Monday, February 14, 2011

Volcanic Ash In Yogyakarta

From Kuala Lumpur we took a flight to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  The primary reason for visiting this place for a couple days was to see its magnificent and very large ancient temples.  I was particularly excited for this portion of the trip because ever since I saw Angkor Wat I have been fascinated by these sorts of things.  The main attractions were Borobudur and Prambanan.  However, if you read the news then you may know that very near to Yogyakarta is a very big and very active volcano named Mount Merapi.  In fact, the volcano blew up in early November and killed well over three hundred people living around the base of the volcano.  Volcanic ash covered everything and clean up was near complete by the time we arrived.

We landed very early in the morning, made it to the hostel, ate some food, and jumped in a van that would take us to see Borobudur.  It is a Buddhist temple that is over 1200 years old.  It was abandoned because it was believed that it was bad luck and could kill people.  This resulted in the temple becoming buried under layers of volcanic ash and jungle vegetation.  Then in the early 19th century a Dutch explorer rediscovered the temple, gave it a good scrub down, and nothing has really changed since.  Anyway, thirty minutes in to the van ride it started to rain and the traffic suddenly became very congested.  This is the first time I ever heard the word lahar.  What is lahar?  I can tell you this information now from experience.  Take leftover volcanic ash from a recent explosion, take some debris, and just add water.  You get yourself a murky, muddy, wet cement like sludge that flows unmercifully over river valleys leaving a trail of destruction.  When the flow stops it hardens and cements everything that was in its path.  So the reason for the before mentioned traffic jam was because a couple blocks ahead if us a large flow of lahar made its way to the road making the route impassible.  Our driver was determined to get us to the temple and took a detour through little rural villages.  This detour was two hours long and before the lahar incident we were only ten minutes away.  We finally arrived tired, cranky, and hungry.  However, the temple was quite amazing and offered a great view of the menacing Mount Merapi.


The next day we went to Prambanan.  It's a Hindu temple that is over 1100 years old.  Since it was first built it has been destroyed repeatedly by earthquakes and eruptions from Mount Merapi.  Presently large portions have been reconstructed but there is a lot of rubble surrounding the site.  It was raining again but this time we avoided any lahar.  We walked around with our umbrellas and followed some young tour guide volunteers who were currently in training and practicing their English.  Prambanan didn't have the same grandeur as Borobudur but it was still impressive and interesting.  Next we had a flight to Bali and it was time for the beach.

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