The news of the ‘fresh’ lava flow into the innards of the Mt.Merapi filled us with trepidation.To us, this news was alarming,but was just a piece of information to locals. I guess living on the ‘Pacific ring of fire’ makes you ready to face anything. We were informed that the volcano goes thru cycles and this is merely the start of the next. There was no reason for worry and it would be ‘business as usual’. On hearing this, we gave an emphatic ‘GO’ to the plan.
As we waited for our transport to arrive, we met an elderly French couple and a German who had climed Mt.Merapi, the day before and gave us some useful tips. Finally our ride arrived and were accompanied by a Dutchman and a few Malaysians for our trek.The drive from Yogyakarta to the ‘base camp’ took about two hours and towards the end, the roads became narrow and curvaceous. We expected to see Mt.Merapi, but were surrounded by pitch darkness and fog. Finally we arrived at the ‘guest house’ and were offered hot Jasmine tea (best I ever had till date), while we waited for the guides to arrive.
We rented flashlights there and then set off for the next stop at ‘New Selo base camp’. There was a tar road from the guest house to the base camp and Was the steepest incline I had ever encountered for a tar road. And this was only the beginning of the things to come.
We had set out from the base camp at about 1:00 AM and reached the ‘New Selo base camp’ in about 45 minutes.Here there were a lot of two wheelers parked and a number of people sleeping .It is advisable to start the climb from here as it will be an easier option . Here too the visibility was limited to a few feet and it was pitch dark and foggy.The flashlight when switched on, gives the feel of a Jedi sword (incidently the Malay girls with us were nicknamed C-3PO and R2-D2).
The climb is quite taxing and requires certain level of fitness.Also jacket and ear covers are advised as it is cold at night. Since a lot of people have climbed Mt.Merapi over the years the path is like a well-worn jungle trail except that the incline makes it a little difficult.The last climb to the summit (after the memorial plaque) is a very steep scramble over loose and broken rocks. Taking on the final summit is not advisable for the average Joe/Jane.Though a night climb may be devoid of some scenic views, it would be preferable as the day sun is pretty hot.
Scrambling and balancing, we finally made it to the top (not the summit) and waited for the sunrise. The diffracted light from the rising sun casts a magic spell and yes, the sight is well worth the effort put in to climb the mountain. After spending some time at the top, we returned to the guest house for breakfast and were then ferried back to Yogyakarta.
It was only while returning we could see the whole of Mt.Merapi. The view of the terraced fields with Mt.Merapi in the background is mesmerizing. There are may farms and fields dotting the road from New Selo to Yogyakarta (writing the city name has become a hassle for me as I subconsciously slip into the local name: Jogjakarta). The locals live under the shadow of the volcano and still are happy about living there.This forced me to see my life under perspective and the result was quite humbling.
Returning back to the guest house in Jogja, we rested for a while and then explored the area around the guest house. The walls around were full of great looking graffiti and I regretted not taking my camera along. In the afternoon, I got chatting with another guest who said he just got here after a trip to Mt. Bromo and Ijen crater and that these were truly awesome to visit. He then went on to detail the experience about the place.
At dusk, we bid goodbye to our hosts and left for the airport after thanking them for the hospitality extended.
We had a stopover at Jakarta and had to spend the night at the airport.This was my second airport sleepover and was definitely better than the first. Reclining on a chair at the airport, I read about Bromo and Ijen.These are truly wonderful places and I felt my travel plan could have been better with them.
At the airport shops, I discovered that Java was the place for exceptional coffee especially Kopi Luwak ( I suggest you google the manufacturing process for this!! ). I ended up buying a packet and this was the most I ever paid for coffee I my short lifespan. I haven’t tried it yet to comment on the taste.
The night past and it was time for the flight back. Three days has passed since we left. We had seen a new country ,met a lot of people , spent a few million (IDR ,of course) and got a few mesmerizing experiences. The only glitch, it was Monday morning !!