How Serendipity Saved Us From Indonesia’s Mount Kelud

On 13th February 2014, a violent volcanic explosion destroyed the lava dome of Mount Kelud in Java, Indonesia.


The Story of How an Illness Saved Our Lives

The Carnage of the Volcanic Eruption

My wife, Mona, and I watched the television coverage in horror – volcanic ash, stones and boulders were ejected up to 500 kilometres in diameter from the volcano.

If our plans had worked out, we would have been on Kelud at the time of the eruption. There was no way we would have survived.

A bead of sweat trickled down my face. Both of us had high temperature. It was a mysterious fever – as soon as we would start feeling better and become active, the fever would be back, much worse than before. The cycle had been repeating itself for a week. We decided to see a doctor the next day.

Earlier that month we had trekked to Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali. We reached the 1,717-meter summit just in time to view a spectacular sunrise. It was an incredible experience.

The highlight for me however, was walking around the crater – falling to the left would result in being roasted in the volcano’s steam, falling to right would mean rolling all the way down to the bottom. My unreasonable fear of heights added to the sheer rush of adrenalin that I felt.

The 45 min walk around the crater was an amazing experience so we decided to hike up another volcano. Mount Kelud on the island of Java sounded like a great option.

We booked a guide (for such activities, you are required to go with a guide in Indonesia) to help us climb the volcano on Thursday, 13th February – the day of the eruption. Our travel plans were made and everything was set, but we had to cancel the trip because of the fever.

I became numb as the reporter’s voice faded in the background, “The explosion could be heard from over 200 kilometres away… triggered an evacuation of 100,000 people … lives lost …”


A Blessing in Disguise

The news changed everything. 15 minutes ago we had been cursing our luck at falling ill and missing out, and now we were thanking our lucky stars. The fever saved us. It was a blessing in disguise.

Suddenly, Mona announced, ‘Thank you God for our fever”! On hearing Mona, a French lady from the nearby table said, “excuse me – are you two not well?” We both gave her a surprised look and nodded. She continued, “I keep telling the hotel manger to tell his staff not to mix so much chlorine in the water, but he doesn’t care. You should talk to him.”

That was it – that was the answer! According to the lady the hotel staff was mixing over 10 times the required amount of chlorine and other chemicals in the swimming pool.

And because we were spending hours in the pool, we were feeling sick. When we would feel slightly better, we would go for a swim, and the fever would be back.


All’s Well That Ends Well

Although we felt extremely sorry for those who lost their lives, we were extremely grateful to be alive. As we prayed for the families of those that were near the volcano at the time of the explosion, we couldn’t help feel extremely fortunate and think – all’s well that ends well.


Travel Story by Mona and Paul

by Mona and Paul

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