Two hours north of Yogyakarta on the island of Java, you’ll find the massive Mount Merapi, which names boasts the appropriate translation of Mountain of Fire. It’s quite an imposing feature and is one of the most active volcanos in the world. With the lush, green and ultra fertile landscape surrounding its base, it seems hard to imagine villages in ruin, covered by ash years earlier. Immense heat clouds spreading 8 miles from the center caught many people off guard at the moment of the eruption on November 5, 2010. Some locals even refused to leave their homes despite the warnings, afraid to leave their lives behind. With the last eruption in 2010 along with sporadic episodes in September of this year, I was a bit hesitant to get too close and trevail the slopes too closely. Some visitors are daring enough to ascend Merapi during the wee hours of the night to witness glowing lava flows descend from the crater. As amazing as that sounds, we decided to take the less precarious route! Instead, we rented a motorbike from two locals and got an amazing tour around the base of the volcano witnessing firsthand the effects of the last devastating eruption. The nature is unmistakably stunning, yet the reminder of mother nature’s ruthlessness is showcased in the aftermath of homes ravaged by volcanic ash and melted, bent structures that were never recovered or rebuilt. Some trees are still burnt stumps and there’s a visible grey sediment covering the green land. After riding around on the motorbike all day, my hair was as stiff as straw and my body dusty with ash. To be so close to something dormant yet so destructive made me feel alive that day. Update: The latest eruption was November 18, 2013.