On the two night passage from Bali to the island of Karimunjawa, off the coast of Java, we were certainly kept on our toes and had to keep a particularly vigilant watch all the time as we dodged fishing boats, fish attractors, tugs towing massive unlit barges, oil and gas platforms and of course cargo ships and tankers - mind you - at least the big ships are on AIS and are predictable! Saying that, we had a great sail and even caught a nice mahi mahi, our first in Indonesia.
Karimunjawa is a sleepy little town and island with good snorkelling and a generally relaxed atmosphere. We had our usual welcome rally festivities with the organisers inviting us to be dressed in traditional Javanese costumes for the evening. The ladies amongst us had visions of wearing the beautifully colourful slinky bejwelled outfits that we have seen so often as we watch the local dancing, but alas we were wrong - we were dressed in the most drab shapeless sacks you could imagine, but of course had to make all the appropriate noises about how lovely they were. Anyway it was a bit of a giggle and apart from sweating buckets as these outfits were over the clothes we were wearing, we had a good evening.
The next morning Lynne from Sunchaser and Sara joined a small group to take the ferry across to Java and travel inland to visit some of the iconic temples of Java. We left Chris and Peter on the boats as the thought of them travelling for hours just to visit a few temples was not worth considering - not Chris’ cup of tea. Sara and Lynne had a good time despite the four hour ferry ride followed by a seven hour journey in a minibus into central Java - not helped by horrendous traffic jams and a flat tyre! They say Java is one of the most highly populated islands in the world - and I can believe it - also with probably more motorbikes than most places. Even in the countryside the roads were really busy.
Having been travelling all day we arrived in Prambanan to watch the Ramayama ballet at the Trimurti open-air stage with a backdrop of Prambanan hindu temple illuminated behind - a stunning setting, beautiful costumes and mesmerizing dancing and the trials of a long journey were forgotten. The story of Ramayama is the Indonesian version of Romeo and Juliet - Rama and Shinta being the lovers. Although we missed the beginning this turned out to be the highlight of the trip.
After a night in Yogyakarta we visited the Sultans Palace then returned to visit the 10th century Hindu complex of Prambanan. This is the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia and is characterised by the intricate tall pointed architecture of its principal temples dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma and hundreds of surrounding shrines and reliefs depicting the story of Ramayans. In 2006 a strong earthquake destroyed much of the temple complex and since then they have been meticulously restored - an on going process at this World Heritage site.
In the afternoon we visited another Unesco World Heritage Site - the impressive Buddhist temple of Borobudur - another breathtaking visit. This temple was built in about 800AD in the form of a stepped pyramid and and sitting on each level are 72 stupas, each containing a Buddha figure. A series of five square bases is succeeded by three circular terraces representing the spiritual journey from the life of desire, through meditation to Nirvana. Built of blocks of lava rock it has nearly 1500 carved story panels and 504 statues of Buddha. Having been abandoned around the 14th century Borobudur was buried under layers of volcanic ash and tropical foliage until re-discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles, the British Governor General of Java in 1814.
From Borobudur we drove back to Jepara to spend the night in a hotel before going to the market then taking the ferry (a fast one this time) back to Karimunjawa - phew - a whilstle stop tour of some wonderful sites in central Java, but well worth the effort.
Back on Tulu, we invited a few friends over for sundowners to help celebrate Sara’s birthday. As we planned to leave at first light the following morning we decided to keep the birthday party low key - we should have known better - music and dancing on the aft deck with copious amounts of alcohol - oh well - we had a great night!
To everyones surprise we did manage to leave at first light the next morning for the passage up to west Kalimantan on the southwest of Borneo.....