What is travel without a touch of fear?
Every time Mr Tranquillo suggests a journey, I begrudgingly agree because I am usually too busy to check the ‘fear factor’ rating of the destination and even if I did, would it make any difference? We are both gypsies at heart and have always enjoyed wandering the globe. But lately, we seem to be following the earthquake trail more often than not: Santiago in Chile, Tokyo, the North Island of New Zealand, the Abruzzo region of Italy and of course anywhere and all the time in any part of the Indonesian archipelago. Add in a few rumbling volcanoes, tsunamis, floods and mudslides and there you have Indonesia, one of the most beautiful and fertile countries on earth.
As Australia’s nearest neighbour, many Australians are familiar with the islands of Bali and Lombok. Not so many venture further afield, despite Indonesia’s 17,508 islands. Indonesian language used to be popular in Australian High Schools. It has been on the decline since the Bali bombings ( 2002/5) and the Schapelle factor, despite how easy it is to learn basic Indonesian. Others fear the great Islamic Sea and the emerging fundamentalist approach in some regions. Some fear leaky boats, different food, road travel without seatbelts ( me!), mosquitos and any other number of things. Our government used to relate to its nearest neighbour with diplomacy, respect and tact. This has not been the case in recent months. Now that is a worry! Reading the Jakarta Post on-line at least enables one to keep abreast with accurate news regarding the Australian- Indonesian situation, news that is not available now at home.
This year’s visit to ‘Indo’ took us to West Java and Sumatra, both notorious this year for volcanic action. We stayed beneath the towering bulk of Gunung Gede in Cipanas, a smoking giant that, in the wet season, rarely emerges from the tropical mists above. We visited numerous caldera of old volcanoes, sleeping beauties waiting for their day, situated in the Bandung region: the stunningly beautiful caldera in Lembang, and Kawah Putih nearby.
Our time in Sumatra was spent on Samosir Island in the middle of Lake Toba, site of the biggest volcanic eruption ever. Yet another sleeping volcano, Lake Toba is part of the Great Sumatran Fault fault, which saw Gunung Sinabung active whilst we were there, a short 25 miles away. Almost one month later, the residents ( 20,000 or so) may now return.
I always worry about the Indonesian people who are evacuated and relocated during these events. Where do they go? Who provides for them during their dislocation? In the densely populated island of Java ( 141 million), this must cause great suffering for the local population. Fear factor travel involves respect. The Indonesian people are remarkably friendly and adaptable. The land provides but fertility comes at a price.
The list you don’t want to look at- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_volcanoes_in_Indonesia#Sunda_Strait_and_Java