Cycling in Central Java

MerapiCyclingSSDespite the ridiculous number of hours I rack up each year watching the Tour de France on the telly, I’m not a mad-keen cyclist. For one thing, I’m not very good at sitting around a cafĂ© drinking coffee, which seems to be an integral part of the sport. And blood transfusions make me squirm. (Sorry: it’s hard not to have a dig.)

Still, when somebody asks me if I want to go cycling on the slopes of an active volcano, I’m hardly going to say no. Following on from my previous post, here are some images from a recent half-day ride on Mount Merapi in Central Java. (For the slideshow, below, you can click on the images to scroll through.)

Evidence of Merapi’s destructive path in 2010 was occasionally visible: our ride began 4km from the summit, in the middle of an ash-covered regrowth forest; later, we passed through a couple of abandoned villages that had been partially destroyed by lava flows and mudslides. (By then it was absolutely belting with rain, so no photos unfortunately.) We also randomly came across a kuda lumping performance in a small village. This is a famous Javanese dance (literally “flat horse”) in which the male dancers depict a group of horsemen fighting a battle. As the music gets more frenzied, the dancers enter a trance-like state. Often they’ll walk on coals and eat glass while in the trance. I didn’t see that, though I did see one of them pass out and get carried off the dance floor over the shoulder of the troop leader, like a rolled carpet.

I didn’t pass out. I did, however, fall off my bicycle twice: once into a creek and once into a field of chillies. But in the words of Umar, the irrepressibly good-humoured Javanese bloke who was leading the ride, it wouldn’t be any fun if you didn’t fall off a few times.

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