Monday, May 08, 2006

OF TRUE-BLUE BUDGET HOLIDAY AND A GRUELING PHOTOGRAPHIC EXCURSION: AN INDONESIAN EXPERIENCE

I have never stepped foot on Indonesian soil before, unlike many of you out there who are not only blog-hoppers but jet-setters as well. Thanks to boogey and his wife, who managed to secure us 4 cheap return air-tickets to Solo, last Wednesday, now I can proudly tell my kids that I not only endured the grueling hours of photographic excursions ala National Geographic but also a life-time sighting of a majestic volcano erupting!

No, we didn't know that Merapi was going to throw up it's lava when we agreed on this trip which was planned late last year. Thus, when I heard of it's inevitable eruption coinciding with this trip I was particularly apprehensive and had mixed feelings. But the guys (being their macho selves , of course!), were so excited and had envisaged themselves scrambling up the active crater with their cameras and tripods and had even toyed with the idea of being chased by a hot stream of flowing lava! All these were before we found out about the phenomena of 'wedus ghembel' (uttered with a thick Javanese accent, please) which are the extremely hot clouds (up to 2000 degrees celcius) formed after a volcano eruption, that can travel at an astounding speed of 200 km/hr and can cause severe burns on those overwhelmed by them! Anang, our very amiable and knowledgeable driver, had seen a 1994 Merapi eruption survivor
who had sustained burns of the limbs inflicted by the vicious 'wedus ghembel'. Furthermore, tourists are not allowed beyond a certain distance and we can only view Merapi from several sighting points, much to my relief but to the guys' chagrin, of course!

Upon touching down at Solo's (a.k.a. Surakarta) airport, we were greeted by the ever-pleasant Anang, whom I daresay, represents the people of Java, who are ever so polite and humble in their ways (sadly, I can't say the same for our Malay society, here). Immediately, we were driven in a Kijang (equivalent to Unser but much better in its suspension) for a two and half hours journey to Jogjakarta. Along the way, our eyes feasted on beautiful landscapes of systematic green paddy fields, with scattered small brick houses and majestic mountain ranges as back-drops. intermittently we see shops selling brick and stone tiles in various shapes and also sculptures of idols in myriads of forms (this being the ancient hindu influence).

In accordance with the theme of our trip: 'A budget holiday with fruitful returns', we checked in a budget hotel smacked in the middle of Jogjakarta. It is squeezed in between myriads of other small hotels and spas. It may be small and quaint but it has a small swimming pool, nontheless!

Not to waste any second, we ventured to the batik market after our dzuhur-jama'-asar prayers. We passed through a Kraton (a large, walled, old palace ground/court) and sauntered through a pasar burung which got the boys busy snapping away. On hindsight, we (Boogey's wife and I) now realized that the early shopping indulgence was a deliberate tactic by the guys to prepare us for their first big photographic rendezvous which unknown to us would entail a grueling uphill drive and moments of true patience! (We even stopped by a spa to enquire of its service, planning to pamper ourselves the next day but alas, the plan was abandoned). Sunset at Parangtritis was our, or more accurately, their next agenda. Another hour and a half journey through narrow roads amidst paddy fields brought us nearer to the coastline.

Parangtritis has a hill with a cliff by the beach and it boasts of excellent sunsets which are being sought after by avid photographers. The sight was breath-taking but the road uphil was not. Half-way through, the meandering road turned ugly and we bopped up and down as the poor Kijang negotiated with all the crevices and holes encountered along the 'rocky' path. Almost reaching the plateau summit, Anang gave up as the path got more vicious and the guys had to suffice with a small grassy plain to station their tripods. The view was nevertheless beautiful, encompassing the rocky cliff on our left, the vast village below and the sea-line covering the horizon.

We, the ladies and Anang, ambled around an open dilapiated shack near the parked Kijag and made small talks. Whilst the guys prepared themselves for the 'exact' moments of shots of the coveted sunset, we attained valuable lessons on the historical and geographical facts of Parangtritis from Anang. Needless to say, by the time it was over, we had more knowledge of the place than the sunset-hard-up boys! For more an hour we enjoyed the stillness of the serene hill albeit the occasional odd sounds produced by geckos amidst the constant background sounds of crickets and watched the sky slowly turned into an orangey-reddish hue which would make a fantastic subject for canvas painting. Off and on, we could hear fits of laughter from the guys as they 'fought' for the best 'seat' to capture the 'moments'. Ahh! Boys will be boys! Apparently they were fighting for a spot near a coconut tree that would give a nice silhouette to their picture!

Finally, when we thought the eager photographers would never cease in their endeavor, up the trail they climbed, with cameras and tripods , adorning satisfied looks of mission accomplished.
I can't help but sarcastically remarked, "Eh, that was fast. Aren't you waiting for the sky to turn purple or something??"

Next morning, after breakfast of nasi goreng which consists of reddish fried rice strongly flavored with their thick caramel-soya sauce, garnished with slices of tomatoes, cabbage strips, sliced omelete and strips of shicken fillet (there's only one type of nasi goreng, so dont ask for NG CIna, Kampong, USA, etc!. Also, don't dream of teh tarik here. Ikelah, onced asked for teh susu and all he got was a diluted tea with lots of milk. You should see the exasperated look on his face!), we checked out and headed for the chandi (s) and another chain of photo sessions.

As this entry is long, I will relate the details of the chandi (s) and our viewing of Merapi in another entry.

Alhamdulillah, we were given this opportunity to travel together, the four of us, to a great country with cultured people and vast heritage. A truly memorable trip to cherish. Thanks to Boogey and wife for being great company and making this trip possible. Thanks also to Pang5 for sending us to the airport in the wee hours of the morning and to Khin for fetching us back.

* for photos see iKelah and Boogey

13 comments:

Mama Sarah said...

MasyaAllah. What an experience! All this while I thought that all of you went there to save lives during the eruption of Mt Merapi.

And sambil2 menyelam air utk bergambar. Rupanya holiday!!! Bestnya.

p/s: teh tarik... LOL!

mynn said...

bestnya!! jealousnya baca, what a great adventure.

kelakar baca your thoughts while the boys were waiting for the "exact" moment for the "sky to turn purple". hehehe.

ps -- bie, kita pun kena plan jalan somewhere picturesque lah ...

anggerik merah said...

So very adventures! I saw the pics from boogey and Ikelah too. Wow..cantik nya the sunset/sunrise (?) scene! Like we can stare at it until it is all gone. So serene! Thanks for sharing the story DITH.

Boogey said...

Well the sky did turn purple. As the sun sets for the day, it gave birth to a new beginnng. A glow of yellow turned slowly to orange and then turned darker to red turning the shores into gold. Some low clouds danced towards the glow. Then some colourful rays shoot to all direction from between the curtains. A particular one shot straight to the sky hitting the higher clouds creating an enchanting sight one can`t describe. The sky got darker from blue to purplish and the rays dissapeared leaving a colourful horizon. The end of something can give birth to something enchanting and when that ends too, it`s still beautiful. There`ll be struggles over the best spot, girls laughed at us throtting with the tripods here and there, bumpy roads and such but there`re all part of the great adventure.

Boogey said...

Well the sky did turn purple. As the sun sets for the day, it gave birth to a new beginnng. A glow of yellow turned slowly to orange and then turned darker to red turning the shores into gold. Some low clouds danced towards the glow. Then some colourful rays shoot to all direction from between the curtains. A particular one shot straight to the sky hitting the higher clouds creating an enchanting sight one can`t describe. The sky got darker from blue to purplish and the rays dissapeared leaving a colourful horizon. The end of something can give birth to something enchanting and when that ends too, it`s still beautiful. There`ll be struggles over the best spot, girls laughed at us throtting with the tripods here and there, bumpy roads and such but there`re all part of the great adventure.

Edward Ott said...

what a great adventure.

Salam

Pycnogenol said...

When we got to know that you were going on that trip to Jogja, we were a little apprehensive too, what with the Gunung Merapi already 'grumbling and growling'then; and actually did throw up its lava when you guys were there!
Alhamdulillah, semua selamat. Looking forward to reading your Part 2 and 3 of "Merapi Entries."
Ddapatt ke rrasa itu wedus ghembel?

Queen Of The House said...

What an interesting trip - the main purpose was to get good photos?? The guys should turn this into a m'sian-style Nat-Geo documentary or something.

Heh heh - sunset hard-up guys :D That's a funny expression :D

kenakelayan said...

:D True budget style would have meant staying in over-crowded youth hostel dormitories or pitching a tent somewhere! Heeee... I like my creature comforts please.
Sounds like an amazing trip indeed. When/what's the next trip?

simah said...

MasyaAllah... for a budget trip u had an expensive never to forget experience...!! mesti best kan dapat tengok gunung meletup...takut tak??

mynn said...

your story has awaken that desire for adventure in me!

hiyoshi said...

Reading about your adventures makes me wonder why I (who's on holiday, mind you) still haven't stepped out of the house in pursuit of my own volcano chasing expedition. The only volcanoes I can see erupting are those of my *cough*parents*cough

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