Dieng Photos Part II

The best views on the Dieng Plateau, and the reason most people visit the place, can be seen from the top of two mountains on the east side of the plateau: Gunung Sikunir and Gunung Perahu.  I visited both, but unfortunately the rainy season foiled my visions of awesome volcanic panoramas in Dieng.  At least I got some good hiking out of the deal.

Tuesday I hiked to the top of Gunung Sikunir, the most popular spot to watch sunrise since it’s the easier hike compared to Perahu.  I woke up before dawn every day I was in Dieng, looked at the sky, and (with one exception) went back to bed because every day there were clouds.  I climbed Sikunir on Tuesday in the late morning and followed it up with a visit to nearby Kawah Sikidang, the most impressively steaming, bubbling crater on the plateau.

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The view from Gunung Sikunir. Not bad, even in the clouds. The peak of the volcano Gunung Sindoro is visible and hints at the awesome panorama visible on a clear day: not just Sindoro, but also Sumbing just behind and all the way accross Central Java to Merapi and Merbabu.

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Panoramic view of Kawah Sikidang area. Soon, I will figure out a better way to display these panoramas.

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At Yellowstone, they rope off the interesting areas to be viewed from a respectable distance. At Dieng, they let you walk pretty much anywhere.

I talked to a Malaysian guy at dinner later after seeing Kawah Sikidang, the big, steaming hole visible in both the previous photos.  I’d walked around a bit on the rocks with sulfurous steam pouring out and taken some photos, but he’d one-upped me.  There was only a single guard rail in the entire place, fencing off that giant, menacing crater with tons of steam pouring out.  He stepped over that railing to stand about 6 inches from the crater and get a photo.  Who’d have guessed, the sand and gravel inside the railing weren’t stable.  They collapsed and his foot dunked in the boiling water/mud.   He pulled up his pant leg and showed me some moderate burns on his foot and ankle, mostly above the shoe line.  He was lucky.  According to him, 7 people died just last year falling into that crater.  Seems incredible, but that’s what the park officials told him after he’d been taken to safety.

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More volcanic action.

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They may be stinky, but those minerals sure look good.

On Wednesday, it rained all morning.  Around noon, it stopped and I asked Teto (the manager of my guest house) to take me to a viewpoint above Telaga Warna that I’d been unable to find with the Canadians.  The view from above was much better than the one lakeside (plus the light was better for it, and I worked more to make this photo look good).

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Telaga Warna: now that's a colorful lake. On clear days, there is an awesome addition to this view, a huge volcano looming in the sky on the left.

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Teto is a real character. He drives this 1979 Vespa around and says it's like a woman: when it's good it's good, but they're angry at you a lot. The Vespa had to have new spark plugs when I was there, and he turns it off by brushing an exposed wire to the frame. He once rode his mountain bike from Jogjakarta to Bali, about 500 miles, and his upper front gum is grey from chain smoking clove cigarettes. Speaking English he has a heavy accent, but he knows more dirty American slang than I do from practicing with travelers.

After getting back from the lake Wednesday afternoon, I wanted to check out Gunung Perahu in preparation for a possible morning attempt on Thursday, my last day in Dieng.  I set off with vague instructions from Teto, “Follow the path that starts at the pink sign,” walking a maze of pathways through the potato fields.  I wandered around, trying to follow the biggest path, and eventually reached another village.  I asked directions there, and they pointed to more potato fields.  I continued walking towards Perahu, but I could see an enormous, menacing thunderhead moving closer and I decided to retreat for the day.

Later, over dinner, I started to tell Teto and his friend Dewi about my hike.  “I walked through the fields until I got to the village…”  but Dewi interrupted me.  “What village?”.

“You know, the one that you get to when you follow the main path.”

“Ooooh,” they said in unison. “You can get there that way, but it is longer and steeper.”

Good thing Dewi was there this time, his instructions were much more useful than Teto’s.

“Just follow the power line all the way up the hill to the towers.”

The next morning, I woke up again before dawn, and lo and behold I saw stars for the first time all week.  Not many, but enough to get me out of bed and walking toward Gunung Perahu.

The hike went smoothly with Dewi’s good instructions.  I reached the top and found the towers in less than an hour. The hike up Perahu is similar to Manastash Ridge in Ellensburg, a bit longer but not as steep.

The valley was clear, but as I climbed higher I moved into a cloud shrouding the top of Perahu.  In the pre-dawn light, prospects for a view did not seem good.

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Before dawn on top of Perahu.

I waited until I knew the sun had already risen, but still nothing.  Then, all of a sudden a gust of wind brought me this:

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Top of Perahu a bit after dawn.

If only Perahu were another 100 meters taller, I might have been able to see all the way to Merapi. As it was, I was low enough that the low clouds were still blocking my view.

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So close to a great view.

To make the best of it, I kept hiking along the ridge on Gunung Perahu.  The clouds broke in the direction of Deing village for a couple of minutes, but I didn’t get any photos, and things never opened up in the other direction

The trail along the top of the ridge was overgrown.  I don’t think it gets much use in the rainy season.  I was clearly breaking trail for the first time that day. I found that for spiders, the gap in the brush on either side of the overgrown trail was the perfect place to string their webs.  I was pushing through a lot of these, every 10 yards or so.

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Despite walking through at least a hundred of these, I didn't find any spiders on me when I got home.

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The hike down through the remaining forest on Perahu was nice as well. This was the perfect climbing/tree fort tree and I had to get a picture.

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3 thoughts on “Dieng Photos Part II

  1. Keep it coming, Andy! I love reading your blog and seeing your photos; it’s a vicarious adventure for me. I’m frequently struck by the different attitudes towards safety I’ve been exposed to in Asia compared to home. When there’s a guard rail, I might think even an Indonesian would be more careful, since there aren’t many! Of course, if someone fell into a crater and died here, and there was no sign warning against crossing the rail, the family would sue the government for not taking adequate precautions. I suppose that doesn’t happen in Indonesia.

    • Yeah, attitudes about safety are VERY different here. I cringe every time I see a family of four go by on a motorcycle. Usually it’s baby between mom and dad, the big boy up front, and no helmets in sight.

  2. Hahaha, if you’ve lived here long enough you get used to seeing this, I’ve seen many “sixpacks”, a family of six on a moped…..and how about the sleeping kids on the mopeds, oblivious to the noise around them, unique. Going up to Dieng tomorrow, with my 2 boys and a few friends. Thanks for writing about the Perahu trail, looking forward to the hike and views. Pray for blue skies, although the weather has been out of whack, june-july and still raining, very unusual, even the locals are worried.

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