I managed to persuade Nev to do a trek up Gunung Merapi the same night, although I don’t think he knew what he was letting himself in for. Gunung Merapi as I previously mentioned is an active volcano, in fact it had its last eruption just a few months beforehand with thousands of villagers being evacuated, but we were assured that it would be dormant for our climb. It stands tall at over 2900m, we would start the climb at about 1400m, so it was the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis. We set off at 10pm to the small village of Selo where we would start the accent at around 1am. This is so we would reach the summit for dawn.
The driver was over 40 minutes late, and we were immediately aware that something wasn’t quite right about his demeanour. There were only three of us on the trek, we were joined by a Swiss guy called Chris. Chris and Nev were in the back seat of the car, while I opted for the front seat. While leaving town we noticed the drivers driving was becoming more erratic. At first I thought he was avoiding pot holes until at one point he swerved onto the wrong side of the road. We shouted at him until he made corrective measures. At this point we knew that he was very drunk, and I said to Nev, “this guy’s steamboats”. We then made the decision to get the driver to stop immediately and we would then try and get a taxi back to town. He stopped the car and we got out. We went to a nearby restaurant and asked some locals if they knew how we could get a taxi. One of them said that he could go and get a car and drive us back himself. During this time the drunk driver was on the phone arranging for one of his mates to take us to Selo instead. He negotiated with us that if his sober mate would take us that we could still do the trip. I was super keen as if we didn’t do it that night, we wouldn’t do it at all and I managed to persuade the others to carry on. So we waited for the alternative driver, and when he did turn up he was sober.
We arrived in Selo at a guesthouse had a cup of tea and met our guide. He was quiet and a slightly built chap. He was dressed for the occasion with a jumper, warm jacket, beanie, scarf and gloves. Myself and Nev then realised that were totally unprepared for the weather up top, with just a t-shirt and summer jacket to shield us from the cold. We set off at around 1am, the immediate start of the climb was up a long steep paved road. It then started to get a lot more tough, the path was made up of sandy dusty mud which gave very little grip and it was extremely easy to lose your footing. Added to this that it was pitch black it made for a difficult accent. When we were approaching the top it started to get very windy and very cold. Our guide said it was too dangerous to proceed in the dark, and he knew somewhere we could go to rest until dawn. He steered us to a wicked cave that was sheltered from the wind. We then tried to get a bit of rest. It was around 4am at this point and we were all rather tired. My clothes were soaking with sweat and as we’d stopped walking, I started to get very cold indeed. I curled up in a ball with me hands under my armpits to try and preserve my body heat.
We lay there for an hour, I maybe got about 5 minutes sleep whilst shivering constantly. Then something marvellous happened. I felt as if someone was shining a light in my face, I opened my eyes and the cave was no longer in complete darkness. I stood up and noticed the beginning of the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen. I left the cave stepping over Nev and Chris and looked out into the distance. From our vantage point you could see for hundreds of miles in each direction, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sun was just below the horizon casting off magnificent colours of red and crimson. I woke up the rest of the group and we watched as the crest of the sun eventually came into view. It was still rather windy and very cold, but we could now feel growing warmth with the ever rising sun. In the dawn light the stunning location of Gunung Merapi became evident. On our climb up we were aware of the silhouettes of some volcanoes. Now in daylight we could see how many there were and how cool they looked. They all had the classic pyramid volcano shape and we were surrounded by them.
|The Surrounding Volcanoes|
|Myself and Nev at the Summit|
|Sunrise at the Summit|
Our guide said it was time to proceed, I was quite eager to start climbing again to get my body heat up. It got windier the higher we got, we crossed a plateau and the summit was now in view. Due to the recent eruption there was no easy path to the summit. There was loose shale all the way to the peak, and as it was blowing a gale, our guide refused to go to the top as it wouldn’t be safe. I tried to work on him, but he wouldn’t budge. We instead climbed a smaller peak just below the summit and stood there a while taking in the breath taking scenery. We then decided it was time for our decent.
|Our Decent with Gunung Merapi in the Distance|
The decent was probably more challenging than the climb, Nev spent most of the time sliding down on his arse. We eventually got down had a rather tasty breakfast of some Indonesia style pancakes and then got our ride back to Yogyakarta.
As we’d been up all night we had a good rest and arranged to meet Chris for dinner. The previous day we pre-ordered some snake for a curry. It was tasty but the shear amount of bones made eating it to become a bit of a chore. We had a couple of drinks and got an early night.
Our final destination in Indonesia was to be Bali from where we would catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur. We didn’t know exactly how we were going to get there. We noticed a tour advertised which would take us to Kuta door to door and bag a couple of famous Java sights enroute. It was cheap and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.