01/07/2018 – 02/07/2018
Merbabu volcano is located in the north of Yogyakarta on the Indonesian Java island. Meaning « Mountain of Ashes » in the local language, this volcano is one of the many on the famous Ring of Fire. As the Sicilian Etna, the Indonesian Merapi and many others around the world, Merbabu belongs to the strato-volcano family, characterized by a steep conical profile and frequent, violent eruptions with pyroclastic flows. Merbabu is however dormant, in opposition with its close neightbor Merapi (more info on Wikipedia over here).
Where to start?
There are two possibilities to choose from:
- Selo town between Merbabu and Merapi
- Kopeng town, north of Merbabu
We chose to start from Selo, since what we found through the web mentioned it as the best one (see « www.shorts-trip.com« ). Starting from Kopeng would apprently be less steep, but would add a few hours to the walk.
Keep in mind that this trek is not famous at all among foreign tourists and most trekkers are locals, reaching the place by motorbike. Public transports are scarce or totally absent.
How to reach Selo?
There are two possible ways to get there from Yogyakarta:
- The Yogyakarta-Magelang road, on the left side of the volcano:
- Local bus until Mungkid from Yogyakarta Jombor terminal: 5.000 IDR/pp (0,30€)
- Mungkid-Selo: (*)
- Ojek (Motorbike-Taxi): 25.000 IDR/pp (1,5€)
- Public transports are missing
- The Yogyakarta-Buyolai road, on the right side of the volcano:
- Local bus to Buyolali
- Buyolali-Selo: (**)
- Ojek (Motorbike-Taxi)
- Public transport ?
Our adventure started back from Kaliurang, on the other side of Merapi. As we missed the last bus going back to Yogyakarta, we had to hitchhike down to Jombor terminal, where we took a bus to Magelang. We got off in Mungkid, but were told that the last bus to Selo left again without us as it was passed 3PM… Most Indonesians are Muslims and wake up at 4:30AM to pray and start everyday really early in the morning, which sometimes hits us really hard since we are not « Morning people » at all.
We started our search for accommodation in Mungkid (which is also quite an adventure by the way) and locals showed us a place called the « Fresh Chicken« . The place is neither on Maps.me, nor Booking.com because it’s both a business hotel, a restaurant and a plastic bags manufacture. We stayed there for 150.000 IDR/night (9€) and quickly made friends with Dina, the owner. She also unexpectedly offered to drove us up to Selo the next morning, even if it is 1h away from Mungkid!
(*) If you feel like driving on the left side, you might want to consider renting a motorbike for 50.000 IDR/day (3€) or a car for 400.000 IDR/day (24€). Roads are well maintained in the area.
(**) Locals told us afterwards that going through Buyolali offers much better transport options as there are more people taking this road…
There are only a few homestays spread accross Selo, according to Booking.com, but there are several others actually. Those on the web offer rooms for 15€/night, which we find really expensive, considering you get private rooms but only shared bathrooms. We did not book anything and locals offered us a room in their house for a few hours before we started trekking at night. For 50.000 IDR (3€), we could sleep for a few hours, have dinner and tea/coffee at will. For 25.000 IDR/pp (1,5€) more, they drove us by car up to Basecamp, starting point of the trekking trail.
- Trekking on Merbabu volcano
- Trekking on Merapi volcano (if its alert level goes back to level 1/4)
- Wandering around in the countryside, offering gorgeous views over the volcanoes and local vegetables and tobacco crops
Trekking at night on the volcanoes is quite famous among locals and a wonderful experience, as it allows you to catch both sunrises and sunsets, with breathtaking 360° views on the valleys around.
Here are a few hints if you plan on trekking at night on Merbabu:
- Starting point: « Basecamp Selo«
- Suggested starting time: 9:30PM
- Basecamp to Summit: 6 hours, no hurry and many stops
- Distance to summit: 5km
- Sunrise: 5h30-5h45
- Weather conditions: Expect really cold temperatures and wind at the summit. Always check weather forecasts here before you go, as we would not recommand it, would it rain.
- Summit to Basecamp: 4 to 5 hours depending on the soil condition (we had a dry, yet slippery ground). Be prepared and come with good hiking shoes 😉
- « Bule » price: 150.000 (entrance) + 1.000 (insurance) + 5.000 (trekking permit) = 156.000 IDR/pp (9,3€)
- One or several days trek? One day is enough to see it through, but there are several campsites spread over the volcano, all the way to the top. Famous among locals, you will never be alone!
- Infrastructures: None, except at one of the campsites, but it is more of a shithole than a proper infrastructure…
- 4G coverage: NONE! Expect serious interruption, even in Selo. You’d better have an offline map, like Maps.me and tell people about your plans before you go.
- Guide or not? There is no need of any guide if you have Maps.me as the trail path is well indicated. However, if you do want one, prices tend to be around 300.000 IDR/pp (18€).
How to get away from Selo?
Same as to getting here, leaving Selo is quite difficult. It seems that there are public transports running, but we did not see any. We hitchhiked through the Buyolali road until Karatsura Terminal in Surakarta city, where, we took a bus back to Yogyakarta for two hours, 20.000 IDR/pp (1,2€).
As you may have noticed, trekking on Gunung Merbabu offers gorgeous views, but getting in and out is quite a pain in the ass. We will remember the locals kindness, the sunrise, our stay in a typical homestay, but also the cold at the summit!