Searching for Solo-tude

After the crowds of Borobudur we wanted to find somewhere that showed the real, magical, spiritual side of Javanese culture… without the crowds that is. A temple without the thunder of kids shoes and screams of ‘mister, mister, mister’.

And so, after a short hop from Yogya, we emerged in Solo, which is the older of the two royal cities of Central Java. The other one being Yogya!

We arrived late in the day and were up and out of the city early the next morning, so I can’t really draw a comparison between the two. Solo felt more city like than Yogya and didn’t exude cultural and spiritual roots as openly, but they may well have been there. Hidden around the corner I didn’t turn round… Oh wait. That would be most of them then.

As the sun crowned we left the plains below us, rising higher and higher onto the slopes of Mount Lawu (that’s right, another Volcano), we were confronted with a endless vista of terraced slopes, lush jungle and small crashing waterfalls.
It was a serene ride that weaved up the mountainside, snaking closer and closer to our first destination. Candi (temple) Cetho.

It was deserted. Perfect.
It is a beautiful temple perched on a series of ascending terraces. Whilst short and squat the temple has an imposing aura. Its continuing gateways splinter the sky, whilst the temple itself seems to emerge from the earth. A unity between soil and stars.
It was built in the fifteenth century, when Javanese religion had diverged from Indian precepts, and this area was the last significant area for Javanese temple building before converting to Islam. The ceremonies and beliefs practiced high in the mountain foothills remain obscured in history; as the mists obscure the mountain on which it resides. A mystic that adds to this beautiful temple’s appeal.

Drifting away from the temple we made our way back down the slopes and meandered briefly through the tea plantations that carpet the slopes near Cetho.
But before long we arrived at the second, and more known temple on Lawu, Candi Sukuh. Although better known, it was still practically abandoned. Perfect again.
Built in the same period, Sukuh, is similar in its architecture. However, it differs in one key aspect. The reliefs, statues and sculptures depict life before birth and, I guess you’d call it, sex ed!?!

It is a strange temple, with some very graphic reliefs. However, I seem to have been on ‘snooze mode’ and managed to miss capturing all of them. Either that or I was too stunned to picture them. Instead, here is a picture of Joyce descending the temple… Bit of a pap shot I reckon! (Sorry, I’ll redeem myself in another post)
And before we knew it we were down the mountain and back on the plain. Back to bedlam… Oh how little we knew. We were off to catch the train.

We missed it. I won’t go into how or why (ask me about it one day). And so we arrived with plenty of time to get the next one.

Striding purposely to the ticket office… Well actually, I mean the long queue for the ticket office, I stood, patiently, as only the British can. My turn came up. ‘Two tickets to Surabaya please’.

The reply, ‘Sold out’.


And so we spent the next two hours in the station: 1) finding out what we could do and; 2) actually getting the ticket. And then… It was back to Solo (the train didn’t leave till the morning)! Our grand plan of a quick escape, to motor on through Java had failed. Epically. We were back were we started and the following day we would have to face a different version of Indonesian public transport. The train.

You can ask me about how that went one day too!

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