I’ll be honest, the past week has frustrated me from a logistical point of view. I was guilty of seeing Java as an island, thus relatively easy to get around. I was so wrong. Java is not linear and the logistics are a pain in the arse. Nonetheless, I had a decent time in Yogyakarta and Dieng, with one or 2 other hurdles along the way…
Leaving Pangandaran involved a ‘direct’ shuttle to Yogyakarta as “public transport isn’t available”. I smelt bullshit but after Googling up a storm and determining there was a public bus, it would have made a million stops and only saved me R20 so give me the direct shuttle.
There was nothing direct about this shuttle. I could swear the driver doubled up as a DHL delivery man as he was stopping all the time to deliver everything from money to car tyres to almost all of Java’s 141 million people. Aside from this, the list of faults I identified with the bus was long, not least of which was the fact I was sitting upfront with the driver and my seatbelt was literally a piece of rope tied to the door frame. I also suspect the driver had a mental condition as every time he devoured peanuts from his never-ending stash he made this weird sound, almost as if he was talking to his inner self, chastising himself for the over-indulgance. Damn peanuts.
UberMoto (Uber on a Scooter) is huge in Yogja. I used it often and the average trip cost was R6. Here’s a video of Yogya traffic:
10 hours later, 3 hours longer than the promised 7 hour journey time, I arrived in Yogya. I found a great hostel – Bunk Bed and Breakfast, and spent what remained of the Sunday and all of Monday doing bugger all – sleeping, reading and eating with the occasional wander around the city. I’ll probably get shit for saying this, but sometimes the constant planning and logistics around backpacking is exhausting. Checking bus schedules, trying to determine if you’re being ripped off, protecting your luggage in weird buses, locating hostels, juggling the language barrier, even just ordering food sometimes. I plan to have dead days like this every now and then where I inevitably find myself walking 5km’s to find a McDonalds and stuff my face with a BigMac. Ah, the good old days 🙂
Back in travel mode the following day, I planned to head out to Borobudur – a 9th century Mahayana Buddhist temple – the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Again, a 3 hour journey by public transport – possibly quicker if you join an organised tour but I’m not the biggest fan of organised tours – too much time constraint and I hate being limited to a few minutes here and there. At an entrance ticket cost of approximately $20, I wanted to spend a decent amount of time there.
There’s no doubt about it – it is a remarkable structure and is incredibly well-preserved. The level and attention to detail that went into each one of its tiers and the many Buddha enclosed domes on the top level is incredible!
The following day took me to Prambanan – an 8th century Hindu temple dedicated to the Trimurti – the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). I loved Prambanan and if I had to choose between Borobudur or Prambanan (which is really not fair to do as both are incredible), I’d choose Prambanan.
Getting here, although easy, is time-consuming. You can catch the local TransYogya bus which costs R3,50 to go 17kms (no kidding) but it’ll take you over an hour. Many school kids in Java do vocational training in tourism and they come to Prambanan to act as free tour guides to foreigners to practice their English. A group of 4 kids took me around the temple and did such an amazing job of explaining everything to me. Polite, respectful, knowledgeable – I was really impressed. I initially was very sceptical of this thanks to a bad experience not that long ago but they restored my faith.
Once I had seen everything that Yogyakarta had to offer, I made my way up to the Dieng Plateau. Getting there was easy enough as I found a direct transfer to Wonosobo, the nearest transport hub and from there, a small minibus to Dieng. The journey from Wonosobo to Dieng was so beautiful. You climb to much higher altitudes, through terraced farm land. You have truly left the city behind and the fresh air is incredible! Sadly though, the weather wasn’t playing ball during my 2 day stint there as it rained most of the time.
I stayed in such a shit homestay, which was also sadly the most expensive accommodation I’ve stayed in in Indonesia to date. Upon checking in, I asked all the vital questions: hot water? Yes. Breakfast? Yes. Bathroom? Yes. All of this is technically correct. Although there was hot water, there wasn’t a shower or bath – bucket bath mate! Breakfast was a clump of rice the size of an egg, wrapped in a banana leaf. Unwrapping that banana leaf and discovering rice was one of my most disappointing things about Indonesia so far 😦
I made the most of the 2 hours of dry weather and went exploring the nearby temple remains – the Arjuna Temple. Don’t hold your breath, I was actually disappointed. Fortunately, the 30,000 Rupiah entrance fee also lets you access the Sikidang Crater which is pretty interesting. You can see a boiling mud pool and steaming water puddles all around you. The vegetation nearby is very lush but when you get to the crater, it’s baron and sulphurous.
I should have gone to Dieng before I went to Yogya. Doing it the way I did was stupid as I had to backtrack to Yogya which was a waste of time. I decided to only make use of public transport heading back to Yogya – 5 buses later and most of a day, I was pissed off, tired and had only saved myself R25. I would have paid R2500 to get back in half the time!
Next stop is Cemoro Lewang – home of Gunung Bromo – this massive volcano and crater. Really looking forward to that.
Cheers for now!