One of the things to experience here in Java, is going to a traditional village feast and festival. Here you get to try some of the local delicacies, like potato fritters, corn fritters and deep fried soy curd. As well as this there's noodles, rice, chicken, beef and plenty of tea to drink too. One of the houses in the village cooks all the food and its all presented buffet style so you can go and help yourselves to as much as you like. But you have to remember that this is also food for everyone else (I mean the locals) so its best not to pig out too much on the good stuff and just use plenty of noodles and rice as the filler food and just take little bits of everything else.
The really great thing about these festival things is the performance that the local villagers put on after the food. Here, the youngsters perform dances and routines to music that the adults are playing. Listening to the music by itself, you do wonder if the Indonesians are tone deaf because it just doesn't seem to flow at all. However, once all the dancing starts, you can see how it forms the pulse of the performance and it seems to make sense and flow into the dancing that the kids are doing. There is some semblence of a story but I couldn't really figure it out. It was fantastic though.
The kids enjoyed themselves as did the locals, who don't get to see this kind of thing very often themselves. They dressed up with dragon costumes and danced around. There was even a crazy man who ate red hot coals and bit into glass and ate that too. He looked well out of it. He was either crazy or on drugs or, all the more likely, both.
There's plenty to see in the countryside - tea plantations and rice fields, and its all over the place here. I mentioned that Indonesia is an incredibly self sufficient country. If there's space to grow crops, they'll be growing them - no matter how steep the slopes or how difficult the terrain. If the lands fertile enough (and there's not that many places where it isn't), there will be crops grown on it.
Surakarta (commonly known as Solo) is the second royal city in Java and it has its own palace too. It's not as large as the Kraton in Yogya and its not as impressive either. Again they make you pay to take pictures with your camera but once you get into the musuem inside the palace, you can't take any pictures at all. It only amounted to about 10c to pay to use your camera so its not really that much of a bother but there's a principle here. They really should tell you that you're limited to taking photos of the outside of the palace only. They must get loads of money from tourists with the additional 1000 rupee charge for cameras. Round here there are more temples, with more reliefs to see. Along the country roads there's plenty to see with more grasslands, farmlands and the odd statue here and there. The market places in some of the towns are quite fascinating. They sell all kinds of things: Birds, cats, mice, chickens etc. You can't help but wonder if they're selling them as pets or as food....
After passing through a few more towns, with the odd thunderous downpour of torrential rain, it was onto Mount Bromo, Java’s still-smoking and very ancient volcano. Its Considered the jewel in the crown of East Java, and one of the most spectacular volcanoes in Indonesia. It is actually one of four craters, which have arisen out of the ancient and vast expanse of the Tengger crater.
Legend tells that the Tengger people are descendants of an ancient union between the daughter of the last king of Majapahit and an heir of the god Brahamana, making them culturally and ethnically different from the other Java peoples, and each year the Kasada Festival sees them presenting prayers and offerings to the gods from the top of the crater’s rim, casting flowers, vegetables and money into the mouth of the caldera. This entire region now encompasses the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru N.P., a remarkable setting of rainforest, grasslands and casuarinas forests, sheltering a range of flora and fauna that includes some 157 species of orchid, as well as panthers, monkeys, leopards and deer. It's quite the sight and its quite the climb to the top of it. Thankfully there are stairs that have been carved to help you get to the top and you're often acosted by locals trying to sell you casting flowers that you can throw into the caldera and say a prayer (make a wish type thing). For the amount of a dollar or two, you're not exactly breaking the bank. It's worth taking a pullover or something cos it can get very breezy at the top, and it can start raining at any minute.
The last stop in Java before getting the ferry to Bali, would be in Kalibaru. Here it was just time to relax, take in the scenary, the fauna, flowers etc and even see possibly the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life. The hotel also had another visitor in a horn-billed bird that stopped by for breakfast. It would just bounce along the path and stop by the al-fresco dining area and wait for the hotel guests to throw it over some food which it accepted gratefully.
After this whirlwind tour of java, it was onto the next indonesian island of Bali via the ferry.