After five weeks cycling on Sumatra Theo and I looked forward to come to Java. Our first impression was good. The first day of cycling we decided to follow the smallest roads on our map, as the traffic on the main roads was mental. We had an enjoyable day following channels and approaching small villages. Fresh green rice fields all around and acceptable road quality. In the evening we had some problems finding a place to sleep and were not really sure where we actually are.
We ended up camping on the terrace of house which hosts construction workers. We sat together for some cups of tea before everybody went to bed. Next day we started fresh and motivated. After a few kilometers we ended up on mud roads. I did not care, felt like on a mountain bike. But it slowed us down a lot. When we finally crossed some railway tracks it was the triumph of the day! None of the locals could have told us how to make our way to Bogor. But on the small dirt path crossing the remote train lines we knew we were on the right way!
That day we were challenged by broken roads, truck traffic jams, never ending dirt roads and hills and upcoming emotion and frustration. It seemed to be the end of the world. Jakarta, the Indonesian capital was only 50km away. But we almost got stuck in the sticky mud in the middle of the truck traffic. It was dark for two hours already when we finally reached Bogor.
The next two days we spent with resting and planning. We decided to take the train to Jakarta and further to Yogyakarta. There seem not to exist any rules in Indonesia but one: There is no way of getting the bicycles on that train!
Our level of frustration reached a top peak. It seemed nothing could go smooth any more.
But we also saw ourselves in a highly privileged position. Beside the entire struggle we are still the “rich westerners” who can afford to sleep in a decent guesthouse if available. What we saw in Indonesia almost every day was a struggle to survive. Old men build up speed pumps. Then they stood beside them warning the car drivers and hoping for some tip. Young motorbike drivers jumping of their machines in traffic jams to guide the cars through the chaos for some coins. Often they made the situation worse. We observed them. Maybe one of them got a coin every five minutes. (16000 Indonesian Rupiah are equivalent to one Euro coins are worth nothing)
Our sorrows about the travel plans seemed so big to us but so ridiculous at the same time…
The next 25 hours we spent on a minivan to cover the 350km to Yogyakarta, one of the cultural highlights of Indonesia.