Flying Over Java - 2015
Updated: Jan 4
The dreaded bumpy plane ride. We jostle as we cross the Singapore Strait from Kuala Lumpur. The captain‘s voice on the PA notes strong winds up here at 35,000 feet ( for some reason captains still used the British measurement system when providing flight details); little possibility we will make up for lost time on the ground at KL.
Hurry up and wait.
Java below, volcanos peaking through the clouds, the ring of fire. The sun sets starboard, we bank and head east into the gloaming. Off in the distance out of the corner of my eye, I spy lightning. Then more evidence, soon bolts dancing as freely as if they’d been plugged into one of those glass balls that activate when placing one’s hands over it.
An impressive display.
Another time, simmering in our cheap losmen, waiting for a boat to Sumatra, sweating in torpid Djakarta, fellow travellers checked in who’d flown in from Bali. In those halcyon days, it was rare to encounter budget travellers who actually who flew amongst Indonesia’s 17,000 islands; most of us were on the cheap bus, train, horse cart, bemo, trishaw, slow-boat island hopping tour.
They described a vivid lighting exhibit. The night flooded with flashes, massive volcanoes revealed by their arc. A sight so incredible to behold.
Funny the things you remember.
This time, I stare straight down from my perch, lighting bolts dancing amongst the clouds. We were flying over a thunderstor; I cannot not remember this experience in many years of travel. The clouds lit like a soft puffy carpet, in between I the twinkle lights of villages below.
Along this same route, less than two months earlier, another Air Asia flight disappeared from the radar. Later it was determined the co- pilot made a terrible error in judgement, eventually resulting in the plane’s horrific descent into the Java Sea. Some of the bodies lost forever.
A travellers’ worst nightmare.
Perhaps these lightning bolts are symbolic of these lost souls, I thought. Is the mystery and enigma of our fragile existence not somehow connected to nature? Certainly animism remains alive and well within these islands.
Eventually the lightning display abated, the clouds parted, a half moon appeared as we banked toward Bali, Island of the Gods. I would expect those of us on board who had knowledge of this recent Air Asia disaster were grateful when we touched down.
"There are no atheists on a Third World bus."
Last words to Sting:
If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one Drying in the colour of the evening sun Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away But something in our minds will always stay