Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dieng Plateau

Dieng can be found high in the hills above Wonosbo. I took a bus there this morning (an hour) to check out the recommended Dieng Plateau. The book itself was vague about the terrain and so I strapped on my hiking boots and socks in the hope of some proper hiking. Now as if I’m not conspicuous enough - the sight of my 6’4” frame lumbering around in search of a climb that wasn’t there must have been an engaging sight to behold.
The bus ride started off in cloud and left me cursing my luck again with regard to visibility but, lo and behold, we drove through the cloud cover and into a different world. I half expected the heavenly figure of Michael Landon himself to be there to greet me, braces on, wagon waiting to bring me to the land of milk and honey but alas back in reality I was stuck on my minibus with no leg room and no chance of stopping to enjoy the stunning vista.
On all sides active and dormant volcanoes vie for attention with impeccably maintained and impossibly steep rice terraces, each terrace a hive of activity - think of those classic images you have of Chinese paddy fields, women working planting the rice wearing the wide-brimmed straw hats and the men working the ox (or, more often that not today, watching the women do the work).
There’s a 5km trek you can do which takes in the local sights - the hot springs at Sikida have to be smelled to be believed. There’s also a beautiful old temple complex where I chanced upon what appeared to be a style shoot, probably for some Japanese fashion magazine. A married couple stood by the ruins throwing pose after pose under the excited instructions of about 10 little men running around chattering excitedly and little else besides. Think an Austin Powers shoot or, better still, that scene in Lost in Translation when Bill Murray films the whiskey advertisement. In fact, that’s exactly what it was.
As I walked around the familiar refrain of ‘Hello Mister’ rang out a hundred times or more. When you approach Indonesian people, they initially eye you warily but if you maintain eye contact and make an attempt at a smile, their faces light up. Throw in a phrase like ‘Apa kabar?’ (How are you?) and they’re equally thrilled and amused. Beautiful people. Well, most of them. As I drained a tea whilst waiting for my bus to return, the guy who runs one of the hostels in Dieng introduced himself to me. The talk, inevitably, turned to music and he proceeded to play me every song on his phone. Loudly. He’s quite the metal fan - Metallica, Motorhead etc - but then from nowhere, ‘My Heart Will Go On’. He smiled as it played - “Music for faggots,” he said. Oh how he laughed.

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