Dieng Plateau and Borobudur

After finally finding my way to the ticket office and a highly amusing conversation with the lady behind the desk who spoke about as much English as I do Indonesian, I discovered that the bus to Yogyokarta had left. I sat down and started to scan the board outside of destinations. I find it’s always best to be moving rather than sitting around and waiting. I saw a bus to Wonsobo; that was the closest I could get. I bought a ticket and was on a delightful bus with a beaming conductor and driver.

In near Indian fashion the buses on Java seem to run to strange times aiming to dump you as close to two in the morning as possible. There is a reason for that though I quickly discovered. Java contains something like seventy per cent of Indonesia’s population. That means lots and lots of traffic. My bus didn’t arrive until five hours later than expected. That gave me plenty of time on the bus to find out where I was heading. Great news, I was almost within walking distance of the Dieng Plateua. Plans changed I was no longer aiming for Yogyakarta it was all Dieng from here on in.

The journey up to the village of Dieng was beyond belief. Climbing up the mountains, with volcanoes all around and rows of crops it was stunning. The village is small and quiet, at two thousand one hundred meters it is noticeably colder. Normally after night busses all I feel like doing is go into zombie mode and sleep out the day. Not here however, the hiking shoes were straight away on. I scoffed down breakfast, grabbed a map and raced out of the door. I couldn’t wait.

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The three hour walk I did was just lovely. It took in various sites, the first of which were some ancient Hindu temples. From there I went up to a volcanic crater with bubbling mud ponds. It was bizarre seeing so many random spots boiling away. I watched where I placed my feet carefully! I then wondered over to a lovely lake with its distinctive turquoise colour. By then the clouds had begun to drift in and I headed back and rested the rest of the day.

I was up at three thirty the next morning. The owner of my guest house pulled up his scooter and we motored off into the hills, a car followed with another couple of people and a guide. After twenty of so minutes we went on foot up a mountain and prepared for sunrise. It was cloudy. But then, the clouds started to disappear.

Volcanoes appeared, including the recently erupted Merapi. I think Everest sunrises excluded, this was the finest of the trip with the fog clinging to the forests below and the volcanoes dominating tall. The dutch couple I was with asked our guide whether the tiers running up the mountains were tea plantations. “No” he said “they are potatoes, lots of potatoes.” He paused, pondering that comment and then said “but we don’t eat potatoes, we eat rice.” He looked confused by the revelation and started off down the hill. On arrival at the bottom I went around on the bike to a few more sights all of which were just as good as the others before arriving back in time for breakfast!

Dieng Plateau was superb, scenically it was one of the most beautiful places I have visited. I not only struck gold on by chance arriving here but also on getting out. My guest house owner got me into a private taxi, although I must say I felt sorry for its two French occupants considering they had not booked the taxi to go to where I was going! But alas, it made things easier and quite possibly cheaper than any other way.

I was heading to Borobodur, one of if not the largest Buddhist monument in the world. I had seen a picture whilst in Cambodia. As soon as I saw it, I latched onto the idea of wanting to go to Indonesia for two rather than just the one month. I had always thought of Indonesia as beaches. Sumatra showed me the rainforests and volcanoes, Borobodur showed a historical aspect I had not expected.

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The town itself was uninspiring but I wasn’t here to see that. For the second day in a row I was up before sunrise and first at entrance gate. When walking up to the monument it looms over you. It’s huge. Square, with six square terraces and three circular ones you walk around each one clockwise. The carvings are by all accounts the best I have seen. Each one tells a story and they are in remarkably great condition. Unfortunately the top was closed due to the cleanup operation after the eruption of Merapi had left the monument covered in ash but it didn’t matter, it was still darn impressive. I spent around an hour and a half admiring this incredible feet in human craftsmanship. People pale in comparison to it. It was only relatively recently discovered in 1815, it amazes me how something like that can go missing.

Just like the temples of Angkor it is on a different scale to pretty much anything else. Whilst visiting I had to keep reminding myself that it was built around 750AD. It’s a mind boggling thought. That afternoon I left after a great couple of days for Yogyakarta, apparently a nice Indonesian city!

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