Surely it can’t be almost a whole month since I last wrote a post? But I check the blog and it is a fact. And, no, its not because I have been doing anything fascinating; rather more prosaic than that – just head down, writing, getting an agent and finishing the book!
I had two offers on the table and was weighing up the pros and cons of each, when the little voice in my head (ie the Society of Authors and former agent and friend, Jo) kept niggling at me to give the agent one more try. So I sent off an email and received one by return saying he would take me on. Ian Drury at Sheila Land, v respectable agency. So now we wait…it’s the story of my life!
Also been busy putting the finishing touches to the website, with Ross’s help of course, www.healthylivingwithcancer.co which I launched about 10 days ago. It’s a slow build and I keep it out there by publishing a recipe every day. It will be word of mouth, or click, and I think it will gradually grow as nothing gets people going like cancer. If you haven’t looked at it already, click and see. Would love to hear any feedback.
Meanwhile I was counting the days to our next mini-break in Borobudur and the luxury villa Ross has booked for us.
The trip starts well, despite the flight being delayed and being phoned at 4 am to let us know! We are upgraded! Too early for champagne though, so simply revel in comfy seats. We are met at the airport, we battle the typically slow Indonesian traffic, chugging through strip development until, after about an hour, the houses thin out and paddy fields appear by the side of the road. The huge volcanic hills loom on either side, through the haze. Motorbikes are everywhere, two, three four abreast and on board…hooting and honking fills the air. Sadly Merapi is invisible because of the haze – its burning season in Sumatra and here, as in Singapore, blue sky is a rarity
After an hour and a half we arrive in Borobudur, passing the Candi Mendut on the way – where we shall return on bikes later! At last, after a near vertical climb we arrive at the Villa Kayangan, the second upgrade of the day – perched right at the top of the road, overlooking the temple complex and in the lee of a sheer cliff. Built like a traditional joglo, with one side open to the elements, it is a 2-bed villa with a central living space, huge terrace and a 30 ft pool. The villa is completely made of wood, from floor to carved ceiling, and graced with the most enormous four-poster I have seen in along time. Local batiks add to the ambiance.
Surrounded by smiling staff who attend to every need, from cooking our meals to order, served overlooking the valley, to relaxing Javanese massages and generally ferrying us around, this is a form of heaven.
As we only have one and half days for sightseeing we waste no time in setting off for Candi Selegriyo (after a traditional lunch of Soto, a Javanese Chicken noodle soup). The drive is breathtakingly lovely, winding through small villages. Here the soil is amongst the most fertile in the world, due to the centuries of volcanic ash being rained down by the nearby Mt Merapi, which erupted last in 2010; as well as growing tobacco in the dry season – it is laid out on mats to dry, covering every square inch of free space, filling the local football pitch – the famers specialise in growing seedling trees and plants which line the roadside: three types of papaya – Californian (expensive), Thai (green) and local (Java).
Finally we arrive in the Selegriyo village, where we are greeted warmly the village ladies, who are delighted by my new-language skills, Mongo! Mongo! I call out to all and sundry. They particularly like my large gold earrings – I think they think they are solid, although they are in fact hollow!
We are lucky enough to arrive at pigeon training time – the Javanese are all avid pigeon fanciers and they race them. It is a lucrative sport and the birds can sell for as much as 2-3 million Rupiah (about S$ 3000, or £1500). Everywhere you see huge bamboo poles, set in squares, topped with coloured tape. The pigeons are trained to return to ‘home’; today a small boy is throwing them up in the air from within the circle; later we find him on the path letting them off to find their way back. He is wearing a Liverpool shirt.
To reach the temple we decide to go the adventurous route, through the paddy fields, to get the view. The path is raised between the rice fields, narrow and treacherous; I need Ross’s helping hand more than once, and it’s even harder with the obligatory wet feet I have from missing my footing! But the view IS magnificent, and life seems to have changed little in this part of Java.
The temple itself is small, much older (possibly as early as 5th century) than the main Borobudur complex (9thcentury) and Hindu, rather than Buddhist, in origin, set in a well kept garden right at the head of the valley. As the light is failing we only spend a few minutes there before descending via the paved path, whose hazards include the farmers bumping their way home with fodder on their panniers, and heavily-laden charcoal-carrying chaps trotting back down. This is how the rain forest disappears!
Sunrise over Borobudur is obligatory, we are told to be ready for 4.30 am pick up; no need for an alarm, though, as the muezzin wakes us at 3.45 am, soon joined by all the others in the valley, sounding more like a cacophony of a capella bands, but out of tune and out of time! This sound – quite charming in its own way – cuts through the haze and echoes round the villa five times a day!
It is still dark when we arrive and we climb the temple steps – very high and uneven – with the help of torches. We jostle for a good vantage point with about 100 other tourists, and are rewarded eventually by the sun appearing for the briefest of flashes through the cloud; nevertheless the temple is bathed in a warm early morning light, with the misty mountains and rainforest as backdrop. Ross’s photos are much better than mine – check his slideshow here http://bit.ly/1tQ6u42.
In the afternoon we decide to be really brave and explore the two Candis, Pawan and Mendut, by bike! A first for me since the op: I have to have a mountain bike so that I can get on and off more easily; however the saddle slips as I peddle and I find it hard to ride with my legs at 45 degree angles. Even more tricky as I am wearing my Marilyn skirt which blows up revealing large amounts of leg, so I am forced to ride single-handed as I try to preserve my modesty. This while being overtaken by trucks, motorcycles and cars, all beeping furiously. Don’t even ask about the roundabout! Wah! Anyway here I am, safe and sound!
I would strongly recommend a trip to Borobudur and staying in the villas. We were overwhelmed by the charm of the Javanese people and would have liked at least another day to explore the area and its culture. Another time!