The Story of Desa Kersik Tuo of Mount Kerinci
Written by Gita Natalia
In August 2019, a friend and I decided to tackle the highest volcano in Indonesia, Mount Kerinci. Located just at the border of West Sumatra and Jambi province, the top of Mount Kerinci soars at the height of 3,805 meters above sea level. We decided to begin the journey from Desa Kersik Tuo, which is the most popular starting point for anyone who wants to climb this mountain. Opting for the cheapest option available, we stayed at a local homestay with very basic facilities (that includes a squat toilet) run by a local family. As Indonesian, I can notice some difference in local dialects, even when they are talking in Bahasa Indonesia. I came to a surprise to understand that all people who live in Desa Kersik Tuo speak in Javanese dialect even though they live far away from Java Island. In fact, most of them have never been to Java at all. I rested on a bed covered in a pink floral sheet, with a head full of curiosity about this unique cultural phenomenon.
We woke up the next day in the morning, got ourselves geared up for the climb and enjoyed the typical Indonesian breakfast provided by our host family. Nasi Goreng topped with a sunny side up egg and also sambal and prawn crackers to complement. Moreover, a local Sumatran Coffee also fueled our body to get ready for the 6 hours trek to shelter 3 of Mount Kerinci where we are going to camp for the night. We began the journey by being ‘loaded’ at the back of a pickup truck for a 10-minute ride through the lush tea plantation to the starting point of our climb. “Welcome to the entrance point!” is probably the only English phrase our guide has ever said during our 2-day climb. It turns out the majority of guides in the Kerinci area don’t know how to speak English. "The ones that do know mostly don’t have enough physical strength for the climb," he said.
Back to my curiosity the night before, I asked our guide in Bahasa Indonesia why people in Desa Kersik Tuo speak Javanese. Apparently, Desa Kersik Tuo is famous for being one of the best tea plantations in Indonesia. The beginning of tea plantation in Indonesia started in Java Island by the Dutch. After seeing a successful result, the Dutch started to expand their tea plantation to Sumatra to increase production. Desa Kersik Tuo is one of them. However, they realized that locals in Sumatra didn’t have the skill yet to produce the best tea so they brought people from Java to work at the tea plantation in Desa Kersik Tuo. They have been living there for generations until this date. Even though the majority of them have never been to Java, the strong community preserves the authenticity of Javanese Culture in the village.
As we passed shelter 1 and 2, the climb started to get steeper and tougher through the thick lush rainforest. Although losing half of my breath, I asked our guide if there is any local tribe or people who live in the area other than the Javanese. Apparently, the people of Desa Kersik Tuo also know how to speak the local language of Kerinci to maintain a good relationship with the native people of the area who are called the Kerinci Tribe. The Kerinci people have been living there way before the Dutch colonialism. He described the locals to be less welcoming to visitors, especially when visitors go outside the Desa Kersik Tuo towards the Seven Mountains Lake. He said often the locals stop him and his friends while driving guests to Seven Mountains Lake and ask for money. I haven’t met any of them in person but I still believe in the good in people until I experienced the opposite.
The last bit of the climb to shelter 3 is the most challenging part of the day. Nevertheless, 6 hours felt so fast that we finally reached our camping spot in shelter 3. I was so proud to be one of the earliest people on that day to reach shelter 3 despite the fact that I did not have any previous mountain climbing experience. A friend and I sat on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the endless clouds of Sumatra. I thought to myself “So this is how it feels to be on top of the world!” Well, sort of. Tomorrow is another day to a higher place. I prepared myself for the 3 AM summit attack by resting (re: laying down) as much as I could while soaking my eyes with the beauty beyond measure.