Happy Hour on the Ring of Fire: Volcano Watching in Yogyakarta

At the end of a hot, steamy, equatorial day, Terri and I sipped a cold Bintang beer on our hotel balcony.

We listened to the enchanting notes of the Muezzin calling the Faithful to prayers, while watching Mount Merapi smolder in the distance. Honestly, it was bliss.

This was one stop on our month-long trip across Java, and as the center of classical Javanese fine art, it was a wonderful experience. Our interest was predominantly batiks produced by the master artists of the area, but the geologist in me couldn’t ignore the volcano. Because, Mount Merapi is no ordinary volcano.

Our batik purchased in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Java, and in fact the entire Indonesian Archipelago, are links in the chain of the Ring of Fire. The Javanese are no strangers to volcanoes, and even they know that Mt Merapi is a standout.

Over the centuries, the mountain has killed thousands of people, and in a 2010 event, volcanic ash blanketed trees, cars and roads 150 miles away.

Strangely, without any planning, in our latest travels we’ve encountered volcanoes in Reykjavik, Iceland; Santorini, Greece; and Hawaii, USA.

In 1883, another famous volcano in the same tectonic chain, produced one of the most violent eruptions known to man. Simon Winchester’s interesting, and entertaining book Krakatoa, documents this eruption. The ultra-violent explosion of Krakatoa changed weather around the globe, and produced the loudest sound in recorded human history. When it blew, the sound was heard 3000 miles away! If it happened today the explosion would be heard from coast to coast – deafening the politicians in Washington D.C, and stunning Starbuck’s customers in Seattle, Washington.

Volcanoes, like hurricanes, are natural phenomena that I’m intrigued by … and respect from afar. But wow, that was a memorable happy hour.

Happy Trails,

Mt Merapi Flowing

Photo Credits:
1.  Gary Saldana 3. By Bklanting via Wikimedia Commons

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

6 thoughts

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Sometimes in travel, things just come together, and this was one of those times. We didn’t and couldn’t have planned it, and your word surreal is spot on. Thanks.

  1. I went to Jogja only two months after the eruption and on my way to Borobudur Temple, the main road was covered in lahar so I had to take a detour to a smaller road. While driving, I could clearly see the scale of devastation on the surrounding area of Merapi. Folded-down palm tree leaves, the impact of the heavy materials from Mt.Merapi. However it also brings life as the volcanic ash of Merapi fertilized the soil.

    1. That must have been quite a sobering site. I’ve seen lava flows in Hawaii, but on the big island they are not explosive and destructive like Merapi. It’s a reality all across Indonesia, but I always worry about so many people living in such close proximity to such potentially destructive volcanoes. I just keep thinking … “One of these days.” ~James

    1. Jeff, this was one of those wonderfully surreal experiences that will always stay with us. Our hotel room was on the top floor, and we had a great balcony view of the city, and Mt. Merapi smoking in the distance. There were 5-6 mosques scattered around the neighborhood, and they all started the call to prayers at roughly the same time. I don’t remember the brand of beer, but as I learned in Sudan under Sharia law, any beer in a Muslim country takes great. Enjoy Indonesia. ~James

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