Indonesia’s giant grey Bubble – With the drone at Bledug Kuwu mud volcano
Who doesn’t remember the adverts for creamed spinach? The thick and smooth one. In Indonesia our planet has dished up something “similar”, as cream-like sludge bubbles emerge from the underground near Kuwu village. Its mud volcano Bledug Kuwu measures 40 metres in diameter and produces up to 10 metres large bloats of salt sludge. Coming all the way from Yogyakarta I visited that phenomenon on a 300 km scooter ride.
My iron butt and the scooter
After getting off the motor scooter I can clearly locate my iron butt as well as all tensions around my backbone. Why the hell I took a scooter to get to Bledug Kuwu? Well, it is the only mean of transportation being able to cover the 300 kilometre way from Yogyakarta in less than 3 hours. Well, 3 hours for one way. By car it would have been 5 hours, at least. And in Indonesia there’s always time and space for a surprise like needing 14 hours for a car ride of only 320 kilometres.
Bledug Kuwu and its 4.5 hectares measuring geothermally active area are located at the road connecting Purwodadi and Cepu, that is in the East of Semarang. The very area around the mud volcano provides no shade at all. It’s not a classic mud volcano though, as we know it from Iceland, for example. Maybe that’s why the local guide, whose words ALWAYS have to go through a megaphone first, means that Bledug Kuwu is not a mud volcano.
It is a natural phenomenon having hydrothermal roots and its eruption can even cause little local earthquakes, say the residents of Kuwu village. In the end a cold snow-white vapour, being extra rich in carbon dioxide as well as methane, continuously cuts its way through the salt sludge. When such a bubble bursts, then its shreds leave my drone behind in the need of a deep clean before I can fly it again.
Bledug Kuwu, or brine a different way…
Speaking of salt, the villagers produce that from the volcano’s water. Due to its high quality it costs four times more than conventionally brought out salt. Most of Bledug Kuwu’s eruptions measure one by one metre, in height as well as diameter. The larger bubbles though can make it up to being 10 metres tall, in particular in the morning, says the guide. The large mud pond in the east is called Mbah Jokotua, meaning grandmother, while the smaller sludge puddle in the west is named Mbah Rodenok, that is grandfather. To older generations of Kuwu village the Bledug is holy territory.