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Lava Tour : The darker shades of Merapi's beauty

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It was around midnight on Nov. 5, 2010 when terror reigned over 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, with livestock being destroyed.

A total of 161 people died that night.

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.

Earlier this month, 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 a cold and foggy 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 Mt. Merapi eruptions over the years.

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

The tour package offers the chance to explore the scenic beauty of Mt. 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.




Last changed: Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 9:55 am

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