This past weekend I have visited the magical town of Dieng, Indonesia. Let me tell you, there is a lot of natural beauty here. I took so many pictures and love to watch them over and over again, and dream away. You can find them here.
It all started on a Friday afternoon. The itinerary said to be at the meeting point at six, and we would leave at seven. I was already prepared to take this schedule with a grain of salt, and planned to be there at seven at least, but when I looked out the window in the end of the afternoon, there was a major storm going on. The rain came poring down, and even though the sun sets at 6 pm, it was already completely dark outside at 5 pm that day.
So, I decided to go earlier. I ordered a gojek and was a little bummed that i would get completely soaked, but I made my peace with it. When I got downstairs, however, the gojek driver had a rain-cape for me! It didn’t completely keep me dry, but at least I wasn’t soaking. The trip only took me 15 minutes, so I was there even before six. There was nobody there.
At six: Nobody.
Half an hour later: Nobody.
At some level I knew that this was probable, but I still got worried. I called the two organizers: no answer.
Finally, at ten to seven, one of them arrived. Of course she got stuck in traffic, and so did a lot of other participants. Eventually we left around eight. Got to love Indonesia.
I was afraid the bus would be a wreck and sleeping through the night was not an option, but it turned out to be a really fancy bus. Even though I sat in the middel of four seats, which was a bit uncomfortable, I slept through most of the trip.
We saw some sights on the first day and although I loved seeing all the nature, it felt a bit weird to be on the trip by myself. It was an organized tour and everybody had a companion. Besides that, everybody spoke Indonesian. So I felt a tad secluded at some moments, but there were also people who spoke English and it gave me the opportunity to practice my Indonesian.
The local guys of Dieng were really nice, but when I introduced myself to them, they immediately gave me another name. Juminten. Apparently this is an old traditional Javanese name and everybody called me that during the weekend.
Another thing I learned during this trip, is that there is no need to be ashamed of taking selfies during a trip in Asia. Everybody does it. Proudly. I told the female tourguide that in Europe it was something to be a little giggly and embarrassed about. Here, it is the most normal thing. Not only that, but there were SO MANY grouppictures. We had to do a group shot everywhere. And not just one. Oh no, we had to make one with everybody’s camera.
It took so long and there were so many. At one point I started taking pictures of the picture takers. Ha. Got ya.
According to the program, the next day we would get up in the middle of the night and leave to climb up to a hill, from where we would see the sunrise. I went to bed very early (around 8 pm) and set my alarm. It was 2 am when we woke up and without any breakfast (or even water) we left to go to the hill. I think I wasn’t completely awake yet, because of course I had to eat something, even though it was not arranged. Or at least have a drink. But I didn’t really think about it until later and we were already on the road. After driving through empty and silent mountain roads, we arrived at a place that was bustling with people. Guess we were not the only ones to watch the sunrise.
We were told to bring a flashlight and warm clothes. It was cold, but it was okay for my thick Dutch skin and once we started walking uphill, I became rather warm quickly. The beginning was okay, but the trek was tougher than I had imagined. Not only was it completely dark, it was also very misty, which created a wet slope to walk on. I kept going and figured we would arrive soon, because the guy told us it would only be around 30 minutes.
We walked and climbed about an hour and I slipped once, causing me to glide down in the mud. Well, I’m not one to let that get me down, but I was a bit scared going further and I so was ready to sit down and see this damned sunrise already.
Finally we were sort of on top and someone told me we had arrived. I plopped down on the ground (I was already dirty, so whatever) and waited, but then they told me we were going to another hill nearby. He pointed in the distance to some walking flashlights and it looked so far away. Too far. And when we walked in that direction, we already had to pass a slippery slope (no pun intended) and I was just not up for it.
Not only was I a little tired, I felt nauseous and a little dizzy. Guess I should have eaten. I asked the guy leading us if it was okay if I stayed on this hill and watched the sunrise from there. It was okay.
So I stayed.
And I sat down.
And I felt really, really sad.
I don’t know why, it sort of overcame me. And thinking back to it now, it seems a bit surreal. Here I was, sort of on top of this great mountain, in the middle of freaking Indonesia, living the freaking dream. And I was sad? Really?
A feeling of terrible aloneness came over me, seeing all these people together. I felt like I was left out a bit, even though I chose to stay behind. And one of the guys who led the tour even stayed with me, and sat nearby. We didn’t really speak, but he was still there with me. What may also have played a small part is that I had been without an internet connection the past two days, which made me unable to vent about the experiences to my friends (or my mommy). I told myself to snap out of it, but in that moment I even wondered if traveling alone was a good idea if it was gonna be like this. Well, without elaborating any more, let’s just say it was a very depressing moment. I got even more annoyed when the sun did start to rise and everybody was taking selfies and I was in the background. Even on this touristic site I was the only white blond girl and I felt like a monkey in a cage. This feeling grew when two girls asked me to take a selfie with them. When I got back to the guy, the female tourguide was there too. I suppose she just arrived. She said: let’s go to the other hill! The sun was already up a bit and it was light outside now. I don’t know what exactly the guy and girl said to each other in Indonesian, but I gathered that he told her I had a little trauma, which even then, I thought was a tad funny. She told me it really was not far and the road was not tricky and now that it was light, I could see she was right. So she took my one hand and the guy took my other, and we slowly went in that direction. The path was not hard, at all.
When we saw the group, they were already heavy into one of the main activities of this trip: taking pictures. Once we reached them, one of the tourguides yelled something that I could only interpret as: “clap your hands for Juminten”, because the next thing I know, they did. It felt like my birthday. And it felt like I was part of the group. I felt even more stupid for my teeny tiny breakdown earlier and smiled on each of the selfies they wanted to take with me.
I hope if you took the time to read this long story, it was not uninteresting for you. In all honesty, I mostly write this blog for my future self, and I wanted her to remember this, which is why I was so elaborate.
I guess the lesson I got out of this is that a lot of the world we live in, consists only in our heads. I felt like I was left out of the group, while in reality, I had a really special role in it. I felt like the path ahead was going to be hard, and really it was not.
My mind told me traveling alone was a bad idea and I should want to go home. But in reality, I really don’t want to go home.