east java

There is a reason why I have been silent for the past couple of weeks. For a month I have travelled through Indonesia, covering quite unique parts of Java before moving to Bali and eventually Flores, and Bali again. At the beginning of these five weeks I, first of all, managed to have "windows", opportunities, if you will, to think, write, think some more, read. You know all the fun stuff you always want to do but never really have the time for. But then, the trips began leaving me speechless and I am not going to lie - it is tiring. When every single day you experience things that put you in awe, and make you go HOLY MOTHER OF GOD about everything around you - you are going to need the quiet moments to do just that - be quiet.

You see, I have climbed mountains, seen volcanoes, and the miracle volcano lakes, went on the craziest road trips ever, stayed in the most exotic places I never thought I will reach, felt so weak in front of Komodo dragons, was entertained by monkeys, cuddled dogs, fell in love with lizards and froze even when a baby shark passed us by. All that in such a short time that I am exhausted, happy and... exhausted some more.

But here is a belated Eastern Java trip review that will never ever bring-out the reality.

Maybe that makes me a bit less of a nice person but I tend to mock those who go all "spirituality" this and "spirituality" that. And yet I keep on discovering things about myself while being on this trip, maybe they are less profound, but I promise not to roll my eyes on thee baggy, colorful pants misters who go on India trips to praise a cow or something. Here you go: Im not a misanthrope but I am not particularly social, and seeing good in anyone I do not know is really not how my friends would describe me. But what I have never thought is that being surrounded by 240 million people will not only fail to depress me but will actually make me more social, talkative, and genuinely interested in others. The only instance testing this was Lebaran - or Eid, call it whatever you want but by then I nearly ran out of patience in Blitar.

I took a train from Yogya, a 6 hours ride in an old train and extremely wide and comfortable seat. I thought that Blitar is a village and Malang, well, a slightly bigger village. But turns out neither of them is and Malang is actually home for one million Indonesians.

After arriving in Blitar in the middle of the night, Nat thought it would be a great idea to leave for a mountain hike early in the morning. And considering how crazy cheerful and talkative I am in the mornings - I actually agreed. The ride to Kelud is a roller coaster on its own. It is insanely mountainous, unsafe, scary and you do not want to look out of the window. What makes it the worst, are the motorbikes whose engines cannot make it to the top so they randomly stop in the middle of the road, which makes you wanna curse, jump out of the car, practically do anything to make that madness stop.

Kelud is very lively, there are only Indonesians, including me and another random white guy, also accompanied by an Indonesian entourage. All of these thousands of people feel like shaking your hand (because youre white), say stuff in Indonesian you dont get and motivate you during your hike upwards. It gets really hot around there but the hike is worth it. You can still see a lot even if you decide not to hike all the way up, but trust me - it is worth it. A couple of years ago during some volcanic activity a smaller mountain appeared with a tiny lake attached to it - looks very eerie, nothing I have seen before and it is most definitely worth the crazy road trip and the difficult hike.

The following days we spent biking around hilly Blitar, going on trips to Malang, staying and enjoying the beautiful home I had pleasure to be invited to stay in and tasted a shitload of delicious Asian home prepared meals. The Eid was the biggest challenge here for me, I think during the beginning of my stay only, which is 2 days after the actual event, I have met around a hundred of people, while Nat endured more than 250 even before that.

Alright, here is the main thing I understood about Indonesia during my stay - the country is fucking massive. Until now everyone kept telling me - yeah culture is extremely diverse, we have hundreds of different languages etc. etc. etc. And sure I get it, but now I know - nowhere near could I have visualized the reality. First of all, I am grateful that I have seen Java and trust me, please trust me - if you want to see more, go Java, not Bali! Of course traveling and staying with locals gave me an insane insight, but still you havent seen anything if youve just gone to Bali. For one - you are visiting the worlds largest Muslim country and you are goddam lucky to see some in Bali at all. Believe me that traveling through smaller cities and villages in Java will give you more exotic feelings than the most beautiful Bali beach or native traditions.

Keeping all of this in mind, you can imagine that I was considered quite an awesome piece of ass to have in someone's home, I am white which is not that common in these cities - therefore I was being shown off and what not - meaning that just out of respect towards my hosts I had to be polite and meet so many… too many people. In the end it turned out not so bad, and with some translating in between we could get out some decent conversations. And once again - when I got to the modernized Bali I valued my Java experiences even more.

Another grand trip we did was, of course, Bromo (2,329 meters above sea level). Now thats a lifetime dream - to see it, to look into the volcano crater and to feel so tiny and unimportant (surprisingly - a good feeling). Bromo is amazing - I would have gone all the way to Indonesia just to see that. It is such a bizarre location - with tall green hills surrounding a massive grey, sand-only volcano, surreal! Nothing on it or right next to it is actually alive. It looks like you are walking on the moon with a sand storm all around you, it is actually standing in the middle of what Indonesians call “Sea of Sand”. You can walk, you can take a jeep tour, a horse – anything is possible, just like in the rest of Indonesia :) Words can’t describe what you feel when you are staring right into an active volcano - the potential threat it represents is a very powerful feeing.

Bromo amazeballness aside - there was of course traffic. First, there was a human traffic jam to get to the very top, so you get goddamn dusty once you are actually there, so a mask is a must. Especially because some adventurous travellers decide to climb the mountain not using the stairs. And, finally, there was that trip back and that was a Something of its own. We left Bromo before 10 am, and it is nearly a 5 hours ride back to Blitar, but we only got back at 8 pm. EIGHT FUCKING PM. That is some serious Malang traffic for you. From my experience Jakarta is fine – 2, 3 hour traffic jam in a big city is reasonable. Malang is the one that actually surprised and tired me.

But hey, there was a beyond-delicious nice meal waiting for us at home with some coffee (yea, for real, these people consume SO much black coffee with SO much sugar, at any point of the day), and that made things good instantly.

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Marina Notrima