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Monday 13 May 2013
Seloliman, Indonesia

A walk in the woods

Today was one of our longest travel days. We had a minibus as far as the bus station where, Sukio explained, we would try and find the right coach early. Instead of queuing at the bay with everyone else, we flagged it down as it was driving round the back of the bus station and climbed on. We weren't the only ones to do so and, when we reached the bay, it became very clear why. People surged on through the front and back doors, flinging themselves into seats, so that within minutes the coach was full. It took a further 20 minutes of people moving through the coach in the vain hope of an unoccupied seat, accompanied by people selling newspapers, sunglasses, snacks and even two lots of enterprising buskers who sang their way from front to back. We feared we were going to get stuck with the second one - who I might have paid to be quiet rather than vice versa - as he was still caterwauling his way along the coach as we pulled out of the bay and headed for the road. Luckily the driver let him off before pulling out of the bus station. Once we were underway, the conductor came down and sold tickets to those lucky enough to have won a seat. Our ticket included lunch at a bus station restaurant, which consisted of variations on rice, chicken and soup. Our entertainment on the journey was a karaoke video of Celine Dion's greatest hits with some very entertaining mistranscriptions of the lyrics. I wish I could remember them as I think they even improved some of the songs!

After four hours on the coach, we transfered to another minibus and drove a further three hours up to the village of Seloliman in East Java Province. Here we stayed at the Seliloman Environmental Education Centre in small bungalows dotted around the grounds. Ailsa and I stayed in one called Monkey, which had a double and a single bed - I kindly let Ailsa have the double as I wasn't sure she'd fit on the shorter single beds! We also had an open-air bathroom with a magnificent view of a volcano from the loo. We had a mirror suspended from the woven roof, but otherwise no wall behind the sink. Having an outside shower felt a bit odd at first, but the buildings were laid out to prevent the bathrooms being overlooked and it proved to be very refreshing after the long journey.

Soon enough, we were ensconsed in a balcony bar with a round of Bintangs, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. All the food was grown locally, organically and tasted absolutely delicious. After dinner we gathered in one of the education rooms - an open sided wooden room with sunken tiers of benches in the centre - where we watched a BBC documentary on the animal life of Indonesia. It was a very good documentary, but not the best thing for people who had spent 8 hours travelling and then drunk beer and eaten a bellyfull of good food. I was not the only one falling asleep. The occasional comedy distraction was provided by a cockroach who kept scurrying around by Aimee and Lynda's feet.

When we finally crawled into bed we were sung to sleep by a chorus of (very loud) croaking frogs, chirping ciccadas and the occasional meeping ghecko.

The next morning dawned brightly so Ailsa set off to explore the grounds while I struggled to wake myself up.  We had a full breakfast buffet of pancakes and flat cakes, neither of which I could eat, so they did me a delicious nasi goreng instead (fried rice - this has been my staple breakfast since I arrived in Indonesia).  One of the guides from the education centre took us on a walk through the jungle.  He pointed out which plants were used for herbal remedies.  There are very few doctors or nurses in the rural areas and they have to pay the medical costs of going to hospital, so herbal remedies are always the first treatment.  We found a rope swing across the stream so had to try it out - Jim was the first one on the rope!  

The trek had us climbing up muddy banks and ducking under enormous umbrella plants, before wading through chest high ferns and passing beneath one of the biggest banyan trees I've ever seen.  We all ended up covered in mud but ginning happily.  We finished at a small temple with bathing pools built around a natural spring.  An exiled Balinese king is buried beneath the spring, so it has become something of a mecca for visiting Balinese.

After that we walked down into the village and saw more enormous tiger spiders hanging in the trees. It was threatening to rain as we arrived in a tiny house.  We were welcomed in by a tiny little elderly lady who grew, dried and ground her own coffee beans. She was fabulous - 93, grinning a toothless grin and telling us we were beautiful for our pale skin.  (Mum and Dad, I have sent some coffee back with Ailsa for you.)  We stayed for an hour while it belted down outside - Sukio remembered the 'raining cats and dogs' phrase with a grin.

The rain didn't let up so we had to abandon our visit to their hydroelectricity plant on the river and headed back to dry off for lunch.  Another delicious home-cooked meal, then we headed off in the minibus to Mount Bromo, where we are apparantly climbing a volcano at 3am tomorrow...?!

 

 

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Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

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