Magelang, Borobudor, Jogja, Solo

Posted: July 14, 2016 in Mountain Bike Touring Central Java 2016
Tags: ,

Days 4, 5 and 6.

The photo collage format in the last 2 previous posts do not  leave much space for detailed photo captions so I’ve switched to this. Individual large photos with space below for a photo essay type of post.

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Choked traffic on the way into Magelang. Like all cities, the shoulder is just another lane. Fair game for everyone. Irritating as well I could easily pedal faster than this bunch of crawlers. Close by is an intersection to the right which leads to the highland town of Wonosobo and the mystical Dieng Plateau.

Dieng was in my plans but a to and fro journey of another hilly 300kms meant another 3 days at least.Dieng itself lies at 2000m with very basic accommodations.  I contemplated taking some form of transport but heck, nice and cold as it was I visited Dieng in 1997, so it was easy to head for Magelang just down the road.

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On the southern suburbs of Magelang whose city center of shady narrow roads and old shops did not entice. I’ll see that the next morning when it’s brighter and drier. From this junction one of my preferred hotels was still about 3 kms south. Then my eye caught sight of that huge hotel with a Carrefour and KFC next to it. Bingo! Rode up to the lobby and the manager stepped out. Dried and cleaned myself before going in. Already the manager asked the security guard to put my bike in a safe place, like in his guard room. Great!

One small problem. Sure there were room, but at what price? A million rupiah ! What?!? S$103. That or ride another 3 kms in the wet. Well surely there was a weekday discounted rate for a tired wet hungry cyclist? There was, at Rp530,000. Almost half price. Over budget but not drastically. Done deal again. A room that would easily cost $250 and up, back home.

Had dinner at the adjacent mall’s food court and a quick walk trolling the shelves of Carrefour ended the day. Stock up on some drinks, snacks or fruit. On a solo bike trip it is quite vital to have a place to walkabout after dinner, more so when it is raining outside and you don’t want to battle the elements after a nice shower, much less cycle out again to look for dinner, unless it is absolutely necessary.

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The room as you can see was very luxe for a bike tour, and I still don’t exactly know where it is, the bike I mean ! 2 bolsters too. Now since I am paying over $50, I might as well get to the roof on the oh so high 9th floor for some mountain photos. There was a roof top bar, littered with the previous night’s party.

Unlocked doors through the bar and open rooftop. So much for security. At least the skies were clear in all directions and I get to see a nice sunrise over Merbabu and Merapi. Breakfast was amazing, for Magelang and I had my fill.

Going to skip or snack for lunch till I get to the outskirts of touristy Borobudor via some small village roads. A ride of only 40 kms or so, great for checking out at 12 noon, my latest ever. Lots of lounging around with my latest friend, whose initials are HBO.

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The morning’s papers confirmed what I saw on Indonesian TV about a month before the trip. A crazy lone sniper in Magelang itself who targeted only women. Schoolgirls were not spared. To date 13 dead, and I asked the hotel security guard about his take. He said there was more than one sniper ! The police had detained one and another was still one the loose.

Nothing to worry about, he said. Only women were his targets. I felt slightly assured as long as the MO did not turn to moving targets like a bicycle tourist. No wonder the streets of downtown Magelang were desolate and shops shuttered in the late afternoon yesterday.

Out of curiousity I rode those streets and narrow lanes among shophouses and small businesses after checking out. Seemed normal to me except more police presence at some corners. Adios Magelang as I headed south on a road parallel to the main highway.

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Passing by a well fortified church and school reassured me a bit.

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Solitude on a bike lane in suburban Magelang

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You know you’re in the villages when bikes start to carry grass feed for the cows.

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Closer to Borobudor, I cross a few bridges and scenes like this appear below. It’s still mid afternoon and I have lots of time to scout around for a place tonight. The ‘town’ around Borobudor has sprout out just to fulfill one purpose. Housing and feeding visitors to the temple, so there are scores of cheap accommodation and restaurants near the entrance. Those looked too dodgy and I rode further out to find some cottages in a nice garden down a side lane. Aah the benefits of cycling, don’t like a place, pedal on to seek another.

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I was not disappointed once they showed me the room. 2 rooms in a building with a central chilling living room in the middle where the bike slept. This was sort of a mid range place for those wanting to escape the basic homestays outside. They had a price to match $45 and no lower.

Pricey for the lone traveller but just nice for a couple, with 2 breakfasts. Clever me, I ordered 2 breakfasts the next day. An Indonesian one for me and a western one for me also, but to go and have somewhere down the road.

The girls running the place didn’t mind, gossiping away in a slight American accent, no doubt learnt from passing tourists that make Borobudor so popular.

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Easy access for the bike to the bathroom meant that it got a shower too, my post dinner workout. A ride into the strip outside in the drizzle reminded me of my past travels in Java. Dark roads, dim lit bulbs fronting push cart stalls and people gathered in small groups quietly tucking into a light dinner. Brightest lights in town belonged to the ever present Alfa Maret convenience stores. I got my usual supplies and had to ride fast back to the hotel as heavy raindrops signalled a night storm on the way.

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The soothing pitter patter of rain on the bathroom’s roof was reminiscent of my other stays in Bali, where opened roofed bathrooms are the norm. Bathing under a coconut tree.

I was loving the alternate type of stays I was getting on this trip, very comfy with air conditioning, fast wifi and especially Indonesian cable TV with at least 6 movie channels. Though the quality of US movies can be debated at length, it did make the pre sleeping hours much shorter.

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Morning has broken, with sunshine even.Bucolic with roosters crowing. Made checking out a little bit slower, but I have a long day ahead. Let’s see whether I have the mojo to do 125 kms or so.

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Before actually getting onto the main roads southeast toward Jogja and Solo, I potter around the backroads of Borobudor. Very quiet and car less. I chanced upon a much touted sunrise viewpoint after 1o kms. The road above also leads to 2 very pricey resorts, in the countryside, hence the lack of potholes and even a guiding white line, non existent on other lesser village roads.

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Hah, the temple as seen from it’s north from across padi fields and not a parking lot of vehicles and ringed by souvenir stalls.  No US$25 entrance fees for foreigners like me. In any case I visited in 2009 when it cost US$10 and $2.00 for locals. Guess which ticket i bought in my best indonesian accent. I am told that they now check passports. Game over.

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Paid Rp 10,000 for a post sunrise climb. Not 300 m as the ticket seller told me. It was more like 500m as I sweated like no tomorrow. Left my loaded bike at the parking lot, locked of course, in front of the ticket booth. Well the view of the countryside was nice but not nice enough for a 3 am wake up call. Sunrise view is done.

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The little morning’s jaunt added another 20 kms to todays massive 125 kms. The longest day’s ride on the trip. By now I was fit enough to manage this. After some kms in the country, it was time to bite the bullet and hit the highway with a faster average speed. Speed is traded for scenery which is not a bad thing. It also tests one’s tolerance for people and their driving or lack of driving skills.

Before that I got to tete a tete with 2 lovely ladies taking a break with a knife and a papaya. They probably woke up before dawn and were chirpy in giving me directions to everywhere but the main road. Then they argued among themselves which was hilarious, but not when one has a knife in hand.

I sort of knew they way, cross that bridge and turn left. Reconfirmed that with my Maps.Me app. which did not show a river that small. After being triple sure I thanked them and left.

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After happily cycling about 15 kms only in trying to avoid the highway, I was greeted with this bit of graffiti. Just lovely.

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Volcanoes are taken very seriously in Java. Here is one of many enlarged canals, just in case lahar flows from Merapi, gets out of hand. It did erupt in 2010 and the surrounding villages in the danger zone and even cities like Jogja were not spared. Covered in grey ash for weeks on end.

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At lunch I got the least sweet of these offerings from the menu. Plain ol coconut juice. No sugar added, they do that sometimes. The rest could keep me awake for a week. Indonesians do love their desserts and drinks very sweet.

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Entering the messy roads of Jogja and this was not even down town, but a larger ring road meant to divert traffic to the surrounding areas. I had planned the final 3 nights in Jogja but decided today to press on to Surakarta or Solo, for 2 nights, which was another 50 kms or so east of Jogja. At one point it got so bad that I jumped the road dividers and cycled against very minimal traffic on the other side. At least I was now not cycling at 10 or 15kmp/h.

One of the reasons for the snarl just 10 kms from Solo were road works at 5 pm! Actually they had finished resurfacing the road and the road crew were just relaxing and chilling in their vehicles taking up the first lane, oblivious to the 5 kms of traffic behind them. You’d think that they had the brains to move those vehicles aside, or to a side lane, but no….just continue the mayhem the next day.

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Merapi shows it’s eastern flank near sundown. So I’ve circumvented it from 3 o’clock back to 1 o’clock. Imagine a round clock. I missed the 1 to 3 o’clock portions.

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After 125 kms, I get to Solo one hour after sunset at 6.30 pm. The Fave Hotel (there are 2 in town and about 50 all over the country) booked online for the princely sum of $33 plus breakfast. My wallet is not complaining.

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Pretty in pink and the window faces west, towards Merapi. Cant get enough of it, and of course they have cable TV ! A long shower and slow satay dinner at the hotel cafe ensued. I don’t want to leave this building unless absolutely necessary !

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