About Pandemic Prowling: In this series, Pandemic Prowling, I share stories about my travels across 4 continents amidst the outbreak of Covid19.
(mid March 2020)
In the previous Pandemic Prowling post, I had a little cat and mouse chase in Jakarta, Indonesia trying to move eastward on the island of Java (Indonesia’s largest island). Final destination was Bandung, West Java during that leg of the trip. It was interesting, living in a little capsule and seeing a natural wonder (a smoky, sulfuric volcano). Not much more then that though. It was time to move further east into Central Java next. Magelang specifically.
There lay the largest Buddhist complex in the world, the Borobudur Temple.
The road there would take some time, 10 hours on a bus specifically. I booked with the same bus booking website as last time (12GoAsia). This time around, I triple checked to make sure I had the right pickup location and got there an hour early.
It would be a long overnight bus down roads that were sometimes winding. Pretty sure I was the only foreigner on that bus, I found it quite curious as I didn’t think much of Covid at the time. I shrugged and fell asleep listening to a YouTube video about a fellow talking about national lockdowns around the globe to come (concerning, but he must be one of those conspiracy theorists right?)
I woke up groggy around 2 in the morning. I blinked some of the sleepiness out of my eyes. I noticed the lights were all on and the bus was all but empty but me.
“SHOOT,” I thought to myself. “Did I miss my stop?”
I began fumbling, making sure I didn’t get robbed and checked the GPS on my phone to see where I was at.
During this time, a man walked onto the bus and as there was a language barrier between us, he merely waved me down.
Suspicious, I took all my belongings with me.
He led me into a dining area and there I recognized the faces of some of the folks that were on the bus with me.
The man handed me a bowl of food. I can’t remember what it was but it didn’t taste bad. Sleepy, I stumbled back onto the bus.
Grab your Gear Let’s Go
It was quite early when we got to Magelang. The sun was not yet up, but I slapped myself (quite literally) awake.
“Go time” I thought to myself.
Like many SE Asian cities I’ve been to, I was fully expecting to need to stay sharp and fight off the hoard of taxi drivers waiting like starving dogs as people disembarked the bus.
But when I (one of the few) got off, silence.
“City must be sleeping” I thought to myself.
I booked a rideshare motorbike to drop my gear off at the hotel I was staying before booking another motorbike to take me to the Borobudur Temple complex to see the su rise.
When I got there, sweaty and sleep deprived, they told me the temple was closed.
“What do you mean!?” I asked the staff there in disbelief.
They told me they closed a couple days ago because of coronavirus.
I sat in there restaurant both to plan and figure out what to do next.
Within the hour I was politely kicked out.
I then spent sometime wandering the periphery, hoping to something noteworthy.
I found a plaque and ran across a couple of friendly Brits whom we swapped information with before I decided to head back to the hotel to take a nice shower and get some rest.
Sweaty, tired and disappointed for having seemingly made the journey out here for nothing, I wanted to lock myself into a room for a while and block out the exterior world.
Plus I wanted to take a shower. So I walked into the bathroom to find….
A squatter toilet and a tub and a bucket. That was the bathroom.
“Gosh darnit” no running shower, no toilet paper, no “real toilet”, my pampered westerns self had a hard time adjusting.
And I really needed to go number 2, so I walked half an hour to the town mall to find a “real toilet.”
These were bad omens for a young backpacker…