Friday, October 10, 2014

Mt Merapi, Kaliurang and Prambanan

Wednesday’s breakfast at the Inna Garuda proved to be quite an adventure with a large array of Indonesian delicacies to try. This big, old, gracious, state run hotel, right smack in the middle of busy Malioboro Road seems to mainly cater for the Indonesian corporate crowd with plenty of marble in evidence and everything on a large scale.

We took another drive this morning, 25km north of Yogyakarta to the base of Mt Merapi, Indonesia’s most recently active volcano. 

I’m sure many people would remember the eruption in December 2010 that spread lava and ash over a huge area of Central Java and through to the stratosphere, with a catastrophic impact on air traffic in the southern hemisphere as a consequence.

Of course the impact on the surrounding villages in Central Java was especially catastrophic. We made the decision to do a jeep tour of the area around Mt Merapi – another of the village tourist initiatives to provide opportunities for locals in disadvantaged areas. Maddie and Sophie were very pleased with the decision – at last the oldies are doing something cool, dirty and fun!

The jeep tour was an eye opener – seeing the impact of 600oC lava spewing over a radius of 10-15klm – burning and/or melting everything in its path. At this end of the dry season, it was dust, dust and more dust everywhere. The volcanic rock is used for building so the dirt tracks are churned up by trucks as well as the jeeps. In some areas the rocks are still smoking hot – they haven’t properly cooled down yet after nearly four years!

As we tried to get rid of the worst of the dust with a rapidly depleting supply of wet wipes we drove the short distance to Kaliurang, an old colonial era hill station where we intended to have lunch at the Ullen Sentalu restaurant and a good look at the Sultan’s museum there, widely regarded as the best museum in Indonesia.

The restaurant (and the museum) was very elegant, a bizarre contrast to the jeep tour we’d just completed. I’m sure we left a layer of Mt Merapi volcano dust wherever we settled for the remainder of the day.

Then it was another hour or so’s drive back towards Yogyakarta to the nearby Prambanan Temple. Prambanan is another world heritage site, built at roughly the same time as Borobudur, but this time in beautiful accordance with the dictates of the Hindu religion.

Once again we learnt so much about the religion as well as the story of the building and its survival through earthquakes, colonialism etc, through viewing the three main temples to Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, and the temples to their conveyances and all the priests – and then all the carvings illustrating the Hindu stories – and all that with a beautiful sunset (and moon eclipse too tonight just for good measure).

We walked for a kilometre or so under spectacular sunset skies enjoying the spectacle of the other smaller temples in the same area.

We were exhausted by the end of this big day and very dirty. It was great to finish the day with a long shower and another great meal at the Inna Garuda.

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