Tuesday, 23 July 2013

North of Java

Kostya and I hired a bike to drive to the unreachable areas of North Java, unreachable both by transport and by tourists. On the way we stopped at the largest Buddhist building in the world, the Barabudur temple. Indonesia would've been so much beautiful if not for the rain season. There were supposed to be mountains and volcanoes all around it, but mostly we saw black clouds and faded mountains in the distance. Nevertheless it was very beautiful with hundreds of Buddhas sitting on all its levels and hiding in bell shaped shades, and the rain never touched us, even though it was raining all around us. That's the problem of the rainy season, we have to budget extra hours for the "rain hiding" time. Sometimes we can't finish everything, at other times we just get soaking wet due to no other options. It's so good that random people sell gas on every corner in here because Kostya's phrase "The more I drive, the more gas I have" gave me some doubts. Apparently some idiot designed a gas meter with full tank sign on the bottom and empty tank sign on the top and it's exactly the kind of scooter Kostya rode before.
We entered the destination on google maps to find a route, and it gave us a straight route. Well that's a lot of zig zags I thought to myself. We ended up hell knows where, bad roads, no roads, people told us to go all the way around. Most of them looking at us like it's the first time they see a white person in their lives, though everyone is very friendly and respectful. A lot of the times I walked while Kostya was struggling on these vertical, rocky roads. Breaks barely work, sometimes it doesn't start, it makes funny noises, it started to rain, it got dark and I'm scared! I was so stressed out that I almost started crying. I told Kostya that I don't care about the route, I want to go down to some passable road. So all these hours going apparently up the volcano went in vein. Yes, now I know better to look at the map and avoid the zig zag roads, and absorbed 2 new lessons in life. 1. The straightest path is not the fastest. 2. If using maps, when a road goes near the volcano, go in the opposite direction!!!
When I couldn't take it anymore, when it got dark and stormy, when it was dangerous to drive and we still had no idea where we are, we decided it was a good idea to look for a hotel. We stopped near a large house that looked like a hotel. It was just a regular house :( But the owner knew perfect English, said that the hotel is 28kms away (1 hour drive), but we can stay in his house for a bit and relax. We happily took his offer, and were even happier to take most of our wet cloths off for a slight chance to dry while we sipped on sugar water with a strong coffee flavour :) The owner barely looked in my direction, but he found a lot of common language with Kostya. I was just happy to relax. Then to our surprise his wife came in and told us to go to the kitchen and have dinner which we had alone(!), and finally they offered us to stay the night, though sleep in separate bedrooms :) I slept with 2 of his girls in 1 bed. It's so strange that the house is very big, they have lots of money, but inside it's so broken down and dirty, it's unbelievable. Must be the social status thing again. It's only supposed to look good on the outside.
Apparently I overslept when Kostya came to wake me up at 6am. Everyone here is Muslim and wakes up at 4am! The girls' school is far far away, and they have to leave 2 hours before it starts anyway. We had breakfast, then couldn't thank them enough and drove on to the Diego plateau. I think the bike from yesterday is really breaking down. It barely works, especially the breaks ... not a very good thing in mountains. We fix them, but they don't take any money from us. Then our front tire got flat, again, they didn't take any money. When we reached the plateau it got flat again. At some repair shop they took the whole tire off, checked for punctures, them put some rubber on it and something hot on top to melt it. Gave us coffee, Kostya got some local weed. The whole thing took half an hour, and they only charged us 50 cents! Life in Indonesia is cheap when you're not a tourist.
Kostya became my husband #2! There is only 1 hotel in town and LP says that they might not take non married couples ... he took my last name, what a gentleman :) We went for a walk, it's so beautiful, terraced fields with vegetables and everybody works on them. It's a volcanic land and you can have 3 harvests in one year! All kids are as always yelling hello, are playing near us, where we go, they go. Boys are loud, yelling, playing, posing, screaming all the English words that they know yes/no/yes/no/cappuccino, you turn your camera on girls and they scream and run away :) Girls are so polite, will approach you with a smile, extend their hand: "It's so nice to meet you miss, where are you from?" People in Indonesia in very remote locations actually speak English, maybe not good English, but still, better than anywhere else so far. Local people are so friendly, as always, the further from city you go, the friendlier the people become. Everything is covered in clouds and it might rain any second, we run away from a place, and it stops raining half a minute later, it's so unpredictable. You can see very heavy rain right in front of you, or all around you, and somehow it will never reach you.
In this town, mosques are everywhere, and every hour if not more often, prayers sound from them all over the town. Imagine you put a note on a fridge saying "be strong"/"today is a good day"/"never give up", and it enters your subconsciousness. What if you hear these prayers all day every day broadcasted around the whole town?
Woke up, had fried rice for breakfast and took the scooter for a ride around town. We missed yet another steaming sulfur crater and took a road that looked the most scenic without any maps or any directions. It rains all the time, and it alters our plans and schedules on an almost hourly basis. We stop at street food stalls, and thank god there are many of those. Who knows how many thousands we already spent on all the tea we buy to warm up and to wait for the rain to stop. We got into heavy traffic coming into town. As always 1 lane turns into 3, and it's ok when bikes/cars/tracks take over from all directions, and it's always a problem when you see a huge pothole and you can't just go around it, you always have to check both mirrors and make a quick decision, but that's ok, what's worse it's when the cars take over from the opposite direction and push you to the side, and the sides of the road are always full of potholes.
I was protecting the most valuable stuff: LP, camera and Kostya's tablet under my waterproof jacket and under a poncho. I felt that the water began to get in from the top and wanted to rearrange the stuff. Suddenly I didn't feel something. I was trying to feel for it here and there and nothing ... oh oh!!! Kostya's tablet is missing!!! :((( I don't know how, but it somehow fell. It was lying nearby right in the middle of the ankle deep flooded road, and with the traffic of course someone managed to go right on it :( No more directions, no more phone, no more videos or contacts, no more nothing :( Kostya I don't know how didn't yell at me, or raised his voice, or said nothing. Instead while I was in a shock with tears on my eyes, he gave me a hug and told me not to worry about it. Needless to say, I felt bad for days! The good thing that came out of it is that we headed on main roads following signs instead of GPS directions which lead us to volcanoes. And we talked to more locals on the way to ask for directions.
Driving the whole day again, even though it's only about 100 kms, feels like forever. Maybe the weather, maybe the roads, maybe the crazy traffic ... probably everything together. Thank god that both of us can drive in this mad house and we take turns to relax, but of course I can never relax when someone else is driving. Arrived at night to our next destination. Some locals helped us find a cheap hotel. It took us a while to ask for the price, and the mighty Lonely Planet came to the rescue again when I flipped to the dictionary and common phrases sections and tried to compose something that would make sense. It also took a while because it was so cheap we couldn't believe it so we tried to make sure that the price is per room and not per person. Everything is cheap when it's not touristic!
5:30 am the alarm clock went on. We couldn't get up no matter how hard we tried. 6:30 we somehow crawled off the bed. We open the door and everyone is already up watching TV. Oh these Muslims!!! They all wake up at 4 in the morning to pray.
Of course when we got to our next site we were an hour too late. We only got a few moderate pictures until the clouds covered all the beautiful views. When we got to the parking lot it started raining heavy. Rain, rain, rain non stop! We gave up on the idea of covering 80 kms that day and stopped midway at Borobudur again. I'm all wet, cold, rather frozen, all bag is wet, my waterproof cloths are not waterproof, but at least we went to the recommended LP guest house which Kostya saw and declared that he's not moving anywhere else. The room is beautiful and huge and it has a balcony overlooking the rice fields. It wasn't too beautiful too long, as it was all covered with our drying cloths.
The guest house was located near a mosque and after evening prayer a question came to my mind which I asked a guy who was working there: I've never heard women saying the prayers over the microphone, why is that? The answer which I got was: "Because it's written in the Koran that men are leaders. It's so funny to me to hear that some women want to be equal to men in other countries, I just don't understand it." I told him that if you were to say that to your wife in Canada it will guarantee you an instant divorce!!
I can't wake up. We know that the weather is only nice in the mornings, but I kept on sleeping till 12 with the "Alah Acbar" howl interrupting my sleep. It's so relaxing on the balcony, we're listening to soft music, drinking tasty tea and enjoying the rice fields and a volcano view ... why go anywhere else?
Somehow checkout out at 1. Went to a pottery village and made a ceramic oil lamp, too bad it takes 2 days for it to dry. Went to the washroom while I was there. OMG! It's so sad that actually now that I've traveled quite a lot I can say that the majority of people live right on the ground with walking food right in their house with no furniture, no proper kitchen, no privacy. The washroom was outside, and the wall which separated the toilet and the outside world was barely higher than my waste with no door to close behind you. Weird ... !
Then we went to a house which produces tofu using traditional methods. We tried it straight out of the boiling oil. It was goooood :)
Again riding the scooter in the rain. But it started pouring like from a bucket right the second when Kostya pulled in for a yet another tea break.
Our guest house was full, and everyone was trying to help us find a hotel with a free room. Then we went for a dinner in a Western restaurant and I must have looked at the menu for half an hour, I want everything!! I ended up having a tomato juice and a pesto pasta. I know that I eat fried noodles everyday, but the sauce makes that much difference! We finished our evening at our favourite doughnut place, hmmmmmmm-ing with every bite :)


1 comment:

  1. Yana

    It sounds like your having so much fun and adventure.
    Envious is the word for us.
    Love the pictures of the children

    Ken and Pat