Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Day 448 - Madiun

I woke in the morning to cockerels and pigeons right outside the door, I did my best to ignore them but then what sounded like a happy clappy Christian service seemed to be in full swing too, so I gave up. When I opened the door a cockerel was standing outside looking very indignant, I think I might have been in it's bed for the night, the pigeons were in cages. A man walked in from the yard carry another cockerel. I went in search of breakfast but couldn't find anything so left Weleri defeated. I started to climb straight away so I knew I needed fuel in my belly as the road could keep going up for a long way. I found a very nice cafe, but it looked shut, but who cares when you are desperate, so I went in, calling out, through the kitchen and out the other side until I found somebody. They were all too happy to knock up a little nasi goreng, just the job. It did climb a long way too. I think I passed an accident where somebody had gone off the side of a bridge, cars were parked everywhere with people running back to have a good look. It got steep in places, but always managable, nowhere near as bad as somebody had told me yesterday as they adviced me to take another route. After 3 hrs of climbing I stopped again for more food, I still had no idea how far it was to the top. The place I stopped was basic in the extreme, but as always the people were so friendly. It wasn't so far to the top, but I still didn't know if I would make it to Borobodur, I still had a long way to go, but after that it was very gently down for a long way, so I made good time and got there. I stopped again on the very busy road to Yogykarta, I was so thirsty. I coach load of young soldiers came in to the self service place and filled there plates to the level I would like to but would always feel guilty about, but there wasn't an ounce of fat on any of them, though they all had more hair than me!

I liked the little town of Borobodur, I went for a leisurely breakfast and was joined by about 20 English students and their teacher. They were just finishing a 6 month course, and boy were they good. I was so impressed, I never had to repeat anything of rephrase a single sentance, they were such a happy bunch, really nice and I was sorry when they all left. Having done my washing and been to the post office I went to the Buddist temple (photo), the reason for me being here in the first place. Wow! It was top drawer, regarded on a level with Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat, and rightly so, though it came third in my opinion though only because it didn't have the supporting temples around it to be vistited. It was square, on about 6 levels, with a whole sack full of carvings and Budda images, then there were 3 circular levels at the tops with stupas all around them, each one containing another Budda image, and a great view from the top too, brilliant. A local school party was there, about 240 of them, that's alot of the same questions to answer, but once again they were a jolly crowd and a pleasure to talk to. Before they left each group wanted me to sign my name half a dozen times, then handshakes all round, my right arm was ready to fall off.

I am due to get Malaria pretty soon as my anti-malaria pills and my insect repellent are going to finish at about the same time. I have tried a number of places to resupply but the pharmacists here are useless unless you need a strawberry condom or something for a cold. What do strawberries need condoms for anyway? They must work very well mind, as you don't see many strawberries here. I spotted some Asprin the other day so I tried to buy them, at least that would give me a little bit of success, but they just said "You can't buy them", "Why not?" I asked "I want to buy them". They just laughed and said "Because they are way out of date", said in such as manner as if to say "Are you stupid or what?". I just laughed back and said "Oh sorry, I thought this was a pharmacist, I didn't realise I had walked into a museum!"

Having enjoyed seeing the Buddist temple I decided I would head off to Prambanan a Hindu temple complex built at about the same time in the 9th century and deserted soon after. Unfortunately it meant a main road bash, but that generally means good food and I found a self service place and learnt my lesson from the soldiers and piled my plate up high, wonderful. On arrival at Prambanan (photo) I made my way to the ticket office, I just followed the signs but I knew they wouldn't let me in. The price was 8,000 Rupiah, but only locals were allowed in at this little outside kiosk, I was sent to another ticket office, a nice smart new building with glass sides and air-con and a sign on the window saying "Special for Foreigners". Clearly it was going to be something very special as here they wanted 90,000 Rupiah, I did my very best to find out what was so special for the foreigners, but the ticket man couldn't think of anything. "It's ok then" I said "If there is nothing special for us foreigners I will go over there and by a ticket and save my 82,000 Rupiah". "No, sorry, you have to buy a ticket here". "So the only special thing I get is an air-con ticket office and that is going to cost me another 82,000". "No, no" he said "It's you that is special", "I am not THAT special" I replied "besides, if I am so special to you I should be allowed in for less than 8,000, not more". Don't get me wrong, as a supposedly whealthy westerner, and I suppose I am really compared with most Asians if I can afford to do a trip like this, I don't mind paying more to get into places, but I do find it hard to swallow when I am asked to pay 11 times the price. Compared with Borobudar it was a little bit of a let down, plenty of rocks piles to assist you imagination but the temples themselves weren't so great and to make matters worse all but 2 were well fenced off. Another school party turned up, more questions. The girl asking the questions squashed up next to me so I moved a little to gain a bit of space only for her to squash up again. When women talk to me here they are not at all worried by making bodily contact, not that it means anything, it's just the way they do things over here, but it is very unusual, especially for a Muslim country. At the end I took a photo of them, they all posed nicely and once taken they all gave a cheer of delight, I liked that. From there it was another 50k to Solo where at the hotel I checked into I was told there was free coffee and tea, though I did warn them I tend to drink alot in the evening, a sort of rehydration therapy. "And there is a safe place for you bike over there, 24hrs" I was informed. "What happens after 24hrs? Does somebody steal it" I asked. They laughed, at last people in a hotel with a sense of humour, or at least some that understand mine.

Today I made my way to Madiun with a choice three routes, one south around a couple of volcanoes, one north around them and a third going high up between the two, I chose the scenic route! As I started to climb it was nice and gentle, though it soon became evident that the free breakfast at the hotel was sufficient for a cyclist, I had to stop to refuel. Once on my way again I was soon into a 35k climb, though I didn't know that at the time, I also didn't know how high the road would go. As I neared the volcanoes I couldn't even see them, I kept straining my eyes but nothing. After 25k the clouds were really closing in and it started to rain, I did what you might expect me to do and dived into a cafe and started eating, there is always a plus side to going uphill and a bit of rain. Once the rain eased I set off again, not far now I thought, and it wasn't, only 10k, but the tough bit was saved until the end, it was really tough going now and with the naff weather there wasn't really anything to see either. The last 2k were the toughest of the lot, horribly steep, but a new road was being built that would make it much more gentle, I was tempted to wait around for them to finish, but I think that would have been a couple of months, probably more, this is Indonesia after all. But at long last I huffed and puffed my way over the top, thank goodness for that, 7hrs 15 minutes to 52k, I had hoped the climb wouldn't be over 1500m, but the pass was at 1834m, I wasn't going to make it to Madiun, it was already 15:15. Soon I was on a finished bit of new road and flying, the temperature had dropped to a chilling 17 degrees, I almost stopped to put a jacket on, then it came to a very abrupt end, the road became very narrow, rough, steep and very twisty, it took all my strength to keep the bike down to 10kph, I couldn't afford to let the brakes go, I would never gain control again. Another very steep, very slow descent, 600m of height were lost in 3km at 10kph, what a waste, though I once again think I had the easier way up. But after that steep bit normal descent resumed, I could let go at times, though it still wasn't fast, but soon enough it turned into a straightish fast road, no more braking, just whizz past the motorcyclists hoping they don't try to turn right without looking, but come to think of it, how else would they turn right? As I descended over the course of one hour I could feel the temperature rising back up to the much more familiar 30 degrees. that was really nice. I made the 20k to Magetan without even pedaling, I would push on to Madium afterall, a little bit more descending then a flat last 12k to get into town just as it was getting dark. I felt glad I had taken the mountain road, despite the weather, but that's mountians for you.

There is a whole host of photos uploaded, that'll keep you quiet, or just make you bored!


Anita Frost said...

Hello John sorry to be coming to this blog so late in the day. I lost the details and have got them off Ron today. I am trying to read through what you have been doing to catch up. Martin and I will be following you from now on though. Love Anita and martin Frost

aoiffe said...

Howdy doodley from Aoiffe and James. Mum says you should have hair like hers, it doesnt want to grow back. Its nice and cool here too in our 17 degrees summer. Ive just been reading your blog to Mum and she's very glad to hear your latest news. She hopes to be out of Hotel JR early next week. So all is running along slowly but surely here. I personally think your new hair (lack of) is cool. I think though if you dont keep it that way, you should grow a giant mullet with a pink mohican. That would be a change and a half. Fascinating reading every time. James and Mum!

David said...

alrite john wats da craic r ya havin a gud 1 in watever place u are? the 4 of us r in vegas at the moment nd it turned out we got to oz first...david 4m singapore

Caff said...

This blog comment is for James not for John! James, what I'd like to know is: if you think John's new "hairstyle" looks so cool how about you going for a "cool" style just like it? I know it would be a big change from your current style - but hey "it's cool"!!!!!!!!! :-)