Komodo to Yogyakarta, Java

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October 31st 2017
Published: November 2nd 2017
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Once we arrived in Yogyakarta I fell violently ill for about 12 hours with food poisoning , of which I will spare the details but my last beloved meal of fried noodles “Mie Goreng” will sadly never have the same appeal to me. Ive only been similarly sick two other times, once while tea house trekking in Nepal and the other in India. Happily this happened during a time in the trip when we had some downtime and were situated in a comfortable room and I could hang out around a clean toilet.

Our hotel (D’Anjek Hotel $25) was situated literally right next door to a Mosque so we got woken up to call to prayer every morning at the ridiculous hours of 0420 and again at about 0520. Coupled with our daily scavenger hunt to find beer that actually contained alcohol Dennis has requested no more Muslim countries for awhile. Luckily for him I don't have any more on my travel list for now, besides a return to the Red Sea one day for a live aboard dive trip.

The following day we walked around the city to the main tourist drag of Maliboro Rd. and were really disappointed in what the city had to offer and realized a hotel outside the city would have been way better. It appeared to be a standard chaotic Asian city and sadly not a single dog to be seen here at all. Muslims notoriously hate dogs and sadly I saw on the BAWA site that dog fighting and pit fighting with dogs and wild boars is common here, just sickening. While we walked around Dennis got interviewed and videotaped a few times by some very awkward and cute university students trying to practice their English, like we’ve had a few other times on some trips. I throughly enjoyed this, especially knowing how uncomfortable it was for him and how he hated every minute.

I must confess I had no desire to partake of any Indonesian food after getting sick and craved Pizza Hut once I saw it, knowing there would only be bland cardboard type bread and cheese. I am embarrassed because I always criticize those tourists who travel and eat gross American fast food abroad but I just couldn't bear the thought of anything questionable, spicy or greasy which is pretty standard for Indonesian fare. Oh and while the subject of food is brought up we have really enjoyed what we have eaten this trip and have found some amazing dishes we plan on incorporating into our menu rotation at home. Indonesian food is credited with inventing Tempeh and the way they prepare it and marinate it here is incredible. Scarcely a day went by where we didn't eat it in some form or other, along with lots of fresh tofu as well. They use an amazing hot sauce called sambal which is hot sauce plus a bunch of other yummy flavors giving it a unique flavor unlike other hot sauces.

As far as coffee goes it was a disappointment, crazy huh? As with most places, Nescafé and other packet coffee is common and where it isn’t served you get “Bali style” coffee. Bali style is a fine ground coffee scooped into your cup and hot water is added to it. We got accustomed to only drinking about half cups as this style is not good until the last drop unless you like a mouth full of grinds and sludge. In general I am not a fan of Indonesian blends regardless as I find them more on the bitter and acidic side versus my beloved Central American blends.

We booked a day tour to visit the nearby temples (a steep $40 for both), my only reason for visiting this region. We hired a driver and car for the day who brought us all around. Again I had read the recommendation to rent a scooter to do this, and so happy we didn’t (not as if Dennis would entertain another harrowing day of scootering). We visited the Buddhist temple of Borobudur, constructed as a huge mandala with each level representing spiritual levels until the final ascension to Nirvana.

Afterwards we visited the Hindu temples of Prambanan (the largest Hindu temple in the world) which architecturally reminded us of the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, except situated in the middle of a city and no where near as grandiose.

Both these temples were constructed over 1000 years ago when Buddhist and Hindu cultures dominated the culture instead of Islam. These sites are popular with Indonesian tourists and school groups. It was readily apparent that hardly anyone there had any regard for the religious significance of either place and just rushed past interpretive signs to take selfies standing in and on everything, and tons of running, yelling and giggling by all ages. Time for a small rant...I hate selfies and people that do them beyond a quick snap. We’ve noticed that especially in Asian countries the selfie epidemic is at an absurd level and it is hard to really enjoy so many sites because of the narcissist idiots taking them. On one hand its nice to know that America isn’t the only nation with this mentality, on the other hand its intensely depressing seeing that this is a worldwide phenomenon where people will suffocate baby dolphins or film people dying in order to capture the ultimate selfie or get youtube views or facebook likes. Reminds me of my favorite TS Elliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

We visited the volcano Mt. Merapi in between temples, entirely by mistake but ended up being an interesting side excursion. We drove up to the base of the volcano and saw numerous Jeep off road tours up to the volcano, which our driver in his limited broken English recommended. We were already here so I figured why not, and the hundreds of Jeeps and Land Cruisers intrigued me.

We took a 1 1/2 hr. Jeep tour ($25) up some dirt roads through the jungle that were absolutely bone jarringly bumpy. On the tours offered along the southern slopes of Merapi it is the ruins from the 2010 eruptions that you mostly get to see. We visited a ramshackle museum that apparently used to be a motorbike repair shop, so wrecks of motorbikes are on exhibit here, along with skeletons of cattle, ash-covered household items, molten glass and electronics, charred musical instruments, torn rags, warped CDs, and depressing photos of charred and dead animals and villagers. It all had an eerie atmosphere, similar to that of visiting the ruins of Pompeii. The main dangers at Mt. Merapi are fast moving bursts of blistering gases and rock fragments called pyroclastic flow. In 2010 Merapi woke up again, and even more violently still. The 2010 eruptions had a death toll of 353 in total. Several villages were completely destroyed.

A rather large proportion of the tourists here clearly had no interest whatsoever in the vestiges of the volcanic drama that were all around. They only seemed interested in having easy-going fun and taking pictures of themselves. They probably never even saw the lahars and the ruins or took in what they stood for. We took another stop at a tourist hotspot with yet more souvenir stalls near a bunker. This was an underground shelter provided to local residents to take refuge in in case of a sudden eruption with pyroclastic flows coming down the volcano's flanks. A group of people had to hold out inside this bunker for six weeks before they were dug out again after the 2006 eruptions that had covered the bunker in a layer of pyroclastic flow deposits 20 feet thick, and 2 died in 2010 when they sought shelter inside, only to be burned alive from the 400 degree heat. This is a normal occurrence in life living in the ring of fire. As we found out during our stay there are volcano alert levels which can last for weeks to months. To evacuate is sometimes just not feasible or practical for these people who have farms, livestock and homes to maintain so they opt to stay in the danger zone, sometimes to their peril.

And with that our trip essentially came to a close, with close to 48 hours worth of air travel and layovers in order to return home. Again we had an amazing trip as we always do, and will be dreaming of Manta’s until the next time we meet them.

Every time we come back from a trip people will ask us if we recommend whatever given country we went to. I would say I recommend Bali to everyone provided you can get affordable airfare there. If you are looking strictly for a beautiful beach destination with white beaches and palm trees I would have to say look elsewhere and most Caribbean islands fit that bill. If you are a diver then it should be top of your list. Of course we only scratched the surface of this immense and diverse country to truly appreciate all it offers, and would love to return to explore Borneo, Timor and Sulawesi one day. Where to next? The future is unwritten but we have an ever increasing list of dive locations, with Socorro, Mexico at the top.

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2nd November 2017

I truly love this style of keeping family informed. Jessica and Dennis, you both certainly do your homework. Great photos and cute revelations ( ie Dennis being interviewed). I wonder if “National Geographic” would be interested in your talents? You both are living life to the fullest. Thanks for sharing!

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