Island of Java PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Monday, 20 April 2009 19:52
Article Index
Island of Java
Yogyakarta to Ngawi
Nwami to Mt Bromo
Mt Bromo
Mt Bromo to Bali
All Pages

Day 66: Monday 26th November: Yogyakarta

Breakfast was very poor with cold scrambled eggs, white toast and a kind of puried fruit and tea or coffee with no milk. Fruit jiuce was extra like the air con and when it came it was watered down cordial.

After breakfast we set off to visit an indoor market, the Sultan's Palace and a silver factory in the morning. The market was quite interesting for its shear size. On one occasion Anne got left behind with Mas and for a few moments I was worried for them. What was good was the comradeship of the store holders, porters, etc market workers very much like the markets in
Sheffield when I was young. Every isle had a character keeping the place human with their wise cracks.

Royal Palace was not to my liking and mainly about wealth, privilege and status. The silver factory was quite amazing and dangerous. All the goods were designed and made by the locals and sold at knocked down prices which Anne and John could resist. John more so than Anne, eventually walking away with a considerable bill for jewelry.

We were heading back to the hotel for lunch (not in the hotel) before heading to see a temple. Only a handful of us set off to see the temple. When we arrived we found out that it was Borobodou one of the must see tourist sites on Java. It is a 9th

From a distance it reminded me of an Inca temple like a very large stone cake three tier high. The walls on each level consisted of stone statues and carvings depicting various aspects of Budha. Our guide was brilliant, being very knowledgable and funny. His name was Budha and he was hoping for enlightenment at some future point. in the after and fish restaurant at night. the site had been seriously damaged by an earthquake and access was limited but sufficient to stand in awe at the massive ediface stood in the middle of a field. The builders had covered it in earth to stop Muslim invaders taking it and it was only discovered 300 years ago. The task of covering it with soil to hide it was remarkable enough but possible understandable.

When we arrived back at the hotel and those who stayed behind found out the temple was Borobodou another argument broke out. The guide didn't think it was important enough to tell us its nameand leighton was not aware. Things improved later when Leighton sourced our evening meal at famous restaurant serving traditional Indonesian food. The food of fish and meats was served on Palm leaves and all agreed it was excellent. This place also had a good live trio playing mainly Beatles and Bob Marley classics. They seemed generally surprised to have customers singing along with them and they thanked us before we left.




Day 67: Tuesday 27th November - Yogyakarta to Ngawi

We should have been heading for Solo but for some reason Leighton suddenly announced, last night, that we were now going to Ngawi. He said by missing out Solo we would cut the following days 14 hour journey to Mt Bromo down to only 7. It seemed reasonable to have two 7 hour trips, however, we arrived at the non-discript shit hole of a town after only three and half hours so we couldn't workout how it saved any time. When we looked at the map Solo and Ngawi were quite close.

I can't remember much about the journey, according to Anne I fell asleep. It's quite easy to do it because we have so much room on the bus and it's quiet with the noisey ones staying behind in
Thailand for the full moon party on Koh Penang. We've heard that Mike has been beaten up along with J.P Duggan who's also broken his arm in a seperate incident, Das fell off a bike and has seriously damaged his foot and Geof has burnt the back of his neck playing with fire. We'll find out the details in Bali when they all turn up in a few days time.

We arrived at the Hotel Sukowati which looked modern with good facilities at 3.30pm. Our room was ok but very small and hot and the air con was pretty poor. It seems the town was over a kilomotre away from the hotel and when I asked the receptionist for a map of the area he took me outside to show me a map of
Indonesia on the wall. During our conversation a Greek from Melbourne, very proud of his association with it and its' culture, gave me the lowdown on the town. In short too far, nothing to see, don't go. I'm glad we took his advice within an hour the heavens really opened and I think there must be a god because Leighton got drowned and spent most of the night trying to dry out his passport with Anne's hairdryer.

We spent the afternoon drinking Bintang and, as dusk descended, watching the most amazing bat catching large insects outside the hotel reception. As he turned and crossed in front of the large moonshaped forecourt lights with his large transparent wings stretched out it looked like a scene from a Hammer horror film. I also saw a very large brown rat scurry across the hotel drive. When the ones who went straight off to town returned they confirmed the Melbourne Greek's assessment. Scooby who can always find danger but who alas has been very quiet since leaving the others behind in
Thailand told us as we ate dinner how he stepped back into what he thought was dog poo but on looking down found it was a dead rat which had swollen in the sun and then exploded under his weight.

Needles to say that surprisingly the food at night was good. Went to bed with little to write home about. The bat was the highspot of the day for me but not Scooby.

Day 68: Wedensday 28th November - Nwami to Mt Bromo

Glad to get away from this place. The journey started ok but then began to climb up to Mt Bromo and I fell asleep and missed the best part. I have fallen asleep a couple of times now and it's worrying because I usually find the scenery compelling veiwing. We were told we had a three hour drive before transferring to two smaller buses to make the climb up to our stop at Lava View Lodge. I awoke just before the transfer.

The last hour took us up and up round some scary bends at a breakneck speed. If the bus hadn't been old it could have got seriously frightening. As we climbed the daylight faded quickly and the sky above the mountain turned crimsen as though the sky was on fire. It reminded me of the last scenes in Lord of the Rings as the two Hobbits headed up to Modor. When we arrived at the lodge the sky was black and gave no indication of the extroadinary teraine that surrounded us. The lights from the lodge were welcoming and as we stepped in we were accosted by three lovely young girls demanding to know our names and telling us theirs: Efer, Winda and Tin Tin. It seems her name was Ti Tin and a guest, probably
Belgium, had added the n. Before I'd consumed my first beer I knew I was going to like this place. It just felt special and not just because of the girls. Everyone was happy and helpful.

The restaurant/bar area was very comfortable with good solid dark wood chairs and tables, the food was adequaate but the service was good and the prices did not reflect the location. In
England this would be a very expensive place. We spent a very relaxing few hours eating substantial food and drinking lots of cold, reasonably priced Bintang beer all served by a team of well mannered, smiling, lovely young ladies. Every time I walked into the place, approached the bar or requested assistance it invoked a beaming smile and 'yes Peter'. These were 'Smiley's Angels not Charlie's.


Day 69: Thursday 29th November - Mt Bromo

I first woke up about 4.20am but managed to dose until 7.00am when my attention was drawn to the scene outside through a thin strip of window not covered by the curtain. The lodge house sat on a flat area overlooking a large crater and rising above everything in the distance were two volcanoes, one cone-like and extinct and the other, to its left, was irregular in shape and sending large clouds of white smoke into the atmosphere. Just before breakfast I walked out to the edge of the flat area and gazed in awe at the full scene. It took me straight back to Ecuador in 1993 and the large extinct volcano that we all so innocently set off down for a little stroll only to return five or six hours later distressed and shattered. This crater was not of the same dimensions but housed the two volcanoes described earlier and also a large modern looking temple. What did make this basin different to the one in South America is its' depth. This was a couple of hundred feet below my point looking out and not a couple of thousand.

After an excellent breakfast of two fried eggs, toast, a very tasty fried rice and as much mango, melon, pineapple and bananas we set out to walk to the smoking Mt Bromo. The journey started very well with a very refreshing breeze accompanying us on the descent to the basin floor. Once down things got a little harder, the man made path quickly changed into a black sandy lava floor stretching for as far as the eye could see. The wind had dropped which was bad because the heat factor quickly rose but a blessing because the sandy black dust was not been blown about. This however, quickly changed when we were joined by two or three men leading ponies which could be hired for 50,000 rm. The ponies were kept just in front of us and kicked up enough dust to make walking uncomfortable. It was impossible to get in front of them and if we fell back they waited thinking we were about to give in and pay for a ride. Much worse than the ponies were the motorbike riding tea shirt sellers who would speed past to the front of the stretched out group kicking up more dust than the African Core in WW2 and then making their way back down the line waiving their products and saying 'quality, After about 45 minutes we reached the base of Mt Bromo and were confronted by a very steep incline of steps leading to the summit and more tea shirt sellers and also men waiving dried flowers. One quietly, in wellingtons, waiving his wares in our faces, slowly stayed two steps in front of Anne and myself all the way up to the top.

Once at the top the scene was breathtaking, we were now standing over 7000 ft with views back and beyond our lodge to the mountains behind. In front of us was a perfect cone tapering to the smoking core about a 1000 ft below. As the smoke rose into the clear blue sky the wind swirled it round the cone like a vortex and we'd be engulfed in a thick choking sulphurous fog. The crater took over an hour to circumnavigate and was as far as I'm concerned very dangerous. At one point the path along the top was no more than a foot wide with a drop of a thousand feet into the smoking cone and a three or four hundred foot drop on the other. Which ever way you looked at it, it was death on either side. I gave it a miss and just stood looking at the belching smoke and the stunning views all round. About seven set off round and as they approached from the other side I had to look away in fear for them. For Leighton, as always, it turned into a competition and Zoe seemed intent on giving him a good run for his money but as she came striding towards the very dangerous bit she stumbled for second but managed to keep her foothold. I have to say I did not witness this but was told by the others after their gasps of horror. But as always she passed it off with a beaming smile.

During our stay we got talking to Leslie a thin, red bearded, pony tailed, sarong wearing, bare footed Belgium who informed us that he had seen photos taken by some backpackers of Krakatoa erupting last week just over a hundred and thirty years since it provided the modern world with its largest explosion. If we'd stayed in
Jakarta as we were supposed to do we would have also seen it. Something else they have robbed us of thanks to their incompetence.

As we set off back to the lodge Leighton and Zoe began climbing the extinct cone which looked higher - but not according to the map - followed by Ted, Caroline and Mas. After making the ascent the two then reclimbed Mt Bromo but abandoned their second circumnavigation because the weather changed for the worse. When they arrived back at the lodge all were black faced and tired but ecstatic at their achievement.

Anne on the other hand decided to risk hiring a pony back and thoroughly enjoyed her first riding experience. As she slowly rode into the distance leaving me behind to carry the rucksack, water, camera etc it remind me of the time in
Annecy when she sailed away led by Philipe. However, on a more positive note she now has no excuse for not going pony trekking back in England. I walked it back at a slow pace with John who was finding it hard to breath with his chest infection. Just before the final and all knackering climb back out of the basin I spent a pleasant couple of minutes resting and talking to a young couple from Warwick who just arrived in Java from South America. What a coincidence.

The round trip took us about 4 hours and left us with a dilemma: what to do with the rest of the afternoon. Needless to say it was spent drinking ice-cold beer, reliving our triumph and wallowing in the atmosphere of an absolutely maginificent place. There is something special about places that exist only at the behest of mother nature. This magnificent place and its beautiful smiling people could be wiped out at any moment. But it seems the risk they live with everyday makes them happier and more content than us in our sanotised protective environments.

After a rest to recoupe from the beer and I suppose the walk we had dinner early. I had a chicken, noodle soup which was delicious, Anne went European with spag bol and John had is usual Nasi Gorem. The evening was spent drinking more beer and listening to a lad providing live music. Once again we were entertained by a talented young man who played guitar and electric piano and sang an eclectic mix of rock, blues and folk. I'm really sad that we're leaving tomorrow morning for
Bali. This is one place I'd recommend to anyone and I have to say I'm very grateful to the two in London for putting it on the itinerary. If you get the chance to come and see Mt Bromo take it. The sceneray and the people make this is a 5 star destination.

Day 70: Friday 30th November, - Mt Bromo to Bali
I didn't sleep very well last night, for me the evenings are ending too early. Last night we were in bed for 10.30pm and I spent another hour catching up with my blog. I seemed to drift restlessly in and out of conscientiousness. Not like the night before when I had the most weird dream. Where it came from is beyond my understand of the brain. If anyone out there can work it out let me know. Anyway, somehow Mac and myself had discovered that by compressing palm leaves we could convert them into an organic type of substance which was a perfect substitute for plastic. Once compressed it could be shaped and polished. Very quickly in dream fashion we had a factory unit in operation down the hillside from here producing the raw material to make toothbrushes, knife and fork handles etc and anything else that can been made of plastic. We were paying the workers a minimum wage of £1 an hour and all seemed well. However, I suddenly awoke with the feeling that all was not what it should be and as I tried to recreate the conditions to return to my stupor all I could think was that we'd changed a happy rural idyll into a factory controlled system, changed the happy nature of the locals and Mac and myself were a bad influence ruining this paradise for ever. If only the dream had shown me the process of how to do it. I'd be rich and happy or would I be?

Once the luggage and us were loaded on our separate buses the downward journey began. I did manage to say goodbye to the Smiley Angels team at breakfast. The scenery downhill was stunning with well kept houses and gardens with the most beautiful deep red flowers hanging from bushes. Some of the fields were full of rows of lettuce, big dark green cabbages and potatoes. This didn't interest Leighton who felt the driver was not going fast enough and tried to get him to speed up saying 'we came up faster'. I am pleased to say the driver who obviously didn't know the road as well as someone from
Ireland nonetheless stuck to his preferred speed. Had he asked the driver in a polite manner it would have been just a lack of commonsense but by grunting and demanding him to 'get going, faster he was just being ignorant and irresponsible. Had the driver responded by putting his foot down I would have totally lost my wrag with him. This was a very dangerous road of sharp bends, other users (bikes, cars and buses) and children by the wayside and he would be putting everyone's lives at risk just to meet an unachievable timetable. It makes me angry and I'm beginning to wonder what they will try next to get us to Sydney on time. On Monday we land in Darwin at 8.00am in the morning and head for Kakodu Nature Reserve. We have a couple of days there before heading into the outback. We are arriving in the middle of the wet season (October to March) when visitors are advised not to visit. This is another of their must see places that looks like going sadly wrong for us.

Had lunch in a very pleasant restaurant by the sea. Zoe, Leighton, Caroline and Mas all went for a swim while we waited for lunch. Anne and myself had meat ball soup while the others stuck with good old chicken and rice. The food, however, was very good. It seems the nine hour journey from Mt Bromo to the ferry port has gone down to five. The journey from our lunch stop went from thirty minutes to two.

The ferry port was very interesting. The ferry looked like one of the run down overcrowded tugs seen on the news after a disaster. As we climbed to the upper deck young lads jumped from the top into the sea as passengers threw coins for them to dive down for. The top deck was situated through the pilot house and once the outside had filled passeners overflowed standing with the crew. The ferry sailed out into the Straits of Java with young lads still hanging onto the side shouting for money. Behind us hiding in the haze and clouds stood a tall forbidding volcano.

The Straits of Java leading to
Bali was no distance at all but the ferry made hard work of it almost drifting along with the tide. The crew deserve special mention. The two in the pilot house sat with their feet on the controls, one actually steering with his bare foot and before we reached Bali the boat seemed to be being steered by an Indonesian passenger who took his opportunity when the actual pilot got up to move. The upper deck consisted of young people all carrying cameras digital and traditional and who turned out to be students on a photography course at the local university. They were very eager to talk to us and before too long the conversation sank down to football. What a sad reflection on the world that all its' inhabitants can find in common to talk about is twenty two men kicking a bloody bag of air about.

Once on
Bali we had to put our watches back another hour which took us from 5.30 to 6.30 and into darkness. The journey across the island took longer than anticipated and I have to say the driver was travelling faster and more reckless than any time before. Hope Leighton han't been at Anton and the driver to put his foot down. Whilst travelling Colin received a phone call from Jimmy who was about to fly into Bali along with Andy and Lauren. He also rang to wish Sue happy birthday. Today is also St Andrew's Day and the Scots were hoping to celebrate but the way things are going it may be too late when we arrive.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2009 17:20