Volcanic eruptions in Java

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May 25th 2000
Published: March 17th 2007
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Borobudur temple, JavaBorobudur temple, JavaBorobudur temple, Java

One of the seven wonders of the world.
There's so much more to experience on the Indonesian archipelago than just paying a visit to Bali. Australia's nearest neighbour to the north is home to 220 million people, and the world's largest archipelago has 1700 islands which span more than 5000 kilometres. Mind you, no visit to Indonesia is complete without stopping off in Bali, a beautiful island that holds a special place in my heart. When the flight arrived from Sydney I checked into the same Kuta hotel as previously, and enjoyed a few days relaxing with the smiling Balinese before setting off to explore Java and Sumatra. So then, it was time to embark on exciting new travel adventures... starting with a taxi ride to Denpasar and the bus terminal. I organised a bus ticket to Java and once again I was on the road and exploring new horizons, which is just the way I like it!

From the first bus trip, dear reader, I realised that seeing Indonesia would involve some tough travelling, because the huge population relies mainly on the bus network and space is always at a premium. The bus soon arrived in Gilimauk on the coast of Bali, from where it is only a one mile ferry trip across the Bali Strait to Ketapang in Java. Indonesia is a muslim country so it was a real change of scene, as the Balinese practice buddhism. I then headed on to Surabaya, the second largest city in Java with a population of three million and a hub of commerce. There is not so much to keep tourists entertained so I caught a further ride to the beautiful city of Yogyakarta, and met a German girl on the bus who became my travelling companion. We checked into a nice losmen (hostel) in the heart of the backpackers area which feels similar to being in a French quarter, and things were on the up and up.

Jogja is a great town and has a relaxed rhythm that quickly wins you over. There's heaps to see and do with the town as a base, and here are some of the many highlights. We visited Borobudur and Prambanan which are world famous temples not far from town. Borobudur is known as one of the seven wonders of the world, and the dome like structures are really spectacular. Prambanan is on a much smaller scale, but it's still worth
Mount Bromo craterMount Bromo craterMount Bromo crater

The lunar landscape is incredible on this active volcano.
paying a visit to this bizarre hindu temple. Then there are the activities for the more adventurous, the first of which was climbing Mount Bromo which is just out of town. The sulphur and steam from the constantly billowing volcano get a bit much after a while, but we had a great day exploring in this lunar-like landscape.

We then organised an exciting adventure through the hostel, and it proved to be a travel experience I'll never forget. We hired a guide for a midnight climb of Mount Merapi, a 3000 metre active volcano with a plan to see in the dawn on the summit. The climb was tough going and our party included a newlywed French couple, who were hopelessly unprepared for the climb due to a lack of warm clothing. When we got to altitude there was a near mutiny in our party when the hubbie refused to go on because his wife was suffering from the cold, he insisted they were going back down. The guide said no, as they would surely lose the trail and get lost and could not descend alone. Mon dieu... it seems a Mexican standoff was brewing until I gave her
Mt Merapi summit , SunriseMt Merapi summit , SunriseMt Merapi summit , Sunrise

I share a sense of exhilaration with my guide upon reaching the volcano summit in time for sunrise. It's a very tough climb!
my fleece shirt to the girl as I was still feeling quite toasty in my thermals, and she quickly rallied in spite of the murderous stares directed at me by her husband.

When we summitted after a gruelling climb we were exhilarated, but for an extra 15,000 rupiahs I got to go down into the crater with the guide. This was other worldly, with the lava and fumes almost overwhelming and the rocks so hot they glowed blue. It was incredible to be in the crater of a live volcano to top off an excellent climb, and we also enjoyed a beautiful sunrise at altitude. The descent was naturally a lot faster, but very tough on the knees for my travelling companion and I on the uneven volcano. Mount Merapi is the most active and volatile volcano in Java, and that's saying something in the country of the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 which is the biggest explosion in recorded history!

My travel companion and I then enjoyed traditional song and dance performances in Jogja together which topped off an excellent visit, and our Javan adventure climaxed with an intimate farewell in the privacy of our hotel room. It
Yogyakarta, JavaYogyakarta, JavaYogyakarta, Java

Out and about in Jogja with my German travel friend and a chilled out, ever smiling Javanese!
was difficult to part company with her the next morning, but I managed to board an overnight train from Jogja to Jakarta for a quick look at the capital city of Indonesia; which is a heaving, crowded, polluted metropolis that was all a bit much for this puppy. I prefer the wide open spaces when travelling, the sheer number of people and cars was starting to wear me down slightly. Travelling in Java can be quite challenging at times, and I composed a little ditty on Jakarta to finish with:

Took the night train from Jogja to Jakarta
I was in transit, on the the way to Sumatra
The pollution's so bad
I thought that I had
A carbon dioxide enchilada!
(Well it's not easy getting the last line to rhyme)

Come to visit Java where, basically all of you should be here now!

A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party loser." William Shakespeare

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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Sunrise on Mount MerapiSunrise on Mount Merapi
Sunrise on Mount Merapi

It was a tough climb to reach the summit, but totally worth it!

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