Volcanoes of Indonesia: Part 2 – Merapi, Bromo

» Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in Featured, Indonesia

This is the second part of my travel to Indonesia (read part 1). We left Yogyajarta for the North face of the Merapi. It was time to get serious about hiking.

The second volcano on the menu was the Merapi (2,930 meters), our base camp was at 1000m. The plan was to get to the summit one hour before sunrise (5am local time). It’s a very popular hike among locals, who take two days to climb it. Unfortunately, we choose to do it in one long day. We left our camp at 10:30pm and we hiked the entire path in the dark.

The Merapi from our base camp (north face)

The Merapi from our base camp (north face)

People do the climb in two days and camp on the volcano.

People do the climb in two days and camp on the volcano.

We had a local guide, who was over 60 years old, chainsmoked at each break and was wearing rubber boots all the way to the top. I, however, had light high-tech hiking boots, was reasonably fit but carrying a 25 pounds (12 kg) camera bag and tripod. The first hour we follow his pace, climbing at a rate of 700m/hour and I was literally dying. In less than one hour, I was completely soaked in sweat. Halfway I gave my tripod to the guide (to slow him down and to make myself lighter).

By 2am, we were at the base of the cinder cone. The last 400 meters are at 40 degrees, on unstable rocks.

It’s painfully slow climbing. The benefit of climbing in the dark is you don’t see how slow you are climbing because you can only see right in front of you, the rest is pitch black. We got there as planned a bit less than 1 hour before sunrise but it was a little too late to see the lava at the bottom of the crater. Eastwards, the sunrise was already visible.

Sunrise at the summit of Merapi.

Sunrise at the summit of Merapi.

Merapi is a very active volcano (the last eruption was in 2013, one month after our visit) and always has a plume of gas.

Merapi is an active volcano.

Merapi is an active volcano.

Me at the edge of the crater.

Self portrait at the edge of the crater.

Christophe looking at the crater.

Christophe looking at the crater.

From the top of Merapi, you can see a lot of volcanoes.

From the top of Merapi, you can see a lot of volcanoes.

It was now 7am and time to get back down. You would think that going down is easier than going up, not really…

This image below shows that going down the volcano was a lot more painful than going up.

Me coming down the Merapi. Photo by Stephane Godin with permission.

Me coming down the Merapi. Photo by Stephane Godin with permission.

We return to our base camp by 11am. Let’s make it clear: this was one of hardest hike I’ve ever done. I’m going to seriously consider a lighter bag next time, which means I will be looking at the Sony alpha or the Fuji for my next hiking adventure. After loading our bags in our minivan, we drove back to Yogyakarta.

Our guide had a couple visits planned (Prambanan and a puppet maker) but after hiking all night, I had little energy. Our first stop was Prambanan and while my legs could barely carry me, I walked around for a while waiting for the sun to go lower. At some point, I found a quiet place, set up my alarm clock and went for a quick nap.

Prambanan is an hindi temple.

Prambanan is an hindi temple.

Handsfree kit (Indonesia style)

Handsfree kit (Indonesia style)

After Prambanan, we stopped to visit a local puppet manufacturer and I grabbed this quick shot while visiting.

Wayang Kulit (local puppet) in the making

Wayang Kulit (local puppet) in the making

We flew to Surabaya and then drove to the Bromo caldera. After a long night, we went to bed very early that day and I woke up two-hour before sunrise (that’s still 3am). The plan was to catch up the moon over the volcano. A slight miscalculation on my part and by the time I woke up, the moon was already behind the volcano. Oh well, instead I started to photograph the trails of lights left by cars bringing visitors to the sunrise point. Our plan was to do the sunrise the next morning (it was not going to be a great idea).

Bromo at sunrise. The trails are the 4x4 cars bringing tourists.

Bromo at sunrise. The trails are the 4×4 cars bringing tourists.

We walk around the edge of the caldera and the sun was already rising above the low clouds creating this amazing set of rays around yet another volcano.

Sunrise over Indonesian volcanoes.

Sunrise over Indonesian volcanoes.

We spent the day hiking the Bromo, it was a very short hike (45 minutes) but our guide told us to keep circling the crater. We had a nice sunset right at the crater and took our time exploring the two craters.

Me at the edge of the Bromo's caldera. Photo courtesy of Stephane Godin.

Me at the edge of the Bromo’s caldera. Photo courtesy of Stephane Godin.

The crater of Bromo.

The crater of Bromo.

My friend Stephane, taking pictures.

My friend Stephane, taking pictures.

A rare black and white conversion, I prefer color images but this image was suggested by Stephane and I like the mood of the image. In the background you can see the town where our hotel was.

The Bromo crater.

The Bromo crater.

The next morning we were up at 3am to drive to our sunrise spot. It’s a pretty famous location where you can see three volcanic cones at once. It turned out that fog was also up that morning.

Fog rolled in before sunrise.

Fog rolled in before sunrise.

And in a couple minutes, our entire view was blocked by the fog. It was cold, wet, and windy, very similar to summer time in San Francisco. While waiting if the fog would dissipate I was planning with a minimal composition. I really like the simplicity of this image.

This is a great view of 3 volcanoes in Indonesia but fog rolled in and that's all we could see.

This is a great view of 3 volcanoes in Indonesia but fog rolled in and that’s all we could see.

We went back to our hotel for breakfast and got ready to cross the Tengger caldera by 4×4, to reach the Semeru. During that time, the fog had burned off, so our guide made a quick stop at a panorama point, so we could see the entire caldera.

Panorama of the Tengger caldera.

Panorama of the Tengger caldera.

The caldera is basically composed of soft sand, vehicles need to stay on the compacted trails or they risk to sink in. It’s pretty technical to drive at high speed on those trails and our driver was not the most skilled one, he almost flipped the car at one point. When we got out of the Tengger caldera, we had to switch transportation.

Driving in the Tengger caldera.

Driving in the Tengger caldera.

Serious 4x4 vehicles.

Serious 4×4 vehicles.

The road had been washed away and only bikes could cross. We had a couple bikes waiting for us, ready to transport us to our next camp.

Then the road was cut, we had to trade for a more nimble vehicle.

Then the road was cut, we had to trade for a more nimble vehicle.

The Kawah-ijen and Bali are the next.

All the images presented here are available for licensing or as fine art prints.