Mount Merbabu, the Mountain of Ashes

Yesterday, my friends and I succeeded to stand on top of Mount Merbabu, a dormant stratovolcano in Central Java, its highest peak being 3,142 m. It was no coincidence that the day that we reached the peak was also the day of Indonesia’s Independence Day.

merbabu5Mount Merbabu was one of the most challenging mountains I’ve ever climbed; its variety of fields ranged from vegetation, steep hills, dry sands, paths from stones, to walls of rocks (we had to do rock-climbing at several points). We camped after 6 hours of walking, and woke up at midnight to continue to walk 4 hours to the summit. Yet ― as cliché as this may seem ― every single effort was worth it when the dawn cracked and we could see the majestic beauty around us. It was all worth it when we finally made it to the peak in time for the flag ceremony.

In the midst of every negative issue that we are currently facing (from corruption to petty political games), it’s very easy to find reasons to give up on this nation. I haven’t done much for the betterment of my country, but I think it is important for us to once in a while find a reason to love Indonesia.

This journey reminded me that I love Indonesia’s simple beauty, something that we often take for granted. It’s one thing to see it from pictures ― it’s another to take it all in with your own eyes. I loved how I passed an amazing eager 8-year-old hiker who flashed me a big smile when I told him, “Semangat adek!” Oh and I loved how “Indonesia Raya” was heartily sung at the top of the mountain by several dozens of people who hiked to witness the ceremony.


This journey reminded me that I love Indonesians’ pure kindness. Throughout the climbing, we would always exchange greetings or small talks with hikers that cross our paths, all of whom are perfect strangers. We all looked after each other: when a group of hikers were eating when we passed them on the way up, they would offer us their food.

When I went down too fast or took the wrong way, there was always someone who warned me about it. When my friend twisted her ankle, someone climbed back just to offer and give her some ointment for it. The locals were very nice and friendly, whereas the guardians of the national park talked to us in the most polite way possible when they had to check our backpacks to check whether we had illegally brought down Edelweiss flowers.

All these little things touched my heart and strengthened my belief that most Indonesians are good at heart and would do their best for the nation, despite the media constantly telling us otherwise.

In spite of all the pessimism and negative news, I choose to hold on to these little things.

Dirgahayu Indonesiaku!
May we continue to serve you with all our hearts and with the purest of intentions.

Yogyakarta, August 17th 2013.

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