• Chris Edwards

Flying Over Java - 2015

Updated: Apr 14

feb 2015

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, airline captains still employ 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 flew amongst Indonesia’s 17,000 islands; most of us did penance aboard the cheap bus, train, horse cart, bemo, trishaw, slow-boat island hopping tour.

They described a vivid lighting exhibit: the nightsky flooded with flashes, simmering volcanoes revealed by their arc. A sight indelibly stamped.

Funny the things you remember.

This time, I stare down below from my perch, lighting bolts dancing amongst the clouds. We were flying directly above a thunderstorm; never this experience in miles of air travel. The clouds lit as a soft puffy carpet, in between the twinkle lights of villages below.

Along this same route, less than two months earlier, a similar Air Asia flight disappeared from 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. Many bodies lost forever.

The travellers’ worst nightmare.

Perhaps these lightning bolts are channelling these lost souls. Is the mystery and enigma of our fragile existence not somehow connected to nature? For certain, animism is alive and well within these islands.

Eventually the lightning display abates, the clouds part, a half moon appears as we bank toward Bali, Island of the Gods. Those of us on board who had knowledge of this recent Air Asia disaster were most grateful when we touched down.

"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

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