The Jakarta Post
More than 15,000 hikers swamped Mount Bawakaraeng in Gowa regency, South Sulawesi to celebrate Independence Day on Monday, the most visitors ever recorded on the mountain.
With no restriction on visitor numbers, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the number of hikers who celebrated this year’s Independence Day on Mt. Bawakaraeng almost tripled from the previous year.
"We expected fewer hikers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number of hikers increased almost threefold, instead," Mustari, the head of the Makassar Search and Rescue Office told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
He said that usually up to 6,000 hikers visited the mountain on Aug. 17 to celebrate Independence Day. However, the office recorded 15,228 hikers passing the main Lembana trekking route.
“We did not even record hikers who used different routes," he added.
Mustari explained that the agency had limited the number of hikers allowed to stay at the mountain top to 5,900 people, despite the peak only being able to accommodate fewer than 5,000 people.
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Another 6,200 hikers, he said, stayed in Lembanna pine forest located at the foot of the mountain and the remaining 3,000 stayed in Ramma Valley.
The agency had deployed 200 personnel to the mountain, he said, adding that it was not sufficient to secure such a large number of hikers, especially since a lot of them were beginners.
Amid the flock of visitors, a 16-year-old hiker named Wawan Kurniawan, a student from Bulukumba regency, died in the early hours of Monday due to hypothermia.
Mustari expressed hope that the number of visitors to the mountain could be limited in the future.
Gowa regent Adnan Purichta Ichsan Yasin Limpo admitted that he did not limit the number of visitors to Mt. Bawakaraeng because it had been a long-standing tradition for hikers in the area to conduct flag-hoisting ceremonies to celebrate Independence Day on the mountaintop.
"Every year a lot of people hike Mt. Bawakaraeng to celebrate Independence Day. It's their tradition so we did not limit the number of hikers. However, they are required to follow health protocols such as wearing a mask and bringing hand sanitizer," Adnan said. (nal)