Sat, 29 Apr 2000

Adventurous tour hits Yogyakarta

By Bambang Trisno and Anis Suryani

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Have you had enough of "conventional" touring for your holidays? Turn to an adventurous picnic. It lifts up your spirit and doesn't cost that much money.

Look at what some local travel agents have to offer.

Kartika Trekking charges a mere Rp 20,000 to Rp 40,000 per person, depending on the number of participants, for a 30 kilometer fun walk. The breathtaking route starts in Samigaluh, some 20 km west of here, and ends at Borobudur.

"The beautiful scenery is enticing right from the starting point (in Samigaluh). The walk through the hilly areas allows you to enjoy the distant view of Borobudur Temple and five volcanoes in Yogyakarta and Central Java," said Landung Prawoto, 60, owner of Kartika Trekking.

A trip to Cerme Cave in Selopamioro, Imogiri, some 30 kilometers south of here, is another program Kartika Trekking offers. With Rp 25,000 per tour per person, you can enjoy the most beautiful cave in the province.

The fare includes return bus ticket and meals consisting of sandwiches, drinks, bananas and young coconuts.

Landung, father of four children and grandfather of two, usually escorts tourists traveling to Yogyakarta, Central Java and outer islands.

Before the economic crisis hit the country in July 1997, Landung used to take from 10 to 20 guests to Mt. Merapi every day, but the number has dropped to an average of only two a day now.

The bright prospects for the adventure tourism business have lured a French citizen, Dominique Clarisse, to open Azimuth, a tour agency, with his wife Puji Clarisse Widyarsanti. The agency specializes in trekking.

To be launched next month, Azimuth offers various trekking packages for up to three weeks. Destinations include volcanoes in Yogyakarta and Central Java: Mt. Slamet, Mt. Sindoro, Mt. Sumbing, Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merbabu. It also organizes adventurous travels to Sumatra, Java, Bali, Lombok, and Sulawesi.

Dominique said his company also offers cultural tours in the villages he calls Borobudur Hike, Prambanan Biking, Dieng Plateau Hike, and Erotic Sukuh (Temple) Hike.

"I don't have any intention of directly competing with other local tour agencies," Dominique said, adding that he would directly market the packages to European nature lovers. Every group will be limited to a maximum of 12 people.

Dominique chose Yogyakarta as his base because of the low living and operational costs.

"I would have to set higher fares for the tour packages if I chose Bali or Jakarta instead," said Dominique. He declined to mention fees until the company is officially open.

There are at least seven companies in Yogyakarta and Central Java offering adventure touring. Besides those, there are many individuals also running such businesses. They mostly offer trekking, white water rafting, caving, and rock climbing. Travel agencies and hotels offering the same tour packages support most of their marketing activities.

Yogyakarta, along with neighboring Central Java, boasts lots of places for adventurous travels. To the north, lies the legendary Mt. Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes. It is haven for trekkers and nature lovers. Its popularity is comparable to Mt. Vesuvius in Italy.

To the south is the gorgeous Pegunungan Sewu (Thousand Mountains) plateau which boasts breathtaking valleys and caves. It is a popular site for caving and rock climbing.

While Progo river in Kulonprogo and Elo river in Magelang are excellent places for white water rafting.

Travel further to the west, to the Central Java town of Banjarnegara and you will find another fascinating place for rafting on the Serayu river.