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Magical Mountainous Cricket on Java

September 30, 2010

If you moved to Indonesia, if you loved cricket, if you couldn’t find anywhere to play cricket and if you lived next to a green mountain, what would you do? You’d carve off the top of the mountain and create one of the most beautiful cricket pitches in the world would you? Right you would.

I’m only curious. You see, that is what Kiwi Robert “Baldy” Baldwin has done at his home in the stunningly beautiful volcanic hills south of the former Dutch colonial town of Bogor. I say town – 2 million people live in Bogor, but that constitutes a town in Java, so densely populated is it. Baldy moved to Java 35 years ago. A long time cricket lover, he recently hacked off the top of a mountain to create a level playing field across from his house, and has since christened it the Graeme Yallop Oval – named after the former Australian Ashes captain because of his heavy involvement with the ground, and with Indonesian grass roots cricket. One of the only grass wickets in Indonesia, the ground sits perched on the mountain with sheer walls of earth (or when it rains, mud) on all sides. The drive to the ground is so steep and in such poor condition that it took us four attempts to climb it in a heavy duty 4×4 (the government are paving the surface in the next few weeks). The two storey wooden pavillion sits across a deep valley 50 yards from the boundary. Baldy hopes to recruit some local bamboo miracle workers to build a bridge that will provide surely the most stunning walk from / back to a cricket pavillion in the world. You simply have to see this place to believe it.

The ground has seen some pretty decent players too. In May this year Glen McGrath, Robin Smith, Nantie Hayward, Chris Cairns and Graham Yallop graced the venue. All who attended the game we had at the ground when I was in Java would be forgiven for demonstrating a muted sense of anticipation in light of previous visitors, but I am grateful that they didn’t show it. I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome.

Early afternoon rain was promised on the day of the game, so an early start was ordered. Unfortunately a number of players were coming from Jakarta, and the normal one hour drive from the capital turned into a four hour epic because of the Muslim Festival of Idul Fitri that marks the end of Ramadan and brings life and colour to every inch of every street.

The rain held off until the final few overs with the Jakartans needing over 20 an over to win. In Java, when it rains, it pours. When the first specks of rain fell we retreated to the pavillion and watched as the heavens unleashed ferocious rainfall that rendered play impossible, and turned the ground into a swimming pool. Because of it’s position high in the hills, the ground does dry quickly, but on this occasion nature defeated us, and a draw seemed a fair (well actually quite unfair) result.

Drinking beer and eating barbequed steak in the pavillion, I watched the clouds roll over the surrounding volcanoes. I can’t believe there is a more unexpected, and more beautiful ground anywhere in the world….except possibly, and amazingly, the competing ground down the road (see below).

Thanks to all who made it, and especially to Will Symonds, captain of the East Indies Cricket Club, for spotting my bike ride written about somewhere in the first place, and for getting in touch to suggest a visit, and to Baldy for inviting us to have a game at his incredible ground.

A filmmaker came up from Jakarta to do some filming on the day. Thanks to Nikko for this fantastic footage. Sorry about some of my commentating, and for using a cell phone on the field of play.

Baldy’s ground isn’t the only private oval near Bogor. Long time Dutch resident Taco has created a ground that is the equal of Baldy’s. His marvellous wooden mansion sits like a pavillion at one end and the local boys tend the ground with homemade lawnmowers, and occasionally take to the field to give Taco some batting and bowling practice. On my visit 5 of us had a game of cricket and later on Taco (who has held high positions in the UN and has a PhD in Agriculture and Development) and a few of the local boys gave me a guided tour of the local fertile valleys, trying to teach me how the locals used the abundance of water to their advantage. What a great place!

More photos to come soon! I left Darwin on Monday and headed south. As you read this I’ll be on the road from Pine Creek to Katherine about 300kms into the Aussie leg. I’ve faced some pretty stiff headwinds the past week limiting my speed to under 10kph at times, so progress has been slow. Internet access will be intermittent as I head further south and then east, so excuse periods of quiet on twitter and facebook!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2010 7:05 am

    Great blog Oli. Really glad you made it here and best of luck on the homeward leg to Brisbane.

  2. George Gay permalink
    September 30, 2010 11:30 am

    Mate – great job. Awesome blogging and photos. A great diversion from looking out of the window. bet you are missing those Friday morning marketing meetings now. Keep going and best of luck for the final push across Oz.

  3. September 30, 2010 11:32 am

    Hey Oli,

    I’ve been following your trip for awhile for a bit of ol inspiration as I plan for my cycle trip through Africa next June (only 5000km, nothing compared with your mission). Just letting you know that I enjoy your posts and it’s a bugger ya not coming through Melbourne where I’m currently at, if you do happen to pop through then let me know, got a descent pull out couch.

    Keep on pedaling and enjoy the flies.

    Cheers, Hap

  4. Abbey permalink
    September 30, 2010 11:56 am

    Amazing!! Although, what happens when you hit a 6??

  5. Hannah D permalink
    September 30, 2010 1:47 pm

    Can we have an update on the proposed naked cycling antics please? Is it too late to raise the amount of money required or have you lost interest given the potential pain it could cause to your behind?!

    Another great blog. Enjoy the last bits of the trip / the headwind.

    • October 1, 2010 1:08 pm

      Hannah, I think we got about 3,000 quid in after I threatened to cycle naked. 3,000 quid yes, but not 5,000…! I’m a little disappointed I must say. I was looking forward to arriving in Brisbane resembling a pork scratching. We’ll see though, I have a cameraman joining me for the last 3 weeks and he is keen to film some naked cycling. Worrying.

      Abbey – good knowledge. When a 6 is hit, the ball is lost. It is quite literally a cricket pitch surrounded by virgin jungle and deep valleys.

      Katie – full of suspense that music isn’t it……I was on the edge of my seat watching it, and I was there…I can only imagine what it was like for you! 😉

      Hap – I’ll be in Melbourne at Christmas…you there?

  6. Katie permalink
    September 30, 2010 2:36 pm

    Love the vid! Great music. Keep eating that vegemite as you cycle across the outback, I hear it keeps mossies and dingos at bay! Big love x

  7. Abdullah permalink
    September 30, 2010 2:50 pm

    Loved that… Many thanks Oli…

    Must be fun if they hit too many sixes, is that why they’ve got a lot of spare balls? (no jokes please, this is a family blog!)

    Best wishes for the downhill run into Brisbane! :-))

    Adana, Turkey

  8. Annie permalink
    October 2, 2010 10:27 am

    that music is brilliant! i only wish we got to see the best clubhouse in the world 🙂

    good progress on the oz leg so far pops, i hope the endless tree lined red dust road isn’t proving too mind numbing. enjoy the peace before brizzie! not long now….. love xxxx

  9. October 9, 2010 1:05 am

    Hey Oli,

    Nah mate will be back home in NZ for xmas, you heading over to NZ?

    If you going to be in Melbs for awhile we can organise somehow to leave the keys to our apartment, and you can crash there. Keep in contact.


  10. kerry mahon permalink
    October 9, 2010 8:23 pm

    Magical is the word to describe the setting of this cricket pitch. Breathtaking. The lengths some people willl go to to play this game eh?!! Thank goodness for the filming. It would be impossible to really imagine being there….I’m sure some people would never have believed you. Good luck on your last leg.


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