If you are looking for a bit of an adventure up in the mountains, not many locations offer beautiful landscape, untouched wilderness and thrills in one place like Selo, whatever your climbing skills.
Located in Boyolali district, Central Java, at an elevation of between 1,200 and 1,900 meters, the area joins the slopes of two of Java’s majestic volcanoes, Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu, Selo is accessible an hour’s drive from Solo, through a back road connecting Solo and the famous Buddhist monument of Borobudur, known as the Solo-Selo-Borobudur (Sosebo) pass, which is littered with many viewing posts for you to enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery.
The area is known as a fertile tobacco-producing plantation ground as well as other produce to supply much of Central Java. It also offers beautiful landscape, serenity and fresh air for visitors who come here to get away from the bustling cities of Solo, Semarang and Yogyakarta.
The area is also famous with hikers as Selo provides the closest route to Mount Merapi’s peak.
Locals in Selo are generally very friendly toward travelers and they offer help as guides or porters to accompany you on your trek to either Merapi or Merbabu. You can also rent their houses for the night; many don’t set a fixed price and some gladly accept whatever amount you feel like giving them.
New Selo is a tourist area located in Lencoh village, the last residential area before Merapi’s barren crater. There is a viewing tower at New Selo where you can see the equally majestic Merbabu on the other side — a must-visit, locals tell me.
From New Selo, Merapi’s summit is only four to five hours’ trek for the average hiker, but local guides say they can climb much faster.
“In clear weather, I usually reach the top only in two to three hours,” says Purwongatun, 58, a local farmer and part-time hiking guide who is with me on my hike up Merapi, Indonesia’s notorious “Mountain of Fire” that last experienced a major eruption in 2010. “It’s only three kilometers to the top, but the passageway has many turns that make it longer.”
Purwongatun has summitted Merapi hundreds of times, starting from when he was too young to even remember. Living on the mountain has made him accustomed to the climate and altitude, and he knows every pass and route scattered across the slopes of Merapi.
The trek from Selo is more crowded and is perfect for novice climbers who are just out for a good time like me. The path is clearly marked, passing tobacco fields, pine forests and barren crater area. More serious climbers may find the climb pretty mild, but not this aging reporter.
Hikers normally set off in the wee hours of morning to get to the peak in time to catch the glorious sunrise. But there are those who set out in the afternoon and set camp just below the summit at the Watu Gajah camping ground. (Jakarta Globe)
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