Hiking Mount Merapi (2,911 m) – “The Mountain Of Fire”
You can book at EDU hostel or at the hostel you are staying in. At that point in time, EDU hostel tour was RP 275k per person excluding entry fee of RP 25k. The thing is that you might be going with hordes of other people who booked together with the hostel ( which might be a good thing if that is what you are looking for). The most important thing is to know that there is an entry fee for Merapi, so make sure you take that into consideration or ask whichever tour you used.
We booked with Kartika Travel by going to the street with many tour agents. It was at RP 225k all inclusive which is really cheap! You can try contacting the guide directly and bypass these agents.
The direct contact for the guides is Merapi Guide Organisation: “Suparmo” Address: Blumbangsari, Samiran, Selo, Boyolali Kode Pos 57363, email: [email protected], mobile: 081329783025/081804441103 Jalan Prawirotaman:
For Merapi, the rainy season which is from October to April might be a time you would want to avoid. You can expect lots of cloud, fog, as well as rain which will make the climb pretty shitty due to the route.
Having said that, we went in December and had a totally clear trek. It was such a gamble, I guess fortune favours the bold. The best part was, before we reached Jogja to book the hike, we were seeing in newspapers about a recent mini eruptions. Apparently Merapi was having some form of activity (it always does) but there was some form of ash vent shooting up a few metres. So, our conversations with locals ranged from, yeah its really dangerous to its really safe, I went up yesterday. I guess what comforted us was after talking to the guide and the agent that it was safe because they have been bringing people up the past few days.
TIP : Always get a guide when hiking a volcano, because they are usually updated on the latest situation with the volcanic activity as well as the path to take. They have walkie-talkies that they carry with them all the time. Bring a flashlight for the hike. Don’t listen to too many people saying its too dangerous because most of the time, these people are not the ones who hiked. Having said that, Merapi is a really active Volcano, and there are eruptions. Sometimes, you might end up stopping at the plateau instead of being able to get to the summit, so luck of the draw guys.
We got picked up at 10pm, the ride to the base village Selo takes around 2 hours. We set off at 1am, the hike takes around 4h, 3h if you are really fit and fast. It is a pretty straight forward hike, because you just go on one route straight up.
TIP 2 : To save money, don’t book an accommodation on the night of the Merapi hike. Bring everything with you, and leave the unnecessary items at the guide’s house. You won’t be sleeping the whole night anyway.
The first part, is simply walking on the road up. I think that is around an hour. Just straight forward uphill on a road.
After that, you just go uphill on some muddy ground. The flashlight will help make sure you have proper footing on the roots or the stones. It might be slightly slippery at points. This is around 2 hours. My suggestion is to persevere till you reach the plateau. Some people get too tired and stop here, but please don’t! It is just 45 minutes to an hour away! However, the hard part kind of starts here!
The last part involves an hike up on volcanic ash. As I had climbed Rinjani before this, this was not much of an issue because I knew what to expect. For first timers, it might be a real challenge. On the way up, you can actually see some vents pumping out volcanic gas, or sulfuric vents I believe? Really cool, although I didn’t dare go close to it!
Tip 3 : Don’t give up! Okay, that’s a no brainer for all hikes. The ash is really demoralizing because you feel like with every step you take, you fall back 2 steps. Just slowly take small steps and keep on going slow. If you have lotsa energy, the fastest way is running up with very light and small steps. Or just follow the guides and the way they walk. They do it like it is nothing. Try to step into places where other people stepped on because the ash is more “solidified”. Don’t be ashamed to use your hands! It might result in a back ache though, but anything that gets you up is worth it!
We reached the summit at around 5am, I think the sun is slightly up already by then. Perhaps the best timing is 4 – 4:30am to prepare for pictures.
So, at the summit, it is a narrow strip but long strip so there is quite enough space for people. However, on the side of you is the steep drop into the crater. We actually managed to see some lava boiling over so it was pretty cool! If not, just enjoy it as it bleaches sulfuric gas I think. Walk along the narrow strip to enjoy the view on both sides.
One of the most beautiful sights was when the streams of light pierces through the clouds while we were walking on the way down. It felt as if I was Jack who had climbed the giant beanstalk, and beyond it lay the magical castle of the giants. It was a sight to behold as the veil of light rays playfully danced before us.
The other view you will get to see, is mount Merbrabu. That is, of course, another mountain to climb. It is a slightly harder and longer climb. A post for another day!
Walking down on ash might be scary, but it is actually fine because you can just dig in your feet into the ash and slide down. If you see the guides or some crazy guys, they will just run down which is actually the fastest way.
One of the thoughts that is bound to strike you on the way down is : ” Did I actually climb all these up”? This will especially strike you when you are going down the ash part, while you see people struggling up. If you ask me, I rather do the ash part in the dark. When you can see the actual distance, it gets mentally demoralizing. So a night climb is useful!
We spent around 5 hours going down. When we reached the bottom, it stormed. So we got lucky! That sums up the end of climbing Merapi! It is a pretty straight forward climb, not too difficult, a good climb for newbies and people to get a taste of the ash climb! It is however, very dependent on how active the volcano is, so pray that she isn’t on a foul mood!