Jun 16Taking a bus, ferry, then minivan to Yogyakarta was quite an adventure - 19 hours! They drive crazy and fast here and loads of mopeds and bikes have been converted to carry large loads. Passing (almost bought the farm once) is almost always done when it’s not quite safe. Unfortunately, we saw the remnants of an accident. Our driver told us the guy was dead.
Though there’s lush natural beauty here, pollution seems bad. There's trash, litter, and plastic water bottles in the river. Air pollution also: petrol is way cheap (filed up our moped for 40 cents). All the gas is leaded and there are many diesel vehicles. You can always see/smell a few fires around (I think many people burn their trash).
Jun 17 - BorobudurWe went to Borobudur (the worlds largest Buddhist temple!) with Lynn and Dave from Canada. They live on an island off Vancouver Victoria - sounds nice, roadtrip?
Borobudur has turned into a tourist trap. Most attractions are 3000 rp but this one is 37,500. Oh but you get a certificate; gee thanks. Quite a few locals asked to take their photo with me. It was a strange feeling but it was fun.
It was built around 800 AD for Mahayana Buddhism, but then abandoned for 1000 years and then was rediscovered in 1814. $20mil was spent to restore it. It has 432 Buddha statues, 1300 storytelling relief pictures (karma cause/effect illustrations, Buddha bio, Sudhana/Gandavyuha/Badracari), and 1200 decorative reliefs. Buddha hand positions symbolizing mother earth, charity, meditation, reassurance from fear, reasoning, and the turning of the wheel of law.
Jun 18 - Water CastleThen a visit to the water castle which is the palace of first Javanese sultan in 1755. For concrete. they used eggs and coconut milk. Batik was invented here under the 2nd sultan. The 3rd sultan had 69 wives, so he had to move to a bigger palace.
Javanese is a mixture of Hindu, Islam, and Buddhism. We saw where all the sultan wives would swim. The sultan would view from above, then pick one to come to his quarters for "final enjoy" bed which was made of bamboo with flowers and small fires underneath to make it like a sauna. We were lucky enough to meet a gamelan orchestra member (gongs and xylophones), Andre, on the street, who ended up guiding us through the castle. He also took us to his home, where we had tea and bought a batik painting done by his sister, Murinda, for $3.
We checked out of our lodging at Utar Pension Losmen (very primitive - to flush the toilet, you pour ladles of water down the toilet) where our room was less than $2 and that included checking in at 5am!
2 rickshaw rides today, one with all our bags. I was worried that the first guy was too old and skinny, but he did fine :) Then a local bus to Kaliurang for less than $1 for both. We're now staying at Christian’s Hostel, with a view of Gunung Merapi Volcano. We have to get up at 3am to climb to see the lava flows, and a sunrise view of the beast.
Jun 19 - Merapi VolcanoThe Merapi sunrise walk was beautiful! The guides were nice and informative, and gave us breakfast in a hut along the way (coffee, tea, deep fried banana, deep fried veggie snack). Well worth the early wake-up. Also on the walk was Jacob, from Kentucky (born less than 200 miles from Steve).
Merapi is one of Java’s most dangerous volcanoes. Currently active, in 1994 an eruption killed 69 and injured many more. In 1998 thousands had to evacuate. They now have 6 lookout stations, lava triggers, satellite communicating seismographs, a 4 level warning system, and a forbidden zone (you’re not allowed to climb to the top or to one town that was wiped out).
Around 1006 AD is thought to be its biggest recent eruption, which ruined the Mataram Dynasty (ruling Java at the time), covered Borobudur (48K away) with ash, and made most of the surrounding area uninhabitable for generations (maybe that’s why Borobudur wasn’t found for another 1000 years?). The hike requires a minimum of 4 people, not because of cost savings, but because panthers with their young are in the forest and less than 4 sets of footsteps isn’t enough to keep them at bay. Leopards (one had babies in the volcanologists station), monkeys, wild boar, and tigers also live in these forests.
Jun 21 - Transit RoomWe stayed in a "transit room" last nite :-). The entire city was sold out due to some sort of national sporting competition so we ended up in a very discreet hotel that charges by the hour! Mirrors everywhere. LOL But they were very nice and even watched our bags while we went to the Surabaya Zoo the next day where we saw pangolin (a mammal with scales), a Komodo dragon, big bats, and a mouse deer.
On the bus, a boy puts a snack on your lap the comes back 10 minutes later to see if you ate it meaning you bought it. Otherwise he just takes it back.
Jun 22 - Gunung BromoThe Mt. Bromo area is stunningly beautiful. Magnificent greenery against a backdrop of huge jutted mountains. and a patchwork of crops fills many steep inclines. Our hotel is on the edge of the huge Tengger Crater which is 10km across and its steep walls plunge down to a vast, flat sea of lava sand.
We saw a barefoot woman carrying a large satchel of sticks on her back up the path on the wall. She was friendly, smiled, said hello and shook our hands. A group of men on the path was playing cards. It seems that the women do a lot of the hard work here.
At the bottom, mainly scrub grasses grow. If you throw a rock up in the air and let it hit, the ground sounds strangely hollow! The ancient Tengger Volcano now hosts three volcanoes, which are each large in their own right. I took a picture of Steve from one side of the Bromo lip to the other, and he's just a speck. We got up at 3:30am to watch the sunrise at the viewing area. Steve got a wool G. Bromo hat for 58 cents.