By S. Kramer
About 3 hours drive from the city of Yogyakarta in central Java Indonesia, to the north via Magelang and Temanggung, and then turn west to Wonosobo, the scenic route will take us to the Dieng Mountain area. The view along the route passing Mt. Merapi with its rising smoke on top and Mt. Merbabu on the backdrop, followed by Mt. Sindoro and Sumbing soon after, is simply breathtaking. At Kledung pass, which is a valley between Mt. Sindoro and Mt. Sumbing, we can stop and visit a tea plantation and flower garden.
My childhood bus trip to my grandfather’s village at the foot of Dieng Mountain was one of the most memorable holiday trips I could remember. Just right below the coffee plantation surrounding my grandfather’s home is the Serayu River with its crystal clear frigid water. I used to play in this river and had a relaxing bath in Kali Anget (warm water) natural hot spring with my cousins.
When I took my family to visit Dieng Plateau, however, the experience was different. We learned more about the geological formation and volcanic activities of these complex volcanoes. Dieng Plateau is actually a collection of spatially and genetically related volcanic centers with their lava flows and pyroclastic rocks. The large depression of the plateau is about 14 km long and 6 km wide. The caldera was estimated to be older than 16,000 years. We have to exercise caution and stay in the safe accessible area when visiting Dieng extensive volcanic complex because it is an active volcano complex with mud pots and bubbling lava in many places.
Kawah si Banteng (the Buffalo Crater) is one of the largest among several cones in the caldera. On the east side, a sulfur field that vents gases and boiling mud pots is Kawah si Kidang (the Deer Crater ). We could access Kawah si Kidang and boiled some eggs in the mud pots.
The bubbling water temperature is around 80 degree Celsius at maximum. Telaga Warna (colour lake) is another accessible spot that we could visit. It is a lake with gas bubbles rising to the surface within a low relief cone. Another similar low relief cone type of lake, telaga Merdada is located near Dieng village. The steep cliff bordering the village might be the old caldera rim at the northeast part of the volcanoes complex. A good way to view the breathtaking sunrise is by climbing Kawah si Kunir before dawn.
Historically, the name Dieng came from Di Hyang which means the Abode of Gods because on this mountain area you can find the remnant of an 8th century Hindu Shiva temples called Arjuna. It consists of several small separate temples. According to history, there were once 400 temples on the plateau.
However, the many volcanic eruptions have destroyed most of them. Some eruptions were recorded in the year of 1375, 1786, 1826, 1827, and the most recent one was in 1979 phreatic eruptions on Sinila Crater spewing poisonous carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide gases that killed many villagers at Sinila Crater. Now the government has tried to harvest the geothermal energy for electricity in the central and eastern part of the complex. A diorama museum displaying the history of Dieng was recently built for the visitors.
The volcanic ashes from the mountains give the area a fertile land for farming and horticulture. Potatoes and all kinds of vegetables are the common crops beside tobacco. The land is also suitable for coffee and tea plantations. Tambi tea plantation is one of them that you can visit on the way down the mountain. Visiting the local market in the town of Wonosobo is a good way to sample the rich local cuisines and delicacy like Mie Ongklok, Ketan Biru, Widaran or Dendeng TV. Carica is a delicious fruit from the area, a kind of Papaya with a flavor of passion fruit. But if you miss your home made French fries, you can always try to visit Surya Restaurant in Wonosobo.