The call to prayer awakens me at 5:30 a.m. When I get up, there is no running water. Well, whatever….

Today we hike Lokon as far as the new crater on the flank, Tompaluan. The summit is not easily accessible, we are told, because the trail is choked with eelalong grass, which requires a machete to get through it.

We walk to the main road and take a mikrolet (mini-bus) a few kilometers to the trailhead, which is actually a mining road. Lapilli is being mined in several pits at the base of Lokon. Trucks are lumbering in and out, and we get our first taste of Lokon sediment from the dust they are kicking up.

Lava trail
Lava trail

We leave the road to follow a lava flow “up river.” The lava is nearly translucent and has white plagioclase phenocrysts, reminiscent of snowflake obsidian. It’s been polished by water and sculpted into flutes and potholes. We meet a family of hikers that said they turned back when they came to a waterfall requiring “big steps,” which were beyond their reach. But Donald claims to know the workarounds.

These turn out to be portages around several waterfalls, which are now dry, of course. No big steps are required when you know the way.

We meet three Indonesian hikers coming down from the mountain with full backpacks. They had climbed to the summit and stayed overnight on the mountain. They carried machetes. Their footwear: thongs. I am astounded. But Donald explains: “Of course. Hiking boots like we have are very expensive.”

Thirty-porter bomb
Thirty-porter bomb

In the streambed, we find some nice breadcrust bombs, which are blobs of lava that have cooled and cracked on the surface, like a loaf of bread. Although volcanic bombs take many shapes, these are often nearly round. “Like goliath helmets,” Donald surmises. One particularly large bomb is split open and its center is a glassy froth that looks like Styrofoam. Tom gets quite excited and takes lots of photos.

“It’s the best I’ve ever seen!” He exclaims.

We speculate about how many porters it would take to carry a fine bomb specimen down the mountain for Tom and rate the bombs accordingly: “a 5-porter bomb, a 50-porter bomb”, etc. The frothy bomb is at least a 30-porter bomb.

The pumice in the streambed is dark gray and rather dense and has a hollow clinkery sound. Donald and I tap out some pumice “rock” music and get a good syncopated beat going. Maybe we could apply for a gig at the “basso nova” restaurant.

Tompaluan the pits
Tompaluan the pits

We follow the lava flow up to the rim of the new crater. A thin flour-like crust of water-washed ash coats the ground and ice-chest sized blocks litter the surface. As we approach the edge of the crater, the gash opens before us like a window into hell. One can only exclaim with reverence, “Holy shit!” Donald feigns a flying leap: “Hasta la vista baby!” And the Terminator is now governor of California, they marvel.

The deep yellow pit is fringed with black and white fumaroles. The walls expose multiple pyroclastic flows, which follow an older surface.

We walk around the rim of crater and then over to a grass-covered knoll. There’s a view to northwest out towards where the coast should be, but it’s all very hazy, so we head back down the mountain.

On the way down, Donald gets a call on his cell phone. He hands it to me, “It’s my Mom, say something.”

“Hi Mom, how are you doing?” I say. They must find it hard to believe that there’s an American girl out here climbing volcanoes.

We continue down the flow and imagine sliding with the water in the wet season. It must be spectacular when the stream is full and the waterfalls are tumbling.

Hand-quarrying Lokon
Hand-quarrying Lokon

Back at the quarry, we stop to talk with some of the miners, who are splitting chunks of lava by hand. They are working barefoot in the scoria. Doni finds out that they get 50,000 Rp per truckload, and can do maybe two truckloads a day, making the equivalent of about $10.00. It’s apparently a living wage.

We examine a pit that is not being actively mined. The quarry wall exposes a lens-shaped lava flow sandwiched by layers of lapilli. A bed of scoria lies at the base and evidently formed proximal to an eruption.

We start walking out the dusty mining road, but it is a bit tedious after the climb. Donald flags down an ore truck and we pile into the cab. Three people are crammed into the one-and-a-half seats next to the driver. I can’t imagine doing something like this in the highly regulated mines of the U.S.

The driver drops us off on the main road, where we catch a mikrolet to the restaurant with “basso nova” music. We order brown and yellow fish again, and water spinach and cucumbers for me, along with Cokes to wash down the volcanic ash. The music starts, loud enough to steal the conversation. This time it’s the Beatles, good dance music. Even the rather stoic-looking university group at the next table is swaying to the beat. One of three policemen gets up and sings karaoke. It’s only mid-afternoon. I wonder what this place is like in the evening.

Lokon as neighbor
Lokon as neighbor

We catch a mikrolet back to the hotel and are tired enough to pay an extra 2000 Rp to be driven up the steep rutted road to the hotel entrance. The music in the van is loud and thumping, a continuation of the restaurant experience. The sun is just setting over Lokon in hazy pink clouds, with palms rising above the village in the foreground. The volcano seems so benign.

“Living with volcano – it’s just life to us,” says Doni.

After a late lunch, I have no need for dinner beyond a snack of peanuts, fresh pineapple, and tea. Both the power and water are on, so I shower and do laundry. My clothes are almost dry from yesterday.

Insects have been surprisingly sparse, but I light the mosquito vapor lamp, which if not effective on mosquitoes, at least anesthetizes their prey, and turn in early for a good night’s sleep.

Although Doni didn’t accompany us on the hike up Lokon, I rate it as “Super way-cool to-the-max bagus, for sure”!