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    Posted March 3, 2011 by
    Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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    'Disaster tourism' takes root after Merapi eruption


    From October to November 2010, Gunung Merapi – Indonesia's most volatile volcano, looming over the world-famous 9th century temples of Borobodur and Prambanan in Central Java – unleashed a series of powerful eruptions that destroyed several hamlets and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.


    Fortunately, the mountain’s recent menace has quickly turned into an opportunity to rebuild what was lost. At Umbulharjo village, “disaster tourism” has taken root, drawing curious visitors wanting to see the eruption’s aftermath. Amidst crushed vegetation, gutted houses and mangled automobiles, villagers now earn a living by charging entrance fees, offering guided tours, selling food and peddling souvenirs like snapshots and DVDs of Merapi’s fiery wrath.


    The Javanese possess a strong spiritual connection with Meru-Api, the “Mountain of Fire”. Other well-meaning tourists come to the village to pay their respects to Mbah Maridjan, the elderly guardian of Merapi who perished during the last eruption. He was the spiritual gatekeeper who followers believed could communicate with the spirits of the volcano.


    According to Javanese cosmology, the spiritual counterpart of the Yogyakarta sultanate resides within Merapi, a mystical kraton (palace) populated with royal rulers and righteous ancestors whose explosive anger can be appeased with prayers and offerings of apem (rice flour cakes).

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