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Mount Merapi is located exactly north of Yogyakarta city. Most portions of its southern slope are located under the jurisdiction of the special district (Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta).

There are a number of villages along its southern slopes where breathtaking view of the mountain peak can be enjoyed. The most popular ones are Kaliurang and Deles, both have a number small mountain resorts for tourists. Otherwise, villages such as Kinahrejo (about 6.5 km from the peak), Umbulharjo (7km from the peak), Kaliadem, Pakem, Cangkringan, Turi and Ngemplak.


I counted my blessing as during my visit on 13th May 2006, this spectacular 2,911-metre giant was assigned the highest alert level for volcanic activities. While it is known that Mt Merapi is one of the world's most active volcanoes, being able to witness one of its greatest showcases of natural prowess in modern history is something I could never would have forgotten.

The photographs above were taken along my journey to and back from Candi Borobudur, via the villages of Sleman, Tempel, Salam and Muntilan, all in Magelang District. The early morning journey was spectacular when the rising sun highlighted the smoke that came out of Mt Merapi's peak, as though to give an impression of scintillating fires.

During that day, Mt Merapi sent out 10-20 volcanic clouds to the southeast and southwest. The clouds, technically known as nuees ardentes or "shaggy goats" consisted of lightweight volcanic gases, ash and dust particles. Actually, there were 33 lava flows recorded as far as 2km down the slope, although the magnificent the liquid hot magma was not visible to the naked eyes (locals were known to frequent strategic spots before morning sunrise to view this).

I have also managed to witness the avalanche of pyroclastic clouds, albeit from afar, in the village of Mungkid. Such occurrence is considered rare because most eruptions will produce lightweight clouds that ooze up to the sky. On the other hand, a pyroclastic eruption will send scorching volcanic stones and dust down the slope, often at a temperature exceeding 1,000 Celcius, with a ground speed of 300 - 500 km per hour. Common misconception would suggest that the liquid hot lava is the main danger of a volcanic eruption, but in reality, the molten rocks and metals from the earth's core are flowing gracefully in nature, and can easily be avoided from. Pyroclastic ash is a different beast altogether. It can reach you in seconds, and I don't have to explain what a 1,000-Celcius temperature will do to a mere mortal like us.

Actually, I have also taken a few shots of Mt Merapi at other locations on different days. Surely the eruption wasn't as spectacular as the May 13th one, but still worth a good look. I took a few shots of Mt Merapi from Klaten (during sunset, with thin smoke drifted out of the peak), from Prambanan (clouded view but an eruption was visible), as well as in Yogyakarta (directly facing the Keraton compound, minimal eruption).

Probably once in a lifetime experience. Just keep your distance and follow safety precautions set by the local authority.

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