Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Apr 01, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , Central Java,
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The train journey was pretty smooth and a lot more manageable than the bus journey. I had, however, encountered a new problem of where and when to get off. It was dark, the train stations didn't seem to have signs to say where they were and some of them were called different names than I had written down in my lonely planet, which I was checking each time we passed a stop as I neared my departure time. Thankfully this problem was solved by speaking to a very friendly and helpful local who told me exactly where and when I had to get off.

It was raining, so to avoid a soggy hike and unnecessary confusion, I went against my ethics a little and got a taxi. Normally I’ll walk, as if I’ve carried this giant bag halfway across the world, I’m sure I can walk a few kilometres to my accommodation. When I say taxi, I mean a bicycle with a seat on the front. I really need to find out what they’re called.

Like all the cities so far in Java there seemed to be no City Centre, no heart. Just a scattered urban sprawl, that was probably best explored in a car rather than on foot. Finding some food I began to plan my day tomorrow, setting a route through the city to see a few landmarks. In the morning, as I exited my room, there was a tour guide tout who immediately began his pitch to me. I was pretty set on not going, so just kept saying no to him and he kept lowering the price. Having lowered the price to 30% of the original, it slowly became a feasible option. So while he flicked through pictures, I flicked through thoughts in my mind, weighing up whether it was really worth it. One of the things I did want to see anyway was on the list, along with two other temples which I had read about, but signed them off as being too far away. So weighing it up, I figured why not. For the equivalent of 3.20 I would see a sultan’s palace and two temples built on the slopes of a volcano. I can think of less constructive things I’ve spent 3.20 on.

So I climbed onto the back of this guys Motorbike and we skimmed by the palace first, which was actually really disappointingly bland and very run down. We then began over an hour’s journey to the Volcano. As we whisked up the slopes, the air became cooler and the scenery fell away beneath us, over rolling volcanic slopes covered with lush green tea trees and various crops hosting brightly coloured flowers. The scenery was fantastic and made the trip worthwhile on its own. My guide pointed out the different crops along the way, including carrots, potatoes, chillies, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach and tea, among others and we stopped for a quick lunch break at a shack amongst the Tea Trees to sample some deep fried bananas and a cup of Tea, produced by the local plants, which was extremely tasty.

The winding path became increasingly steeper as we ascended into the sky and as the bike whined beneath us, squeezing every last drop of power from its engine, I couldn’t help but muse over how much easier this was, compared to my hellish three day hike up Rinjani a couple of weeks ago. The temple was actually quite a pleasant sight, set into the hills among the Tea crops, with several giant stone entrance gateways aligned in a straight line right up to the central building. Very old, very rustic and definitely worth a look.

Now we began a long decent, which actually turned out to be less comfortable than the ascent, due to the driver having to keep braking to stop the bike from wildly accelerating and cascading over the edge. We had to stop and let the brakes cool down as it was that hard going, then we started climbing again, up to the second temple. Candi Sukuh was a strange creation, being basically a small pyramid, surrounded by bizarre statues, some depicting erotic scenes and phalluses. It is written that they don’t know anything about the people who built it and the style is nothing like any of the other styles used in Indonesia. It definitely had an air of mystery and wonder to it as I wondered through the strange murals up to the foot of what I realized was the first pyramid I had ever seen. Whilst small and squat, it was pretty impressive and had a stairway running up through the middle, to the roof, so I also got to stand on top of my first pyramid as well.

Zooming back down the volcano we made the long journey back home and managed to make it back perfectly in time for me to catch my train to Jogjakarta. This had been a perfect way to spend my last and only day in Solo, making me feel satisfied that I had squeezed the most out of the area and had finally seen something in Java that was worth seeing.

Having been constantly on the move, arriving in each city in the evening, exploring during the next day, and then heading off to the next location in the evening, I was growing weary of travelling from place to place and had contracted bruises on various parts of my body, purely from the uncomfortable seating on the transport. The bike up the volcano, whilst not actually being that uncomfortable, really aggravated my previous injuries and became nigh on unbearable as we finished the journey. Consequently, I was looking forward to Jogjakarta, where I had planned to spend a couple of days, to allow me to see a few of the major sights nearby. Allowing me to rest up, recuperate and figure out what to do with my last couple of days in Indonesia.

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