Hey guys, going to put two posts close together this week due to such varied content of the posts – didn’t seem quite right to have them in the same post. We did a big trip out to Borobodour temple with Suresh, Ali and Jyoti (mates from Darwin), then after some deliberation decided to head up and have a look at Mount Merapi (Gunung Merapi).
Guning Merapi rises 2,968 metres above sea level and is located only 28 kilometres from Yogyakarta city; looming forbiddingly on the horizon and smoking from it’s top for most of the year (scary). It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and from October to mid-November 2010, Gunung Merapi underwent a series of serious eruptions, the largest in over 150 years – resulting in the immediate displacement of 350,000 people (yep, no typo) and the direct death of over 300 people. The villages and forest close to the summit were all but destroyed by a combination of pyroclastic flows, earthquakes, ash and plus lava. Horrific.
We went up to the (former) village of Kaliurang, 8 km from the peak, to see if we could get a good view of Guning Merapi. We got that. What I wasn’t expecting was to witness the evidence of such an amazingly powerful force of nature that completely annihilated such a large area. Houses were just foundations, what used to be forests are flattened sections of charred logs and the rivers are choked to a standstill with ash. Seeing such huge areas (hectares) of completed decimated landscape, with the knowledge that it was recent and fatal for so many, created an eeriness on the mountain. We looked around, but with a sense of uncomfortable awe; Guning Merapi still smoking behind us. People are already returning to their former homes, replanting trees and reconstructing their lives. A thriving tourism industry is running at the gateway of Kaliurang with people making the most of the increased traffic. People have been traumatised, but there is little option of re-settlement. While it was hard to believe people would even want to return, the Indonesian people are amazingly resilient and for some, life on the the edge of the most active volcano in the world is all they’ve ever known.
So, I’m glad I’ve been, but I doubt I’ll ever get that close again. I also pray that I never witness what happened up there.