Indonesia’s 30 day stay permission is causing some unusual time pressure for us. Almost three weeks are over and we are still on Sumatra. Distances are huge and we always made them by using public transport like the locals do. We never met any other tourists in long distance buses. Foreigners mainly use planes to safe time. Sometimes these bus rides have been exhausting but it was always the best way to get in touch with Indonesian way of life. We really don’t want to miss these experiences.
But now there’s not much time left and we are looking forward to see some parts of Java. That’s why we take a plane from Medan to Jakarta, where we plan to take a train along the scenic route to Yogyakarta, our next destination. It’s already late evening when we arrive at the Jakarta train station. All ticket counters are closed and no trains anymore. But there are still a lot of people around. After checking the time schedule and asking some locals we find out that all these people are waiting for the trains that departure the next morning. We also need to wait until the ticket counter opens at 5 AM. It’s gonna be a long night…We lay down in front of the nearby supermarket together with a lot of other people and even this quite uncomfortable surrounding doesn’t keep us from getting two to three hours of sleep. To be one of the first in line for a train ticket we put the alarm on 4:30 AM and are lucky to get seats for the 6:45 AM train. Enough time for coffee!
The train departs on time and we share our seats with a nice Indonesian guy, named Teguh Imam Subarka. Chatting with him and enjoying the incredible landscapes passing by makes the trip interesting and amusing. Unfortunately Teguh suddenly needs to get off the train because he got a message that his father has been brought to the hospital due to sickness. We feel very sorry for that and hope he’ll be fine.
In the afternoon we arrive at Yogyakarta train station and find a close by accommodation for the next three days. A bit smelly, but with nice balcony and view.
Java is famous for it’s cultural treasures and that’s also one reason, why we came here. Close to Yogyakarta are two of Indonesia’s most famous ancient temples, Prambanan and Borobudur. We start our sightseeing tour with Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple close to the city and easily accessible with local transport. It’s a complex area with a main temple and some smaller ones. Most people just visit the main one and the more far you get from this one the less people are around. Some parts of the temple area are under reconstruction but still there’s a lot to explore.
After a bit of rushing through Sumatra we decide to take it easy around Yogya (as the locals just call Yogyakarta) so there is not so much on the plan besides some preparation for New Zealand. After almost one year of travelling some of our outdoor gear is broken and fixing is not possible anymore, so we need to look for some alternatives. It takes some time to find shops and compare prizes again.
But than it’s time for sightseeing and some more adventure again. Before we start another volcano tour we visit Borobudur on the way. Borobudur is meant to be the world’s biggest Buddhist temple. 504 Buddha statues spread over nine platforms with uncountable Buddhist reliefs. We take the time to walk along every platform. Amazing work and magnificent atmosphere. Really impressive. We stay until the area is closed for this day before we start the real adventure ahead……climbing Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano!
Climbing Mount Merapi
The last eruption was 2010 and killed 10 people. We saw pictures of the corps in the internet and they made me a little nervous.
Our plan is simple but it turns out a little risky. We want to drive near the volcano in the evening, when it’s dark. Then we search a place to sleep outdoors, perhaps in our hammocks. At 1 AM we want to get up to start at climbing the mountain at 2 AM. This should be early enough to see the sunrise at 5:30 AM. Let’s see how it works out.
After the Buddhist temple we grasp our scooter and head to the next grocery. A little bit more food for the trek and a sweet snack are required. We enjoy a piece of cheese and some ice cream. Next stop is a soup shop at the road to the volcano. An incredible nice Indonesian couple is having some soup to and we get in contact. They’re lovely people. Her english is really good and he is making jokes in Indonesian. After a lot of chatting and laughing it’s time to move on.
It’s getting colder and colder the closer we get to Merapi. In combination with the slipstream we freeze a lot. Fortunately we have more cloths with us. To put them on we stop at a small temple. Hiding behind the building Helen and I are putting on everything we have. While Helen is busy I have a look into the temple. It’s kind of strange. There is a lot of black wax at a stair in the back and cigarettes looking like weed joints are laying beside it. Could be a good place to stay warm and dry for some hours, but it feels inappropritate.
So we continue searching for a sleeping place and pass a gate of a village. Helen spots notches below it. While having a closer look we discover an empty room in the upper floor. That’s perfect. We move in and make us as comfy as possible in on of the corners. A downloaded “Tagesschau” (German news show) is the last thing before we try to sleep. Believe it or not but we really fall asleep but not for long. Around one hour later someone knocks on the door. Who the … is that? I get up and open the door. Two young boys are standing in front of me and one asks me in broken English about what’s going on in here. After explaining the situation they don’t care anymore and I’m amused by that talk. They’ve just been curious, but not really annoyed. Later another guy shows up and the two are coming back to smoke a cigarette beside us. Finally they leave and we get another hour of sleep on the quite cold concrete floor.
The alarm wakes us at 1 AM. Our stuff is packed quick and we sit on the scooter again. My excitement increases minute by minute. We reach the starting point of the trek at 1:30 AM. Equipped with our head lamps we start the ascent around 2 AM in the dark night, stars above our heads.
The way is quite exhausting. It’s going up in a more or less straight line through a forest then bushes and finally open ground. First it’s muddy and slippy and then it gets rocky. Especially the last 100 meter altitude are the hardest. A thick layer of volcanic ashes with a very step slope makes every step hard. Helen becomes anxious that she can not make it but she stands the pace. And than we are there! At the summit of Mount Merapi. Yeah!
The view is stunning. OK, we missed the sunrise a bit and were are not alone but that’s not important. We made it and we enjoy the unreal atmosphere. On one side a sharp edge is going down into the crater. It’s hidden by thick steam coming from down below. You can here a loud noise. One guy takes a summit picture of us and I take some photos.
For the easy down we join the big guided group that was already there. Together with two German guys from Berlin we descent and have a great chat. They are impressed that we did the tour without a guide which saved us a lot money. We share our cake with them close to the weather station and move on alone. We arrive at the scooter exhausted, tired but happy.
My second breakfast is a delicious Soto Ayam (rice soup with chicken) in one of the villages on the way. The rest of the day is just for relaxing.
Next day we leave Yogyakarta towards Jakarta. Thank you Yogya for this amazing time!