With its distinctive “witches hat” pointy peak, Serelo Hill is one of Sumatra’s most iconic landmarks. On a clear day it’s visible from over 30km away, towering over the rice fields of the Lematang River plain and plantations carpeting the adjacent slopes.
Serelo Hill, or Bukit Jempol (Thumb Hill) as it’s popularly called by the locals, is located at Ulak Pandan village, Lahat regency about 74km’s (2 hours) from Pagar Alam city. Reaching the top of the pointy summit is impossible without specialist rock climbing equipment and according to locals, only a handful of experienced, hardcore rock climbers have managed it.
Many tourists satisfy themselves with taking photographs of the Serelo from the river flats as they explore the surrounding countryside but as daunting as the steep-sided peak may look, you can climb to the base of the summit cliffs relatively easily. In fact from the base of the hill, the return trek can be completed in 3-4 hours.
The most direct route to Serelo leads away from the sealed road from Ulak Pandan village around the base of the hill. It’s not signposted but any of the locals or your ojek driver will know exactly where to drop you. However, this route bypasses the traditional wooden bridge crossing of the Lematang River and the sublime panorama of Serelo looming over the river. Definitely not to be missed, especially for photographers, and worth the extra couple of kilometres.
To incorporate the bridge, set out from Ulak Pandan to the neighbouring village of Negeri Agung. Shortly after passing through Negeri Agung, you’ll reach the traditional bridge. After crossing over the river, look to the right for a narrow path heading alongside the river. Follow this trail through some fields, keeping straight on when you reach a 4 way junction and through some rubber plantations until you reach the sealed road referred to above. Turn left along the road for approximately 100m until it takes a sharp right hand bend. At this point, you should see a track away from the road heading up the shoulder of the mountain. From here, you should be able to follow your nose towards the Serelo peak as the trail is well used and therefore well defined. You’ll pass a couple of water sources, cross a small creek and encounter some steep sections, particularly as you climb higher on the mountain but it only takes around 1-1.5hrs to reach the base of the summit cliffs and great views back over the Lematang River valley and surrounding hills which make the effort well worthwhile.
Ulak Pandan village is accessed via Lahat, which can be reached by public bus or train from Palembang (5-6 hours) or public bus from Pagar Alam city (90 min). Public minibuses (angkot) operate between the Lahat terminal and Ulak Pandan village (20km) when full, which may or may not be convenient depending on what time you arrive in Lahat. Otherwise, you’ll need to grab an ojek or private van.
Lahat has decent tourist facilities including hotel style accommodation and restaurants. Ask your hotel to help you arrange transport and a guide for Serelo. If you have the gear, camping is permitted on and around Serelo Hill and the Lematang River, a popular option with student groups and weekend visitors. Most people camp around the foothills but there is a flat, grassy space for two or three small tents on the ridge between Serelo and adjacent Bukit Jempol just before final steep push to base of the summit cliffs. It’s quite exposed and a bit windy but the trade off is the twinkling night lights of Muara Enim and Tanjung Enim villages below and waking up to sunrise on the hill.