49: Indonesia > West Sumatra > The Smoking Crater

The film-makers soon leave, and we are again on our own.


We walk across the sandy flatland and come to another crater rim.

Amateur vulcanologists

Beyond it, a real, live, smoking crater, reeking with that familiar sulphurous odour.

Active crater - a huge, deep and steep hole in the ground

Nukman does not dare to go near. The slope is full of loose pebbles and a slip can easily be a one-way ticket into the cauldron a hundred metres below.

Film crew left with their choppers and we head for the smoking crater

The whole place smells of sulphur and nobody dares to get any nearer

Too dangerous to get any closer to the crater - can slip on loose pebbles

Guide Fahmi says there’s a trail to descend into the crater lake, but it can be dangerous. In the event of imminent eruption, the authorities in Bukittinggi would issue an amber alert forbidding climbers, but of course some people would ignore it and climb to see the living craters.

Place reeks of sulphur odour

The craters are the highlight of this climb (in addition to “Man vs Wild”, maybe) and Nafis joins Aina in front of the smoking crater. Local guides thinks Aina (who’ll be 11 next April) is the youngest person ever to climb Marapi. Yay, a clap for Aina, everybody! applause party

Nafis joins in

Back to the flatland (where the chopper landed), there’s a shallow lake in the depression. The fine black sand becomes mucky here.

Nafis discreetly takes a leak

It’s amazing to have such a landscape atop a 2,900m live volcano.

Final pose at the shallow lake

Ripples form as the wind gusts. At night it could reach freezing point here.


It’s getting late and weather is not improving, so we take a final look at this beautiful ‘football field’.


We start the descent at 5pm, after more than 1 hour at the top.

More than 9 hrs after we started journey, we begin our descent

The loose stones and pebbles are our main worry as we find our way down.

Loose pebbles can be dangerous if stepped on

Down below we can see the edge of the forest and the spot we had our lunch earlier.

Single file

Still a long way to go, and the ominous clouds are covering everything down there. It could be raining in the jungle, which is bad news.

Shafiq at the rear

Next to me I notice a deep gully …

A deep gully - glacier remnant?

… which goes all the way to the forest. I wonder if it’s caused by lava flow or ancient glacier.


The stones around me look embedded in some sort of rock.


Aina carefully finds her way …

Aina makes her way

… as I observe more hardy vegetation growing in harsh conditions.

Desolate landscape and little plants


High altitude ferns

Bonsai, almost similar to the ones I found at Mt Kinabalu.Bonsai, like on Mt Kinabalu

Beautiful stunted plant.

Pretty but stunted

As we descend, more plants appear.

Living on lava rocks

The weather below us deteriorates …

Bad weather = bad news

… and we take a short break.

First rest during descent

Aina is also getting tired, but we still have a lot of walking to do, most likely in bad weather.

Aina is getting tired

As we enter the wooded zone, we take a final break. We leave our rest area at 6.30pm as it starts to rain.

We enter the wooded zone, and it starts to rain

The rain makes the trail wet, muddy and slippery. It is nightfall and our progress is poor, as we grope our way in the dark with incessant rain. We reach the start of trail at 11.40pm, 16 hrs after starting the trek, and got to our Bukittinggi hotel at 12.30am. Aina, being a girl and the youngest in the team, performs admirably well for the 16-hr, 15-km round-trip. What an adventure. Mr Bear Grylls should have joined us for the descent!

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Fahmi for his excellent guiding skills and company. If anybody is keen on a trip to amazing Sumatra Barat (including climbing Marapi), please contact Mr Anas, who’ll cheerfully arrange everything right from airport arrival. He’s contactable via WhatsApp +62.813.6342.6617. Thanks!


I managed to snap this view of Marapi caldera from plane on way back to KUL. Note the large-ish ‘tear-drop’ lake below the white plume. That’s the lake in the depression (where the choppers landed) shown above. The sulphurous plume comes from the active crater next to the quite one, which has a smaller lake. Bottom right, see the deep gully described above, cutting the slope. Our trail is just to the left of it. The huge caldera shows how insignificant we are in the scheme of things! 🙂

View of Marapi caldera from plane on way back to KUL

> THE END – return to HOME

3 thoughts on “49: Indonesia > West Sumatra > The Smoking Crater

  1. naim,

    Wonderful photos! kudos to all of you, and especially Aina! she is becoming quite a traveller!

    I did not realize the scale of the gully until you mentioned it in the aerial photo above! What an adventure! thanks for the vicarious experience your photos gave me! 🙂



  2. Thanks, Naim! Excellent photos and commentary. I can imagine the torture of trekking in the dark and rain – wishing that home is just round the next corner!

    Will probably never climb Merapi in my lifetime but it’s great to know how it is like.

    Looking forward to your next adventure. /John


  3. Thanks, Howard. The kids have caught ‘mountaineering bug’ (yes, they call themselves ‘mountaineers’ now). They are pestering me when’s the next climb. I say, what about Mulu later in the year? 🙂

    And John aka lost4ever, great to hear from you. Next adventure is a tame one – we are doing Phnom Penh this weekend. Of course Aina gets to tag along, the other kids being away. :mrgreen:


Comments are closed.