Saturday, 30 November 2013

Yogyakarta- Mount Merapi Adventures

Yogyakarta is not only a gateway to 2 huge UNESCO world heritage sites- Borobudur and Prambanan; it is also a gateway to the most active volcano in Indonesia- Mount Merapi. Mount Merapi literally means Mountain of Fire, and it certainly lives up to its name. Just recently in early November, Mount Merapi spewed volcanic ash which fell in nearby towns and caused flights to be re-routed. Galen and I were fortunate to visit this fiery mountain just a month earlier, and caught it in its peaceful state.

Foot of Mount Merapi

The driver that Tigalima Homestay arranged for us brought us to Mount Merapi in between Borobudur and Prambanan. This is a typical arrangement for a day tour and it was very manageable- we had ample time to explore and enjoy each location. The foot of Mount Merapi was strewed with rows and rows of shops offering bike and jeep rides up the mountain. You could ride up on your own, or employ a driver (highly advisable).

Walking up Mount Merapi

Shelters at Mount Merapi

We decided to take a walk up, as far as our legs could bring us. We figured that we did not want to go into the mountains, but to watch and admire it from afar. The walk started out fine- the sun was shining bright but the air was crisp and cooling. The weather was hardly synonymous to what one would stereotypically describe as 'Indonesian'. There were a few attap shelters at the side of the pavement- some looked like abandoned stalls, some looked like it was meant to be rest-stops for hikers like us (hah).

Clouds Playing at Mount Merapi

Lots of white, flurry clouds were companions to us and Mount Merapi that day- dancing and leaping around. Unlike me, who was almost dying at this point. The slopes were getting steeper and the air was getting thinner. Mount Merapi is seriously not for the unfit and untrained. If you are thinking of climbing it, like right to the top, you must train.

Stall at Mount Merapi

Can you imagine my happiness and relief when we saw this stall right after a steeeeep slope? It was like God sent/ prayers answered/ a miracle occured! There was a stall opened after all! Of course, hikers like us need rest and nourishment right?

Snack Stall at Mount Merapi

The stall was right next to a little attap hut that the stall owner and her family lived. She spoke minimal English but her smile and laughter was infectious. We were mainly communicating through hand signals, and every action that we did was greeted by her warm smile and hearty laugher. At that moment, I wondered why she and her family would remain in the vicinity of such a dangerous volcano. Their livelihood, and even lives could vanish without warning. But I guess it is something that we would never understand. And perhaps, she would be laughing at our foolishness if we were to ask. "Why not?" may be her answer, followed by that distinguishing laughter of hers.

Snacks at Mount Merapi

Cup Noodles at Mount Merapi

The best part of any mountain hiking/ climbing would be the cup of boiling hot noodles in your hands. We each had one cup, and we never experienced a joy simpler than this.

Mount Merapi Yogyakarta

The clouds cleared up as we started our walk down after the cup noodles at the attap stall. It is hard to imagine that such a beauty could also be dangerous. Sometimes, you live with something, because you have never thought otherwise.

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