Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Enjoy nature's charms along 'Sosebo' route

Bambang M. and Gigin W. Utomo, Contributors, Magelang, Central Java

What could be more relaxing and beautiful than visiting rural areas in the mountains, and witnessing farmers working on green paddy fields, with a volcano in the background?

If visiting rural areas is to your taste, than you can try the tourist route through the mountains all the way from Magelang to Boyolali, Central Java. The route is known as "Sosebo", an acronym derived from the names of the Central Java towns of Solo (or Surakarta), Selo and the famed Borobudur Temple.

"The tourist route was created for visitors who arrive at Adi Sumarmo Airport, Surakarta," said Budi of the Boyalali regency's tourist office.

Besides enjoying the pristine environment, visiting tourists can see local handicrafts, waterfalls or old temples along the way.

The first thing one experiences along the route is the rural atmosphere, with farmers busy working in the fields. When the weather is clear, one can see Merapi and Merbabu mountains in the background.

After about a 10-kilometer journey from Magelang, one arrives at Sawangan district. From there, one can choose between visiting Tirtosari village on the left, where villagers create artistic ornaments from old tins and cans -- transforming the materials into shadow puppet figures or even aircraft -- or to the right, where a 500-meter walk will take you to three old Hindu temples in the middle of rice fields.

The three -- Asu, Lumbung and Pendem temples -- are located in the middle of rice fields, with Asu Temple the easiest to spot from the road. Those wanting to see the other two should ask a local farmer for more detailed directions.

The three temples are not yet fully restored, as their roofs are still damaged. Unfortunately, lack of interpretative information about the temples' history means tourists can only enjoy the view.

From this area, the route leads to Gardu Pandang, near Dukun village, where one can view Merapi volcano. From the Sosebo route, it can be reached by going for another three kilometers, as far as Bukit hill. From the hill, located about 1,700 meters above sea level, one can view seven mountains -- Merapi, Merbabu, Sindoro, Sumbing, Andong, Tidar and Menoreh -- simultaneously.

From the hill, Merbabu and Merapi are most clearly visible. With some luck, one can also see black eagles (Icnaetus malayensis) hovering in the sky.

Tourists wanting to spend the night here have the choice of a number of resorts in Wonolelo village, below Ketep hill, that suit the purpose. The price? "You can negotiate it yourself, but it's obviously not that high," said an official from a local tourist office.

Not far from Wonolelo, one can visit Kedung Kayang waterfall. The stream is 30 meters long and drops beautifully, as the water exits from a single point. On the right side of the waterfall are leafy trees and, if you are lucky, you can see black starlings flying in and around the tree canopy.

From Kedung Kayang the next stop is Selo village, located halfway between the tourist route and the base of Merbabu and Merapi mountains.

If trekking or walking are your preference, these two mountains are beautifully suited for the purpose. From this village, it takes six hours to climb Merbabu and five for Merapi. Normally, trekking starts at midnight.

If you do not like trekking, staying overnight is not a bad option, since at nightfall, if the weather is clear, one can see red or yellow lava being emitted from Merapi, a beautiful sight under the full moon.

The next destination, after Selo, is Dukuh Tumang in Cepogo village, still in Boyolali. Famous as a center for handicraft made from bronze and copper, tourists can buy a range of products, ranging from artistically produced fruit dishes to large lamp shades. Alternatively, one can simply enjoy watching handicrafts being made.

"Foreign tourists usually like to buy small handicrafts," said Supri Haryanto, one of the handicraft producers in the village.

Before reaching Boyolali, one can still visit another group of old Hindu temples, like Lawang, Cabean Kunti or Sari temples, all located in Cepogo. However, signboards indicating the way to these three are relatively small and hard to see, although they are not far from the main road that connects Boyolali to Magelang.