Merapi Fire Mountain

Love Engine | Monday, 26 January 2015 - 22:32:58 WIB | be read: 4720 reader

Few of Southeast Asia’s volcanoes are as evocative, or as destructive, as Gunung Merapi (Fire Mountain). Towering 2911m over Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Prambanan, this immense Fujiesque cone is a threatening, disturbingly close presence for thousands. The volcano has erupted dozens of times over the past century and some observers have theorised that it was even responsible for the mysterious evacuation of Borobudur and the collapse of the old Mataram kingdom during the 11th century.

Merapi is revered and feared in equal measure. Every year, offerings from Yogya’s kraton are made to appease the mountain’s foul temper, in conjunction with offerings to the Queen of the South Seas at Parangtritis. But Merapi isn’t so easy to appease. On 22 November 1994 it erupted, killing more than 60 people, and it has been on the boil ever since. In 2006 28,000 people were evacuated as lava and pyroclastic flows cascaded from its upper slopes.

Such is its threat, Merapi is one of only 16 ‘decade volcanoes’ in the world, a definition bestowed by the United Nations sponsored International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction for particularly explosive peaks. Eruptions, however, have not put a stop to people living on the mountain. With a population density of 690 people per sq km, Merapi supports hundreds of small communities.

The hill resort of Kaliurang, 25km north of Yogyakarta, is the main access point for views of Merapi and makes a wonderful break from the city.

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