Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Volcano Adventure! Gunung Merapi, Indonesia, Tuesday, 07 June 2011 10:00am

So, picture this...

The Javanese black panther is one of the rarest animals in Indonesia. It is estimated that only twelve of them remain, confined to the area near Gunung Merapi. This in itself may have something to do with their rarity, since Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with major eruptions every four to six years.

It's just past daybreak, and our intrepid band has crested one of the foothills of Merapi, led by our guide Christian, who in 27 years of giving tour of the mountain, has only seen the black panther four times. We pause for a few minutes in the wreckage of a seismic observation post, destroyed by the pyroclastic flows of the eruption in November.

I hear nothing, for the approach of the Javanese black panther is silent, and then, with a "rowr!" the panther attacks! It gets one good swipe at my arm before I manage to grab it by the scruff of its neck and send it packing into the nearby underbrush! Luckily, the French couple on the expedition is able to stanch the spray of arterial blood from my forearm. With a makeshift bandage in place, gritting my teeth against the pain, we press on, eager to see what else Merapi has in store for us before the afternoon clouds roll in.

Anja from Germany says that that is a much better story than what actually happened, which was that the concrete foundation of the observation post collapsed under me, dropping me about five feet and scraping my arm. I personally think it's kind of hilarious that on a five hour volcano hike, over steep terrain made even more unstable by fallen ash and stone (up to two meters deep in some of the places we went), I managed to injure myself on the only concrete.

The hike itself was excellent. We got to see Merapi at dawn on a crystal-clear morning. We saw the remains of the forest park (the eruption triggered landslides even on the side of the hill that was protected from the ash), and walked across former woodlands just starting their recovery. It's impressive how much greenery there is already. Tufts of tall grass, small stands of bamboo, ground-hugging vines, and wildflowers were already in evidence, and some of the trees that weren't killed outright are starting to show new sprouts. We saw some tiger Balm (smells like sarsaparilla) and cinnamon growing wild. And we had three breakfasts between 4am and 10.


!!! kbk (Anonymously) Tuesday, 07 June 2011 9:43pm

wow...ok, um, arterial blood was just for the panther scenario, right? eeeeek!

aneel Wednesday, 08 June 2011 7:06am

Yeah, most of the blood in the collapse scenario was subcutaneous. It did break the skin in a few places, and the French couple did provide me with antiseptic (you know it's working 'cause it stings!), gauze, and tape. But it wasn't deep enough to hit an artery.

(Anonymously) Saturday, 11 June 2011 10:52am

OK good. You don't wanna go losing blood in strange countries. Once the foreign ghosts get a sniff, they can follow you back and then you've gotta feed them and clean up after them for, like, EVER.