Eyes of SWILD

  Backpacking The Island of Sumatra, Indonesia and Climbing Attempt of Mt. Merapi

The survivors

Our guide (center) said it was a good night for the volcano spirits of Mt. Merapi in central Sumatra. How little did we know. Half way up the 10pm ascent (for dawn), the ground shook violently.

French team in peices

All hell broke loose. First we saw bright orange streaks of lava shooting into the air. A few minutes later, chunks of rock came crashing down in the jungle around us. The French team ahead of us came down covered in ash.

Active volcano warning

We were warned that Mt. Merapi was dangerous. The whole valley, for 5 - 10 miles around us, was covered in 1 - 3 inches of gray ash. Two unlucky Germans closer to the summit perished.

Rice paddies

The hills of Bukkittingi are covered in terraces of rice. The photo doesn't do the color of the rice paddy fields any justice.

Fresh chicken

Some of the open air restaurants can get a little basic. This one serves up a fresh chicken from scratch.

Bat cave entrance

Just outside of Bukkittingi are some unknown bat caves. As the cave is filled by a river, the only way in is by leaky boat filled with gravel.

Flaming torch light

You can hear the thousands of bats. With flaming torch light as the only illumination, it's difficult to see them. Once or twice, a bat will come screeching across the bow of the boat.

Bat cave transport

The bat cave area is close to a local village that earns a living by scooping the gravel and mud from the caves for local building supplies. I'm not sure what effect the locals are having on the bat colonies.

Puppies to be eaten

Paul bought these two puppies from the food market - rescuing them from certain death as someone's dinner. Unfortunately, the family he gave them to as pets, ate them two days later when he returned to check on their health. Until he dies, Paul will remember those poor puppies with thoughts of his betrayal.

Snake stew

The local snake soup is pretty good. The writhing snakes are scooped up from this basket, gutted and cooked. Some are turned into soup, the others fried like chicken.