In 1978, on the island of Java, I visited the sultanate of Yogyakarta and made a side trip to mysterious Parangtritis, where the sultan's clipped nails are offered to Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, the Goddess of the South Seas, and where nests of swallows are harvested at neck-breaking risk to provide the ingredients for birdnest soup, a Chinese delicacy.
I spent a rather lonely day on the black sand beach and in the desert-like dunes, and went to bed early sleeping on a wooden platform in a small room behind a restaurant. I woke up early and very hungry, and when the cook asked me if I wanted some mushrooms in my omelette, I intimated that it was a good idea. In retrospect, I am surprised that I did not think that these would be the infamous "magic mushrooms"...
But they were, and I started feeling exuberant as soon as I started my trip back to Yogya. I paid a boy to transport me on the back of his bike, and we had to wade across a kali (river). I felt a bit dizzy, but as soon as I was on the bus, I got a high and was absolutely mesmerized by the wonderful new colors I had never seen before and sounds not heard before - all around me. I begged the bus driver to stop and let me out so I could expand this experience outside the confines of this bus, but he had more sense than I and dropped me off at the Yogya terminal. I was astonished about the heavenly beauty of the market place and of the divine people I ran into, but had enough sense not to take a becak but a taxi to take me back to my wisma (guesthouse).
And that's when the counterpoint came about: as I stepped into the lobby, loud cackling witches descended on me with outstretched claws and I was in hell. But lo: there was a pure white Goddess, and I prostrated myself at her knees and begged her to help me. Did she?
Later that day I came out of my delirium and suddenly understood why Yogya batik scenes are so magic and colorful. I also found out that the witches were older ladies trying to sell their batiks to tourists.
The White Goddess was a pretty girl from Sydney, who even gave me her address. When some weeks later I tried to look her up, the house number she had given me had been skipped, so I wonder what really (might have) happened between us. Had I perchance worn a green shirt on the beach?
BLO fecit 20051024 - stories