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Jakarta Post

Shimmering splendor of Jomblang and Grubug caves

  • P.J. Leo

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta   /   Tue, March 11, 2014   /  12:11 pm
Shimmering splendor of Jomblang and Grubug caves

Beauty underneath: Cavers arrive at Grubug.

Going deep into the earth to bathe in heavenly rays of light.

Gunung Kidul regency has more tourist destinations than any of the other parts of Yogyakarta. Apart from its gorgeous southern beaches, it is crowded with hundreds of caves for adrenaline-pumping adventures.

The numerous caves mark the regency'€™s southern topography, where a zone of karst or limestone hills, part of the Mount Sewu range, extend over the southern stretch of Java, which is world renowned for its vast swathes of karst structures.

Among the most exciting caves are Luweng Jomblang and Luweng Grubug, also known as Jomblang Cave and Grubug Cave, both located in Jetis Wetan hamlet, Pacarejo village, Semanu district '€” about 17 kilometers from Wonosari, the capital of Gunung Kidul.

Luweng, the Javanese word for goa (cave), means a big hole. Luweng Jomblang is a vertical hole, the result of the subsidence of land 50 meters in diameter to a depth of 60 meters millennia ago, resembling a well with all its biota inside.

The ecosystem at the bottom of this cave is home to almost-extinct plants that are subject to current studies because they are no longer found in the rest of Mount Sewu'€™s karst zone.

Luweng Jomblang is a suitable place for those who are fond of and skilled in rock climbing, as visitors can go up and down the vertical walls. Those wishing to explore Jomblang or Grubug are required to use special caving equipment and be accompanied by experienced cavers.

Getting ready: Tourists stare down into the mouth of Jomblang Cave, which is 50 meters in diameter (photo above) while one is brought down inside it by using a hoist (photo below).Getting ready: Tourists stare down into the mouth of Jomblang Cave, which is 50 meters in diameter (photo above) while one is brought down inside it by using a hoist (photo below).

'€œBeginners interested in caving will usually explore the beauty of the underground earth crust by descending the walls of Luweng Jomblang. Nature lovers or cavers already possessing certificates can slide directly down Luweng Grubug, which has a greater depth, around 90 meters, but a smaller cave-mouth diameter than that of Luweng Jomblang,'€ said Cahyo Alkantana, manager of the Jomblang Resort.

Before leaving for Luweng Jomblang, several guides fixed single rope technique (SRT) sets on participants while describing the names and functions of the respective devices. Each set comprised a seat harness, chest harness, ascender, auto descender, footloop, jammer, carabiner, long cowstail and short cowstail. The participants also got dressed in coveralls, boots, helmets and headlamps.

The shady trees at Luweng Jomblang serve as a gateway to the underworld. When beginning their exploration, cavers should indeed take great care going down into the giant hole. Apart from the SRT, the other technique applied is hauling and lowering. By using safety tools, cavers can adopt a neat sitting posture as they are hauled or lowered by others. It is like slowly lifting and dropping a bucket into a well.

When they reach the bottom, cavers don'€™t just explore Jomblang, but also proceeded to Luweng Grubug through a large horizontal cave mouth. Jomblang and Grubug are connected by a 300-meter corridor adorned with beautiful crystal stones, stalactites and stalagmites. After a while, cavers might notice the damp and dark cave with its extensive waterlogged walls, and feel a chill in the air due to the high humidity and strong gusts of wind from above.

Moments later, the roaring flow of a river stream can be heard, while a beam of light penetrates Grubug'€™s darkness. Sadly, however, the somber cloudy sky of the rainy season sometimes detracts from the picturesque natural spectacle widely known as the '€œheavenly light'€ of Grubug, though the underground watercourse with its forceful current still offers an amazing spectacle.

'€œDuring the dry season, around this [section of the] earth'€™s crust, a shaft of sunlight shines through the mouth of Luweng Grubug, forming a pillar of light that illuminates the cave'€™s attractive flowstones and inner gloom,'€ said Pitik, a local caving guide.

The unique features of Luweng Jomblang and Luweng Grubug were shot for a television commercial in 2012 by a cigarette company, while an American TV adventure program, The Amazing Race (season 19, episode 2), also filmed Luweng Jomblang in 2011.

The natural splendor of Luweng Grubug with its round opening and the diverse plants growing around the circumference dispels some people'€™s belief that something horrible once happened in this cave.

Gunung Kidul'€™s elderly residents say that Luweng Grubug was a place of execution for victims of the alleged communist Sept. 30 Movement of the 1960s, who were ordered to stand at the edge of the cave before being thrust into the hole or shot dead, and falling into its rumbling stream below.

The rough and rocky terrain where Jomblang and Grubug are situated has meant the two caves are not frequently visited by tourists, apart from nature lovers in search of caving adventure. But a resort has been conveniently built to offer cave scenery as well as a nature tourism package for extreme caving activities.

'€œWe don'€™t put up road signs showing the way to the caves. There'€™s only one board with the words '€˜Jomblang Cave'€™ erected near the Kali Putih Cave tourist area,'€ said Cahyo Alkantana. '€œIn this way, visitors won'€™t be traveling back and forth just out of curiosity, because the caves'€™ location is hazardous. The mouths of Jomblang and Grubug are level with the ground, without mounds around them like the others,'€ he added.

Tourists keen on getting their adrenaline pumping in Jomblang and Grubug should set out for the adventure in the dry season. The best time of day to relish the magnificence of Grubug Cave is between 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., when the sun is at its peak, as the stunning heavenly light graces the caves.

 '€” Photos by P.J.Leo

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