Solikin could not qualify as a tour guide. He did not know much about the history. But he knew how to take my photos. He was smart too. He enticed me with a trip to see Mount Merapi, that elusive volcano that I failed to capture on my train ride to Solo. He said we would rent a spedamoto, travelled through the villages to Kaliurang, one of the foothills of Mount Merapi. Offer was too good to refuse. We started bargaining again!
"Terpulang pada Bapak", noting that this same statement worked earlier!
"Ngak boleh begitu. Berapa ongkos sewa spedamoto?"
Soon, we left Borobudur and I found myself a pillion-rider, headed for Mount Merapi. Dear elusive Mount Merapi, here I come!
We passed several villages. Solikin took shortcuts which only the locals would know. The weather was grey with threatening rain. It was cool. Passing a stream, I noticed black rocks. It was larvae from past eruptions. The lands here though were fertile from the volcanic ash. Vegetables abound.
The road began to climb and the Yamaha was protesting as we headed up and up towards the foothills of Gunung Merapi. No signs of Merapi. The weather was misty and I was feeling chilly. We reached the foothill and I was greeted with this view.
Merapi had eluded me once again! It was a wash-out. On a clear day, Merapi would be visible from this look-out point. The caretaker was sympathetic. "Tunggu Pak, mungkin matahari keluar dan cuaca bertukar. Nanti bisa melihat Merapi". So I waited, and waited, and waited.
While waiting, we went into the office. He invited me to visit the bunker.
Made of very thick concrete, the bunker would be the safe haven for staff should Merapi erupt. Entering it gave a feeling of being trapped. One could even feel claustrophobic inside it. There was also a viewing window made of very thick glass to view the larvae flow. It also had a thick hatch to close the window. Would it stand the massive heat of molten rock? I certainly would not want to be there to test it.
A seismograph to measure the movement of Merapi was on, 24 hours a day, monitored by the care-taker. It looked primitive by today's sophisticated system. The monitor showed moving graphs. To a layman, the graphs looked pretty similar to those in any hospital when your body is wired for medical observation!
I continued waiting. My tour guide Solikin was patient. He could wait the whole day he said. After all, his day's earning was already secured. Merapi remained elusive. Past lunch hour, I told him we should head back to Borobudur. A final glance at the foothill. You have won, Merapi!
We had another round of Nasi Padang at another restaurant in Borobudur. Later Solikin brought me around to visit his village and view Borobudur from another angle. I took a shot of him with Borobudur in the background.
It was getting late in the afternoon and after saying goodbye to Solikin, I decided to take the bus back to Jogja, with my bike as additional luggage. It was a fruitful day. Merapi would have to wait another visit, another time.
I ended my 1 week exploring Jogjakarta and its surrounding on a satisfactory note. I loved the countryside. I loved its people. I loved its food. I loved its crowd. I blended in well. Alhamdulillah. I carried the fond memories with me on this "becak".
Selamat Jalan. Sampe ketemu lagi