LAVA TOUR SHOWS DARKER SIDE OF MER­API

VISI­TORS CAN SEE FOR THEM­SELVES THE HAUNT­ING LEGACY OF THE MER­API ERUP­TIONS.

The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Rubric Sights Name - WORDS STE­FANUS AJIE PHO­TOS

It was shortly past mid­night on Nov. 5, 2010, when ter­ror de­scended on the idyl­lic vil­lages on the slopes of Mt. Mer­api in Yo­gyakarta. Af­ter wit­ness­ing con­tin­u­ously in­creas­ing vol­canic ac­tiv­i­ties over the past month, on that fate­ful night, vil­lagers had to face the horror of a vol­canic erup­tion. Vol­canic ma­te­rial gushed out of the moun­tain and heart- stop­ping thun­der­ous roars were heard through­out the re­gion. Dust and gravel filled the skies and rained down upon the coun­try­side.

As the vil­lagers pan­icked and ran to safety in the dark of night, py­ro­clas­tic clouds moved rapidly and burned ev­ery­thing in their path, in­clud­ing trees, houses and fields.

In the morn­ing, an eight- kilo­me­ter col­umn of smoke could be seen ris­ing high into the sky above Mer­api’s peak. Vil­lages were buried un­der tons of rocks, sand and ash, killing hun­dreds of peo­ple.

The 2010 erup­tion – and the great panic that fol­lowed – was the lat­est in a long line of Mer­api erup­tions.

Mt. Mer­api is one of the most ac­tive vol­ca­noes in the world and has erupted reg­u­larly since 1548. How­ever, due to the fer­tile soil, thou­sands of peo­ple live on Mer­api’s slopes, with vil­lages ex­ist­ing as high as 1,700 me­ters above sea level, just four kilo­me­ters away from the peak.

I paid a visit to one of the vil­lages de­stroyed in the 2010 erup­tion. As I set foot in Ngrangkah, Cangkringan, Yo­gyakarta, I was wel­comed by cold and misty air.

The land upon which I pitched my tent used to be a lo­cal pub­lic trans­port ter­mi­nal, now de­stroyed and buried un­der the vol­canic sands of Mer­api.

Un­der a bright full moon and com­forted by the warm bon­fire, I spent my evening lis­ten­ing to lo­cals’ sto­ries about the many Mer­api erup­tions over the years.

Even­tu­ally, they told about how de­stroyed vil­lages were turned into bustling tourism at­trac­tions by the unique­ly­named Lava Tour.

The tour pack­age of­fers the chance to ex­plore the scenic beauty of Mer­api while wit­ness­ing the re­mains of the 2010 erup­tion.

A few hours be­fore the fol­low­ing dawn, I read­ied my­self to ex­plore the moun­tain. The first desti­na­tion was Njambu vil­lage – the per­fect spot to en­joy sun­rise over Mt. Mer­api.

The jour­ney in­volved con­quer­ing rugged ter­rain across a nar­row dirt road. Along the way, you can see the ru­ins of houses de­stroyed by erup­tions and a once densely- pop­u­lated vil­lage now turned into a green ex­panse of shrubs and trees.

From Njambu, the trip con­tin­ues to Kali­a­dem, where you can en­joy a closer look at Mer­api’s peak. If the weather is sunny enough, you will get the chance to peek a lit­tle bit into the still- smol­der­ing in­sides of the vol­cano.

My jour­ney con­tin­ued and I ar­rived at Pe­tung vil­lage, where a home had been con­verted into a mu­seum that dis­played things ru­ined by Mer­api’s erup­tions, in­clud­ing live­stock car­casses, burnt mo­tor­bikes and molten glass and bot­tles.

There was also a va­ri­ety of home fur­nish­ings that were melted by the heat of Mer­api’s py­ro­clas­tic clouds.

An ob­ject of spe­cial in­ter­est is a molten clock that hangs on the wall in the house – its nee­dles point­ing to a spe­cific time of 12: 04: 42, the ex­act time when the py­ro­clas­tic clouds laid waste to the house dur­ing the 2010 erup­tion.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished on Jak­Post. Travel

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