Viktorija Panovaite
Mount Merapi defeated me

Mount Merapi defeated me

How many times you read bad or failure stories? Somehow most of the people shares only good things. In one hand it’s good – more positive thoughts – creates more positive things. But in other hand – is it real life, when everything goes just right?

I have such story – “failure” one – how mount Merapi defeated me ;). And want to show that not only sun shines in Indonesia, but sometimes comes some clouds as well (but beautiful ones) :).

Many people that I know, who comes or stays longer in Yogyakarta, wants at least once, climb up to mount Merapi and meet there the sunrise. I was one of those people. Just till now, somehow wasn’t right time to do that or people with whom to climb. By the way “Gunung Merapi” (literally “Fire mount”), the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548 (~68 times).

But finally, some of the friends organized night trekking to mount Merapi to meet sunrise. So I wanted to join them for sure (when if not now? :)).

Day before trekking I was a bit nervous – it was my first trekking in life and as well to so high (2930 m.) and vertical mount. I didn’t know what to expect, how my body will adapt it, if I like it and it’s at night. You know, Lithuania is a “flat” country, highest point is 294 m. Also all my trips in Europe somehow wasn’t around hills :D. But at the same time I was excited.

The adventure begins!

We all (8 people) met at meeting point on the way to mount Merapi. We started our motorbike trip ~10:00 pm. Of course, which trip goes without “surprises”? After ~30 min. of driving, one of motorbike got flat tire. So we needed to find who can fix it. We were lucky, like near was one service who was still working in late evening. We wait a bit and moved on.

The road wasn’t the best – holes, not in all parts of the road was lightening, tortuous way. Going higher became colder and colder. We even stopped to dress more clothes before reach the post.

Maybe after couple of hours we were in the post of mount Merapi (from Selo village side). Surprising that in the post nobody was working. Usually, many people come at night for trekking till sunrise. But we were thinking, maybe because of Ramadhan, local people fasting, going to visit relatives and doesn’t go for such trips.

We were trying to find somebody who could park our motorbikes and as well register us that we are going up. Like couple months ago one Indonesian guy died in mount Merapi (he was making selfie in the edge of the top and slipped). After that, the rules to entering and leaving mount Merapi became stricter. As well it’s not allowed anymore to climb exactly to the top (the last point is ~500 m from the real top of mount).

Finally we found responsible people (they were already sleeping – it’s normal thing to do at midnight :D). The registration, parking took us ~40 min., because of waiting we started freeze (you know at ~1 am in high place, not so warm, even in Indonesia). We saw some other motorbikes, guy in the post told that they arrived day before and are camping in mount Merapi national park.

After all bureaucracy things, we dressed the warmest clothes, covered all naked parts and started to trek.

Already from the beginning, after the post, the road was quite sharp (in my opinion, from person who never made trekking ;)). After maybe 15 min. my lungs were almost locked. I couldn’t breathe properly. I don’t know why, maybe because of nerves, pressure or first time such activity. The rest 6 people went up and me with friend decided not to be in a rush and go slowly.

Little by little we were going up, the path was more complicated, slippery sand and not wide. I needed stop more and more times. During stops we meet couple of foreigners groups (probably they came with travel agencies that organizes trips). In my mind already was an idea to go back, but I thought maybe still little by little I would manage to go to the top.

Unfortunately, after almost 1 hour of going up, I decided to go down. Yeah, I gave up (even if it’s not common to me). Just I was a bit afraid that if I will go further up and I will feel worst then I will make problems for myself and the entire group. So I decided that better not to push myself and make problems for others. I didn’t reach even the mount Merapi national park gate (that is in ~1 km distance from post). Pity :( But at least, now I know that I need to prepare more for trekking trips. I already imagine how I would be trekking in Lombok island, mount Rinjani, when I planned to do it during my 3 weeks trip there. But at that time, park was closed because of rainy season, so need to change my plans. Now I think it was a sign :D.

The way down was even more difficult because of slippery sand and bluff way. I even couple times slipped (I had proper shoes for trekking). Going down took me the same 1 hour.

But not to go to the top of mount Merapi was the worst part :D. The most “exciting” part was when we (me and my friend) came to post and wanted to take motorbike for going back. What do you think? Everything was closed (why they should be open, if usually people return in late morning from the top?). 2 hours (truly I’m not lying) we were knocking all possible doors, windows, going around the building, even sitting in the street and hoping that some neighbor will pass and would tell us how to reach responsible people. But nothing. The weather was more and more freezing.

During our waiting for a “miracle” that somebody will open the door, one foreigner couple didn’t reach the top as well and came back. So it seems not only me can’t handle mount Merapi – I feel a bit better about it :D.

Finally! ~5 am the people in post heard us and open the door. But it was too cold to go by motorbike straight back (usually in the mornings very cold wind). So we decided to wait a bit, warm up and then go.

We started to chat with the post guy and he told us, that before Merapi eruption the way to the top was much better, but now even for him, who is trekking there almost all life – quite difficult to go. As well, he told that it’s common that people not handle go to the top (may “failure” became smaller :)). And when we told that we wanted to see sunrise, he started to laugh and told that from his house (beside the post) we can see sunrise as well. Just need to wait till ~6 am. So like it left ~45 min. we decided to stay and at least see something ;).

It was very beautiful view! (even it was totally cold). The sun came like from the sea line and colors was so clear; I could say “dramatic”. I felt relieved that at least I had amazing views: in front – sunrise, in the left mount Merbabu softly lighten by sun and twin mounts Sindoro and Sumbing, in the back small part of mount Merapi.

Beauty of mount Merapi

After 15 min. we left – tired and still freezing (I can just imagine how guys felt on the top). On the way, we saw beautiful views of Merapi, other mounts, daily people life’s, active morning market. I was surprised how many traditional Javanese houses there, still build in old way with “gedheg” (like “big tent”). And almost no rice fields – but big plantations of different vegetables. I think if you don’t want to trek but have beautiful views, it’s just enough to come to that area in early morning, before sun goes up ;).

So this is how my first mount Merapi defeated me :D. I don’t know if soon I would like to go there again, but maybe later I be ready more and will win! :).

Now in my mind thoughts how will be in mounts Bromo and Ijien that I plan to visit :D. Hope much better :D.

What is your experience in trekking in mount Merapi or other Indonesian mount? :)

  • If you are not trekker, I suggest at least, one week before the trip, have some more physical activities – riding bicycles every day and etc.
  • It’s not easy to see the post at night, especially when it’s closed, so here is the photo, not to miss it ;).
  • Entrance fee for locals and students – 15 000 Rp. For tourists 155 000 Rp and on holidays, weekends – 225 000 Rp.
  • It took us ~2,5 hour to get there from Yogyakarta with motorbikes.
  • We fill full back of fuel and it was enough go both ways.
  • The post guy told us, that experienced trekkers, reach the top during ~3 hours, others (depends on their condition) during ~4-6 hours. The tourist groups came ~1-2 am and sunrise is at ~6 am, so organizers probably knows that 4 hours should be enough to reach the top.
  • Take with you snacks, enough water, properly clothes (gloves, hat, socks, warm sweater, jacket, scarf, shoes suitable for trekking, flash light, if you are coming near the beginning or in the end of rainy season, take raincoat).
  • Avoid trekking in the rainy season which spans late October to early April.
  • If you want to go there by motorbike – ride north out of Yogyakarta on Jl. Magelang for ~45 min. When you reach Mungkid turn right into Jl. Bololali – Mungkad and head towards Ketep. At Ketep turn right and continue following the Jl. Bololali – Mungkad into Selo. From Selo ride up the steep road (on the right as you come into Selo).
  • There are no straight buses to go to Merapi. You can reach the sub-village by public transportation from Yogyakarta (Jambor station) to Magelang, stopping at Blabak and continued by minibus or hichkiking to Selo. Afterwards, you will need to walk through asphalt roads to the post.
  • I know that those who comes with public bus, usually comes in the early evening to the last village Selo, stay for couple of hours in the hostel (there are several – just ask people, they knows who accept guests) and then goes up.
  • More practical information here.

Interesting? Great! :) You might also like these:

First time in Indonesia
Indonesian discoveries
How to know if you stayed in Indonesia too long

2 thoughts on “Mount Merapi defeated me”

  1. I was there in 2011 and Merapi defeated me, too. I felt exactly the same like you after very short time, blocked lungs, not beeing able to breathe properly. I also went back before reaching the top. Today I coincidentally went through the pictures a friend of mine, who went to the top, took with my camera, and the whole story and my big failure reappeared in my mind. I think even after years it always bothered me a little that I didn’t make it to the top. It feels better after reading your story, thanks for sharing. ;)

    1. I thought it’s only me who didn’t reach the top. But I’m glad to know that Merapi it’s not for everyone and it’s totally fine. I’m happy that I didn’t push myself too much otherwise I don’t know if I would like to be on the top when it would cost so much effort and maybe even health issues:) There are so many mountains for any kind of trekkers I believe you will find yours ;) For example for me Mt. Batur in Bali – was exactly that where I enjoyed the trek and reach the top :)

Comments are closed.