To the Dieng Plateau

I caught a public bus in Jogjakarta near my homestay at 2pm on Saturday.  Before I left, I ate one last time at a vegan restaurant I’ve been patronizing religiously – the Loving Hut.  No laughter from the peanut gallery.  No, I haven’t gone vegan, or even vegetarian.  But their food is incredibly delicious!  And not just compared to the typical Indonesian stuff, usually drowning in oil and salt.  I am going to miss Jogjakarta.  It’s not just anywhere in this country that you can get a healthy plate of rice and vegetables and no-sugar-added juice for any price, much less a couple of bucks.

Traveling by local bus, I reached the long distance bus station at 2:30 and immediately found the bus called Ramayana heading for the nearby town of Magelang.  My eventual destination was the Dieng plateau, where I’ve now arrived, but it took a bit of doing to get here.  The first bus, Ramayana, was advertised as a one hour ride to Magelang.  We stopped so many times while they searched for more passengers along the way, though, that it took two hours.  The next bus, to Wonosobo this time, magically appeared next to me as soon as I got off the bus from Jogjakarta.  I asked how long to Wonosobo and they said two hours, the same as my guide book.  But – and you may be seeing the pattern here – it took three hours to Wonosobo for the same reason we were delayed getting to Magelang.

7:30pm was too late to continue to the Dieng plateau Saturday night, so I found the Wisma Duta homestay and crashed for the evening.  They have two types of rooms at Wisma Duta: really nice and really crappy. Unfortunately, the really crappy ones were full so I was forced to pay more for a nice one.  The owner was nice enough to give me a discount, though, so I only paid 200,000 Rp. for a very comfortable night and free breakfast.  Saturday evening, I walked around Wonosobo.  The restaurant recommended by Wisma Duta was already closed, so I had some fried rice and goat kebabs from a street vendor instead.  I also spoke to a friendly policeman for a while.

I woke up this morning, Sunday, and walked 100 meters to the spot to catch a bus to Dieng.  They told me it would only take 1/2 hour to Dieng, but I was suspicious.  Sure enough, the bus was empty when I got on and we stopped endlessly along the way, prolonging the ride to an hour and a half. One of the more startling sights along the road to Dieng was a group of four kids, about 6 or 7 years old, sitting in the back of a pickup truck passing around a cigarette and puffing it like pros. So, after two days and six and a half hours of traveling, I have arrived in Dieng, supposedly only three and a half hours from Jogjakarta.

Conditions are spartan here.  To make up for my splurge last night, I’m staying at an extra cheap room tonight, only 50,000 Rp ($5.50).  They are in the middle of renovating the place so there is a pile of sand, for mixing with concrete, on the floor in the hall outside my second story room. There is no wi-fi, so I am writing this in an internet cafe.  It is open 24 hours a day (plus one for convenience) but it doesn’t have chairs (minus ten for comfort).  The floor space they give you is a cramped little cubby with chest high plywood walls.  The Indonesians in here like to take a few seconds to stare at me over the door as they walk by.  If I ignore them they stay longer, but if I look up and smile they usually move on.  It’s unclear if they are embarrassed to be caught staring, or just feel that, having been acknowledged, their mission is accomplished.

Quite a change from Jogjakarta so far, but I am enjoying it.  I had a good conversation with the bus driver from Wonosobo this morning and learned the Javanese word for egg – sounds like ndaak but I have no idea how to spell it.  It looks like there are going to be a lot of great places to explore on foot from here, so I’m excited to spend at least a few days.




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