Dieng Plateau to Semarang (Central Java)

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The rain and clouds have cleared this morning as I stand on the balcony taking in the views. I can see the village and farms nestled below the caldera rim. The world is waking up as locals start to go about their morning routines. The bird seller places his beautiful cages and birds on his driveway, ladies with their full bodies protected from the sun meander along chatting as they head to the fields, scooters start to zip along the street, a bus rumbles by. There is life everywhere but, compared with the cities and larger towns, this is a quiet village.
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We head back to the volcanic area. Again there is no one at the ticket office because we are too early so again we just ride through. The area is even more interesting in the daylight because we can see the muddy volcanic water.
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We can walk straight up to the bubbling pools of sulphurous mud. It’s a stark contrast to the ridiculous levels of health and safety that we have in my home country where this whole complex would probably be closed to the public. Here, this is just another place where people work. Some men are carting wheelbarrows of bricks, rocks and sand to create a landscape around a new pagoda. Women stand in stalls selling food and trinkets. No one hassles us to buy, they just ask politely whether we would like anything and then let us go. This is obviously a place that is off the Western-tourist route. I wonder whether my impression of Indonesia and Indonesian people would have been different if I had only gone to the touristed areas. The ticket booth is attended as we leave the volcanic complex so Gos Rider immediately pays four local priced tickets before the guard has a chance to realise we are foreigners.
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We take a lap of the farmland around the village where we spent the night. It’s so pretty and peaceful up here.
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And then we are off. Dropping back down off the plateau much more quickly than we were able to climb it.
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In places we travel through thick dense cloud that blocks any view beyond the crash barriers on the side of the road. But when we break through the landscape is stunning. Don’t let anyone tell you that Java is all big cities, pollution and noise. There are also amazing landscapes here that will take your breath away. You just have to step off the beaten track to find them.
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I am fascinated by the traffic habits here on Java. If you want to take a photo you don’t need to find a lay-away. You just stop on the road and people will automatically go around you. No one beeps or gets aggressive at us. It allows us to relax and take as many photos as we like without having to race along. Of course, if you can pull over you do. But if there’s room to stop and you can’t get off the road that is no problem.
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For the rest of the day we ride quiet back roads through farmlands and jungles. As has been the case all over Java, the roads are in excellent condition and brilliant for riding.
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Java is dotted with high volcanoes so spend a lot of time climbing from the low lands up to 2,000+m above sea level and then dropping back down. It means we see many terraces, which are particularly beautiful.
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At one point we stop for a rest and two school children crest the hill behind us. They stop a good distance away from us, looking scared and nervous. They do not dare to pass. Then a larger group of children join them. The older children organise the troops and soon they are running down the hill as fast as their little legs can carry them. They don’t stop until they are well past us. And then they are full of bravado, standing watching us again from a distance. As someone who comes from a multicultural country, it is so difficult to imagine being afraid of foreigners. I have experienced it a lot because of my blue eyes – children are afraid of me here. Mum says I should imagine what a child at home might think of someone with yellow eyes.

I have enjoyed these few days motorcycle touring with my mum, aunt and Gos Rider. I am particularly looking forward to doing another motorbike tour with my mum somewhere in the world.


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