Bandungan, Gedong Songo

Posted: June 23, 2016 in Mountain Bike Touring Central Java 2016
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Days 3 & 4

Left the choked roads out of Semarang on a quiet Sunday morning. Headed south inland and 3 steep climbs awaited me. Instantly cooler in the shade of big trees, as sweat poured out like a leaking shower. The last 2 days must have been too easy, with minimal cycling and maximum eating and snacking.

Destination. The hill town of Bandungan, very close to one of the country’s amazing sights. Gedong Songo. A cluster of 9 ancient Hindu temples or candi in the hills high above the sweltering plains. 1250m asl to be exact.

After 30 kms or so on the highway, I turned right into a smaller road that wound it’s way into the hills. A wonderful 90% drop in traffic, and an increase in rural scenery laid before my front wheel.  For the first time padi fields and wooden huts reminded me of Bali. I detoured into smaller concrete roads, with even better scenery and zero traffic.

The climb was only 9 kms, before Bandungan showed itself. A small crossroads village market, that hugged the hill sides meaning flatter roads and easier cycling. Time was certainly on my side. That was until a sudden thunderstorm had me heading for shelter at a disused fruit stand, just 1 km from the Kusma Hotel down the road.

It poured for almost an hour non stop. Then the roof of the stall started to leak. Doing nothing my tummy started to rumble like the thunder in the mountains. I did not really have a lunch, just drinks and snacks from Alfamaret. Cold drinks and freezing AC to boot. They are a Godsend for cyclists and there must be a few thousand outlets in the country.

Just as I was running out of patience, the rains eased and I rode gingerly on the wet and slick roads out of town. The Kusma Hotel was set nicely on a hill side and I got a room facing south and the mountains. Gorgeous views of Mt. Merbabu’s north face and Mt Merapi just behind it.

Like many resort towns in the country, there’s a slew of sleazy ones whose main attraction is the horrendous karaoke parlour and attendant bunch of women in tight clothes.

Seeing that it was a Sunday, and loads of traffic that was leaving Bandungan back to the cities in the plains, it was time to negotiate for a better rate. A deluxe room was going for Rp 500k / $50 way beyond a single traveller’s budget. Reception was nice enough to dangle me the local rate. Rp 300k. A very done deal. Only 2 other rooms out of 20 had guests.

A quick cleanup and I was ready for a 6 pm dinner and a very early night. A simple fried rice with bits of chicken and 2 very black cups of coffee  at an unbelievable Rp 31000, just over $3.00.

Back to a newish 1 year old room, my only ‘companions’ were fast wifi and a dozen movie channels ! This was going to be de rigeur in all the hotel I stayed at. Not that I’m complaining.

Day 4’s weather was gorgeous, as all early mornings in the mountains should be. Let it rain in the late afternoon when I’m in or nearing the night’s hotel. I had to make an early start if I wanted more time to see Gedong Songo and still be back in time for breakfast which ends very early at 9.00 am. It was going to be tight. 5 kms to the start of a steep 3 km climb and back. Photography was going to be my time stealer, as always, but the views were worth it.

After about 2 hours of pottering around Gedong Songo and it’s marvellous setting, it was time to leave. Got back to breakfast 30 mins late and of course the restaurant was bare. No matter, checked out and headed downhill to Ambarawa, whose railway station/museum ate up another hour or so of sightseeing. 2 pm and I’ve clocked a massive 12 kms.

Saw ‘Pauline’s Bakery’ on Google Maps the previous night and headed for it for a snack. As I thought, a Chinese establishment fronted by local Indonesians. No heavy sleep inducing lunches this trip, just snacks to get me thru the daylight hours. I was not disappointed.

A ‘lumpia’ or fried spring roll (so good I took away another 2) a nice sweet slice of ‘kueh lapis’ or layered butter cake, and another unknown peanut stuffed sticky concoction, and a canned Nescafe, all consumed at a lone table inside Pauline’s. $4.00 for the whole lot. Burp !

I’m set for the 40 kms of highway to Magelang ‘city’

Then I saw a sign for a lengthy detour to a coffee plantation and resort. The former Losari Resort now rebranded as the Msea Still Resort. Cycled through some bucolic country lanes far removed from the busy trafficked ones. Drats, a big hill to climb to reach it’s gates. No cycling up to the reception, a huge converted railway station building, transported piece by piece to a hill top. Parked the bike where the staff do, A discreet parking lot hidden in the trees. A uniformed guard helped across the narrow road, whistle blown and a red flag up, even without any traffic at all.

Cleaned myself up and ordered a latte. Rp47.5K after taxes. Or $5.00. It was so pricey but good. Better still they refilled my water bottle with ice and water. I love posh places. Saw just another guest in the dining room.

Now temptation crept in. How much for a night here? They only have villas and the 20% tax levied here could get me a room in Magelang or elsewhere. So about $$240 with breakfast. That was about 33% of my whole trip budget and I have 7 more nights to clear.

Magelang here I come, rumbling thunder in the distance and all. I pedalled away as some raindrops fell.



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