(This is a long one!)
On the train again
To get to Jakarta I had to go through the pain and stress of getting a train ticket again but thankfully this was the last time I had to do it. The process was getting a little easier because I now knew what I had to do, but the language barrier wasn’t getting any easier!
I assumed I needed a ticket to the main station in Jakarta, it was the longest journey out of the three train rides and it stood to reason it would be the most expensive. I think the cost was about 350,000 IDR(~£22) – still not bad for an 8 hour train ride. I went to visit the cargo area without Priscilla and tried to explain what I wanted by showing them photos of the bike on my phone. They spoke absolutely no English but they were so helpful. It took me a long time to work out that they were telling me I should go to a different station – Pasar Senen – because it would be cheaper and that is where the bike would be delivered to.
I went through this before with the bike going to a station that I wasn’t really allowed to go to so I checked over and over again if what they were saying was the same as what I was understanding! I said to them ‘are you sure you mean yes? Because a lot of the time when you say yes, what you actually mean is no. So are you sure you mean yes or do you mean no?’ They replied ‘yes’ with big smiles. Of course they did!
They spent most of the time laughing at me. They were chattering away amongst themselves and openly laughing at me. All I could do was join in. The main guy kept coming up and animatedly speaking to me and smiling and I just smiled and said “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about” which made them laugh even more.
Of course they didn’t have a clue what I was saying and after a giant game of charades and a bit of google translate I thought I was getting what I needed. They were right about the cost of the journey because my ticket to Pasar Senen was 205,000 IDR (~£12) and it was only 150,000 IDR (~£9) for the transport and packaging of Priscilla. Every time I have booked a ticket I have taken it back to the cargo area to show them where I am going and get an extra conformation that I am going to be reunited with my bike.
My train was an early one leaving at 7am and I had delivered Priscilla the night before so they could get it packed up. The people at the hostel said I needed to be at the station 1 hour before my train left. This is a lie! I had arrived for my other trains only about 15 minutes before departure and I never had any problems. You don’t need to check in, you just have to print a boarding pass which takes a few seconds.
The traffic is unpredictable in Yogyakarta, it is unpredictable in Indonesia in general, so it was recommended to me that I leave an hour to get to the station. This too was completely unnecessary! But as I didn’t know this at the time so I left the hostel at 5am in a taxi.
I left most of my luggage on the bike but I decided to take my sleeping bag and tent with me on the train because they are the most valuable things I own.
It was a long 8 hour journey and I had been told how beautiful and scenic it was but the weather was miserable and everything was covered in a low lying cloud so I didn’t really get to see any of it! When you see burning rubbish pile after burning rubbish pile you tend to stop looking out the window and read instead.
I waved my cargo receipt in front of various people when I arrived and everyone seemed to be pointing in the same general direction. Most people we gesturing to ‘just around the corner’ but just around the corner turned out to be about a kilometre away.
As I came out of the station onto the main street a man was pissing into the gutter right in front of me. This pretty much sets the scene for Jakarta. It is filthy and smelly.
I eventually found the cargo area and from what I could understand they were telling me my bike was somewhere else. Nothing is straightforward here! I think they could sense my weariness because they told me to sit and wait and one of them disappeared and came back a few minutes later riding Priscilla!
What a relief!
Priscilla had been packaged very well and it was the last time I had to worry about never seeing her again. I know I have moaned quite a lot about my train experiences but I have to say that the cargo people have always been great. They have been friendly and helpful and they have always delivered Priscilla on time and without any damage.
They always unpack her for me and get rid of all the packaging and they make me check her over for any damage before I leave.
The hostel was about 8km away and I was a bit nervous about cycling in Jakarta because I had heard such horror stories about the traffic, but it wasn’t any different or worse than anywhere else in Indonesia! Don’t get me wrong, it was mental, and had you just landed here it would have been a shock to the system, but it’s not difficult, it is just unpleasant.
The heat was absolutely unbearable, probably made worse by the thick haze of pollution covering the city! I got to the hostel without incident and found it to be a little air conditioned oasis which I didn’t really want to leave!
The National Monument
I had four full days in Jakarta so the first day I decided to get all the sight seeing I wanted to do out of the way. There isn’t really a lot to see so I decided on The National Monument and the Cathedral.
The Monument was about 10km away from the hostel and I cycled straight through the centre to get there…
The smell is overwhelming, combined with the heat and humidity it wasn’t that pleasant a ride. There is a huge one way system in the centre of Jakarta and I cycled around it the wrong way. I was past caring about any road rules now. If you are a cyclist or a motorcycle it seems the rules don’t apply to you anyway, so I went wherever I wanted just to get there in the shortest route. The National Monument is like a little sanctuary in the middle of the madness, no cars allowed. It represents Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch. The Dutch influence here is the most noticeable out of anywhere in Indonesia.
You can go up to the top but there was an enormous queue so I decided to skip it and go and check out the cathedral instead. It is an impressive building but half of it was covered in scaffolding so you couldn’t really get the full impact.
Please no more rice and noodles
Back at the hostel I bumped into Merel, a Dutch girl I made friends with in Yogyakarta. She went to explore the Dutch areas around the hostel but a huge thunder storm rolled in and came back soaked. We waited for the rain to ease up and went out together to get some food. Luckily there was a nice restaurant just around the corner from the hostel, which meant we didn’t have to go too far in the dark and we didn’t get rained on too much.
I was hoping to find a little place that did pizza or pasta but I could only find Indonesian food, so I went to the same restaurant every night and ate rice in a banana leaf.
Collect memories not things
The next day I went out again on the bike to try and find a souvenir from my time in Indonesia. I found out there was a street full of flee market type stalls so I headed towards that.
The street was amazing, so many things that the magpie in me was drawn to. You have to be able to sort the genuine stuff from the fake crap, but I think I have a good eye for an old carving. I always seem to pick out the things which are really expensive that come from Timor or Papua.
I only had 100,000 IDR in my pocket and I didn’t want to get any more money out, but only one thing really caught my eye and the man wanted 700,000 IDR for it. I explained that I was leaving Indonesia the next day and I only had a little bit of money with me, he did suggest a few other things which were within my budget but I just didn’t like them as much.
I went up and down the street a few times, going at around 11am means you are there at a good time. People want to get in a sale to kick off the day and they often reduce things quite significantly to get that first ‘lucky’ sale in.
I looked at so much stuff and people made some reasonable offers but something was drawing me back to that one carving. It is a weird carving. It is a dark wooden mask from Borneo with scorpions carved onto the cheeks and white shells for eyes which make it look quite demonic. (I’ll show you a picture of it one day.) I managed to get the guy down to 300,000 IDR and I felt like I was really squeezing him. £20 for a souvenir really isn’t that bad, so I caved in and made a trip to the hole in the wall to get some more money out.
Maps.me was off with its atm location and I was getting hot and bothered and I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me, so a nice man walked with me to find the bank. Thank you nice man.
The next day it was time to pack up Priscilla. I was stressing a bit about getting a box but after I googled some bike shops in the area the girl at the hostel was really helpful and called them to find out if they had bike boxes. The closest shop was United Bikes and they said they would sell me a box for 50,000 IDR (~£2). Excellent.
When I arrived they thought I wanted them to package my bike for me but when I explained that I just wanted the box they gave it to me for free and they helped me to create a makeshift rucksack style binding to fix it to my back so I could transport it back to the hostel.
When in Indonesia do as the Indonesians do!
It worked, I made it back to the hostel in one piece but I don’t recommend doing this to anyone else! It hurt a lot, I felt like I was about to be cut in half by the string! The box kept slipping sideways and the top of the box kept pushing my helmet forwards so I could hardy see.
A couple of time I shouted “MOVE” or “COMING THROUGH” just so I didn’t have to stop.
I was a bit worried that I had compromised the structural integrity of the box but it all worked out ok. I had made friends with an Australian guy called Darcy who had also cycled through Indonesia, he said I hadn’t missed anything by not cycling through Java and he really didn’t enjoy cycling through all the slums. He helped my get the pedals off Priscilla, something I haven’t been able to achieve by myself yet!
They use this plastic string everywhere here for packaging things. It is great for packaging, not so great for the environment.
It took me a good couple of hours to package her up, and I had to follow the instructions from my own blog post I wrote about packaging a bike for a flight but I felt pretty pleased with myself when it was all done. And I managed to get her in without removing the back wheel.
I spent the afternoon wandering around the square just around the corner from the hostel. It was a hive of activity, and a popular thing to do is hire a colourful bike and a big hat and cycle around the square.
As I was wandering around, minding why own business, I was targeted for operation selfie collection. I could let it annoy me or I could play them at their own game. So I did! Whenever I saw people approaching me I said “hey can we have a photo?” They loved it!
It was a good opportunity to empty all my bags and sort out how much rubbish I had been carrying. I still had quite a lot of Rinjani dirt floating around in the bottom of my bags. I was flying with Singapore airlines and they include the bike in your luggage allowance so as long as you are under 30kg the bike is free.
I had an early flight which meant a 4am departure to get to the airport. Probably for the best as the risk of getting stuck in traffic was a lot lower at that time of day. The hostel ordered me an Uber which was great because the price was fixed and I didn’t have to worry about being ripped off or haggling. You have to go through 2 tolls to get into the airport and with that whole cost was only 100,000 (~£4) which I though was pretty to go 25km.
And so my time in Jakarta and in Indonesia had come to an end. I am glad I experienced the madness of one of the most densely populated places in the world, but I am certainly not in a hurry to go back to Jakarta. I would return to other places in Indonesia, I have heard good things about Flores and Papua, but for now 2 months is long enough.
Now it is time for me to get my flight to…
LET’S GET SOCIAL
JUST A DROP
I continue to raise money for Just A Drop – they bring sustainable clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects to communities around the world.
663 million people across the globe are living without access to clean, safe water. That’s 1 in 10 people. A child dies every 90 seconds from a water related disease. One third of the worlds population – 2.4 billion people – don’t have access to adequate sanitation.
If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider donating a few…pounds / dollars / euros / yen… and together we can change lives.