Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Land of Volcanoes

By: Aron Raj

11 July 2009

When I first arrived in Yogyakarata, I was only aware of Mt.Merapi, one of the world’s most active volcanos located on island of Jawa. Today’s entourage journey took us to the Ketep Pass, a viewing point for the volcanoes of surrounding the central Java Island.

Little did I know that Yogyakarta was home to not just Mt.Merapi but also to a number of other volcanoes. From the viewing point atop the hill at Ketep Pass, we could see the hot steam blowing out from the mouth of Mt.Merapi. The strong breeze did not turn down our spirits to take photos and also admire what I would say as the living jewel of Java.

Words cannot describe the view of this magnificent formation of nature. Although Mt. Merapi remains active, there were also a few dead volcanoes surrounding it. On the opposite lay Mt.Serembau and Mt.Senai, 2 extinct volcanoes believed to have erupted even before the formation of the new Mt.Merapi. The earlier volcano located just beside it, was believed to have erupted some 1000 years ago. It has now become a site for tourists to hike up and have a panoramic view of Mt.Merapi.

The spectacular view of Mount Merapi

Over the years of its existence, Mt.Merapi has been believed to have consumed thousands of lives. Some 1000 years ago, an eruption caused the ancient Hindu-Buddhist civilization in Borobudur to be covered in ashes. Other major eruptions were recorded in the 1800s and the 1900s. The last eruption in 2007 had seen the evacuation of many people living around the mountain.

Although the volcanoes of Java have claimed many lives, it has also enabled the agriculture industry through fertilizing the land. As our bus journeyed slowly up the steep roads to Ketep Pass, we could see the blossoms of vegetation all around us. From paddy to tobacco to vegetables, it seemed as if that there was never a volcanic eruption. The ashes and lava on the land over the years have enriched the soil making it perfect for vegetation.

From the top, we could see that the whole area around the volcano was indeed green with vegetation. What amazed me most was that the people were willing to come back to their farms and continue with life although they knew the situation they are facing. And it amazes me even more to imagine what it would have been liked to live in Borobudur during its prime near the active volcanoes. I also learnt that Mt.Merapi is considered to be sacred among many and occasional ceremonies are held.

As we spent our time taking pictures of the volcano and admiring nature, I realized sometimes it doesn’t really matter how close to death one may live. I guess the most important thing is to believe that life will go on. The volcanoes of Java may have taken a lot from the Javanese people but they have rewarded them as well in many ways. Whatever it may be, the volcanoes of Java certainly have proved their point. The living jewel of Java will surely continue to give the people something to live up to.

Posing in front of the natural beauty

*View more pictures of the day from our photo album

WRITER'S PROFILE: Aron Raj is a Monash Alumni, currently working with The Star (a Malaysian newspaper), as a video journalist. He has joined several study trips organized by Dr Yeoh previously. In his own words, Aron is "single & available". He chose to write about volcanoes because he found them "hot & cool at the same time". Aron believes that "Real Men Like Fire".

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