Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip to Yogyakarta was the day trip to Borobudur. Our adventure began at 2:30am when we hauled ourselves out of bed, threw on the clothes we had set out hours before, and packed our backpacks for the day. The staff at Yabbiekayu had packed us breakfast to go- muesli and cold milk, fresh papaya and pineapple with yogurt, and a thermos of hot water for making instant coffee or tea. At 3:30am our driver met us at the parking area and we piled into his van with our gear.
The quiet drive to Borobudur took about one hour. Along the way we ate our breakfast, made small talk with the guide, and tried our best not to fall back asleep. As we got further away from the city, the road got narrower, bumpier, then steeper and more winding. Halfway through the ride, we observed the village people setting up for their morning markets. We started up invisible mountains, the headlights illuminating piles of ash on the side of the road, evidence of the last volcanic eruption still waiting to be cleared. Finally we arrived at the Manohara Hotel at the base of the temple. After paying the outrageous entry fee, we were given flashlights and directed to a path leading up to the temple.
If you ever get to Indonesia to visit Borobudur, go at sunrise. Pay the ridiculous fee. It is worth it.
Climbing the steps of an ancient temple in complete darkness just before dawn…. it is a powerful, spiritual experience. The only sounds are that of your footsteps and your own breathing, distant chanting and the call of the rooster. Shuddering softly, the stones wiggle underfoot; a result of the changing earth upon which the structure was built. The cool mountain air is refreshing and rejuvenating. A lingering scent of ash is an eerie reminder of a catastrophic past, but also brings to mind nature’s miraculous cycle of life and death.
The stairs to each platform got steeper as we climbed. By the time we reached the top we were accompanied by many tourists setting up their camera gear on the east side for the perfect shot. Jeremiah and I decided to find our own, more private area to view the sunrise. As the sky brightened we felt anxious, caught between desires to experience the moment for ourselves and to capture it for our friends and family. After the weeks of anticipation, the long drive, and the climb, the sunrise lasted for mere minutes. Still, in those few minutes Jeremiah managed to take some incredible photos while I took in the view and offered some silent prayers. What a magnificent place to build a temple. Every church, temple, shrine, mosque, or place of worship should be built on a mountain, surrounded by nature’s majesty. If I could, I’d spend every morning in an ancient temple, meditating atop a mountain.