Central Java and Yogyakarta

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April 13th 2009
Published: April 17th 2009
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Thurs April 9

5 of us (Ralf-Germany, Matthew-Singapore, Ross-New Zealand, Peter-Sweden, and myself) set off from Changi Airport in Singapore bound for Jakarta. Our plans were undecided and split. 3 of us wanted to head off to Yogyakarta in central Java while Ralf and Matthew planned on meeting up with another friend, Jonas around Jakarta. Realizing we couldn't please everyone we split up. We took a shuttle to Gambir Train Station from the airport for 20,000 Rp (exchange rate about 1USD=11,300 Rupia). We bought tickets for the "Eksekutif" class for 280,000 Rp since you cannot purchase "Economi" at Gambir station (for times http://jakartatravelinfo.com/Train_Schedule.html the schedules seem quite permanent and reliable). After a bit of food, Ross, Peter, and myself were off to Yogya to meet up with some other friends who flew directly there from Singapore.

Friday April 10

We woke up at 6:00 AM at the Yogyakarta train station. We asked for a cab to our friends hostel "Losmen (hotel) Bladok." Little did we know it was a 5 minute walk, but the cab was cheap. We found them eating breakfast and happily joined. Nasi goreng (chicken rice) for breakfast was great. They had already rented a van for the day for the 6 of them at 400,000 Rp. We got one to take the 3 of us to Borobodur & Prambanan temples for 400,000 Rp as well. I think we could have gotten a better deal, but since we just got to Java it was hard to tell what was a good deal or not. (350,000 was a fiar price but 300,000 would be ideal)

The temples were awesome! Borobodur Temple is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world (one of the many world wonders lists). It was built over 1000 years ago as a Buddhist temple and has since been restored. Originally it had no foundation or mortar but they've been added since. If restoration hadn't taken place by 2006, it would have probably suffered a lot of damage, like Prambanan Temple did, during the 2006 earthquakes. We had a guide walk us around and explain many things for 50,000 Rp. He was pretty funny little guy. I'm sure he wasn't an "official" guide, but he knew quite a bit and for a few bucks, made the experience more enjoyable.

Next, we went to Prambanan. We made a few stops to see smaller temples along the way but its hard to be impressed by them after you've seen the massive Borobodur and Prambanan. Prambanan was built around the same time (showing the Buddhists and Hindu's lived together) as a Hindu Temple. It was also constructed without mortar, just interlocking stones (you can see them in one of the pictures). Our guide told us, the temple was discovered a couple hundred years ago as a pile of ruins. Since then, they've pieced together a few of the towers and are working on the rest. The 2006 earthquake destroyed all the progress they had completed and forced restorers to start again (I hope everything was labeled haha). Our guide showed us around and took us to some of the better picture sights and we had a great 90 minute tour. We walked off later to check out the nearby Buddhist temples. Again, it was hard to be impressed after what we had seen that day.

We headed back to Yogyakarta and relaxed by the pool at the Losmen Bladok. My friend Tom (Holland) and I decided to check out some activities for the next day at the local tour coordinators. There were about 8 offices on the street all offering the same exact things. In addition to that, everyone else in Yogya was a travel agent. You could walk up to anyone on the street and they'd make a deal with you (at a fair price with good results too, surprisingly). I arranged a rafting trip for the group (10 of us in all) and Tom arranged climbing Mt. Merapi. In our booking, we met up with 2 lone backpackers. One was from the Netherlands and the other from the UK. They had both been traveling around for a couple months around SE Asia. It was great to hear their stories from all around the area. It kind of made me want to plan another trip around the world for a while, but I guess I'll have to worry about that later.

Saturday April 11

We woke up and had breakfast at 6:00 AM at a nearby cafe. I had convinced the owner to open early for us that day by promising him we'd buy 10 breakfasts. I think he was more than happy to get the extra business. Nasi/Mee goreng (rice/noodles and chicken) with "Java Java" and fresh fruit was 20,000 Rp, less than $2 US. We enjoyed the "Java Java" although they didn't filter out the coffee grounds. You had to let them settle to the bottom of the mug. Great coffee once you figured out how to keep the grounds out of your mouth haha. Our first couple of sips produced some funny faces full of nasty teeth.

The 10 of us got in an 8 person van with 2 in the trunk bound towards Borobodur temple where we were to meet the rafting guides. We had just picked up Thibaut (Beglium) from the train station (he took the next night train after us from Jakarta). We got into the back of their small truck and headed off the the river. One of the guides was very official and navigated the river like an expert, the other didn't really speak English and seemed to actually aim for the rocks. Guess which one I was with!? We had booked the trip late the night before so we had to reason to complain. Haha ya, we had a lot of fun despite hitting about every obstacle possible. We fought between rafts throwing each other in to the water during the calm stretches. The rapids weren't too rough but we had plenty of fun. The guides treated us to a nice snack at the halfway point - freshly opened coconuts full of sweet juice mmmmmm. We got back in and finished the rest of the river. It was about a 3 hour trip in all. They treated us to a great lunch back at their headquarters and we headed back to Yogya with a van full of 10 sleeping rafters.

We relaxed for a while in the afternoon and enjoyed a few Bintang beers. After a couple hour nap, it was time for dinner and then on to our 10:00 PM transport Selo, a small town at the base of Mt. Merapi. We were going to be climbing through the night in order to watch the sunset from the summit of the world's second most active volcano. They expect it to erupt every 2 years but it hasn't since 2006. We figured it was due, but hoped it would hold off for at least one more day.

Sunday April 12

The climb went pretty smooth. We started around 2:00AM and trekked behind our guides who maintained a friendly pace so we wouldn't over-exert ourselves. We made it to the first 2 plateaus with no problem. The guides checked the weather there and decided it was fine to go to the summit. We were working hard and sweating, but the altitude brought on some cold winds. My shirt was soaked and freezing! Bad idea to wear cotton as it stays wet for a long time (I can hear Dad saying "duhh"). Luckily I had a spare shirt and a windbreaker. We reached the top just before 6:00 AM and watched the sunrise fade in and out of the sulfur smoke that was leaking from the holes near the peak. You could see the sun clearly, then by the time you got your camera on and pointed to the horizon, the sun was covered in smoke. We had all brought some beer along and drank 2 Bintang's to celebrate our accomplishment! The smoke eventually cleared, but the sunrise didn't last long enough for many more good photos. The ones I did manage to capture were awesome though! We were pretty cold so we decided to start our descent. It was kind of scary to see what we had climbed up in the darkness. The slope was very very steep and a little unsettling, even in the daylight. Maybe it was good we couldn't see on our way up. I was able to see why we had to use our hands and knees so much on the climb up. The descent back down to the timberline took the longest. Going up was tiring, but going down just plain hurt! Every step pounded your tired legs and joints into the hard rock. It hurt but you were just happy if you didn't slip and end up on your ass. By about 9:45 we made it back to Selo for a banana pancake breakfast and the trip coordinator's house. I don't know if it was just because we were so hungry or what, but those pancakes were damn good! We hopped in our van and I don't think anyone made it 3 minutes before passing out. No one made a peep for 2 hours on our way back to town.

on to Jakarta....

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