Every journey is a lesson and each traveller’s taste differs. For Joseph, a businessman from Kochi, it is volcanoes that have stolen his heart. One could realise his passion from the way he talks about different volcanoes and his expeditions. He is quite aware of almost all volcanoes in Indonesia, his favourite destination! “There are many volcanoes in Indonesia. I often joke with my friends that in Indonesia, people have volcanoes in their backyards,” he says laughing.
An adventure junkie, Joseph, who is known as Terry among friends, started exploring volcanoes just like any other adventure trip. His affair with volcanoes grew intense in 2011 with a trip to Mount Merapi, an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Jogjakarta. “It erupted a few months before my visit,” he says.
“In Indonesia, very rarely do people die of a volcanic eruption. The research institutes are well-aware about the characteristics of each volcano and take the necessary measures to evacuate people before the eruption. Though lava burns everything during the eruption, people still return to that area because the land is so fertile and volcanoes are their sacred places,” adds Joseph, showing images of the destructed land post eruption.
One could find temples near volcanoes and people make offerings there. The ancient temples are made of lava rock. “Their temples are empty and God is imaginary. They believe in praying to the departed souls. They are highly ritualistic,” he says about Hinduism in Bali.
So far, Joseph has explored Kawah Putih (Mount Patuha), Tangkuban Perahu, Mount Bromo, Mount Merapi, The Ijen volcano complex, Mount Agung and Mount Batur. “Volcanoes are like people. Each one is different. If Ijen is scenic, Mount Merapi is a little scary. Trekking modes and times also depend upon the characteristics of a volcano. However, we mostly trek during the night. After a hike, watching the sunrise from Mount Batur is an amazing visual treat,” says Joseph, who hiked to Ijen at night to watch the famous blue fire. “We can see that only during the night. It happens when temperature shoots up and fumes come along.” To watch this, one has to go down on the rough terrain.
Land in destruction after a volcanic eruption Kawah Putih
“There, the safest mode is to go for guided tours, because the terrain is so rough and they know the route well. During the walk, you could watch people doing sulphur mining, a profit-making business in that area. As we hiked during the night, we were not so conscious about the terrain. It was in the morning we saw it in its real self. We were taken aback to see the texture of the terrain we trod on,” he smiles and shows some photographs of Ijen’s acidic crater lake in aquamarine shade rimmed with yellow-tinted sulphur. “You could see that these places have a bleached effect,” he says.
Joseph’s dream of witnessing a volcano erupting came true during his visit to Mount Bromo. “The name Bromo means Brahma,” says Joseph. “I organise tours. Bromo had already been erupting before our arrival. By the time we reached, eruption subsided comparatively. Still, it was a risk to explore it. However, we decided to go ahead. We had to literally wade through a sea of sand to reach there. The steps were covered with ashes from the eruption,” says Joseph. While they were climbing down, Bromo started erupting. “I could watch and capture that live. It was a throw up filled with ashes and solid metal parts,” Joseph recalls. Of course, they take precautions, like wearing masks to avoid suffocation.
Joseph has a lot of such stories to share — about his travels and volcano tourism in Indonesia. In his words, he has a long way to go. He keeps studying about volcanoes sitting at this farther end of the world. He also organises cultural and adventurous tours not only to Indonesia, but also to Cambodia and Vietnam, all his favourite places. “When I posted photos on Facebook, people started asking me to organise a tour,” he says. He has done a few and there are some on the anvil. He has only one condition: one should be genuinely interested to explore it. Because he is not that conventional tourist who travels just for selfies and shopping.