Indonesian Earthquake – An Excerpt From The Forthcoming Book Transiting5 min read

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I am a writer and digital artist based in London, UK. My artwork on involves abstract themes and Chinese characters. I am currently writing a travel memoir of a 6 month trip round South East Asia entitled 'Transiting'.

27th May

There were eight hours of views of verdant green scenery on the train to Yogyakarta. I got off the train and it was eerily quiet. No hustle and bustle, no people trying to sell me things or wanting to practice their English. I had heard the place was different but didn’t expect this. I walked down an alleyway and a middle-aged portly American appeared and exclaimed;
“Do you know what happened here? We had an earthquake this morning, it was six point eight on the Richter scale”.
Oh wow, I thought, that’s terrible, but explains the subdued atmosphere.

It turned out that this American was named Patrick and he showed me to the small family run Guest House where he was staying. We had a bit of a chat and he told me how many of the buildings had been damaged or collapsed throughout the city. Whilst we were chatting another middle-aged American came in. His name was Raymond and he had been filming the active volcano called Merapi which was located fifteen miles North of the city. He also had photos of the earthquake damage and reported the death toll to be already 1,000. Apparently it would have been more but the earthquake hit at around 6:00AM so many people were in their houses rather than in the larger buildings which have suffered more damage.

Throughout the afternoon and evening I met a lot of ex-pats and travellers. There was an apprehensive atmosphere in the city. Many people were sleeping outside or at least away from the cracked buildings. I had lengthy conversations with Patrick covering Buddhism, philosophy, sexual morals and the situation here. He introduced me to a book, apparently written by a spirit, through a person who acted as a medium for the spirit. A year or so ago I would have thought it was a load of nonsense but since I was feeling more open minded these days I agreed to give the book a chance.

28th May

I headed to the South of the city and witnessed first hand the scale of the destruction. There were many flattened structures and viciously cracked four floor buildings. I chatted to some other Westerners about how to best help and they suggested buying toys for affected kids. Two local kids took me to a toy shop and I stocked up on toys. I roused Patrick and we headed to the main hospital. Patients filled the corridors and surrounding areas. A guard took us round to give out the toys to young kids and the gesture was well accepted.

After this we got caught in the rain but managed to get a taxi to a fairly decent restaurant near the Guest House. We had a filling meal and then met Raymond and some others in the Red Hot Café for some conversation about what we could do to help people. It was decided we should see what the government response is like before spending much money on things that might not be needed.

29th May

I had a lie in then a lazy breakfast/lunch. In the afternoon I went on the back of a motor bike on a tour of the destruction in the rural areas to the south of the city and the damage is much worse. Whole villages have been almost demolished, houses and dwellings turned to rubble. The reassuring sight is that everywhere there are signs of recovery. Truck convoys trundled along the roads. Temporary accommodation tents and field kitchens have been set up. There was a visible military presence. It seems those affected help direct traffic and stand smiling with donation boxes.

A family we stopped in on had lost twenty three people in their village and eight out of ten of the houses had come down. Their house was still standing but the roof looked dangerous. I gave them a healthy donation of cash. It was a token, but if it made a small difference than at least it was something.

Back at the Guest House I met an Irish guy called Brian and we chatted about music. He turned out to be a massive Metallica fan. Not that I was particularly keen on rock music, but there were a few of their tunes that I knew and it was a good starting point for conversation.

That evening Patrick and I happened upon a journalist in a restaurant. I didn’t really see the point in effectively bushwhacking him, but Patrick seemed to think it important that we tell the man from The Times newspaper our version of events. Patrick did most of the talking and I just nodded, having not actually been in the city when the earthquake struck.

30th May

I went out on the back of a motorbike again today, this time to deliver food. The general feeling was of being caught up in a widespread hospitality mission. Broad winged military cargo planes frequently flew in to land. Locals had formed groups to help deliver aid to those in need in the countryside. I approached the make shift gang at the end of the street to offer my assistance. I bought three boxes of rice and noodles and cigarettes to give to the affected people in the countryside. We drove out into the rural areas and gave some of the supplies to a village that had been flattened. It was close to harrowing dealing with people who had lost everything, but I sensed a strong desire to get on and rebuild and this was reassuring.

Back at the Guest House I bumped into Brian and he was keen to coordinate a trip to Mount Bromo which was part of a volcanic landscape to the East. I was up for it as it was on my way to the islands of Bali and Lombok. First, however, I wanted to take a trip to go and see the Merapi volcano.


For more information on the forthcoming Transiting book, please visit

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Cameron Robertson

I am a writer and digital artist based in London, UK. My artwork on involves abstract themes and Chinese characters. I am currently writing a travel memoir of a 6 month trip round South East Asia entitled 'Transiting'.