This time I exaggerated.. just realised I wrote really a chapter, rather than a post..Just take your time!
This last long weekend has been crazy, literally!
Actually the adventure started on Thursday, when I left Ubud. I was sad, for the first time in 4 months on the road, to leave a place..I was feeling like at home really, but at the same time I really wanted to take part to the Ijen Festival, it seemed a really big thing and it has been like that!
I had appointment at 7am with the taxi driver with whom I became friend during my stay in Ubud. He gave me suggestions about meditation and other things, a really nice guy. He drove me to Ubung, the bus terminal in Denpasar and helped me in getting the ticket to Situbondo, East Java and then he left saying: “Just be careful, ok? I don’t want anything to happen to you. When you come back here, we’ll go for a road trip around Bali!”. Sounds good!
After a while I was there, I realised I was the only foreigner among all the people…some faces were not really nice, nothing to be worried about, but I would not recommend to stay there more than necessary. I got on the bus and waited for the departure time: 9.30am. In theory! Because one thing I learnt is that buses in Indonesia just leave when they are full! And so we waited until 10.30am in a smoking, hot bus.
The traffic was heavy and it took us some hours to get up to North and get the ferry to East Java, quite weird staying on the bus while crossing the sea! Even on the bus I was the only foreigner and a few people tried to talk to me…in Bahasa! So funny!
Around 4pm, I arrived in Situbondo and I could already notice the difference with Bali. Again, the only foreigner there and no English signs..I got off the bus and I had to look for the other bus to get to Bondowoso, about 1 hour far from there. This time actually I took a bemo, a minibus that applies the same rule: they leave when they are full..and when I say full, I mean open doors and people and stuff everywhere!
After 1 hour, I arrived in Bondowoso and I took a taxi, or better the taxi took me, because I was almost killing myself stepping down from the narrow door! The taxi was a taxi bike with the seat upfront. So after almost 10 hours travelling, a taxi, a bus, a ferry, a bemo and a bicycle I arrived in Bondowoso!
At the school I met the first participants and the Festival committee, we chatted a little bit and then we have been driven to our hosting families. I was with Lesthia and Hendry from Indonesia. The house was big, really nice decorated and the big family really warm: basically 3 generations live there! The offered us a really good tea and some snacks. Then the lady prepared us the hot water in a bucket for the shower…you have to know that toilet in Indonesia are really particular. In the touristic Bali, it was basically the Western style, but it’s not what Indonesians traditionally use that look like this:
The water on the left is for flushing on the right..it's not a bathtub!
After a shower, I had dinner with the other guys: many different things…rice, fish,tempe,tofu,chips, fruits, so good and so different compared to what I had eaten until that moment.
On Friday morning, we woke up and the lady had prepared us a really good sugared tea (exactly as I drink it, love it!) and some typical Indonesian sweets, called Lepat..made of Cassava…delicious!!! We were ready, with our “formal” dresses, required for the opening ceremony, ready to leave and then the lady told us: “Guys, go for breakfast now! It’s ready!”
Breakfast!?!? What was that then?! Pre-breakfast! And on the table there was rice, eggs, chicken, vegetables, chips..basically what I was eating for lunch or dinner until that moment! I was quite shocked to be honest! I’m not used to it..but I found a little bit of space for that..even because the lady made it especially for me, knowing that I like Nasi Goreng (friend rice with all the stuff above!).
After the big breakfast-lunch, we left for going to the Festival venue, but not before saying something to the children where the lady works as headmaster. When they saw us, they went literally crazy..so cute!
A few words to them and then to the Festival that was taking place in a modern Islamic School. It was so nice meeting the other 60 participants from: Estonia, Lithuania, France,Italy,Greece, Czech Rep, Poland,Uzbekistan,Iran,Pakistan, Philippines, Brunei,Malaysia and of course Indonesia!
They gave us the badge and a welcoming kit and we gave them a book we were asked to bring for the children that lack access to good books. I was looking for it in Bali,when I found this about a Princess:
I couldn’t leave it on the shelf! I don’t agree on how the story finishes but I hope it can be an inspiration for some of them (and of course I bought another book for boys!)
We took part to the opening ceremony with traditional dances and songs, performed by the talented students of the school! After the speech of the Regent of Bondowoso, we have been invited to have lunch with him…again! My stomach was a little bit confused actually! Local tvs were present and interviewed us about out impression on the Festival, our expectations ,etc.
We left to see some traditional Batik and then went to the Radio…to record some sentences in our own language!
Off by scooter (thanks Hendry!) to the guest house to change clothes and then ready to play games with the children of the school! We were divided into groups and we had to teach something about our own culture and language. Actually the students asked me a lot of questions about Italy..Pisa seems to be the most famous City! Then I taught them number from 1 to 10 and how to say hello, thank you in Italian and the only Italian rhyme I could remember…Girogiro tondo, choreography included . I was so impressed..I said and wrote the numbers once and they repeated and remembered them perfectly and the same for the rhyme! Monsters!
Shy to speak with..but not in front of the camera!
Time for rest and for going back home to have dinner…a special one! Because it was the lady’s birthday and all the family was there..from the new born to the oldest one! We put away tables, armchairs, and put 3 carpets on the floor and we were ready to eat! First the cake and then rice, tempe, tofu and many other things! It has been so great! Maretta, another girl from Indonesia, joined us, so that we were 3 sleeping in the same bed!
Saturday was the most intense day. After a big breakfast – lunch (again!), we got ready for the Parade..wearing our typical National costumes.
The most atypical Italian costume ever...all made in Bali!
Now, guys…just to be clear: You will never find someone dressed like this in Italy! But this was the only thing that came to my mind while in Bali! The most atypical costume, but easy to make…with things bought at the Market in Ubud! And as this activity was called Carnival..I guess it was appropriate..so pretty satisfied with the result!
He's the traffic controller!
We went around the City, dancing in the street, taking pictures, saying hello to children..it was so funny!!!! Then we saw some dances and songs from the School again, this time open-air!
Time for lunch, changing clothes and then ready to go towards Ijen Vulcano!
The ride has been quite particular….we were on these trucks!!!!
Crossing the jungle is not that easy and if you have to move 60 people, this is the best option!
A couple of hours…but such a bumpy ride!
We arrived then at a coffee plantation, had a look around on how it works, dinner and then fire camp while waiting for the confirmation to go climbing..some warning had been raised in the last days and it seemed we couldn’t go..but at the end, we made it!
Just 2 hours sleep (but really needed) and then ready to go! Another hour riding and we arrived at the volcano. We started climbing at 2am…the 3km path was quite steep and not straightforward and really cold there! I’m not really a mountain lover and among the other things I’m not trained (remember..sport against my religion!?), but I made it and it seems I was even in the leading group, so proud of myself!
I made it! On top!
Ijen is particular because it produces a lot of sulphur and there are about 300 men that work here collecting it. They hike at night and take out the stuff by hand, without any protection. Sulfur is poisonous and smokes and smells are overwhelming sometimes. I had a scarf and the bandana as mask and I had difficulties..and the collectors don’t have anything. They carry up to 80 kg loads on the back and they get a few dollars only..I promise I will never complain anymore whatever I will do.
You will be wondering why we did that in the middle of the night…it was not to see the sunrise (it’s impossible,the mountain covers it), rather to see the blue flame of the burning sulfur at the bottom of the crater that could be visible before the sun rises. Unfortunately I could not get a good picture…but it was magic!
It has been tiring, but definitively worth it! The view on the lake is just AMAZING! Then we went down around 7am, had breakfast, got on the trucks again towards another adventure…rafting!
Going with the flow...visual representation
There’s not better sport that represents my philosophy: going with the flow!
It has been less challenging than I thought (but better like this!)..sometimes it seems more canoeing than rafting, but I liked it! The raft actually almost rolled down..once it was part of the game, but the second it wasn’t! The guide was giving instructions just in Bahasa and Lesthia was translating for us: back to front! Front to back!
At a certain point we were going towards all the rubbish….bleahhh…not really white water I would say!
The funniest part started after rafting..it was raining and we were on the way back to the initial point…this time on this mean:
The route was bendy and we were climbing up and down. At a certain point, we were too heavy and the truck could not go up. The driver gave us instructions to go all upfront, but he could not make it. So all down! He climbed up and then all up again!
We had to be careful with trees…so one of us was saying: mind your head guys! All laid down! Then up again! And it was raining in the meanwhile..it seemed like being in the army…
We took a “shower” and the initial point and then we went back to Bondowoso…time for closing this amazing Festival and say goodbye to all these new friends, because this is what we became, honestly!
I waited a couple of hours with other 20 people and we headed all together to Surabaya. This time I haven’t been clever enough to choose a good time for the flight: not too early, not too late..right at noon! As a result, I was obliged to go there on Sunday evening straight after the event(5 hours from Bondowoso, it would have been too late and risky leaving on Monday morning) and sleep at the airport!
I was so tired that as soon as I sat in the car, I fell asleep and woke up in Surabaya at 1.30am. The airport would have been the last stop (it was a door to door service) and we were dropping down the last guys, when one of the girls, Mehdia, has been so kind to invite me at her house! So nice taking a proper rest on a comfortable bed for some hours! I gained some battery!
The day after we were offered a big breakfast by her kind family…a special Javanese soup, made with chicken! Really good!
As a result, I’ve been hosted by another family there…
I never felt more welcomed than in Indonesia, really guys. Indonesian people are so warm and friendly, they are really generous. Just to tell you…when I left on Saturday, the lady gave me some tea, knowing that I like it and prepare some food in case we needed energy for the volcano climbing. When I left on Monday morning, my friend’s mother gave me donuts and crackers, in case I needed that at the airport and knowing I usually have a sweet breakfast! I mean…I was not even supposed to be there, I ended up suddenly in the middle of the night with the others! And when Mehdia’s dad realised I was from Italy, he updated me about the result of the Eurocap football match against Spain of the night before and we started talking! He told me: “if you want to stay here one month is OK, it’s a shame you have to leave now, I could have brought you to see many things around, please keep in touch with us! And if you come to Surabaya, come here”.
Sometimes I met people who could not speak English, but this hasn’t been an obstacle: smile and body language and we could understand each other.
I’m so impressed, really. If I think how I ended up in Indonesia..I mean, I was in Australia, I knew that it would have been a first stop, but I didn’t expect that I would have liked to leave it that early. In that period, on Rottnest island, I had a lot of free time and I re-discovered the pleasure of reading. I was looking for some travel books and I found on the Internet Eat-pray-Love ( I knew just in general the story, on the flight to NYC two years ago, I fell asleep watching the movie), I downloaded it and page after page it was like: that’s me! Different paths, but same resul, a mess. One night I was browsing on Couchsurfing website and I found the post about the Festival..and I said: I want to go there, not just because everything was for free, but because I really wanted to be part of that, I just felt it was for me, don’t know how to explain that! OK, I got it..Bali and Indonesia, one month. Here we go.
I want definitively to go back to Indonesia and explore the other parts. The official motto couldn’t have been more appropriate: Unity in Diversity…one big Country, but so different!
It would be a mistake identifying Indonesia just with Bali, it’s not like that.It’s even true that I haven’t visited the rest of Indonesia,but the other parts came to me, because the guys I met were from different parts of the Country. Moreover,I’ve been hosted by two local families, so I can affirm that Indonesia is one of the most catching and welcoming Countries I ever been!
Sometimes I struggle between the willingness to explore better a Country and the eagerness to see other places.I have to make decisions based on the budget basically..if I stay more in a place, I have to drop something else, but something else would wait for me! So, what to do??
Going with the flow, always! I don’t care much about crossing places or monuments out of a list, I just follow my feelings in the moment. I don’t regret to have spent 3 full weeks in the little Ubud, without having gone to other parts in Bali.
This time, the flow brought me to Kuala Lumpur. To enter Indonesia you need an exit flight and the cheapest ticket was for KL, less that 40 euros, 20 kg baggage included, so I went for it. And here I am!
This time NOTHING is planned! Looking forward to write Chapter 8!
I will upload the pictures in the gallery soon, in the meantime you can see them here on Fb!