From the spiritual grounds of Borobudur, we headed further North into the marshy floors of an active volcanic complex. With the initial idea of returning back South, we’d changed our plans after meeting this energetic travel-savvy couple, Tina and Daniel, who decided to join us for the roadtrip. With our new-found travel mates, we geared up for some impromptu and adventurous fun. Off we went, deep into the highlands of the Dieng Plateau, on our sturdy rented truck. We were in for some wild adventure.
What was supposed to be a 1-hour smooth ride to the highlands, or so we thought, (since our hostel receptionist had assured us it wasn’t far) turned out to be a 3-hour hair-raising steep drive along winding paths hugging slopes of terrace rice fields. One wrong move, and we would be plunging down towards the rolling green land.
Fortunately, with a sense of adventure, great company and Alberto’s insane driving skills, we made it past harrowing traffic and flimsy wooden bridges. Road safety sure wasn’t on the local drivers’ top priority.
Dieng’s Emerald Landscape
Passing through endless plots of beautifully-laid terraced fields, it was difficult not to get distracted by the stunning agricultural masterpieces laying ahead. Driving past the landscape of Dieng, one could easily get lost amongst the criss-crossed rows of vegetations and crops. Dieng might just be Asia’s answer to Tuscany – nature’s work of art.
Climbing up the caldera walls, temperatures start dropping as the wind outside transformed from hot humid air to crisp cool breeze.
Stopping by the viewing point at the peak of the Dieng, we found ourselves floating in the dreamy mist. Staring down at magically strewn paddy fields, they glistened in various shades of green. The clouds slowly moved into our sight, and soon, we could barely see our fingers. We were literally in the clouds.
Religious Abode of Hindu Gods
‘Dieng’ comes from the word ‘Di-Hyang’, which means ‘Abode of the Gods’ . At almost 2000m above sea level, its misty and dreamy location fused with out-of-this-world effusions, makes it an auspicious spot for religious purposes. 8 small Hindu temples built in the 7th and 8th century (oldest Hindu temple in Central Java) are found here, in the caldera of the Dieng Volcano.
Compared to other renown monuments, these hindu temples were not impressive in terms of architecture, but their sheer presence in the foggy realm of the highlands never ceased to captivate many.
Sulphur-coloured Crater Lake: Telaga Warna
Meandering up the caldera walls of the volcanic complex, the first stop we made was at the Telaga Warna. Oozing strong sulphuric smell, the crater lake stood in its own glory as its emerald-turqoise beauty glowed proudly. With the tall volcano looming in the background, the view was picture-perfect.
Meeting fellow travellers on the road always added colors and different perspective to our travels. Tina and Daniel were a great pair, making jokes and sharing their tales with us. We would have missed out the gem of Dieng Plateau if not for them.
Steaming hot lake: Sikidang Crater
Dieng has been dominated by phreatic eruptions and geothermal activities (mud pools and hot springs). Its emission of carbon dioxide has also resulted in the death of locals in the past. As we throdded on the marshy ground, the smell of sulphur was overwhelming. Bubbles of mudpools could be seen on the ground as fumes spread across the hot boiling volcanic lake. Surrounded by a flimsy wooden railing, the heat from the lake could be felt metres away.
Local Food in the Dieng
The Dieng Village was a scrubby little town with a couple of rundown hostels and grocery stores selling bare necessities. Instead, we found a tiny culinary haven right by the Sikidang Crater. Tucked at the carpark was a food market run by the Dieng natives, with colorful fried food on display. Food hawkers are seen throwing chunks of potatoes and yams into a wok full of steaming oil. Draining the oil off after the chunks turn golden, these smiley ladies sprinkle flaming red powder over the crispy snack. We dipped into them like hungry animals as the ladies laughed in amusement.
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