The plan for climbing Mount Merapi was actually not in CopiPanas list for 2009 but what response you expect from me on such a lure. For Mount Merapi is the most ferocious volcano nowadays in Indonesia. So let’s go friends ………….
Jogya was easy and warm as usual when we left it on the L-300 minibus for Selo at 9:00 am 24/4/2009. Certainly after a hefty breakfast that morning in Soto Kadipiro, one of the eatery icons in Jogyakarta. And the soto, it was superbly healthy really totally delicious. The other soto branches must learn from Kadipiro.
After 3 stops for shopping and Friday-praying we arrived in Selo at 1:30 pm, directly nesting in pak Min’s basecamp. Our GPS showed 1710m. Agreed on the porters arrangement with pak Min, but we had to wait for the rain to stop pouring. The nasi-goreng lunch was quick but nice and superb.
Three pm, the shower was not threatening and we left the basecamp after a long re-packing routine. Logistics optimization that is what we called it. New Selo, the gate, is only 10 minutes on a paved street, on 1800m in our GPS. Ready for the climb by 5:00 pm but the rain dropped again. We stopped for a while, waitng for the rain to stop again. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the looming Mount Sumbing, Mount Sindara and Mount Prahu. In the distance, far there in the west, the 3 siblings stand still like 3 warriors resting after a long march.
By 5:35 pm we continued the climb. The trek was clear and fortunately not slippery. Gentle slope, leg-wetting weeds, vegetables on the right and ravine on the left. Very soon the darkness stemmed from nowhere. Our headlamps and flashlights helped us climbing through the cool evening towards Pos-1. Our porter told me when we walked together that it was 1½km away. A little while afterwards, after the narrow path of wet soil and reasonably stable stones, he said it was 100m away. Pos-1 was 2286 m, we boiled water for a hot ginger tea break. The 35’ break with the hot drink really returned our energy such that Pos-2 was easy. Well, indeed the trek to Pos-2 was not difficult. Some steep parts, but none was more than 10 minutes.
By 7:30 pm we suddenly arrived at Pos-2, 2525 m. Suddenly…. because we did not expect it that soon. We were reminded by our friends a little behind that dinner was not to be forgotten. The nasi-bungkus from Jogya was more than ready to warm our cold stomaches. So there were we, sitting behind the giant stone at the left side of the upward path. The night was a little warmer compared to 2500 m on the other mountains. Could it be because of the cloud above, or from the heat beneath ……………….?
The nasi bungkus was quick because we were really hungry by the time. This time without warm tea or coffee, then a little pass 8:00 pm we hitch the trek towards the last Pos, Pasar-Bubrah (Dismissed Market). We would find out then, why the name was so funny. Amidst the sparsely vegetated and mildly steep trek, on we went towards the Pasar-Bubrah. The ascent was not so grueling especially because the night was not so cold. The wind was weak, so the chill was distance. The trek was not meandering, instead it was a little straight. Some water creeks/paths along the trek, but they were easy because it was not raining.
Almost 9:00 pm when we reached a hill top, where some monuments were established in memory of the trekkers who fell on Mount Merapi. Salute my friends ………………
On the left we could see a huge mountain silhouette, we thought it could be Mount Merbabu but not sure. Can’t be that close. A gentle descend of 200m, then the Pasar-Bubrah plain. It was 2670 m and quiet. No one else was there. Quickly we picked the best spot behind the large stone and next to the path to the peak. In front of us the Mount Merapi peak silhouette was already welcoming.
The tent was erected, and ginger tea on the go on the paraffin stove. Also we had some hot instant noodle to warm and fill the cold bodies, followed by quiet slips into the sleeping bags. We worry a little about our porters, who did not bring sleeping bags. They coiled their bodies under the fly-sheet between our tents and the large stone. At least they are protected from the chilling winds.
It was 3:45 am when we got up and prepared for the summit attack. Amidst the morning soft breeze we marched together. The porter led our way and very soon we climbed the steep rocky path towards the peak. Fortunately the steep trek was not of loose stones. They are secured on the sloping ground although the slope was quite steep at some 45°. After a half an hour of climb we passed spots spewing fumes. It’s quite magical like in the horror movie but without the spook.
I raced with the porters and Andhika for this is a rare chance to be the 1st reaching the peak. On the other mountains I normally arrives the last. Five o’clock and we walked passing the dead crater on the left. Still a little bit too dark to see, so we continued to the Puncak Garuda. Five pass five, and there were we, touching the infamous Puncak Garuda. We congratulated each others and sat amidst the fumes spewing ground.
To the north just about 30 m from where stood, stands the mighty new peak of Mount Merapi. A little higher than Puncak Garuda, the new peak is separated by a shallow ravine that was actually crossable. But the new peak must be hot for it steamed all the time from almost all the body. It was dark, having sharp protrusions everywhere and quite fearful. Definitely it’s the newly “frozen” lava. All over the peak complex, the scene was just otherworldly. Felt like being in an outer-space movie. Some ground spots were warm, nice to lay our backs on.
Seven am and we descended back to the camp. The way down was already hot, for the sun shined already amidst the peak clouds. Sweat all over our warmed body, the way down was quick. A little more than 30’ we arrived at the camp site.
Strangely there were 2 large stones with water drops that looked continuous for there were leeches. The dryness of the milieu made us wonder where the water comes from.
Lavish breakfast and lazy packing, as we always do in our descents. Like on the other mountains too. By 9:00 we left Pasar Bubar for Selo. Just 10’ away some of us stopped to enjoy the mountain grapes. They are 0.5 cm small, purple when ripe, abundant and taste sweet sour. Tongues are bluish but they really fueled our bodies.
A little further down, then we turned left to cut the trek directly to Pos-1. But alas, the path was very slippery we could not make it quick. The path was less frequented somehow and almost straight forward to Pos-1.
A little bit sleepy along the way down, but the light shower repeatedly freshened us. By 11:40 all of us safely sat on the benches of the only warung open at New Selo. The sip of the hot tea and coffee was magnificent, as they were sweetened by the warung owner’s ear-to-ear smile. I did not let the bananas alone. For they were really ripe, sweet and fulfilling …………….
Merapi Team (left to right):
Andhika Satria, Siswo Yulianto, Hanjono Suwono, Diah Anggraini, Hardi Setiawan, and Susetiya.