Earlier in February this year, I embarked on a trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. My travel companion and I had planned to spend a week there and had a sketchy idea of places to see, a couple of which were the well-known Borobudur and Prambanan temples. While walking through the streets of Malioboro looking for tours of these places, we frequently chanced upon advertisements and posters promoting a sunrise trek to Mount Merapi. I had only a vague idea of what Merapi was; I knew that it was a volcano in Indonesia, which was somewhat active.
Since we had ample time and money, we decided to try our hand at that alluring sunrise trek. It was to be my maiden trek, and at that time I didn’t think twice about how difficult it was going to be. Us being two able bodied twenty something year olds, we decided to take up the option of trekking up the entire volcano from the Selo side, instead of a 4WD up halfway.
The trek began at 1 am. Almost immediately, we were faced with a 30 to 45 degree incline up the volcano to our first rest point at about 1.5 kilometres up. This was, mind you, still on cemented ground. The next stretch of the hike up was when the real torture started. We started to trek up the same incline but this time on ground comprising small, loose rocks. Secure proper footing on the ground for traction was fast becoming an issue. It was at this point of time that I started regretting my choice of footwear – after all, a pair of Vans sneakers were probably suited for skateboarding rather than trekking up volcanoes.
My ankles were already silently screaming and I thought to myself, “Okay guys, I am going to stop here and wait for you to go up and return.”
I decided to fight the pain and mercifully, the terrain on the second third of the climb was slightly more optimal. It was still a horrible incline but at least the ground was made up of big solid rocks. We made good time and reached the plateau where the old peak was at about 4am. The sun was to rise at 5.15am and we only had about another one kilometre up, or that’s what our guide told us. The terrain on this last third of the trek however, was basically loose ash and sand. It was honestly a nightmare to even lightly tread on. For every step you took, you would slide down about three steps. After about 15 minutes of attempting to climb, my hamstrings could tolerate no more pain.
Our guide then brought us to a small spot slightly above the plateau to watch the sunrise. To say the sunrise was majestic would probably not do it enough justice. There are absolutely no words to describe its beauty. However, what caught my attention was the view when the sun was finally up. It was an amazing and priceless feeling to be away from the bustling city and to be able to get up close with Mother Nature.
The featured image above shows me trekking down Merapi and I recall stopping for a bit and staring at Merbabu (another volcano just opposite Merapi) and thinking, “Holy **** ! That’s one awesome looking mountain!” I’m still disappointed that I didn’t make it to the summit but I do have plans to head back and try again. Prior to this trip, trekking up mountains or volcanoes was never on my to-do list when travelling. Now, I am on the hunt for treks like these whenever I go overseas. (I completed two simpler treks in Indonesia following this one)
Mother Nature has a lot to offer – you just have to endure the journey there, but once you reach your destination, the reward is something money can’t buy.
Look for activities that defy the norm when you travel. Speaking from my personal experience, that’s when you learn the most about yourself and the most about the place that you’re in.
Michael Lashan is currently working full-time as an engineer. He has an avid interest in hiking as well as photography. He dreams of someday being able to travel around the world simply to learn about exotic cultures and to meet new people. Hence, he refers to himself as a “full-time engineer and part-time traveller”.