Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Mount Merapi Jeep Lava Tour

The Jeep that brought us around
Touring Mount Merapi by a jeep at close proximity was not part of my initial plan for this trip. When Yanto suggested to me to visit the (in)famous still active volcano, my thought was that we would be watching the fiery mountain from a safe distance. Added bonus would be under the shelter of a restaurant, just like when we admired Mount Batur in Bali.

But I felt something was amiss when he pointed at the 4 x 4 jeeps bumping their ways through the rough terrain of lava rocks (created by Merapi's numerous eruption) during the way to our destination. My instinct was proven right when we reached a place parked full with the jeeps we seen earlier. When I questioned Yanto in more details, he told me Merapi must be visited by a jeep to "see better"in his halting English. When I shown hesitations, he referred me to the photos  displayed near the ticket booth. I scanned through the photos and was somehow impressed by them. Most of them were pictures of the past visitors with the jeep and Merapi as the backdrop. After some self convincing and the difficult part of convincing Alison (Charlotte was always adventurous and needed no sweet talk :-P), we agreed to take up the 1.5 hours tour around Merapi. The price was RP 400 000 for a jeep (I read up later and understand you can get one for Rp 350 000).

The moment the jeep started moving, I knew "we were in for a ride!" The designated roads for the jeep was littered with rocks and we were bumping up and down on our seats. We were "clinging for dear life"at times on the uneven roads and there was no safety belt on board. The driver tried to communicate with me in Indonesian but I could understand little of what he say. Luckily, we still could get through each other with universal language (sign languages :-) ) and the help of a brochure which shown details of the jeep trip in English.

The Jeep trip was mainly divided into different stations where we would stop to visit and take photos. The 1st station was furthest away from Mount Merapi whereas the last station was the nearest. I would narrate our adventure based on the stations that we had visited.

The House of Memory

Our first stop was at a village that was destroyed by the recent Merapi's eruption. It resembled some kind of museum which displayed the things that were over-ran by the destructive lava. We could see potteries that were melted and became out of shape, a set of cattle's skeleton (obviously killed by the eruption) and the photos taken during and after the eruption. The most eye catching display was a clock that was jammed and shown the time of the eruption.

Ruined Village
Warped glasses and cups 
Cattle's Skeleton
The Jammed Clock

The Alien Rock

The "star"of this stop was the "Alien Rock". It was part of Mount Merapi till being tossed a few kilometers to this location during the eruption. From a certain angle, the rock looked like a giant Alien's head. You could see how big it is from the photo we take with us standing beside it. From this vantage point, we could also see the lava channel all the way from Mount Merapi. From our photo, you could see how massive it is by observing and comparing to the small yellow lorry within. Imagine red hot molten lava flowing through the channel during the volcano's eruption!

Family Photo with Alien Rock
Alien Rock from another angle
See the massive Lava Channel behind us!

The Burning Lava Rocks

With the help of cigarette's ashes and some fanning motion, our driver was able to "reheat" some of the lava rocks. I was asked to hold some of the rocks to feel their heat. The heat became unbearable after a while and I had to release them from my hands. Note that the last eruption was about 5 years ago in Year 2010 but yet we could still feel it's heat after such a long period of time.

Our driver digging out the active lava rocks
Burning Lava Rocks

The Bunker

This was our last station and the closest distance to Mount Merapi (about 1 kilometers). During it's heyday before the destructive eruption, many photographers and adventurers would make this place their base to take beautiful photos or climb the holy mountain. It was now in a state of ruin. Our driver shown us an underground bunker which was meant for people to hide during any eruption. But it failed it's purpose when two person died of suffocation by the fumes after using it during the last eruption.

The Bunker
Close proximity with cloud-covered Mount Merapi
We were kind of relief after completing the trip and returning back to the jeeps'base. This trip was not for the faint-hearted and I recommend you read my tips before deciding to "take the plunge". Alison had a fall during an uphill climb and my heart was in mouth when the driver almost drive over the edge of the road which would bring us almost 30 meters downhill! Only my shout alerted him and he steered the wheels to safety in the nick of time.

Ride with us!

Experience our bumpy ride!

Tips for Mount Merapi Jeep Lava Tour

1. I had mentioned this ride is not for the faint-hearted. I would not recommend this ride for young children (below 8 years old) and the elderly.

2. For those who have motion sickness, please do not take this ride. The jeeps are travelling on uneven and bumpy rock-strewn paths and can make you real uneasy. The area is also very dusty. If you have breathing-related illness, this ride is also not recommended for you. A mask will be issued to protect you from the dusty environment.

3. Bring lots of water. This is a volcanic area and the lava rocks are still emitting heat. The hot weather at Indonesia does not help the situation. Drinking water will keep you hydrate.

4. Wear comfortably with long pants/jeans and flat heeled shoes. You are required to come down from the jeep to explore the different stops. Some of the stops would require you to perform climbing up slope. Wearing flat heeled shoes would make your climb easier and the long pants/jeans would minimize your injuries if you trip and fall.

5. Always be on the alert. Although the Jeep's drivers know their way and are experienced, do not let your guard down. You are acting as a second pair of eyes for him. Do not hesitate to shout out warning in advance if you foresee something risky on the roads.

6. I use yogyadriver for my trip around Yogyakarta. Write a comment and drop your email address (I will reply you) at the comment column below to enjoy up to 10% discount off the normal rate if you decide to use their service.

Have you taken the Mount Merapi Jeep Lava Tour before? Share with us your adventure!

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