It was in October of 2010 when Merapi of Central Java, Indonesia, erupted again, this time bigger than it had in over 100 years. Now the danger zone has been removed and the villages are welcoming for a visit. Small boys open the bamboo gates and let us go up five km from the crater in exchange for a coin in their donation box.
The view that opens from the slopes of the mountain can most precisely be described as moonscape. The lines of the destruction are so well cut, that if on one side of the road villagers are handling their everyday lives, the other side still rests under a thick layer of mud and ashes. In some places one can hardly imagine where the houses used to stand, in other places one can blow away the ashes from a doorknob and enter a house which is frozen in time.
Some villages, where tourists are more often seen and the donation box is getting heavier, people have started to put their lives together again. Between the burnt ground and trees, between the gray houses, one can find colorful clothes drying in sun, an old lady washing her windows and her grandson cleaning carpets. There is no time for mourning.
Some other families are not doing so well. An old grandmother who we meet on the road has lost her house indefinitely. “All gone!“ she is shaking her head looking towards her ex-house, but still coming back to the village, because selling food to the tourists is her only income now. When the sun sets, the woman returns to her siblings in a safer place. And so do we.
Photos and Text by Berit Renser
Berit Renser is also writing for the blog www.avantourists.com . She is an anthropologist/traveller/writer from Estonia who is currently living in Indonesia.
These photos were taken in December 2010, and by now the situation has probably changed slightly, the most famous village turning more into a tourist spot where one can see all the broken houses and the way of the lava. The other villages probably continuing their normal lives in the houses which were not completely destroyed my mud and ashes. Many have moved, but there are still many who refuse to move.