Over the course of the last three days three people suggested that I change my route to Solo, and go via Magetan. At little bit of a climb, but fantastic views. I was a little skeptical, the last few days being pretty hazy, but if three locals recommend it, you've got to take their advice really.
So headed out of Ponorogo reasonably early, to beat the heat. Not long out, perhaps 10km, I stopped to take a photo of what looked like a jamboree. Mobbed is the best description. In an instant I'm surrounded by dozens of kids. Turns out it's a three day school camp, set up in a field on the outskirts of the town. I'm invited to take a rest, have tea, have breakfast, look at tents......but just the photo taking, them of me with a dozen different combinations and teachers, takes 30mins, so I decline.
I'm feeling pretty smug about my navigation skills, so have decided on a short cut to Magetan. It's a quiet, really, narrow, very, country road, with very little traffic, and it's very picturesque for 5km, until Fiona leads me into a tiny village, and all goes crazy. All the traffic and bustle of a big road, on a tiny lane.....yeha.
I'm climbing now, and am mindful of my food intake and hydration, so stop to try my Starfruit. Certainly looks like a star when you cut it, but how to eat it? Decide to peel skin off, which is fiddley, but the fruit is very tasty. As always, when I stop, others do as well, just to chat. Gotta say these Javanese are very friendly. I ask how far to top. 8km.
Megatan is a lovely clean town, with a great feel to it. I contemplate finding a hotel, but don't see one, so keep cycling.....a mistake.
A little further up, I stop for water. It's getting very warm. I sit with the ancient and bent shopkeeper, who speaks reasonable English, and chat about my travels. He tells me 12 to 15km to top.......but I've just done 5km since last guys......
Another 5km, and I'm dripping. I decide at the risk of offending, I'm taking my silky long sleeved Shirt off, and just wearing my hiviz vest. Everything is soaked anyway. Also take off my cycling gloves, but my hands are really slippery on the grips, so I put them back on. The breeze is fantastic, but the climb relentless. When you're already in granny gear and struggling, and the sign says steep uphill ahead, you've gotta be concerned...
I stop near a young couple, disturbing there sacred time alone in the hills. They show me on the map where the top of the hill is. About 2km. I'm tired, but buoyed that I'm so close. Then I turn a corner....and it gets steep. There are no big trucks, and the small ones, and cars are spewing diesel fumes everywhere, as they drop down into first gear. Okay let's get it done. My feet are so slippery from sweat (yeah not pleasant ) that they are slipping in my shoes. I'm really worried that I won't get my cleats out if I need to stop on the hill....and then the cramp hits. I yank the cleats out and jump off Fiona, jamming the brakes on so as I don't loose any altitude. No way can I restart. I walk, push Fiona, oh my she is a weight, up 100m to where the gradient lessens.
I'm only 500m from where the young lovers indicated the summit was, and manage to granny grind up. I'm elated, and put my silky top back on for the cool downhill, which lasts 200m..... One more grind. Yeha.
A guy on a scooter, another guy on a scooter, is taking my photo. He congratulates me on the climb, and adds....Only 1000m more. WHAT? ? ?
This is Eko. He is SAS. On leave for two weeks from Indonesian army, and visiting relatives in his home town. I'm sure he recognizes "dillusional exhaustion" from his training, and tells me he will accompany to the top of the hill. I'm stuffed. My legs are cramping, I'm hot, I'm exhausted. I have to walk several times over the next hour, but Eko sticks with me. He even goes ahead at one stage and returns with water. Amazing man.
Finally......the summit. I'm spent. Eko wants to know where I'm staying. I was thinking Solo, but thats 50km away. There is a town closer, 10km with hotels, but expensive. Perhaps I should come to his house, 16km. It's 5pm. Dark in half an hour. Okay. Your place it is. Thank you.
What an amazing descent. I'm very, very glad I hadn't tried coming up the other way. It was steep. But it made for a magnificent ride, made even more magic, with the sun descending through the haze in a huge fire ball, and the sky brilliantly red. No time for a photo. I'm doing 50kph through tiny villages and traffic. Eko catches up to me....too fast Mr..... My tiredness and cramp have disappeared. The adrenaline is pumping, and its getting darker .
We enter a village and Eko stops to pray, then we descend for another 3km. It's really hard to see with scooter lights in my eyes, and the road is a little rough, but so much fun. Then we turn down some very neat tidy lanes.....where is he taking me...and end up at Eko's Aunt and Uncles house.
What an amazing welcome. Food, drink, heated water for a wash. Another Uncle and Aunt from next door come visiting. This Uncle decides I need a massage after my tourtuous ride, and proceeds to bend me back into shape....then more food. Luckily, in traditional villages like this, bedtime is 8 pm. I'm on the floor on a special mat, and asleep really quick.
4am and the house is alive. Prayer time. At 5am I'm hauled out of bed, and we are off for a walk around the village. We pass some of the family farm. Eko's father owns the farm, and the family work it. We meet another Aunt and Uncle, and have tea and food. Then grandparents, he is 95, and weaving bamboo matting, for more tea and food. By 6.30am we are back home.....for breakfast......
Solo is only 30km, downhill. I'm really tired. My legs wouldn't have coped with uphill. I find a Homestay in the centre of the city, with a pool, and veg for the day.