Halimun Salak National Park-Part 4

Exploring Forest at Citalahab

I went to my room as soon as I arrived at the homestay. Fully  fatigued, I fell asleep on the mattress right away. There was no sound of any machines or anything.  It was a complete silence all night long. Having lived in a place where the roars of vehicles were constantly heard, I had the best deep sleep ever in the year. 

I woke up a little bit when I heard Erik’s voice coming from the living room, “Let’s get up!” I reached my mobile phone that was lying on the floor. My drowsy eyes gazed at the time. It was 5 o’clock. Oh! “How I wanted to get back to sleep,” I murmured. I was wondering how Erik could be so energetic during the entire trip while I was not. 

The Spectacular Sunrise

In fifteen minutes, I was ready to go to welcome the sun. Looking half-asleep, Setyo came out of his room saying that he would skip the trip for sunrise. Then, he got back to bed. The three of us, Erik, Feri, and myself would greet the sun. “It is late now, so we’ll catch the sunrise at the nearest site, on the soccer field,” Feri said.  

The twilight before the sunrise in Halimun Salak National Park

The sky was a bit dark when our car arrived in a small residential area, about 10-minute drive from Citalahab homestay.  After parking the car, we walked  to a spacious soccer field whose green grasses were still wet from the morning dews. Wrapped in a jacket, I stood in the middle of the field and  I was intentionally  breathing in the pristine air. At the same time,  my eyes stared at the  surrounding serene, green, hilly landscape. It was really liberating.

“Come here!” Erik called me.  He and Feri were on the spot to see the sunrise. There, I witnessed a beautiful twilight, where the  color of the sky bit by bit transformed from grey to soft orange.  Amid the chilly air, we solemnly waited for the sun to rise behind the mountain.  I shot my camera lens toward the mountain peak as the sun was  slowly appearing. It was a spectacular moment to view the phase of the sun turning up from a crescent shape to a full shape. Seeing a live sunrise really made me speechless. When the sun was already above the summit, the sky was gradually becoming bright. The shift of color was extravagant. 

The bright sky after sunrise at Halimun Salak National Park

We were so fortunate to see the sunrise unblocked by the clouds. When the sun had already come out, I was a bit hesitant to leave the site. The mists still hung on the feet of the surrounding mountains. It was too good to be missed. Crossing the soccer field, I told the guys that I wanted to stay for some moments. I  took a seat on a bamboo bench, closing my eyes and joyfully sensing the morning sunlight touching my face.

The vibrant morning after the sunrise at Halimun Salak National Park

Witnessing the sunrise was really an incredible happening to start my last day in Citalahab of Halimun Salak National Park.  We went back to the homestay to have breakfast.  “After breakfast you will have a forest walk with Feri,” said Erik when we were in the car. 

The good breakfast at Citalahab homestay, Halimun Salak National Park

Forest Hiking

“Are we going to cross any river in the forest?  I asked Feri. “No,” I heard his reply.  I changed my trousers and put on my covered walking shoes. Erik didn’t join with us, he would pick us up at the Cikaniki Station.  Setyo and I marched behind Feri along the small Cikaniki River, crossed it over a bamboo bridge, then climbed up some steps.

The bamboo bridge over Cikaniki River at Citalahab, Halimun Salak National Park

When we arrived in an open space, we were taking a short break to observe the surroundings. Around us were tall green  trees and above us was a blue sky. We really had a fantastic atmosphere. I saw  a camping ground nearby. “We can provide the tents for the campers,” answered Feri when I asked about the tents. “Campers can also order food from us if they don’t want to cook,” he added.  

Camping ground in Citalahab, Halimun Salak National Park

We continued walking on an open field, and in the middle of  it, we noticed that there was a bamboo rack standing with many black poly bags on it.  We approached the rack and saw each poly bag had a blooming strawberry plant.  “These strawberries are for our consumption,” Feri said while pointing at matured red strawberries. The Citalahab villagers were lucky to have almost everything fresh for eating.  We left the rack and began to enter the forest trail of Citalahab.  Covered by leaves  litter, the trail was smooth  in the beginning.  I was smelling a nice aroma when we crossed a small kapulaga (cardamon) plantation.  The fragrance was still hovering in the air even after we left the plantation. As we stepped further, the path became challenging where dead trunks,  trees’ roots, and rocks hindered our way.  My decision to wear covered shoes was right.

Walking ahead of us, Feri moved the branches or cut the twigs to make our way. Several times I had to ask him to hold my hand when I needed to step a steep path.  Both Setyo and I didn’t bring walking sticks to hold us when we had to hop or climb a path.  Later, using his knife, Feri skillfully cut a slender tree branch, chopped it into two sticks, and then gave them to Setyo and me. “This tree will readily grow again soon,” he simply said.  Further, I could walk  using the tree branch as a stick  and I didn’t have to bother Feri again to hold my hand whenever I needed to climb.

Tropical vegetation in Citalahab forest of Halimun-Salak National Park

Now in his mid twenties, Feri told us that he has started to participate in the forest walk  with his seniors since he was 16 years old. From  them he learnt about the forest trails and its vegetation. Later on, he also had the chance to join with the military cadets who were trained in the middle of the Citalahab forest. Out of the training, he could identify the local trees’ names and their benefits. “I don’t bring any drinking water when I hike in the forest,” he uttered when we were passing water springs coming from the ground. “I can drink from this water spring,” he said calmly while taking the water with his hand and drinking it. 

“This track is at an easy level,” Feri, who had reached the forest top of Citalahab, continued.  “With our tempo, it will take about one hour to reach our destination.” I believed him.  Despite being an easy track, I was really challenged with the three-kilometer trail. At times, I needed some efforts  when I had to walk downward crossing slippery rocks. Walking on such a section, I had to focus and balance myself. It was my first outdoor forest walk after staying at home for 18 months  because of the pandemic. 

Along the trail, we only heard the sounds of nature  such as the songs of birds an,d insects, echoes of mammals’ sounds, and the slosh of the water streams.  As we entered the inner forest, we came across many giant trees, like the rasamala trees, various hardwood trees and forest ferns. It was enthralling to witness the trees grown just the way they had to. “Here we can find the wild boar, owa Jawa (primate), and leopard,” Feri told us when we were walking under the canopied track. I was a bit alarmed when he was saying that.

Inside the forest by Citalahab, Halimun-Salak National Park

While we walked along the path, Feri was explaining to us about some vegetation such as kimokla–a tree whose trunk released red sap when it was cut and a type of begonia whose stalk could  be eaten. Often we stopped to observe the trees, the plants, or the mushrooms while we were listening to his explanation. He could identify the type of poisonous or nonpoisonous  mushroom. Setyo and I didn’t  just  have a forest walk but also a learning session about the forest vegetation. 

Many mushrooms found in the Citalahab forest, Halimun Salak National Park

Through our way, we didn’t meet any other groups. We noticed some outworn poles that had been built by groups of researchers in the past, some poles were as old as 25 years. In the middle of our track, we made a stop for a few minutes. My shirt was damp because of sweating. It was quite a tiring trail.   I looked up at the sky, but my sight was covered by the branches of trees.  What would happen to me if I walked in this forest unguided, definitely I would be completely lost–I imagined.

“Look! That’s owa.” I suddenly heard Feri exclaim. He was pointing his finger to a tree branch in the distance. We were only able to see its shadow because it was far away. Hoping it could move a bit closer to us, we attentively watched the black object moving on the tree.   Although we failed to see the owas clearly, we were sure that they lived undisturbed in their habitat . 

Proceeding to march along the trail, we actually crossed water streams. The constant flowing water had shaped the rocks’ formation. My shoes could not escape the running waters that eventually made them wet.  The water was crystal clear and I was tempted to dip my feet on it.

“Cikaniki Station is only hundred meters ahead,” said Feri.  We kept walking and, at last, reached the Canopy Trail of Cikaniki Station.    I stopped by to take a photo in the small monument of Canopy Trail Cikaniki, to commemorate the cooperation between Indonesia and Japan on biodiversity conservation projects. We passed the site where we saw the glowing mushroom last night.

To be continued

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