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-Roy Mark, 17 October 1999

I lived in Indonesia for many years and often heard of a cave near Yogyakarta, waste deep in water. Yogyakarta is on the South Central coast of Java on the Indian Ocean.  Although there are several caves on the map, and discussed in various travel publications, none seemed to be the one that I sought.  After moving from Jakarta to Yogyakarta in 1999, I asked the locals about this elusive cave. They directed me to Gua Cermai (Cermai Cave).  Gua Cermai was not on the best map of the Yogyakarta area, so I armed myself with a hand made map and set out one bright Friday morning in search of the cave.  Accompanying me were my friends Joko, Supri, Entis, Ari, and Yuli. Gua Cermai, I learned, is located about 20 kilometers south and east of Yogyakarta. The drive took us past Imogiri Royal Cemetery, the final resting place of countless Sultans. The Sultans were laid to rest atop the highest hill overlooking Southern Yogyakarta.

imogiri.jpg (47749 bytes)
(The ascent to Imogiri)

Near Imogiri we had to stop and ask for directions several times, but encountered very friendly helpful people. Near the cave, we parked and located a guide. We had been told that hiring a guide was necessary, and were soon to learn that was an understatement. As I said, we parked near the cave entrance, but that is "near" in kilometer terms-- not "near" as in calories burned getting there, for Cermai is accessed by climbing a small mountain.  The climb up the side of the mountain looked deceivingly simple.  Cement stairs had been built in 1982 so the ascent was civilized, but hard on my 56-year-old body.  The stairs had not been repaired in 17 years of existence, so in some places it was more au natural.  In all, the stairs were in relatively good condition, but there were far to many of them. After several rest stops, we made it to campgrounds at the cave entrance. 

Being a weekday, we were the only visitors. Our guide began descending into Cermai with us visitors following, less Supri who cited ghost and mumbled something about the dead Sultans of Imogiri as his logic for remaining in the sunlight.  The decent was treacherous at approximately 45 degrees. As the light from the entrance faded, our guide pointed out the best footholds with his 5 candlepower flashlight. Fortunately we had the foresight to bring a couple of flashlights- one of which even worked for the entire time we were in the cave. Once the cave became relatively level, we enterer cool water. The water depth was initially about calf deep, but in parts rose to about waste deep.   We realized the wisdom of using a guide when he began pointing out submerged boulders and potholes. Guide-less, we surely would have tripped, stumbled and dunked ourselves several times.  The stalagmites reflected our flashlights with mica like glitter.  Some were wet with a constant drip of calcareous water. About 30 minutes into the cave, we came upon a large opening with a plateau about chest high. After climbing onto the plateau, we were treated to a large pond of cool water. The guide told us that it was good luck to wash our faces with that water. Good luck or bad, it surely was refreshing.  

Continuing deeper into the darkness, we encountered large caverns and small tunnels. We approached one of the tunnels in waste deep water.  The tunnel was about chest high with the air gap from water level to the top about 10 or 12 inches.  The tunnel was not very long, only one meter or so, but in a modified duck-walk with water at chin level, it seemed much longer. 

The footing was precarious in most places requiring constant vigilance.  The overhang on the other hand was often quite low requiring equal vigilance.  The shortest of our party, Ari escaped bumping his head, but the taller of us each hit our heads a couple of times.  Ari did not escape humiliation however as he and Joko each stepped into a large submerged pothole for a total dunking. 

Finally after a very physical but quite enjoyable two and a half hours, we approached the light at the end of Gua Cermai.  It was nice to emerge into the sunlight, completely wet and muddy.  Looking around, we saw the Indian Ocean and realized that we were on the opposite side of the mountain from whence we entered. 

The hike back to the entrance and then down the mountain to our car took another hour. 

Gua Cermai was a physical experience but very enjoyable.  Even the younger guys mentioned their sore muscles the next day.  I have made the trek through Cermai one more time since my initial visit and would recommend it highly.  I have also declined on one additional occasion and will decline again… as I said, it is a very physical experience. Return to Roy-Mark.com Archives



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