Day 219 to 221 – (10th – 12th Apr) Yogyakarta

6 05 2011

It took us a long time to get our heads around how the name of this place is pronounced and spelt, to be honest I’m still a little confused. It appears it’s spelt like Yogyakarta but pronounced Jogjakarta, however locals seem to abbreviate it to jogja to save any confusion.

We have been staying in the Sosrowijayan area¸ a charming location with great little alleyways you would feel safer walking down than most in London. The alleyways made for great short cuts between busier streets and took on a life of their own, home to small restaurants and bars, home stays and other local businesses.

We spent our first day exploring the city and a few of its sights such as the less than grand walled royal enclave, Kraton. The next day we hired a driver to take us to the Gunung Merapi volcano and Prambanan temple. Our first view of Merapi was after a short hike up a very steep hill through a deserted and dubious looking park that we thought had been storm damaged and poorly mentioned. However, from the top of the hill it became very clear this was no storm. The scene before us was like something from the end of Predator – after the Predator self destructs.

We could see the volcano’s southern slopes and every tree in sight was flattened like cocktail sticks and stripped of its vegetation, total devastation over dozens of square kilometres. The destruction occurred a few months ago when Gunung Merapi volcano erupted and sent a huge pyroclastic flow down the valley. The pyroclastic flow can reach speeds of 450mph and temperatures around 1000oC, destroying everything it engulfs. In the distance we could make out what looked like makeshift tarpaulin camps and a few houses. Later we would find out this was what was left of a town after the pyroclastic flow tore through killing 353 men, woman and children.

Our next stop was the destroyed town of Cangkringan; it was tough going. The further up the volcano slope we walked, the greater the destruction. Despite the government forbidding locals from returning to their homes to rebuild, many still do. It was strange being on the slopes of such an active volcano and knowing if there was a big bang and Gunung Merapi volcano was to again erupt there is nothing you could do. We were never going to out run that 450mph pyroclastic flow…


Anyway, we made it off the volcano and headed to Prambanan, one of the largest and grandest Hindu temples in SE Asia, comprising of 50 or so mini temple sites. Unfortunately pretty much all of them had been destroyed in the 2006 earthquake, so what we were left looking at was something I could liken to the end of a really big game of Jenga.

The second temple of the day was Shiva temple; in its prime or once fully restored would have been an impressive site. Walking around the temple I couldn’t help but think this must have taken a long time to build and required a huge amount of effort by a great many people. Humans go to great lengths in the name of one God or another. Just hope these guys built it for the right one…

Another day another temple. To be honest, it’s quite hard to make these temples sound interesting!! The following day it was Borobudur temple, a grand Buddhist temple in the process of being cleaned by a small army of men with cocktail sticks. I kid you not some of the workers were removing the mosses and lichen from the stone surfaces with cocktail sticks. It was a big place and that was going to take a long time.

In the evening it was even more culture, this time in the form of a very amateur’ish Indonesian ballet, so much so a handful of people walked out. By the end I wished we had joined them.

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