March 30. 7am.
Hello Jogja! After a 16 hour bus ride from Bali I finally arrived in the hip city of Jogjakarta. Here I plan to meet dad, who took a flight over from Lombok to meet me and spend some time together before heading back to Lombok. The next few paragraphs are a recount of what I got up to in the 4 days I spent on Java.
A short scooter ride downtown took us to Kraton, the district where the King lives and a place where we found several museums to explore. I ate in the King’s restaurant, saw his palace and toured the whole district, all in the front of a Becak.
That same night, I booked a spontaneous tour up Indonesia’s most active volcano, Gunung Merapi. Leaving at 10pm, I met the group that would join me on my tour. We made it to the base of the mountain before starting the hike at 1am. Let me give you some background information on the mountain we were climbing. This volcano has erupted every 4 years up until 2010, where one of its biggest eruptions blew out a 1/4 of its crater, took off 20m from its highest peak and flattened a village below it, also claiming 300 lives. It’s the most active volcano in Indonesia, and experts still don’t know when it’s next eruption will be.
With this in mind and a torch in hand, we started the climb through thick forest. I don’t think I’ve done something that exerted more physical energy from my body. It was exhausting. At points we were climbing nearly vertically over boulders and clinging on to roots and branches for balance. 3 hours in and we make it out of the dense forest. Up here there is no vegetation to shield the chilly wind and the ground was sand and gravel. We continued on for about an hour before our guides stopped us to asses the situation of the volcano. Because the mountain is so active and unpredictable, the guides carry radio seismographs to assess how safe it is to climb at any time. This particular morning, their readings were telling them the volcano was so active they shouldn’t let us summit. But it’s Indonesia and a little bit of pleading from our group persuaded them to let us to the top! We continued on with about 500m of incline to go. This part, however, was also the steepest and hardest. With nothing but sand beneath our feet, each step up only meant sliding down further than you make it up. But we pushed on, and an hour later we made it to the summit just as the sun was rising. And really, there are no words to describe the beauty up there. Smoke was billowing out of the crater in front of us and the sun was rising above the clouds behind us. In the distance, the silhouettes of 4 other volcanoes surrounding us could be seen. Seriously, nature is an amazing, powerful and wonderful thing, and we are so lucky to be able to witness these things for ourselves. Merapi, you had me speechless for a while. This was one amazing morning, and the 5.5 hour climb up was definitely worth every bit of energy and pain.
After spending about an hour at the summit, it was time to walk back down to reality. Or if I may, run!
After recovering from the volcano hike, dad, myself and some friends drove our scooters out of the city to Borobudur, the largest buddhist temple in the world. This landmark was once one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and it truly is a stunning place! Apart from the masses of tourists and locals wandering about the site (it was a Sunday), the temple itself was beautiful. Made from carved stones, the whole temple is a whopping 2,500 square meters in area. All carved and built by hand!
This day it was time to leave Jogja. It was an amazing experience, seeing a different part of Indonesia for the first time and experiencing a culture so unique to the rest of the country. Lombok, you’re next!