Back On Track

By Stephen Ewashkiw | June 20, 2014

15,042 km so far.

It is a relief to be back on our bikes. It has been far too long since we last rode more than a few kilometres around a city. Today we headed out of Yogyakarta, starting our trek to Bali.

Fields Of Green

Almost immediately we were in the countryside, where rice is being harvested and fields are lush and green. Here, on the road to Prambanan, the rice is being farmed year-round, which is something we haven’t seen before. Some fields are empty, some growing seedlings, some being harvested.

threshing wheat by hand in java indonesia

This is how threshing is done by hand.

Others are in various stages of growth in between these. This provides consistent work for people all year round, and provides us with beautiful views of their fields.

Bagging rice, Java, Indonesia.

Bagging rice, Java, Indonesia.

Obviously you need a special climate for this kind of field maintenance, and it says a lot about the consistency of the hot weather on Java.

Just before we reached Prambanan we heard the clangor of music being played. Just off the road we spotted a group of school children playing music in front of their school for teachers and fellow students. When we stopped, one of the teachers beckoned us over, so we went.

A bunch of the smallest children came over to say hello, and as they took my hand they touched it to their cheek, or forehead. It was a sweet, beautiful gesture, and one that I haven’t experienced before.

Children greeting Stephen at the school, Java, Indonesia.

Children greeting Stephen at the school, Java, Indonesia.

They were so adorable that I almost forgot about the flag wavers and musicians, just beyond.

Om Namah Shivaye

A few kilometres past the school, the towers of Prambanan temple rose high above the trees.

Prambanan temple, Java, Indonesia.

Prambanan temple, Java, Indonesia.

I am particularly excited for this stop on the tourist trail, as Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, and its main tower is dedicated to Lord Siva. Many of the temple buildings, originally built in the 9th Century, were badly damaged in an earthquake in 2006. Restoration work is ongoing, and the main temple to Siva is still closed to tourists.

towers at prambanan java indonesia

More towers at Prambanan, Indonesia.

We had two young girls, Tina and Lia, approach us as we were going in, and they explained they were here as part of their school English lessons to offer free tours of the grounds. We gladly took them up on the offer, knowing they would provide interesting insights into the temple, and also into the lives of 17-year-old Indonesian girls. They were great, and it was really nice to spend an hour with them.

Tina and Lia, our tour guides for the morning at Prambanan.

Tina and Lia, our tour guides for the morning at Prambanan.

They knew some of the stories that the reliefs on the temples tell, and it was interesting to hear the stories as they had learned them. I was also able to fill them in on some parts of the stories they hadn’t learned yet.

Umbrellas at Prambanan.

Umbrellas at Prambanan.

The two towers we could enter are dedicated to Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma’s temple reliefs depict the Hindu stories of heaven, while Vishnu’s reliefs tell the story of the life of Krishna, one of Vishnu’s forms. These included some very graphic depictions which the girls pointed out. While blushing, one of them said, “You can see what is happening here,” as an engorged Krishna was being satisfied. It reminded me of some the graphic frescos at Pompeii.

There are daily performances of the Ramayana ballet on the grounds of the temple, which is a traditional Indonesian tourist event. The girls told us that in the Indonesian version of the Ramayana, Ram and Sita, who had been impregnated by Ravana while she was his prisoner, live happily every after.

They knew the traditional version of events though. In the original, Hanuman saves Sita, but all of Ram’s followers assume Ravana had ravaged Sita, and therefore they consider her unclean. Ram is the only one who trusts her, knowing that she is part of him, and if it had happened he would know. However, Ram exiles Sita anyway to keep his people happy, understanding that they will never truly be apart.

Tina and Lia weren’t the only students at the temple. In fact it was kind of overrun with them.

school girls at prambanan temple indonesia

Posing for my camera, Prambanan.

Many students stopped us, asking to take pictures and to talk with us. Some even wanted to talk politics. Everyone, even these school children, has the upcoming election on their mind.

man posing at prambanan temple

This guy shouted “I’m Arjuna!” as we passed by.

(Not that I am taking sides, but please vote. For Jokowi.)

Country Love

The rest of the ride to Solo was uneventful. Our route followed the highway for much of the day, so we just got on with it.

The first half of the day though was some of the best riding we have done in months.

Riding through the beautiful fields, with the sun shining down, and the road not too busy is perfect.

Getting a peek into the daily lives of people in small towns is what a trip like this is all about, and it was a reminder just how long it has been since we have been on our bikes.

Greenery on Java.

Greenery on Java.

Cities are fun, and a different experience, but we hopped on the bus into Kuala Lumpur 16 days ago, which is the longest we have been off our bikes the entire year. It’s good to be back riding.  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.


  1. Comment by Geoff

    Geoff June 25, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Great to return to the “on the road” commentary guys. Well done on passing the 15k mark too!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 27, 2014 at 4:26 am

      Thanks Geoff. It feel amazing to have cycled this far. More posts to come…

  2. Comment by Malcolm

    Malcolm June 25, 2014 at 5:30 am

    Love the photo of the girl sticking out her tongue. Kids are kids no matter where you go!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 27, 2014 at 4:26 am

      Those kids were so adorable! And yes, people are people. It’s amazing to witness,

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