-Roy Mark, 17
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.
(The ascent to Imogiri)
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.
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.