May 2, 2016

Hiking Mount Merapi

Just finished this entry which I started drafting in January.. haha.

So I started the year on a high.

Travelled to Yogyakarta and hiked a volcano. An active one!

Honestly, I was nervous cos as you might know, Mount Bromo has been erupting since late last year. And Mount Merapi has an eruption cycle of about 5-10 years. It last erupted in 2010 which means it could erupt any time now...

Of course you can climb the mountain on your own, but I took the easy option. I booked an all-inclusive tour at my hostel one day before the hike. At Rp 450,000 which includes return transport, guide, entrance fee, snacks, and insurance; it was a pretty good offer.

It was the first day of 2016. That morning, I went sightseeing to several places around the city. After a late lunch, I went back to the hostel to get some rest and sleep cos we're climbing after midnight to catch the sunrise.

At about 10.45pm, I was picked up by the tour operator at the hostel with several other climbers, and we drove approximately 2 hours to Selo.

I sat at the front seat of the van, and as we made our way to the foothill of the mountain, I tried to find the summit - lava flowing down from top of the mountain or some fire somewhere. You know.. it's a volcano! But of course there were none, all I could see was darkness and some lights from the villages.

It was quite a huge group that night, about 15 climbers altogether with 4 guides. We were gathered at one of the local homestays, where we had light supper and prepared ourselves before the climb. Each of us were supplied with headlights and a bottle of water.

At around 1am, we started walking to New Selo, the gate to the summit of Mount Merapi. The real path hasn't started yet but I was sweating already cos the paved road was so steep!

Once you arrived at the big Hollywood style sign of New Selo, the adventure begins.

Climbing Mount Merapi is definitely challenging. The trail is a killer from the start cos the angle of the slope is rarely less than 45 degrees. I had a hard time climbing thanks to my poor stamina. Yeah yeah.. I had zero training prior to coming here.

During one of the stops, I told my group to go ahead and I'd catch them at the next stop. So off they went with the guide. Hmm.. the guide was so different from the guides at Mount Kinabalu. My guide then would always be the sweeper, patiently climbing with the last person in the group.

So I climbed slowly following my own pace. There were other groups behind me so I wasn't worried. When I wasn't sure of the correct path to follow, I stopped and waited for the group behind me.

Since I was rather slow, I caught the first light here instead at the summit.

Still beautiful though.

View of Mount Merbabu, a neighbouring dormant volcano.

route to the summit

climbers camping on the path

The lunar landscape, this is the area most affected by the last eruption.

view of the last part of the climb to the summit of Mount Merapi

While the climb up through the forest trail is difficult, it is nothing compared to the final push to the crater peak. It's a 200m elevation up a slope of loose volcanic rocks and ash.

My feet penetrated deep into the dust and I kept slipping back with every steps I took. You take 3 steps forward and you slip down 2 steps backward. Felt like you're still at the same spot, hardly making any progress up the summit. Gahhh!!

Thank God I brought a pair of gloves with me so it made the climb easier. I was practically down like a goat walking on all four hahaha. Oh I was reunited with my group here. They were on their way down already. One of the guide asked me to go down with them cos it was dangerous for me to go up on my own. But another guide just said to me, "Go on.. just a little bit more."

I didn't climb this far for nothing, did I?

Luckily there were many other climbers so I just followed their footsteps.

After 6 hours of climbing with numerous stops, my perseverance finally brought me to the top.

The views were Masya Allah so beautiful. So so so worth it.

The bottom of the crater is covered with ash, no lava visible

Though I was excited reaching the top, honestly I also felt a bit disappointed cos I had a slight hope to see lava inside the crater. Baru la Lord of the Ring. But come to think of it, if there was lava, for sure we weren't allowed to come near to the volcano.

with some local climbers

Done enjoying the view and taking countless of selfies, I started my climb down.

The way down was trickier than the way up. The volcanic rocks slid away as soon as I stepped on them. I imagined sliding down on sand dunes, minus the board hehe. A bit dangerous but it helped me to go down faster. What took me more than half an hour to climb just now was just a few minutes journey to the plateau.

On the way down from Pasar Bubrah, my guide came to look for me and I was reunited with the group again. It then took us about 2 hours to reach back the homestay in Selo.

We were treated to tea and pancakes before being transported back to Jogja.

Climbing a volcano was never in my bucketlist, but I was so proud I did it!


Marion said...

Hi, do you have the contact of the tour operator for Mt Merapi trekking? I'm interested to climb as well but having difficulty finding a tour operator that will take in solo trekkers. Thanks!

rara said...

@Marion: Sorry I forgot to take note of the tour operator. I stayed at Laura's Backpackers and booked through them.



rara said...

@Nong San Duy Oai: Happy to share :)

ordinarystranger said...

hi! which one harder? kinabalu or Merapi?

rara said...

@ordinarystranger: I felt Merapi is harder because the route is steeper. But that was probably due to my poor stamina. haha. Climb both! It is definitely a different experience :)