The bellowing thunder rolling around the distant hills was a sign of things to come. It wouldn’t be long before the storm hit. We had to be quick.
All around us lay the ruins of a once majestic kingdom, now referred to as Ratu Boko. Doorways stand eerily at the top of haunting hills that rise above the surrounding region, offering a stunning view of Yogyakarta. The doorways are said to be portals to unknown lands.
The compound itself, devoid of tourists, felt otherworldly. From the ghostly doors we could see sunlight splitting the clouds, lighting parts of the ground below – a photographer’s dream. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered a face staring back at us in the clouds of a picture I took.
Soaking in the ambiance of this strange place, we slowly made our way across an empty field with hollow doorways at either end. As the thunder came closer, we entered a walled, ceilling-less hall. Our footsteps echoed around as we climbed the steps to what seemed like an ancient stage. Our surroundings emanated a feeling of stillness and intimacy.
Lightning flashed across the sky as we gazed upon a large compound with what looked like public baths. Droplets of warm rain began to fall. Black clouds quickly forced their way over head, and darkness reigned throughout the ancient kingdom. The sinister clouds felt low enough to touch. The lighting, rather than striking the ground, pulsated intensely across the sky for seconds at a time. We ran.
We sought shelter in a small bamboo hut occupied by two tourists, the only other people there. The torrential rain pounded on the fragile tin roof. Thunder shook the hut. We waited. As day became evening, the water running around us became deeper. We knew we couldn’t stay here all night. We’d have to run. Rachel’s cheap umbrella was all we had.
She asked our friend Rio if we’d be struck by lightning since we were using an umbrella. He laughed. We ran. Lightning lit up the black sky around us, and deafening thunder rebounded around the ruins. We ran quicker. Eventually we took shelter again, this time in the portal to the otherworld.
We knew we were only a few minutes from safety. We took a moment to catch our breath. Standing on the steps of the doorway, at the top of the hill, we enjoyed, for the first time that evening, watching the lightning fizz through the sky, breathing pinks and blues into otherwise dark clouds.
Ratu Boko is stunning – better than Borobudur in my opinion. It’s, as far as I can see, Yogyakarta’s best kept secret. The view across the area alone is worth the trek required to get there.