Gunung Merapi: The Most Active Volcano in Indonesia and the Adventure to Selo Pass

5:00:00 PM Jerik De Guzman 0 Comments

No red orange sun but Gunung Merapi was spectacular
STORY: I didn't go to Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park even if i was already in Malang. People say it's absurd but I had one awesome reason why and it's only one word. 

People.

I am not a loner, but reading stories of how hundreds upon hundreds of people make the trek to the summit every single day and have their picture taken by hustling other people, made me look elsewhere. I was looking for a more spiritual experience while glancing upon what Indonesia is most famous for, its immeasurable number of volcanoes. I told myself i have to pick the best out of the bunch.

I was in Yogjakarta then. Six nights have passed and i am still enjoying the beautiful city. It's an awesome base for trips, and dare i say, my most favorite city in Java. But i needed an adventure to get more active. I was searching for places nearby Jogja and Solo (Surakarta) for where i could head next. I had trouble finding trip advises for Gunung Merapi  but i thought, i had to go to Selo and sort my way to the 2911 meter volcano.

The Selo bound bus aged but still works as it ascends the highway
The next morning, i was on a bus bound for Magelang. After listening to one performer on board and clapping to one of the best live performances I've ever heard in my life, i met a local Muslim girl who helped me find my way to Bayolali. We alighted at Mungkad junction and rode an angkot bound for Bayolali. We said goodbye by shaking hands. From here, it was a very steep, often times nerve-wracking endless ascent to the last village up Merapi, Selo, via an uninspiring bus and a dodgy built motorcycle. 

A local family enjoying the mid afternoon breeze in Old Selo town
I arrived at Selo Pass hungry, disturbed by the sudden change of elevation and obviously needed warmer clothes. I've experienced sun, rain, wind and smoke belch from trucks fully loaded with logged trees. But there she was, Gunung Merapi, more beautiful but dangerous in person. It's actually called "Mountain of Fire" erupting more than 68 times since 1548.

I spent the next 2 days sitting on the porch, drinking my hot tea and looking at her. Sometimes, i would walk thirty minutes to the town and buy my supplies of water and snacks. I made sure to make mental notes wherever i go so i can remember. 

EXCLUSIVE: Oh, and i forgot to mention that I've experienced mighty tremors during the night. Two of which woke me up from sleep, and one made me run away from the shower room naked. The next day, a little birdie told me that my greatest fear is actual real, Merapi is showing signs of erupting. That day, i left to seek shelter on a more safe zone. That explains why i haven't seen a single tourist in two days, and three of the hotels that i've passed by had no guests. In my 40-room hotel, i was the lone guest and the caretaker surprised that i showed up. I was able to drop the room price to 30% lower. It pays to seek advice from the tourism office.

A normal daily routine in Selo amidst the warning of Mt. Merapi's possible eruption
Maybe, i am an animist but i usually talk to natural spirits and non-living things like Mount Merapi. I thanked her for sparing me from obvious disaster and that i will cherish the short-lived moment i had with her. It's not everyday that you get to see what you read so i thank the gods for making this happen for me. 

TIPS: Mt. Merapi or Gurung Merapi is obviously one of the most beautiful places you will ever see in the Indonesian archipelago. Staying in Selo Pass is not for the faint heart as it's obviously at the foot of the most active volcano in the country. Check travel advisory everyday as seismic changes and movements occur more frequently since November 2013. Hire a motorcycle driver to get you around town or alternatively, walk like i did. 

RECOMMENDATIONS: When it's not late October to early April, you may hike up the summit provided that weather is fine and more importantly, the volcano is at its non-erupting active phase. Get a reputable guide, which is very easy to find. Better yet, ask for Superman. Everyone knows who he is and i got recommendations from him on one of the treks i did. Stay at Selo Pass Hotel and get the first room in the more expensive floor. The view there is amazing, so is the gracious hotel keeper who made my stay less lonely. 

Enjoying a clear afternoon view of the mountain of fire, also known as Gunung Merapi

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