The steep route up Mount Merapi was filled with a lot of hand holding. Jonathan wanted to climb Mount Merapi before we even got to Java. The kid just wants to see lava! The first day we were in Jogjakarta we ventured to the tourist office to ask if the mountain was accessible for climbers. Interestingly enough we got a big no, because of recent volcanic activity. We sighed and sadly settled with the fact that we could not climb the mountain.
Fast forward 30 minutes and we find out that the owner of a motorbike rental shop can organize us a climb up. The plan included transport to and from the Mountain, a guide to take us up and down, and a packed breakfast. All for a one time fee of $29.99! We’re in! We rent motorbikes and plan to climb the mountain the next evening. Unfortunately the next day turned into the worst day of my life and the climb had to be postponed indefinitely. We did eventually climb Mount Merapi the day after.
As you may already know I broke two teeth when my jaw met the pavement and I could no longer eat solid food. Food that I needed to line my stomach with before taking pain killers and antibiotics. After several attempts of sucking down yogurt and chicken I gave up on eating and just took my medication on the way to Mount Merapi. That was a mistake. If you ask me to transport myself back to that day all I can remember is how awful, hungry, tired, sad and nauseated I felt. I wanted to crawl into a hole and make feelings stop. Instead I had to climb a mountain… nay, a volcano, in total darkness.
We set out for the climb up at around 1am. The first 40 minutes were filled with climbing steep paved roads in the sleepy village of Selo. Whatever darkness I saw in front of me was the mountain. We had 2 guides and a total of 4 other climbers. Once the paved road hike was complete we set onto a hiking path up the mountain. We were making good ground until we were halted by a slow group of German tourists. Okay, so Indonesian hiking/volcano advisories don’t mean shit. Got it! We leapfrogged with zie Germans for a couple of hours but in the end we were making our way pretty quickly up the mountain. In fact, we were so quick that we had to wait an hour at the highest point of vegetation on the mountain because it would have been too cold to wait for the sunrise at the summit.
It was already way too cold where we were. Jonathan and I cuddled for warmth and tried to nap until we were awakened by our guides. Up until this point the climb up was bearable. Yes, I felt awful but the climb was doable. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Once we got onto loose volcanic rocks and sand, my body was about to give up. Unlike the climb up Mount Kinabalu, where I beat Jonathan all the way to the top, I was in complete shambles in comparison to him. So close to the summit I was ready to give up. I could see the peak so clearly but I just couldn’t do it any more. As I made yet another step on to a loose rock that gave way I settled with the thought that I wouldn’t make to the top of this mountain. I felt someone grab my hand and drag me up. It was one of our guides whose name I never learnt, for the purpose of this post I will call him Freddie. Freddie never stopped holding my hand as we climbed the last few hundred metres of Mount Merapi. I don’t normally rely on others for physical support but without his support I would never have gotten to the summit.
Eventually, we reached the summit to watch the sun rise over the beautiful landscape. The conditions were not ideal. The air was thin and we were being sandblasted by the volcanic ash. I only had 30 teeth and I was nauseous and hungry at the same time, but I was happy. Happy I made it to the top of this volcanic monster that still shakes and spews lava when it feels like it. I give complete credit to Freddie, without him I would never have reached the summit of Mount Merapi.
The way down was trickier than the way up. The light volcanic rocks slid away as soon as I stepped on them. Freddie did not let go of my hand until he was sure I had my footing on the hiking path. What a good guy! Normally the way back feels shorter but this time it felt excruciatingly long. It was however long enough to make my nausea go away and we took a break for ramen at the “base camp”. As we clumsily walked down a steep paved road we watched the quiet village of Selo wake up and start their day off. I felt accomplished. I didn’t let Jonathan down. We managed to move on from my accident and get back into travel mode.