Beaches of Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia)

 photo 10517583_1642724099273049_8642069324191176670_n_zpse5icnvdj.jpg

I decide that we need to rent a scooter for a day and see some of the beaches near Yogyakarta. After-all, you can’t come to an island and not see a beach or two. I’ve been hesitant about renting a scooter so far on this trip because Paul is not a motorcyclist and has never shown any real interest in jumping on the back of my motorbike at home. But I think I would be disappointed if we didn’t spend a day scooting around. And the guesthouse we are staying at organises scooter hire for 50,000IDR ($AU5) a day. So why not.

 photo 11934971_1642724202606372_3343972923873632555_n_zpskytpnl5e.jpg

We are only about 5km into our adventure when trouble strikes. I hit an uneven patch of road and hear the unmistakable sound of a flat rear tyre. It’s not a good start to the day but, fortunately, there is always someone around who has a little tyre repair shop. All you need to do is look for a sign that says tambal ban. So Paul jumps off to walk as I ride back through the village (fortunately we are in a village) to find such a sign.

 photo 11205075_1642724235939702_2285019369674906442_n_zpstofct0ii.jpg

Watching the man repair our tyre is an interesting experience of itself. There are no glue patches here. Just good old fashioned Indonesian ingenuity. The guy takes the tyre out and uses a bucket to find the hole. Then he sticks a match stick through the hole to mark it while he checks the tyre for the cause of the puncture. To patch the hole the guy selects a small piece of rubber from a pile on a table and then uses this contraption to weld the new rubber to the old. It’s fascinating and takes all of a quarter hour for him to complete the repair. Cost: 7,000IDR ($AU0.70).

 photo 11953373_1642724269273032_2060825023036790886_o_zpsqbk7lan8.jpg

Disaster averted we set off south again looking for some beaches. Our first stop is Pantai Samas. It’s a long black sand beach with huge waves crashing in rows to the beach. There’s a high drop at the edge of the beach just before the water and we can see from the way the fishing boats are anchored that the water must come up over this edge when the tide is high.

 photo 10458310_1642724245939701_2520853910105974828_n_zpslwd6t5wx.jpg

 photo 11150846_1642724549273004_982179150587610131_n_zpsuusxs1sa.jpg

The colourful fishing boats look small compared with the epic waves in the ocean and I can only imagine how brave the men who work them must be.

 photo 11988222_1642724902606302_178657889645279106_n_zpsryzs1ktt.jpg

After a short walk along the gusty beach we ride a few kilometers west to Pantai Goa Cemara. This popular-looking beach is guarded by shady trees that protect visitors from the searing sun. It’s a black sand beach too, being on the same stretch of coast as Pantai Samas. Fishing boats line the waterfront and fishermen mend nets in the little village area about 50m from the sea shore. There are lots of local tourists here taking selfies and relaxing in the shade. You cannot swim at the beach because the rips are too strong and the waves dump heavily into the sand. But it is lovely and cool away from the city with a strong wind blowing.

 photo 10612732_1642725032606289_71698701806344623_n_zpsy2ruyhdd.jpg

We decide to head East towards Pantai Parangtritis, which is the famous tourist beach of Yogyakarta. While we have been told by people that it is not worth visiting due to the black sand, we have plenty of white sand beaches at home so black sand is something different. And, besides, Paul’s backside is numb and his thigh muscles sore from gripping the bike (a reflection on my riding perhaps?) so I don’t want to go too far further east in search of white sand.

 photo 11921613_1642725049272954_7451981381715409616_n_zpsa3s4qtxk.jpg

Pantai Parangtritis is actually quite a cool place to visit. It has a huge sign announcing our arrival.

 photo 11986441_1642725242606268_2424119477572002121_n_zpsa5mqtbnr.jpg

You can rent a quad bike for 5,000IDR ($AU5) for a small or 10,000IDR ($AU10) for a large bike for 25 minutes. We don’t play on the quad bikes but they do make an interesting addition to the beachscape.

 photo 11053156_1642725085939617_9191192153185514188_n_zpscby5ryui.jpg

You can also take a pony cart ride along the beach if you are so inclined.

 photo 11960286_1642725239272935_8890054104036979541_n_zpsy8fbbzxs.jpg

Or simply rent an umbrella and carpet to relax on. These beach umbrellas won’t blow away either because they flimsy plastic pole has been replaced with a thick heavy log that the lady renting the umbrella has to work hard to dig deep into the sand.

 photo 11915128_1642725299272929_4584521010828191585_o_zpslhlphgpg.jpg

 photo 11951640_1642725342606258_4801969740625139825_o_zpsuhsmumvn.jpg

Instead of renting a quad bike, horse or umbrella we take a walk down the beach towards the cliffs at it’s eastern boundary. It’s a lovely place to take a stroll and I could definitely see myself doing some running here if time allowed.

 photo 10603764_1642725179272941_100591622188136526_n_zpsdusiz35c.jpg

As we walk, we take in the small details of this beach. Like the patterns the water leaves on the sand.

 photo 11953079_1642725399272919_3967115440127813500_n_zps6es2tar2.jpg

The way the crabs leave tracks in the sand.

 photo 11960267_1642725182606274_5373683380689679882_n_zps7y9zebmx.jpg

And I use my new macro phone camera lens to capture the coloured granules that make up the apparently black sand on the beach.

 photo 11924767_1642725469272912_413268830729180450_n_zpsw06jzcr7.jpg

We stay at the beach for an hour or two before getting back on the scooter to ride home. I take a scenic route through the mountains, much to the disappointment of Paul’s backside and thigh muscles. This is what I love doing here in Indonesia the most: riding on the quiet mountain and country roads.
 photo 10628575_1642725475939578_5188279542989411629_n_zpstgb3ijih.jpg
It’s peaceful compared with the noisy cities and there’s a different pace of life. Men use small old petrol powered saws to mill timber by the roadside. They carry firewood on their backs to fuel the kitchen stove. Women work in the rice fields, their backs bent as they plant the seedlings that will become food. It’s hard physical labour and I can see why the average life expectancy here in Indonesia is only 70 years; not the 82 years that we expect to live in Australia.

Then the traffic increases and we are back in Yogyakarta again. It’s amazing how one minute you can be cruising along and then next it’s all action stations and concentration. We find our guesthouse easily and without incident, drop off the scooter and head out for our nightly walk to the (legitimate) massage place and Nanamia where we ate last night. I can report that the spaghetti bolognaise is as delicious as the sandwich was.

Dieng Plateau to Semarang (Central Java)

 photo IMG_4323_zps469d2d2b.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_20141209_084541_zpsvzzhzrne.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_20141209_081313_zpsuimtpzla.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_4343_zps4a2fab5b.jpg
We take a lap of the farmland around the village where we spent the night. It’s so pretty and peaceful up here.
 photo IMG_4358_zpsb0f0879f.jpg
And then we are off. Dropping back down off the plateau much more quickly than we were able to climb it.
 photo IMG_4360_zps037985b0.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_20141209_102429_zpsu7c4xw4h.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_4378_zpsa1940282.jpg
 photo IMG_4384_zps83254a1b.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_4388_zps8473aead.jpg
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.
 photo IMG_21571198949360_zpsizymz9uh.jpeg
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.

Yogyakarta to Dieng Plateau (Central Java)

 photo IMG_20141208_083001_zpsnnvam4tc.jpg
Today the road will take me from the hustle and bustle of Yogyakarta to the quiet mountains of the Dieng. The start and end of my day will be a stark contrast. Yogyakarta is big, busy and hot while the Dieng only has small quiet villages and cool temperatures.
 photo IMG_4267_zpsf4221728.jpg
The four of us (Mum, my aunt, Gos Rider and I) follow quiet country roads past the Borobudur and through the mountains to the Dieng Plateau. Gos Rider doubles my Mum on a scooter while I double my aunt on the motorbike. Later in the day we will swap so Mum and I can catch up.
 photo IMG_20141208_112445_zpsna8kwjmr.jpg
The scenery is magnificent. We travel past small riverside farms cut from the jungle.
 photo IMG_20141208_115536_zps18jbufza.jpg
And through water filled rice paddies cut into mountains.
 photo IMG_4270_zps3bff0e89.jpg
We stop to take some pictures just as a swarm of school children ride past on scooters and motorbikes. This is a regular sight here on Java around 11am and again at 2:15pm. Young children walk, cycle or catch the bus. From about 12 or 13 years old, the children start to double each other on scooters and motorbikes. The more rural the area, the younger the children riding motorbikes and scooters are.
 photo IMG_4279_zps415ccfc6.jpg
After we pass Wonosobo the road climbs steeply up to the Dieng Plateau. The area is famous for fruits and vegetables due to the temperate climate.
 photo IMG_4284_zps62d38e93.jpg
Clouds roll in and start to fill the gaps between the mountain spurs. It’s absolutely beautiful up here and I am glad we were able to organise the motorbikes instead of relying on public transport. This way we can stop whenever we want to take photos and we can feel the cold moist air against our skins instead of being separated by a bus window.
 photo IMG_4285_zps49f48f54.jpg
We reach the Dieng Plateau township where visibility is limited due to the clouds. I feel like I have entered a new world. Am I really still in tropical Indonesia? We check into a homestay with a lovely balcony overlooking the street and surrounding volcanic cliffs.
 photo IMG_20141208_155819_zpslsxepc4e.jpg
We head down to the nearby Candi Arjuna and the fog starts to lift. Gos Rider talks with the parking guy and gets us into the Candi for free by dropping someone’s name. There are some temples here in the same style as those at Candi Gedong Songong because the two temple complexes are contemporaneous.
 photo IMG_20141208_164011_zpsq1x9b5mb.jpg
We cross to the other side of the temple complex and stop to drink tea at a warung. As we sit there the heavens open so we decide to also eat some food. It’s cosy and dry under the warungs’ tarps. I eat mie ongklok (noodles with a satay-style sauce). It’s a local specialty and tastes delicious. Sitting here on the wooden benches as the rain buckets down outside I feel relaxed and content. I like sitting at Warungs watching the world go by, whether it’s people and traffic or just the pouring rain.
 photo IMG_4314_zps36a40322.jpg
The rain stops so we walk back through the temple complex to the motorbikes and ride down to Kawah Sikidang, which is a volcanic solfatara field. It’s almost 5.30pm when we arrive and the ticket booth is closed. There is no gate so we just ride in and park near the solfatic field. There is a sign warning of the dangers of the volcanic area but we follow the path past it towards a fenced area.
 photo IMG_4305_zps580fb060.jpg
The smell is disgusting. But it is worth it to see this volcanic place at night. We can hear mud bubbling in a crater but cannot see it clearly. Thunder is starting to rumble across the mountains, adding to the eerie atmosphere. I must admit to feeling a little scared being here. Scared in an exhilerating ghost story while sitting around the campfire sort of way. We’ve had a brilliant day.

Borobudur and Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta)

 photo IMG_4180_zps38d9bf6d.jpg
We leave Yogyakarta early because it is Sunday and we don’t want to be stuck in crowds at the Borobudur. Mum has read that it opens at 7am so we jump on the motorbikes early and beat the rush. As always there are two entry fees: 30,000rp for locals and 240,000rp for foreigners (but if you are a student bring your ID for a 120,000rp entry fee). The entry gate is so colonial: locals can just purchase entry from a ticket window while foreigners must go into an airconditioned office that has a desk like a hotel reception. Foreigners receive a small complimentary bottle of cold water or a cup of tea/coffee and have access to clean hotel-style bathrooms in the foreigner’s entry area. I, personally, will never understand this colonialist approach to giving foreigners preferential (if more expensive) treatment to locals. But I guess many tourists probably like it, particularly those who come on bus tours who then have a chance to sit down and enjoy a coffee on the small terrace as a social interlude between being driven around in the bus all day. It’s not the price difference I find odd but the difference in the way entry is purchased.
 photo IMG_4182_zps4c46a489.jpg
We are given sarongs to wear but no one tells us that they are compulsory or why we must wear them. We don’t see any locals wearing them so we remove them only to be told in a firm but friendly voice over a loudspeaker that we must wear them. Then we see that the locals are given their sarongs further up the entry path. I have read online that the wearing of sarongs is supposed to increase appreciation for the cultural heritage of the temple and that tourists like to wear sarongs. At least it does prevent tourists from walking around wearing inappropriately short shorts.
 photo IMG_4202_zps8906b83e.jpg
The temple is amazing in the morning quiet. The renovation work and cleanup after the 2010 Merapi eruption is a fantastic. I came here in 1997 and thought little of the temple because so much was under restoration but this time I found it a wonderful place. One of the little cones has been left open so visitors can see what is inside. If it hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have realised that each of the cones has a small statue inside.
 photo IMG_4205_zpsc42700e7.jpg
The amazing thing is that we are able to find areas where there are few, if any people. I an hour or two when the buses arrive the temple will be swarming with people. But it’s still before 8am and it feels like a temple.
 photo IMG_20141207_084323_zpsrsqmw3uf.jpg
The detail in the stone work is stunning.
 photo IMG_20141207_083941_zpsxathrbgt.jpg
The temple itself is nestled in a lush tropical landscape with mountains rising on one side and vast open plains on the other. The landscaping of the actual complex is stunning. The entrance is manicured while behind the complex vegetation grows more wildly. At various places around the complex these statues stand guard and it’s easy to see that they were needed in the days before modern overcrowding when the temple would have stood in dense forest on the side of the mountain.
 photo 10849796_10152886981725842_3464397088479004847_n1_zps41d138b1.jpg
We head back into Yogyakarta on the motorbikes. This really is the only way to travel here in Indonesia where the traffic is dense and the best things to see occur away from the main tourist attractions and cities. You can stop whenever you want to take photos or you can squeeze past the trucks and cars to make good progress. The 40km to and from the Borobudur pass quickly as we take in all there is to see.
 photo IMG_20141207_120617_zpsbuwttbhc.jpg
Our next stop is the Kraton where the sultan of Yogyakarta lived. This dilapidated old tourist site has little to recommend it anymore. It is incredibly run down and there is no information available to tell you what the site is about, though I am sure you could pay someone to give you a guided tour if you were so inclined.
 photo IMG_4220_zpsbfe6247e.jpg
We let ourselves get taken to a nearby batic gallery where we were given a brief demonstration of how batic is made and then allowed to look through the gallery. The vendor was clever and had two price lists: one in US dollars with very high prices and one in Indonesian rupiah with high prices. He showed us the Indonesian price list and made a big point of saying it was discounted just for us. There were some lovely pieces but I certainly don’t want to pay what he was asking and am not much into negotiating because I have better things to do with my time. So I looked but didn’t buy.
 photo IMG_4237_zpsf97a249f.jpg
We spent the rest of our afternoon enjoying the interesting sights at the bird and pet market. I warn you – if animals in cages offend you then please do not read on. While I do not condone the capture and caging of wild animals, I also recognise that certain ways of thinking are a luxury of the West where we live in relative ease and luxury.
 photo IMG_4241_zps185d25b4.jpg
The marketeers were friendly people, many of whom were incredibly proud of the animals they sold. This lady sold beautiful roosters. She and the man she worked with (her husband maybe) wanted us to pose with them and the roosters for the camera. My mother speaks a little bahasa and Gos Rider is a local so we could have conversations with them about where we are from and where we are going.
 photo IMG_4228_zpsd4eb3c61.jpg
You can pretty much buy any animal here from birds, cats, dogs and rabbits through to bats, lizards, snakes …
 photo IMG_4249_zpsd9624f5d.jpg
… weasels …
 photo IMG_4253_zps47cb3057.jpg
… and monkeys. I did feel rather sad for the monkeys in particular because they looked so sad in their cages. But I guess this is life here. We keep birds, fish, cats, dogs, rabbits, snakes, ferrets, horses, calfs and lambs as pets in the West because we have domesticated them for our purposes. Here, on these tropical islands, the locally known animals are bats, lizards and monkeys so maybe this is why they have become the local style of pets.
 photo IMG_4257_zpsfa2ddc81.jpg
And after all that controversy, I will leave you with this cute little rabbit that was clearly familiar with it’s captivity because it just took its food or water straight from this feeder as if it was a normal thing to do.

Semarang to Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta)

Gos Rider and I leave Semarang on the motorbikes at around 10am. We are headed for Yogyakarta where we will meet up with my mother and aunt for a weekend of sightseeing before we head to the Dieng Plateau with my mum.
 photo IMG_4067_zpsabc58b97.jpg
The fun begins even before we leave town. Honda are launching a new CBR150cc here in Indonesia so some guys are riding it hard in a roped off area next to the main road. There are no formalities here – when you want to see something that’s going on you just walk up and watch. So I follow Gos Rider across six lanes of traffic to watch the stunts. It was pretty spectacular to watch the rider do piroettes on the bike.
 photo IMG_4070_zps0d112ca1.jpg
No sooner have we left Semarang’s city limits than the skies open. And what do the 143 million people on Java do when the rains come while they are on their motorbikes? Why they just stop, put on the wet weather gear they have stored under their scooter and motorbike seats, and then set off again. It’s not a big deal; just all part of being tropical island dwellers. I must say: check out the rider on the far right in the brown raincoat with the child in pink on the back. Notice that there is another child on the bike who obviously doesn’t have his or her own raincoat so he or she is covered under the brown one. This is normal here. When the rains stop you see all these little faces popping out from under parents’ raincoats. They always seem happy to have fresh air again.
 photo IMG_4090_zpsb491f33f.jpg
We zip along in the rain. The traffic has slowed markedly now that the road is wet. Visibility is lower and brown water washes heavily across the road in many places. Trucks stall or zig zag up hills and Gos Rider warns me never to get too close because there is a good chance the trucks will roll backwards when their brakes fail. It’s all part of the experience of motorbike touring here on Java in the rainy season.
 photo IMG_4080_zps04eef93a.jpg
We stop for lunch at the top of the main pass between Semarang and Yogya. From here the ride will be largely downhill. Fortunately, I am here by motorbike not bicycle so the uphills didn’t bother me too much.
 photo IMG_4079_zps8779aae4.jpg
One of the many things I like about Indonesia is the krupuk (crackers) that you eat with just about every meal. In the restaurants and warungs you just take them from these big containers and then tell the person working there how many you ate. It’s simple, effective and relaxed. There’s no fussing about using tongues or plastic gloves here.
 photo IMG_4081_zpsebd55f1f.jpg
The road to Yogyakarta alternates between busy towns and beautiful scenery. The towns are hectic and, at times, we jump up onto the footpath to get past thick traffic. But the countryside is as beautiful as always, ranging from dense jungle and banana plantation to open rice paddies and corn fields. I’ve never seen so many shades of deep green in one place, let alone all these shades of that colour existed.
 photo IMG_4091_zps3d7261c5.jpg
In Mageland there is a Buddhist temple standing proudly on the bend in the main road. It dominates my view as I ride. We stop and I notice the intricately decorated pilars that are wrapped in blue snakes. Gos Rider tells me that the temple burned down recently and is only just in the process of being restored. I think it will look beautiful once it is done.
 photo IMG_4094_zpsfa4e8458.jpg
Just before Yogya we stop to look at the damage caused by Mt Merapi’s 2010 eruption when lava flowed down the Gendol River. The bridge we crossed on the main road was a replacement for one that was destroyed and some large volcanic rocks dotted the side of the road. The river no longer flows and has been replaced by a creek that runs through the volcanic debris, the worst of which was removed after the eruption. You can see Mt Merapi in the background of this photo. The clouds make it impossible to tell whether this is one of the 300 days a year the mountain smokes.

Merapi soon disappears from view as we enter the city proper and find our hotel. For once I’m not staying in a $10 a night dive. Instead, we have a luxurious modern hotel in a good location near the Tugu. I booked it because it si close to the hotel Mum is staying at because that is far more sociable than staying at the cheap end of town. Besides, a little luxury is nice sometimes.


Mum messages me and asks whether I want to go to a traditional ballet. Of course I will. I’ve never seen traditional Javanese ballet before so it would be silly to stay home.

I enjoy the experience. It’s touristy and kitsch but sometimes you have to do touristy and kitsch in order to see something that’s different from what you see at home. The story we see is Ramayana. I receive an English print out containing the story but get side tracked taking photos of the orchstra and stage so forget to read it. The general gist is that there are some start crossed lovers and a battle between good and evil. In true Asian style, animals feature prominently as characters, particularly monkeys.
 photo IMG_4178_zps21fdb7dd.jpg
By the time I’ve taken a becak (Indonesian version of a rickshaw) home I am ready to sleep. It’s been another fantastic day.

Mt Telemoyo and Mt Ungaran (Central Java)

 photo IMG_3946_zps64a50a2c.jpg
During the dinner with the snake and lizard, my uncle mentions that I should go to Telemoyo because the final 7km (4 miles) is devoid of houses or farms: it is just wild bush. There is an unmaintained single lane road to the top so I can take the motorbike instead of walking. “You want to go to Telemoyo?” asks my cousin’s husband, Gos Rider followed quickly by “When?” and “Maybe I can come with you.” And so it is that I am riding like a madman through the streets of Semarang chasing the Gos Rider as he zips easily between the traffic.
 photo IMG_3949_zpsc4a29c32.jpg
After Salitiga, the landscape opens out and the heavy traffic eases. We are now surrounded by green jungle and banana plantations. I rode here on the first day of my East Java trip and it took me much longer to get here than it did today. Copying Gos Rider as he rides his scooter like it’s a high powered race machine an exhilerating experience.
 photo IMG_3986_zps4ef362db.jpg
We turn off the main road pass through Kopeng where cabbage and lettuce seedlings grow in greenhouses along the road. The climate is cool here by Javanese standards so these temperate weather crops grow in abundance.
 photo IMG_3956_zps54a28926.jpg
After passing through Kopeng we turn up the Gunung Telemoyo road. Now the real adventure begins.
 photo IMG_3960_zps68a2f51c.jpg
Farmers carry grass along the road.
 photo IMG_20141206_065926_zpsan97zn8u.jpg
And load cabbage into trucks. I love the fact that photobombing has made it here to the small rural villages. I saw the guy making dancing movements out of the corner of my eye but he would stop whenever I turned. What a laugh.
 photo IMG_3962_zps19f1c5d5.jpg
The narrow road wound it’s way up Gunung Telemoyo, deteriorating with each bend.
 photo IMG_3963_zps37032e11.jpg
Of course I had to get my first obligatory jumping photo in Indonesia. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long.
 photo IMG_3964_zps5ddc96b5.jpg
Perhaps the jumping angered the weather clouds because no sooner were we back on our bikes than the heavens opened. Cold rain pelted down on us as we rode ever higher.
 photo IMG_20141206_065902_zps7fpzbgl6.jpg
And then the clouds rolled in thickly, blocking any chance of a view and reducing visibility greatly.
 photo IMG_200754613990472_zpsnx5hk3mg.jpeg
But still upwards we rode until the road deteriorated so much that I could go up no more on the slippery rocks.
 photo IMG_178808979790403_zpsqgovxpmv.jpeg
 photo IMG_178812343465780_zpschef6tv7.jpeg
And so we turned back about 2km from the top of the mountain. Now some people would say it is a disappointment not to make it to the top but I think it was a fantastic adventure to still head up the mountain despite the rain (and after having left my wet weather gear at the hotel). Being on the mountain in the clouds was a beautiful experience; the white shroud creating mystique around the landscape.
 photo IMG_178815473476573_zpsafk9ey1y.jpeg
We returned to Kopeng for lunch at a restaurant with a view of the mountain. The ayam goreng with rice was delicous and just what I needed to warm my body after being soaked to the bone. I am just glad my clothes are quick dry.
 photo IMG_4001_zps6352f48c.jpg
After lunch we take a short tour through Kopeng. The town is lovely with narrow roads and many seedling nurseries.


We hear some traditional music being played and stop to look. It’s a group of children playing in a hall. They are unsupervised and play with joy.
 photo IMG_200751285286137_zps6ukwxcxe.jpeg
After listening to the music we head back down the mountain to ride to “Swimming in the Sky” at Mt Ungaran. Along the way we stop to take in the views over the rice paddies to the mountains.
 photo IMG_4020_zps1e19f23d.jpg
The rain starts to fall heavily again as soon as we start to ride up Gunung Ungaran. I guess this is why they call this the rainy season. At least the scenery is beautiful and the riding fun.
 photo IMG_4034_zpsed25756d.jpg
“Swimming in the Sky” is a large rock-lined swimming pool that has been built into Gunung Ungaran’s slopes. It is popular in summer but today the water and rain are too cold for swimming.
 photo IMG_4045_zpse0319d88.jpg
From the pool you can look out over a terraced ridge. It’s exactly the sort of scenery that makes Asia seem so beautiful and exotic.
 photo IMG_4038_zps890455c8.jpg
We press on to the top of the road. From here hikers can “bag the gunung” with a three hour trek to the summit and back. But we are not hiking. Rather, we drink coffee at the new cafe with a view out over Telemoyo, which seems so small set against Gunung Merbubu behind it.
 photo IMG_200728922917584_zpswvgp1kvt.jpeg
It was a brilliant day. And I am so glad Gos Rider came along to show me the way and share many laughs. Actually, I think it was his company that made the day so much better than it would have been.

Candi Gedong Songo (Central Java)

 photo IMG_3929_zpsa326d89e.jpg
My host at the Imam Bonjol Hostel tells me that I should head out to Candi Gedong Songo. She says that it is a long way but that it is worth the trip. After my rest day in bed I decide to head out for the morning. I am still feeling a bit unwell but am not the sort to laze around.
 photo IMG_20141202_101821_zpsxhetjrti.jpg
Candi Gedong Songo lies on the southern flank of Gunung Ungaran. It is one of the two oldest Hindu-Buddhist temples on Java, predating the Borobudur. While the name of the temple site is nine temples in Javanese, there are actually not nine temples here. Rather there are five locations you can walk to with about seven temples in them. Apparently there never were nine temples, the name comes from a mistake that was made along time ago by some Dutch explorer (or so the story goes).
 photo IMG_39262_zpse5b502a0.jpg
The temple complex is large and beautiful, not just for it’s temples but also the mountainside landscape. You can either walk around the temples or ride one a pony led by a guide. I opt to walk because it will do me good to stretch my legs after a few weeks with minimal exercise. The walk takes over an hour and involves a lot of uphill hiking. But if you can walk, I recommend it given the quiet mountainside setting.
 photo IMG_20141202_102912_zpssjkbaiee.jpg
Like so many mountains on Java, Gunung Ungaran is a volcano. According to Wikipedia it has had no recorded eruptions but is still considered active. There is little here to show that this mountain might hide the possibility of violence except the seething vent that simmers away amongst the temples. A sulphuric stink fills the air and I think it a shame we don’t yet have smellogram so I cannot share my nose’s disgust. I am just glad that the wind is blowing away from the path – haha. Around the vent the landscape is bare for a few metres in each direction. Further along the path there is another bare patch where ashy rocks prevent trees from growing.
 photo IMG_3910_zps73269918.jpg
As I walk around the temples I stumble upon a bridal party who are out taking pre-wedding photos. The groom looks dashing in his military uniform. The bride is equally stunning in her matching green dress. The photographer calls me over. At first I am confused but then I realise he wants to include me in a photo. I will probably never get used to this practice of including complete strangers in group photographs. It’s not something we do at home. But it is also something I noticed when I was in China in 2009 and Korea last month.
 photo IMG_3937_zpsfbb0dbd3.jpg
A group of school girls stop me and ask to take a picture. They giggle like, well, school girls as they pose with me. After the photos I walk on, exploring more of the temple complex as they stop in the garden area. Later I see them again as I walk down from the final temple building. They ask whether they can talk with me to practice English. We walk together through the fields making simple small talk about where we are from. The girls seem surprised that I have decided to walk, rather than letting a pony carry me around. The mobile data is too slow for me to look up a suitable answer so they never do learn that I decided to walk because I enjoy walking and find the temple complex beautiful.