Monday, armed with long pants, I headed back to the same trail where I’d been with the Aussies on my first hike in the Harau Valley. The road ends at some shops under three beautiful waterfalls and the trail continues on up the canyon as it narrows and eventually ends.
This time, instead of taking the right-hand trail when it forks near the top, I chose left. I had a suspicion that this trail would connect with the other trail I’d been walking on for my solo hike. I wanted to make the connection and come back down to the valley floor by a different path than I’d come up. Remembering where the trail had become indistinct in the gambir fields, I wasn’t sure if I would recognize it coming from a different direction. If it got confusing, I planned to turn around and retrace my steps to get down.
The trail at the top was well worn. There were other trails branching off at several places, but it was never a question which was the main trail. For extra help, someone had been there before with some red paint. Occasionally a tree would be marked red, presumably to signal that this is the main trail. When other trails branched off, if the other trail was big they had painted a red ‘x’ on the wrong trail. Very convenient for navigating, but if you are considering this hike, don’t assume you’ll be so lucky.
With such nice trail markings, it only took an hour or so to reach a place I recognized from my previous hike. Instead of following it all the way to where I knew I would find the viewpoint benches and the red clay trail leading down, I decided to explore a smaller trail branching off the main one that also seemed to head down the mountain. It was steeper and led into a really wild canyon, with the limestone cliffs overhanging the stream in places. Lower down, the trail and the stream were one and the same, so I had to hop from rock to rock. But eventually, I came to another waterfall that I recognized. Here, the smaller trail joined back up with the one I’d gone up a few days previously.
I was already finished with the trail I’d chosen but still wanted more, so when I returned to Abdi I just kept walking. I passed the waterfall that’s just behind Abdi and followed the base of the cliff as it curved into the next valley over. This trail was very muddy, but I pushed through anyway and came to another canyon after walking just 15 minutes from Abdi. The trail leading into this canyon was not as nice as the one I’d taken earlier, but I suspected it might lead to the top. The set of cliffs nearest to Abdi leads to an upper plateau entirely unconnected to the one I’d been exploring in my previous hikes, and the explorer in me wanted to conquer this plateau as well.
There was a trail, but not much of one. It led over an exposed rock face where I had to use all fours, then up to another incredible spot where the towering limestone was overhanging the trail. This place was amazing – water from above was just trickling down, in a waterfall dispersed over 10 meters and falling directly on the trail. The water was so slight is was more like rain than a waterfall. I walked through the drizzle, but above the trail got even more difficult. It looked like there had been a small landslide here. The canyon got very narrow and I picked my way up, but eventually I was stuck. I could reach out on both sides and touch the walls, and above there was a tree root. I nearly turned around, but in the end I hoisted myself up by grabbing the tree root above my head and scrambling up the walls.
Above this toughest spot, it took me a while to find the upward trail again. I followed one laterally along the side of the slope hoping it would head up again at some point, but no luck. I backtracked, continued bushwhacking up just a bit longer, and did connect again with a small trail there.
Again, before long I was walking through an even more spectacular section where I had to hop from rock to rock in a small stream, where the water was drizzling down from above. This one was much longer, at least 50 meters. The rocks at the bottom were very clean and shiny from being drizzled on all the time, and looked very nice with some deep red colors and white quartz. I’m kicking myself now because I didn’t take any photos. At the time I didn’t want to because the camera would get wet, but I’m sure I could have found a solution.
Near the top the trail got very steep again but there were plenty of small trees I could use to pull myself up. I crested and emerged into a gambir field. Unfortunately, no great views at the top of this one.
It was getting close to dark so I didn’t have long, but I followed a trail along the top for 30 minutes or so through fields. This plateau was much more cultivated than the other, covered mostly with gambir fields interspersed with patches of jungle. I wanted to find a different way down as I’d done on previous walks, but I guess I can’t be so lucky on every attempt. I ran out of time before I found another trail down or even a nice view. I backtracked to get down before dark, managing to find an alternate route around the really hairy spot where I’d had to employ acrobatics on the way up.