MAGNIFICENT MOUNTAIN OF ASH
Lies dormant just north of Mt. Merapi is the mountain of ash or Mount Merbabu as local would call it. At the highest elevation of 3,145 mdpl, it is the slightly taller sibling of Merapi (2,930 mdpl). From Yogyakarta, one can only slightly see it on a very clear day, but It can be beautifully seen from the town of Magelang and Salatiga. We picked up our tent and camping supplies from Jogja and headed north to our next adventure.
There are many trails to reach the summit, we chose the slightly easy one from the village of Cunthel, north of Merbabu, a village blessed with fertile volcanic soil where they grow vegetables ranging from carrot to canna (locally known as ganyong). Another reason to choose Cunthel is the road condition getting there, having to drive to Cunthel myself, I needed to make sure that we could arrive there safe and sound.
The way there was absolutely stunning, it was like entering the world of Hayao Miyazaki with tall pine trees which leads to this village made from stones and wood. We registered at the camp at around 2 PM and was met by our porter for the trip, then on to the top of the mountain we went.
It rained the day before, the trail was slightly slippery but manageable. We sprinted our way to post two without any problem as we were gunning to get the view of sunset from the top, but the heavy clouds were covering the sky, we had no option but to move on with our journey.
Couple of hundreds meters prior to post three, the vegetation changed from tall trees to savannah and thorny ivies, due to the latter, I advise you to wear jacket and proper trekking pants to avoid numerous cuts on your skin. Along the way you may spot playful monkeys on the trees. The trail was amazingly clean of rubbish.
It got considerably harder past post three, which by then we started to ascend 700 metres to reach the hill where an old radio station was once setup, it is now laid deserted. My right knee began to act up and it started to rain which increased the difficulty up couple of notches. Alas, we arrived at the radio station, which was about two to three kilometres from Puncak Syarif peak (3,119 mdpl). There, we pitched our tent since the wind was blowing hard and the night got colder. It was a full moon and we could see the stars - this lasted for about 30 minutes and we were covered by clouds until morning.
It was followed by light rain throughout the night, as we guessed it, in the morning everything was covered by fog, visibility was at 20 metres max. We began our hike to the summit at around 7 AM in the midst of thick fog. Before we passed the Jembatan Setan (Devil's Bridge), the fog cleared up and we could take several pictures of the mountain. From the radio tower, it took us two hours to reach summit (Puncak Syarif), while the higher peak (Puncak Kenteng Songo) would have taken us another one to two hours extra, therefore we decided to not do the latter as we were running out of time. We were met by people coming from other trails, I could see that the Selo trail was indeed amazing, passing through hills of green savannah on top of the clouds.
At around noon, we started our descent, only to be met by heavy rain along the way which made it insanely difficult to walk on, the trail was clay and it got really slippery. However, after three long hours, we arrived back at the basecamp, after some quick shower, we set off to ride our motorcycle back to Jogja.
I would definitely redo Merbabu again during dry season to get that sunrise view of Merapi. Something that I am looking forward to. Next hike: Mt. Rinjani!
MERBABU VOLCANO TREKKING (Best in DRY SEASON, June - Late August)
IDR 675,000 / person
incl. Transportation, Guide, Park Donation, breakfast & amazing experience