Continuing my July adventure in Indonesia from the first post (found here), we left Gili Trawangan and had two days in Jakarta before heading off on our next voyage to visit the island volcano of Anak Krakatau.
A little bit of History
I could write an entire post about the history of Anak Karakatau, but I’m no historian and that would be boring for most people, so let’s just get the cool and interesting bits out of wikipedia and those of you who want an in depth info session can Google to your heart’s content.
Anak Krakatau is located in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra which is a very shallow area of flat sea dotted with little islands. Most people won’t recognise the name Anak Karatau, but everyone should have already heard of Krakatoa, the massive volcano that erupted back in 1883. That eruption is known as the “sound that shook the world”, the pressure wave from the final explosion was recorded on barographs around the world, which continued to register it up to 5 days after the explosion. The recordings show that the shock-wave from the final explosion reverberated around the globe 7 times in total. Ash was propelled to a height of 80 km. The sound of the eruption was so loud it was said that if one was within ten miles (16 km), they would go deaf.
Anak Krakatau is the volcano that sprang form the ruins left over by the Krakatoa Eruption, it first popped up out of the sea in 1927 and has been growing steadily ever since at an average rate of 13cm per week. There are explosions pretty much every day…as you may see further down.
…and there endeth the lesson.
Most visitors to the volcano depart from the island of Sumatra…but we were in Jakarta on the island of Java, and it seemed silly to fly somewhere and then drive and then get a boat. So we hired a van and a driver and drove from Jakarta to the harbor town of Anyer, which I’ll explain more about next.
The drive was intense and long, traffic in South East Asia is a mess at the best of times, and highway travel is even worse, the idea of lanes is considered to be the most disregardable of guidelines, and no-one gives a crap about undertaking, overtaking, indicating or any of those other general road rules. I wish I had some photos to back up all this crazy talk (if you’ve never seen it, you can’t really imagine it), but I was too busy being gripped by a sensational fear and excitement watching the driver work his magic to stay on the road, that and we left at about 5am, so I was too tired to give a crap about blogging!
Anyer is a pretty small town, but it has some historical impact for those of you who are wanting to visit the volcano. It is home to a forty metre lighthouse built by King Willem III of the Netherlands in 1885 as a memorial for the townspeople killed by the eruption of Krakatoa, which destroyed the town and completely obliterated the original brick lighthouse that you can still see the foundations of barely 30 meters away.
While other braver members of my family climbed the tiny spiraling staircase in what I like to call the “steely death trap of doom” lighthouse. I hung around on terra-firma and took some shots as the sun dipped below the watery horizon and listened to our guide getting meticulously grilled by my mum for more details. It was nice place but had an eerie vibe of the tragedy that had occurred there, and I have been told the view from the lighthouse is pretty nice.
We also popped in to visit the seismological center that monitors the activity for Anak Krakatao, although to call it a center is being pretty nice. It was basically a one room operation, with charts and maps on all walls and this one guy constantly sitting in front of the live seismographic readout watching the needle bounce up and down.
The guys there were really cool though, very informative and really quite happy to answer any questions we had and show us how it all worked, they explained to us that there were 4 sensors on the volcano, but they only had 3 working, as the fourth one kinda got a bit banged up in the last big eruption…I believe it got hit by a rock or maybe a dozen rocks, not sure, but the solar panels were dead that’s for sure.
The Way there
The next morning it was day trip time, and after my bad experience on the speedboat to and from Gili Trawangan I took my sea-sickness pill and put on a brave face whilst I prepared myself for a bloody horrible day on a boat. Did I mention I hate boats?
Surprisingly the sea was dead flat the whole way there, and afterwards I realised this was because the whole seabed between these island is shallow and flat…which makes for smooth seas (yay!) and also makes for pretty bad tsunamis from certain massive volcano eruptions (crap!).
We passed bamboo squid fishing platforms that come alive at night with spotlights to catch the little squidies that inhabit the area, and then slowly saw the islands reveal themselves in the distance out of our misty horizon.
There are 3 islands that surround the volcano, they are the remnants from the original Krakatoa, as we approached them in our little boat it gave us a sense of how big the original volcano must have been, and also of how much of it completely blew up and got tossed into the sea creating that massive tsunami back in 1883.
The plan for the day was to tour around the volcano, then stop off on it and hike halfway up the side of it before heading off to one of the other islands for some lunch and snorkeling.
The Smouldering mountain
As we headed closer towards the volcano we could see it was letting off a lot of steam both from the crater and from small vents up the side, the landscape around the island was all greys and blacks of rock and dirt and ash dotted with yellow sulfur. Yet one side of the island had trees and lush jungle underbrush and a smooth black sandy beach, quite the contrast.
After circling the volcano we pulled into the black sandy beach and stepped onto shore. If it weren’t for the massive smoking hill this beach would have been paradise! Once everyone was off the boat we found a little path leading off the beach and were greeted by the local national parks men who are tasked with overseeing the volcano.
Now these guys had a weird job, they camped in tiny lean to tents out on the island for a couple of weeks per shift and advised us tourists if it was safe to hike up the mountain or not. Sounds pretty normal, but they are also tasked with protecting the island from potential invaders, and that was why they were walking around barefoot in green camo-esque gear holding machine guns under their arms…I love Asia!
So after milling about for 5 minutes while our guide and the guards discussed our plans and safety up the mountain it was revealed to us that the volcano was not safe enough for us to hike up the side, but we were allowed to wander up and down the black sandy beach. This kinda bummed us out a bit as we had spent most of the boat trip around the volcano debating the various heights we may be able to get to, but we dutifully trudged off down the beach and took photos of driftwood (or drift trees given their size) and other various bits and pieces that caught our fancy along the way.
The mountain puts on a show
okay, so maybe the title gives too much away, but it also makes you keep reading…now where was I? Oh yeah, so we were walking along the beach taking photos of the black sand and the trees being eroded away by the ocean, and we reach the end of this little beach and think to ourselves “well this is pretty cool, but I wish I was hiking up a volcano” and then BOOM! the earth rumbles and we get hit by a sound so deep with bass it’s hard to describe (you hear it…but you feel it more…)
Stupidly my first instinct is to look to my immediate surroundings, whereas other more astute family members eyes went straight for the volcano which was now billowing smoke (not that wispy white steam crap…proper big plumes of smoke) at a Dante’s Peak massive eruption finale rate (bad movie…cool eruption).
As we all gather round to watch in awe the ever increasing smoke stack above our heads, thoughts of being covered in ash and potentially ouchy hot stuff creep into our minds and we unanimously agree that we should head back to the machine gun toting park rangers and maybe distance ourselves a little from this potential health hazard.
On our slow walk back, the volcano explodes 5 more times and billows more and more smoke up and out from the crater, but no sparkly molten lava is spewed forth (hence the reason the guides called it an explosion rather than an eruption, I think explosion actually sounds worse). We all quickly hop back in our little boat and head away from the busy volcano as it continues to spew smoke and ash.
Thinking back on it now, I can only imagine how our poor guide must have felt having a tiny speedboat full of buzzing tourists being all excited and gossipy about a volcano he sees almost every day put on a show just like what we saw, he must have been laughing his head off on the inside…I’m sure he’s seen it put on a much more impressive show.
He diligently steers us towards our next destination of Rakata which is one of the three islands left over from the original Krakatoa eruption. It’s massive, and has a huge sheer cliff on one side which gives you some perspective as to how big the original volcano must have been.
We pull in to a lovely beach on the far side of the island for lunch and some snorkeling, really nice. The beach is pretty much all there is to see, because 5 meters in from the sandy banks is lush, thick deep jungle that engulfs you in moments, which made teh whole thing feel exotic and private…we had the whole beach to ourselves.
Here there be dragons!
Now I know some purists are going to get a bit pissed here…but stuff ‘em. After we finished lunch and had spent some time milling about on the black sandy beach, we noticed some visitors had dropped by to grab our scraps and generally devour anything edible within reach…
These guys moved in such a cool way, they seemed all slow and cool, and then they would lift themselves off the ground and move like a bat out of hell when they had to. They also did this freaky thing where they sort of sat up and watched you…that was unnerving.
Technically speaking they are just plain old iguanas or goannas, and nothing at all like the massive Komodo Dragons of Indonesia, but hey, we were near a volcano and there was a general fire and brimstone vibe, so I’ll call them dragons if I feel like it!
After lunch we spent some time snorkeling off the boat, and saw some more cool coral and fish…but the visibility was pretty poor and the camera was just not getting any decent shots. So it was off in the boat and back to our port near Anyer, then a 4 hour drive back to Jakarta.
It was an awesome day, and I would highly recommend it to everyone, our guide was a legend, the food was awesome, and the experience was amazing! You can find the full Flickr stream of these photos and more by clicking here
Next up… the final Indonesian adventure in Ubud, Bali