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Full Circle

Day 116: Bandung to Yogyakarta

Michael Palin - Full CircleNot far along our way this morning is evidence of the seismic instability that makes this island a farmer's and a vulcanologist's paradise. Piles of rich black soil stacked by the roadside are the remains of deposits from nearby Mount Galunggung, one of Java's thirty active volcanoes. Galunggung had its fifteen minutes of fame in 1982, when its plume of freshly-discharged volcanic ash enshrouded an over-flying 747, shutting down all four of its engines. The plane plunged, but by some miracle the pilot was able to restore enough power to enable him to land safely in Jakarta.

The violent, unpredictable energy of the volcanoes has created a Garden of Eden as well as a killing field. These plains may have seen devastation and destruction but for now, the rich, intensively cultivated countryside on the road between Bandung and Ciamis is unequivocally benevolent. Amphitheatres of terracing rise on both sides of a narrow valley. I count forty-eight levels on one side alone, all still worked by traditional methods. Men with long-handled rakes push the mud back and forth to make it ready for sowing and women, wading through it up to their knees, insert the carefully husbanded rice shoots. The colour and quality of the soil on these slopes is unlike anything I've seen. It's deep maroon, a rich plum-coloured satin.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 116
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Bandung
  • Book page no: 168

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