Near Misses and Near Perfection
Today the riding on the island of Java was not so much ‘joy riding’ as it was joy to still be alive! I experienced one of my closest calls with a charging 4×4. I held my breath and waited for the slam as the truck slid over the white line into our lane. I made a small last minute adjustment with a quick flick of the wrist and twist of the hips and ‘whoosh’, it skimmed my pannier leaving a smear of white paint across my country flags. Without that quick move, the bike and I would have been in bits down the road. A frightening thought.
In order to escape the tourist coastal route and increasingly busy roads, we decided to take the lesser-travelled inland road. This decision paid off and provided us an opportunity to stay in non-tourist areas where we were approached and told, ‘You are the first English people we have ever seen or spoken to.’ The young people learn English at school and were desperate to talk to us and brush-up on their linguistic skills. Absolutely fantastic!
We eventually arrived at a cheap guesthouse for the night. Urgh. What a crappy nights sleep. The room felt damp all night….I think it was the sweat from a thousand bodies permeating through from the mattress and pillow……what a thought! Now I’ve just made myself feel quite ill.
Just a small point of interest, Simon and I have been staying mainly in small guesthouses and hotels since arriving in Indonesia. We would love to be able to camp but the areas where we could do that have been, up ‘till now, rare and to sleep in this humidity would be almost impossible. The standard of accommodation is generally very poor. What is considered a decent three-star here is actually half a star anywhere else in the majority of the world!
However, the reason we are here is not to spend much time in awful guesthouses, but to experience the wonderful UNESCO heritage site of Borobudur Temple. We left the guesthouse at 5:57 and were at the gates of the temple by 5:58…yep! We are that close which is the one (no, only) advantage of staying where we are!
Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument that lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth. Borobudur was ‘discovered’ in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: the then British ruler of Java. It always makes me amazed just how many ancient hidden artifacts and temples were discovered by British Explorers! We seem to get everywhere! The temple is very similar to the architecture we came across during our time in India and Nepal. It consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms; it’s decorated with 2,672 relief panels, and has a total of 504 Buddha statues. Yep – it’s big! The relief panels illustrate ‘cause and effect’ and ‘samsara’ (the endless cycle of birth and death); the law of karma (Karmavibhangga). There are depictions of blameworthy activities, from gossip to murder, with their corresponding punishments; praiseworthy activities of charity and pilgrimage to sanctuaries along with their subsequent rewards. Pain of hell and the pleasure of heaven are also there intermingled with scenes of everyday life.
Hey, pain and pleasure all part of my daily life!