While sitting at the beach with cold drink later that day, I was thinking of how beautiful it is so watch the sunrise above the hill. This will be a feat that can only be achieved if we camp he night before. Well, maybe someday once I get pass my reluctance toward camping.