Mount Rantemario, reaching an elevation of 3478 m, is the highest point in Latimojong mountain range in South Sulawesi, as well as the highest mountain of Sulawesi altogether. Due to its remoteness is sparsely visited by anybody, so it can be a great destination for one seeking profound wilderness.
One could possibly find a few tour operators to take care of the logistics of the trek in the cities of Makassar, Makale or Rantepao for a reasonable price, I reckon. However, as to have a guide is not mandatory, anybody adventurous enough could undertake the objective individually without any extraordinary experience required. The trail starts from a village so called Karangan, the nearest town being Baraka, and it’s very obvious, also well-signaled with ribbons, throughout its entire length. Starting in the early morning is perfectly plausible to make the return trip on the same day, though two days would be more reasonable.
The hardest part of the trip, I found, is not to actually climb the mountain itself but to reach the beginning of the trail. Myself, being in Rantepao, I gave quite some effort inquiring around for the best manner to get there, either by hiring a car to take me there directly or by public transport, and I found the first very expensive and the second perplexing and time-consuming if possible at all. After all, while contemplating, quite desperately, on how the hell I could get there and climb that mountain, a great idea struck me in a moment of sudden inspiration… I already had rented a Honda Innova 125 motorbike for 70000 IDR a day for exploring Tana Toraja, which I was supposed to return to its owner in a while, before leaving to the mountain, somehow, the next morning. And that was it! I was not going to return it but drive it the whole way to the mountain. I immediately called the guy, I made the arrangement and, after sleeping for a few hours, by sunrise of the next day I rode the Honda and off I rolled. That got proved to be both the fastest and cheapest solution, though a bit exhausting.
From Rantepao, you take the main road to Makassar for 60 km until the village of Kalosi and then head towards Baraka. If coming from the south, probably is best to exit the main road at Mataran, though I cannot take an oath on it. From Kalosi there is a multitude of little country roads going up and down the hills and the mountains all over the place. GPS cannot be given any serious credit. There are many roads, at times the better ones also, which are not seen on the map, yet many more seen on the map but may not be operable for any reason, as for example, it happened, when I had to make a 6 km long circumvention because of the villagers having set a big tent for a wedding ceremony right in the middle of the road occupying its entire width. The best thing one can do is ask the locals for directions frequently. Even if you speak zero Indonesian, and you have to do it only with gestures, it will work better than anything else. I learned that on the way back when the time of the whole trip got reduced by half. On my way to there, I got into many crazy adventures driving in the coarsest roads (if you can call them roads) one can possibly imagine, forcing that poor motorbike to perform the task of a goat, and finally, after about 7 hours, I had made it to Karangan.
By the time I reached there it was 1 pm. I was already quite exhausted from the long and toilsome off-road driving, but all that majestic beauty I witnessed on the way did compensate my fatigue abundantly. Karangan is a tiny little village right on the foot of Rantemario. The villagers were very happy to see me, as it must be very rarely they receive any foreign visitors, and they got amazed in the fact that I was going to climb the mountain all alone. They displayed me a shed where I could leave the bike and I started ascending. After a few minutes walking from the village, you reach the end of the road by the bank of a river. There is a bridge crossing the river and leading into a path along the northern slope of the ravine, you neglect that one and you rather head straight where you’ll find another path moving along the southern slope. That’s where the trail starts (S 3.41690 E 119.99023).
The first part of the trail runs up the hills through the coffee plantations of the villagers. I didn’t see any signs at that part but it’s pretty much one path only, except one point where you should pay some attention when another path comes sharply from up the left where you can see a shack in a few meters distance. There you should take that one instead of going straight. It takes about 30 min. to pos 1 (S3.41392 E119.99825). From there on you enter the rainforest and the trail is well-signaled all the way to the top. This part goes first up quite smoothly and descends into the ravine till, after another 30 min., it reaches the river, where pos 2 (S3.41014 E120.00708) is. By the time I reached there, it was about 3 pm and the rain had started to fall profusely, so I decided to spend the night there, as that is the last water source before pos 5.
After a sound sleep in the profound serenity of the wild jungle, I was up next morning by sunrise, and at 7 am I was setting off heading to the summit. From pos 2 to pos 3 is the hardest part of the trail, heading straight up very steeply and being slippery as a joke when wet. The next two parts continue to head up through the rainforest but in a much smoother inclination. In pos 5 (S3.40118 E120.01938) the next water source is to be found, and as it is quite spacious also, it can make an ideal camping ground, especially for larger groups. Further up the trail gets steeper and continues through the rainforest till pos 6 (S3.39957 E120.02333), from where the vegetation starts to give out gradually allowing you to get the first glimpses of the view of what you have been climbing up all this time, until it gets at its best upon reaching pos 7 (S3.39479 E120.02754). There is a small stream running there and makes a good possibility for a campsite. From there on the trail continues generally flat for some more minutes and there you are on the top!
Coming to trek this mountain, especially in a weekday, I wasn’t expecting to meet anybody. However, by reaching the top, to my great surprise, I encountered there a large party of local fellow hikers from Makassar. I was at the top by noon time exactly and I stayed for about an hour, conversing with my new friends, marveling at the breathtaking view and indulging in the feeling of knowing that at this very moment I am the highest situated person in the vast island of Sulawesi. I was quite lucky that afternoon as no rain coincided, so, having fairly dry ground to step on, I was back in pos 2 in less than 3 hours. There, to my yet greater surprise, I encountered another party from Palu camping for the night before heading up. The space there is very limited but somehow we managed to spare some, not only for my tent, but also for the Makassar party which arrived later, plus yet another small party from Jakarta which also arrived later on their way up. Quite a big company we got assembled there and we spent a very nice evening in the depth of the jungle. After eating, drinking coffee, laughing and a lot of practice in my Indonesian language skills, I was in my tent sleeping heavily, so to get prepared for the long drive which awaited me for the next day.