The early morning sky glowed red, hinting at the promise of a beautiful day ahead. At the base camp of Mount Marapi, there was a buzz of excitement among the group of hikers as they prepared for their ascent up the volcano’s slopes. Though Mount Marapi was known to be an active volcano with occasional minor eruptions, its hiking trails were popular, and the climbers were unfazed.
After all, there had been no warnings of any unusual seismic activity.
Zulkifli, an experienced hiking guide leading the group of friends, did a last safety check. Water bottles? Check. First aid kits? Check. Walkie-talkies? Check.
Satisfied that his group was well equipped for their day hike, he gathered them for a brief safety talk before setting off up the scenic trail. There was happy chatter and laughter as the group snapped photos of the stunning views around them, enthralled to be surrounded by such raw natural beauty.
Further up Mount Marapi, the sky seemed to grow darker even as morning gave way to afternoon. Billowing grey clouds appeared, contrasting oddly with the bright red glow tinting the rim of the volcano’s crater. Some of the hikers grew quiet, uneasy about the changing skies.
One of them, Ahmad, voiced his concerns to Zulkifli over the walkie-talkie but was reassured that the weather changes were normal for the higher altitude. They would be fine as long as they kept moving.
Without warning, Mount Marapi erupted violently, spewing forth a black cloud of scorching ash, poisonous gases and fiery rock fragments into the air. The pyroclastic flow raced down the mountain slope with lightning speed, catching the exposed climbers completely unaware. There were panicked screams cut short by the superheated avalanche engulfing the area, obliterating everything in its path.