I keep climbing as sunrise melts the Central Java darkness.
Five minutes later I'm atop the grand pile of devotion that is Borobudur temple, 40km from Yogyakarta.
A gallery of Buddhas takes shape in the morning mist and beside them, a city of bell-shaped stupas made of latticed stone, each one housing a bodhisattva (enlightened being).
We sit and contemplate quietly here in the dawn just as people, and those sentinel statues, have done for some 1200 years.
Candi Borobudur, a ninth- century Mahayana Buddhist temple that's sometimes known as "the mountain of a thousand statues" rises from Java's Kedu Plain like a stone breast.
Built to encircle a hill, its 10 levels, 2672 pictorial bas-reliefs, 504 Buddhas and 72 stupas, all carved in lava stone, spell out a cosmological narrative, from hell to earth to heaven, that unfolds as one climbs the temple steps.
Borobudur was abandoned in the 14th century following the decline of Java's Hindu kingdoms and the arrival of Islam. Thereafter, it was lost for centuries beneath volcanic ash and jungle growth, though stories of its previous glory endured.
In 1814 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, British governor of Java, sent a Dutch engineer to confirm the rumours.
A big team of workers took several months to clear the jungle and ash overlay before the temple was partially uncovered. Only in 1835 was the entire complex revealed.The giant temple mound became fair game for looters and souvenir seekers. King Chulalongkorn of Siam (Thailand), for instance, visited in 1896 and was given cartloads of relief panels, Buddha images and guardian statues, which remain today in Thailand.
The World Heritage-listed temple is now the most visited attraction in the country with more than three million annual visitors, the majority of whom are Indonesians.
Although it is in the middle of predominantly Muslim Java, Borobudur is still a place of Buddhist pilgrimage.
It was damaged by Islamist bombs in 1985, and shaken and blanketed by ash during the 2010 eruption of Mt Merapi but it remains a magnificent site of both spiritual and secular pilgrimage.
Climb its stairway to heaven before dawn (in order to beat the 8am invasion of tour coaches), sit, shut up and watch the east catch fire and a city of prayers in stone take form from silhouettes to solidity. It'll make your day if not your week.
Tourism today is almost a secular religion.
If so, Amanjiwo resort near Borobudur is a trophy temple for its restless believers.
As well, the hotel itself pays homage to the great shrine. Architect Ed Tuttle designed Amanjiwo's entrance portal so that on arrival one looks right through the main building to see, 4km away, Borobudur temple perfectly framed by this unique perspective.
As Australians well know - though we don't necessarily act on it - there is much more to Indonesia than Bali's so-familiar, simple-as seductions.
Yogyakarta, gateway to Central Java, is an easy hop-and-step from Denpasar.
It's one hour by plane to Yogya then another by car to the temple.
The road journey, once you clear the city's gnarly traffic, takes you through classic, rural Java, with village life, rice paddies and horse carts flickering by to the background track of a gamelan's musical gossip.
Borobudur is not the only great temple on this plain. Not far from it at the village of Mendut is another ninth century Buddhist temple, Candi Mendut.
Little known (and little known-about) Mendut houses within its dim interior three huge Buddha statues, the biggest in Java.
The temple is not always open and you might need to find the caretaker to unlock it but Mendut is a compact counterpoint to the massive, million-block structures of Borobudur and its contemporary "rival", the great Hindu complex of Prambanan.
Candi Prambanan, 18km east of Yogyakarta, is dedicated to Hinduism's cosmic trinity of the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and Destroyer (Shiva). If Borobudur juts from the plain like a sacred mound, Prambanan rises like a heaven-reaching reef.
Dominated by its central, 47m-tall Shiva temple, Prambanan was the biggest Hindu complex in ancient Java, and may have been the "reply" of its builders, the Hindu Sanjaya dynasty, to the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty that built Borobudur.
Originally there were 240 temples at Prambanan but over the centuries earthquakes damaged many, eventually requiring the main ones to be rebuilt.
After a major collapse in the 16th century Prambanan ceased to be an important centre but the ruins always indicated the presence and scale of the complex.
In 1811, during Britain's brief rule of Java, one of Stamford Raffles' officers learnt of the temples, though little was made of the find, other than casual looting. Reconstruction by the Dutch began in 1918 and proper restoration in 1930.
The World Heritage-listed temple compound, perhaps the biggest in South-East Asia, is set in a leafy archaeological park.
Within the adumbral interiors of the temples you find statues to each of the Hindu trinity, while the Shiva temple's exterior is decorated with galleries of bas-reliefs that tell the Ramayana story.
The most recent earthquake damage was in 2006. As a result there are warning signs and visitors are issued with hard hats in some areas.
To date, eight main temples and a number of smaller shrines have been reconstructed.
Having paid homage to these ancient religious skyhooks don't overlook the nearby city of Yogyakarta. One of Indonesia's main tourist destinations, it is a centre of classical Javanese culture and creativity, with shadow puppetry, batik art, music, drama and cuisine.
fact fileAccommodation: For Amanjiwo, see amanresorts.com/amanjiwo. Plataran Borobudur is at plataranborobudur.com.