SYNOPSIS:   A horse and buggy ride through the countryside around Borobudur village with Nicola.  About making tofu and pottery.

That was a horse that easily spooked!  And if there had not been a hedge, within about 15 minutes of our ride it would have driven us into the ditch, simply backing up at the sound of a loud motor grinding wood, regardless of the terrain.  An hour later the horse refused to turn a corner and again just backed off, almost driving us into a wall.  The driver had to jump out and walk the horse until it had calmed down… But we survived our tour and indeed, it was a great change of pace to tread through this paradisaical landscape and from one little village to the next.

Nicola and I had rented a horse and buggy for the last of our days together to explore the countryside around Borobudur village.  Comparatively few tourists stay overnight (yet), but signs of a developing infrastructure to accommodate ever growing numbers of tourists are everywhere.

There are an increasing number of home-stays and guest houses, construction is everywhere, and modest tourist attractions are developed, such as trekking tours, or a tour to explore village life.  This particular tour was to include a pottery village and three home-industries: making batiks, tofu, and Luwak Coffee, as well as visiting two smaller local temples.  The batik home unfortunately was closed.   Perhaps, there was a death in the family or some other emergency.  It was just as well as our advertised two-hour tour had already taken us 4 hours.  It’s the lesson of my travels: whatever the official estimate, double it, especially if something like Nicola’s departure depends on it.  She took off with a taxi back to Yogyakarta this afternoon to continue her trip to visit friends in Australia.  Soon she will depart for the U.S.  Some busy lady she is!

Pottery is of course one of my favorite handicrafts especially since David and I started to take ceramic courses at WCC.  It is always interesting for me to see local, low-tech ways of producing this ancient craft.  And it was particular fun for me that I was allowed to throw a pot myself.  I don’t know how I would have fared had I been left to my devices.  I am used to just turning the knob on the electrically powered wheel…  At best, I know how to handle a kick-wheel.  But this small wheel was operated by one hand, leaving the potter with one main hand to throw.  That takes some skill.  But the kind potter sat across from me and operated the wheel for me.  In a sense I was sad that she would not allow me to struggle and fail, but it was probably for the better.  I produced a small vase similar to the one she had shown me as a demonstration piece, heavier and clunkier, of course. 

As I strolled through the small village I observed various potters at various stages of production.  Each household seems to have its particular set of forms (either plates, pots, water jugs, oil lamps, etc).  Collectively, they are sent to the market for sale.  The clay is quarried locally and not processed much. It is darker and grainier than I am used to.  A young man stacked a small gas kiln full of small-scale objects.  More commonly is the open fire pit stacked with straw, bamboo, and wood.  We did not see a burning one, but at several areas potters picked still-hot pots from the ashes with long sticks.

The tofu making home was particularly interesting as it allowed us a glimpse into the living space of a family with three small children.  Mother and grandmother were making tofu at their home.  The oldest child already helped out.  Presumably, the father worked outside the home. 

That neither of them spoke a word of English proves how young this idea is, to include a home such as this into the tourist circuit.  The young woman had to point to a plastic banner that listed the various steps of tofu making.  All she could say in English were the corresponding numbers. 

The family lived in a rather spacious home, but 3/4 of it was used up by the tofu production.  That left just a small bedroom and a living area strewn with various household items around a running TV.  In the front of the house hardly more than a bay window served as a “shop” for selling their product.  A small donation is appreciated after visiting their home, especially since we were not inclined to sample any of the tofu-corn-mushroom paste that the grandmother was wrapping into banana leaf packages and cooked in a huge iron kettle as lunch bites.  But she let us try to wrap one. 

Luwak Coffee is one of the specialties of Indonesia, not only in Java but also in Bali.  It is harvested locally and organically, if you know what I mean…  and is just about the most hilarious thing I have ever encountered.  If I can trust an Austrian source I recently spoke to, a single cup of this coffee is sold in Austria for up to $100!  Can that be verified by any one of you out there?  For sure, it is the most expensive coffee in the entire world and for a mere $2.50 both Nicola and I enjoyed another espresso-sized cup of it.

The Pawon, another Hindu temple and part of the UNESCO cluster of temples of Borobudur rounded out our trip. 

The lushest of fields, wet rice paddies, papaya groves, banana trees, and a never-ending variety of shrubs, trees and plants, orchids and flowers lined the road.  This is what they mean by tropical.  I bet you can put a stick into the mud and before you know, it will flower.  And once in a while the top stupa of the Borobudur monument rose ever so slightly above the tree line. 

What an amazing place.  I am sad to leave it so soon.

Good night.