Sabtu, 12 Juni 2010

East Java, from my little eyes

A couple of weeks ago when a friend I met in London, Seb, told me that he was going to have a holiday in Indonesia, I was thrilled. I'm very passionate about traveling and I just couldn't wait for a chance to finally hit the road again. Problem is, there is no real holiday in Indonesian calendar. It simply doesn't exist. People have holiday usually only during Ied, Moslem's new year. It means just once a year for more or less a week, but it seems alright since most people are more interested in making money in order to meet their family needs than having a holiday (which also means spending money). In fact, to have a holiday itself is so much a privilege that you might feel embarrassed to admit, because people tend to think that you're either very rich, spoilt, or irresponsible. I would love to say that I'm somehow filthy rich but unfortunately that's not the case. I am just quite determined and I don't mind making efforts to travel once in a while.

There are some places that I'm pretty familiar with, like Jogjakarta or Limpung ^_^, or Dieng highland, or Borobudur temple (which looked exactly the same from my 9th to 10th visit). Yet I intend to make this journey as interesting for him as for myself. This is also my trip. I don't want to act as a chaperone. So I went to a place that I hardly ever visited before: East Java. Actually I wanted to go to East Java because I saw in National Geographic traveler that we can see turtles laying eggs in their natural habitat (although this is not a good tourist attraction because this could endanger the turtles. When they don't feel secure, they will go back to the sea without laying eggs. We have to watch them very discreetly from a safe distance). I wanted to see Alas Purwo National Park, to pick coffee beans from Kalisat-Jampit, and also to see cactus collections in Mexico Park, Malang, apart from the apple plantations. I always have thousand of ideas but not necessarily a good planning. Apparently a week is not enough to see the most of East Java alone. Well, it was actually only 5 days because the sixth day I booked tickets to Karimun Java. I would say that we definitely need more time if we want to enjoy staying in some nice places for a while. What we did is more like going to one place after another and making sure that we would be back in time. We took public transports and we were in quite a limited budget. In short; we have so much to do, so little money, so little time. Perfect. But I was in a very good spirit. The journey started off on Saturday evening. We would begin with the overnight train from Semarang to Jombang.

I was so excited that I heartily boarded to a wrong train going to Jakarta! I once got a wrong train in France but at that time I understood nothing in French. This time I had no excuse since the announcement is in Indonesian and Semarang only has 2 (two) main platforms. One is going east, another is west. How wrong you could be? Still, I think the announcer talks like someone stuffs his mouth with a large piece of durian (unpeeled). I was amazed at how silly I am when I realised this is why someone took our seats (because they have exactly the same number as our seats). Luckily, somehow our train was delayed for an astonishing 2 hours. We got off in a little train post a bit outside the city, where we were surrounded by a nice, calm, pleasant rice field and a tiny mosque. I like it there than in the main train station, where you always have to pay Rp. 1,000 for toilet and with the loud durian-stuffed sounds in the backgrounds. The most scary-but exciting-thing is when we had to jump from the train since there is no ladder. I threw my backpack to Seb and he encouraged me to just jump because I hesitated for a moment and the train was about to leave! (My feet are like those of jellyfish's)

On the train to Jombang we were supposed to sleep yet we didn't have enough of it. The train was so cold because of the air-con, also we arrived at Jombang very early in the morning. We soon boarded to a bus (this is the beginning of an endless bus journey!) to Malang via Batu. This route is actually a pretty nice one because the view around Batu is lovely: very green with hilly landscapes and lots of rivers and the pointy high trees. But I was still tired of the overnight journey. I had no idea where to get off since I'd never been to this place before so when the driver stopped us in a road to Panderman peak, the highest point in Batu where you can see the town of Malang from above, we just went there (instead of my idea to go to plantation or whatever national park in the original plan). We hiked a bit to the top but stopped not even halfway through for we had no plan to climb any mountains in Malang. The view was beautiful although too many mosquitos accompanying us there. We were glad to say that we 'climbed' Panderman peak even though all we did is actually sitting around, killing some mosquitoes and eating ice cream, on the route to Panderman peak. We continued to Malang by another bus. In this bus we met a bunch of real climbers who had spent the night at the peak. We were quite content just to hear the story. We made friends with them. They even helped us to find a place to stay that night. That day, Malang was hectic due to a festival. I found a lot of nice traditional food stalls in the festival but I was again too tired and weary (We hadn't found any place to stay. Hotels were fully booked). We finally found a place and we skipped our plan to visit the festival in the evening with those climbers since we were pretty knackered and decided to have an early night. Yet mosquitoes and the distant sound of wayang performance late that night and a hard bed woke me up. I noticed that I don't really like spending the night in a town. My mood is always bad when I stay in the city, but I feel good when I wake up in the mountains.

We went to Probolinggo to hit Bromo the next day. By this point Seb had already asked me to phone ahead, in case we found another difficulty to get a hotel. The receptionist said, "Just walk in. We have enough beds for a whole village," This sounded more like Indonesia to me. The bus from Malang to Probolinggo was as slow as a slug with a deformed knee (I know, slug has no knee. Its feet are always deformed anyway). When we get there, it was a bit late to get a normal price to Cemoro Lawang village. We had to pay the minibus a la carte (which means a rip off). Fortunately, there were 2 couples also wanted to go up so we could share the price. Strangely enough they didn't talk to each other before we arrived despite the very same problem we had. Nevertheless, soon after the ice broke, we became a good team. We rent a jeep together, went up to the peak, did a lot of chatting in between and kept in touch afterwards.

Journey to Ijen plateau was more challenging. Since there is no public transport to Ijen, we were offered a tour. But we are confident backpackers and an expensive tour sounds very lame to us. We were surprised when we knew that from Bondowoso, the town closest to Ijen plateau, to get to Ijen is as expensive as the tour offered from Bromo. On facing this problem, me and Seb started to think differently, so different as west and east could be. Seb wanted to phone the hotel back in Bromo, in case we can get a lift if they have spare seats. It turned up that the phone number I got was not our hotel at all (believe me, this is quite normal in Indonesia. You called a hotel and ended up in another). Seb asked me to get this hotel's phone number from my friend who got internet. For me, all his plans don't make sense. When I have this situation I will think to just go with the cheapest price possible, even when it's expensive, because we are there anyway. Or ask a friend if they know anybody who can help us. This is Indonesian way, I guess. I don't think my idea is better either, but to do Seb's way in Indonesia is just so unnatural that I don't feel comfortable at all. In Indonesia, I can just go without knowing how to come back, because when I get there, I will ask around and see what turns up. Yet for Seb, he always has a plan (and a few spare plans) about how, when and where to go back. I think we got back in time partly because he has this attitude although it stressed me out to hear his plans and questions all the time (he didn't get stressed out of planning, by the way, which is a bit unfair). When I had my German friend as my travel buddy, he let me handle all and at the end of the day he missed his flight to London. He only had to reschedule it but I realised that I'm definitely not a good travel agent.

Ijen's view, however, deserves all the efforts. The turquois volcanic lake was so peaceful and tranquil that I could hear the echoes of the stones bounced from the lake's walls. On the way down we luckily met three belgian volcanologists and they even took us to a hotel in Kalisat coffee plantation! This evening was the nicest of all because I really enjoyed talking to these amusing people while we were having satay dinner in the foot of Ijen (like I said, my mood is good in the mountain!). One of them, a girl called Julie, explained to me about the colourful stones Seb named 'psychedelic rocks'. The red one contents iron which gets oxidated and the colours range from red to yellow (rust). The white one is rock that is destroyed by sulphur oxide. She told me more about silica and other compounds but I guess I didn't really understand but since I'm Indonesian I would always nod and smile as if I have got all knowledge in my little head.

After Ijen was the painstaking return journey. Thanks to my ignorance to train timetable and all, we ended up taking buses practically from Kalisat until Semarang! I don't remember when is the last time I sat for that long in an uncomfortable overnight bus, but three days afterwards, the pain in my arse was still palpable.

No more than 5 hours after that endless buses trip, we again were on the road to Jepara in order to take a 6 hours ferry to Karimun Java. I guess I was using my reserve energy because that morning I wouldn't even think to ever get up again. All I want was sleeping soundly in my bed for unlimited amount of time (until a frog prince comes to wake me up). Surprisingly, I enjoyed singing along with Seb's playing guitar on the ferry deck under a blistering heat (that made me brown. This is so unwanted for Indonesians!). I don't think the trip to Karimun Java was so bad either, although when I was busy snorkeling, my mind had already yearned for a good quality sleep.

I was upset when I came back instead of having my room and bed all for myself, I had my brother and Seb staying for the night. I guess exhaustion (and illness? and perhaps of the thought that I had to go to work the next day) had made my mood deteriorate badly. It was actually good that my brother accompanied me and Seb that night and the day afterwards. I went to my office in the morning and dealt with my professor for I didn't tell him in advance that I left work for a week. Seb kindly went to my workplace with me. It turned up that I was OK with my job and stuffs, yet my strength had not yet fully recovered. When Seb and my brother were off to my hometown, I instantly went dormant.

It was strange to go back to routine again. Since my trip was not actually a holiday (it doesn't exist, remember?), I had a bit of anxiety if I missed anything important. Suddenly I was nervous for my French exam. Really, traveling is so uncommon in my Indonesian life that I felt a bit guilty but at the same time a gust of thrilling sensation. When I close my eyes; I can see the volcanoes, the green hills, the trees, the yellow spider, the flowers, the mist, the sea. I wonder if I can ever quit traveling. Perhaps not in the near future.

On a different subject I regret a bit that I didn't bring a camera. I wrote about this trip in my Indonesian blog and some friends asked for pictures. I said I saved them in my subconscious mind. My friend insisted that she could not see my subconscious (neither do I. But at least I was there). By not taking any pictures, I won't be able to share with them what I saw. I must admit there is a reason why Indonesians think that pictures and souvenirs are important. It's because to travel for some people is just an impossibility. They are quite happy just to see my pictures and get my souvenirs while I think I would love to share stories so people might have chance to see it for themselves. It's too much a privilege. Unfortunately.

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