If you look at the map of Indonesia, you’ll see that Merapi and Borobudur are both very close to the city of Yogyakarta, the former capital and present number-two city of Indonesia. And if you look a bit closer on the map you’ll see there’s a third must-see tourist attraction: the Hindu temple of Prambanan.
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The temple consists of several stacked platforms; the lower levels are square (with 100-meter-long sides), while the upper ones are round. “At the very top of the temple is a large dome. It is decorated with 2672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.” – Wikipedia.
Here‘s the view of the whole complex from a satellite, while this is how my camera captured the temple:
Indonesia could be described as simply a huge collection of volcanoes, many of which regularly erupt, many of which are extremely (symmetrically) beautiful, aka – must-see!
Some sources say there are around 300 volcanoes, some – around 400, others – around 500! That’s quite a margin of error! But it’s to be expected: they’re difficult to count. Example: a volcanic mass with three or four distinct conical peaks: does that count as one, or three/four?
‘Active’ volcanoes are counted separately, but again there are differences in the totals as there’s no fixed definition of an active volcano. Anyway, in Indonesia there are around 75 to 130, depending on the source on the internet you look up.
Whichever total you take, there’s no denying Indonesia is one seriously volcanic country. But then, of course it is: Indonesia is a segment of the islands (and peninsula) that help make up the Ring of Fire (together with its volcanic siblings like Japan, Kamchatka, the Kurils, New Zealand, etc.)
But enough of volcanic theory; time for some actual volcanic experience. All righty: in at the deep end – Mount Merapi: the most active volcano of Indonesia…
For those who missed the first Indonesian installment, a brief overview of its contents:
Sumatra, December, hot, humid, jungle, orangutans, monkeys; acclimatization: time-zone, climate, food, crazy driving.
All righty. Next up – still on Sumatra: Lake Toba.
I had real trouble finding the words to describe this place. I’ll plump for… paradisiacal!
This is a lake that’s some 900 meters above sea level and so has a real comfortable micro-climate: the air temperature is always around 20-25°C, while that of the pristine water of the lake is 25°C (we measured it ourselves). Yep: water warmer than the air! I sensed volcanism at work here, and indeed that’s just what it was: for Toba isn’t just the name of the lake, it’s also the that of the dormant supervolcano it sits in.
In short, the perfect setting for intense rest and relaxation. The views all around: oh my gorgeous; the bathing and the fishing in/on the lake: oh my great!
What happens to a regular tourist from the North who, after an extended period of Christmas/New Year mirth and merriment suddenly finds him/herself in equatorial Indonesia? Yep, he/she has a rather tough time acclimatizing: to both the difference in time, and to climate… (and to crazy Indonesian driving! More on this later on below).
So, time: it’s +7 from Greenwich. Not so extreme, I hear you saying; hardly +12 now, is it? No. But when you add the climate to the +7 hours, that’s the killer. For there’s no pleasant resort-like weather here. Instead it’s a full-on extreme equatorial tropical climate. By day – around 30°C; by night – 25°C, and always hellishly humid – what feels like a constant 100%+.
It goes without saying that scaling a stratovolcano immediately upon arrival in Indonesia is the last thing most regular tourists fancy doing. What’s the first thing on their minds is a slow acclimatization and taking it relatively easy over the first few days, which is just what we did – on the island of Sumatra. There we visited Lake Toba (more on that later), and also a jungle – where we observed daily life of wild monkeys and orangutans.
I’ve been back home a good few days already. I caught my breath and laid low for a bit to recharge the batteries, and then the working year kicked off. But most importantly I sifted through all my recently-taken pics to organize them for my upcoming mini-series: this time on our New-Year-holidays adventure in the jungles of equatorial-tropical Indonesia…
For a full 18 days our posse navigated land, water, air and… volcanoes (naturally), practically without any rest or taking-it-easy at all: ‘tourism til you drop’ – just as I like it. Our guide, O.R., summed it up nicely: ‘And you thought you came here to relax?!’.