One of the most severe fires in human history are burning right now in Indonesia, creating an environmental catastrophe in a region with precious biodiversity, and putting the health of tens of millions of people at risk. Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been alight for more than two months as a result of slash-and-burn – the cheapest and quickest way to clear land for new plantations. This year a prolonged dry season and the impact of El Niño have made the situation far worse, with one estimate that daily emissions from the fires have surpassed the average daily emissions of the entire US economy.
“The earth in Indonesia is on fire. Companies destroying forests and draining peatland have made Indonesia’s landscape into a huge carbon bomb and the drought has given it a thousand fuses,” said Busat Maitar, Indonesian Forest Project Leader for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
A few days ago I decided to go home earlier than planned. This for various reasons.
The past couple of weeks have been an unforgettable experience with loads of Indonesian adventures. This certainly will not be my last trip. That’s for sure. I remember the flight to Indonesia. I looked ad the screen in the headrest in front of me. At that moment we flew over Calcutta, India. All of a sudden I got this feeling inside me and all kind of thoughts rushing through my head.
“Wow, I have never been this far from home.”
“What am I doing?! To the other side of the world on my own?!”
“What if I don’t meet anyone?!”
After long days filled with temple visits, hiking up volcanoes, jalan jalan, every time being photographed and lots of binteng beer, we finally made it to Bali. After arriving on the island, we got on a bus that brought us to the capital; Denpasar.
Busses aren’t according Dutch standards. First of all, the bus will not depart unless it is all the way occupied. Secondly, the busses don’t have AC, but who needs one? De door of the bus is opened the whole time, even when it is moving. The ride itself also is slightly different. In stead of bus stops, you just let the driver know when you want to get off. Besides that, the bus makes some unforseen stops to see if the bus is OK, the chat with acquaintances and to repair a flat tire. The last one resulted in traffic accident, where a passing car didn’t saw the tire laying on the ground until the last second, in a reflex tried to avoid it and with this action hit a motorcyclist. No-one was harmed, just a little bruise. An hour later we arrived in Denpasar….
After two days exploring Yogyakarta on my own, the British fellow backpacker Sue joined me. With here I would eventually make it all the way to Bali.
First stop; the Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple. Our alarm was set at 3 AM. A few hours later, we were standing up in the hills to see the sun rise above the Borobudur Temple, together with 2 dozens of others.
“The sun still has to come …”
“Nah, sun has already set …”
The unexpected, cynical answer said by a British guy. And he was right. It was misty that day, but in the end we were able to enjoy a nice view, make a view nice picture and get to know our new and cynical travelling companion for the rest of Java, Matt.
This is the Indonesian verb, meaning “walking”. A Savior when walking through a street cramped with tuctucs, taxi’s and rickshaws. Some of the drivers lay asleep in very charming poses, including exposed belly and all. The others all ask the same:
“Do you need a ride?”
To make clear you do not need a taxi or any other mean of transport, you just say these two magical words (far more powerful than saying no) and voilá, they won’t ask you again.
After a long walk (think a march walking inside a sauna the size of a city) and after drinking gallons of water and immediately sweat that out again, I decided to jump on a rickshaw for the last part.
Clammy walks, adrenaline kicks on ojeks (motercycles), risking your life when crossing an intersection, going on photos with groups of children making you feel like a celebrity, Jakarta’s nightlife and big discussions about Lychees and Rambutans. This pretty much sums up all adventures in Jakarta. What a great start :)
The words that would be the start of my journey.
The voice kindly but firmly asked me to make my way to the desk as soon as possible. I wondered what was going on. I was on time and had no check-in difficulties. Maybe they already lost my luggage?! I walked to a lady working there and told her that my name was announced. A great way for bypassing the queue for going through the metal detectors and scans.
At the end everything was fine. Turned out my seat had been changed. 37H became 34H with an empty seat next to me as compensation. Great!
Who expected that this week was filled with more hard, little, Indonesian embassy ladies are wrong. This week, in fact, was very ‘smooth’. Even picking up my visa went without a single struggle.
This week was filled with meeting people, the birthday of my aunt, many ‘have fun’-wishes and ‘farewell’-sayings, getting the last bit of stuff (dont forget, sunscreen and lots of mosquito repellent) and a systematic evasion of packing my backpack.
Monday I received a lovely postcard from my 1.5 year old neighbor, Luc with a wonderfull drawing on it. What a great start!
Wednesday morning around 10:30 AM the airplane starts its engines and takes of to Singapore. Here I will hop onto the next plane to Jakarta where I will arrive on Thursday around 8:30 in the morning (3:30 AM Dutch time).
Let’s see, all the important things? Passport: check, ticket: check, money: check, ‘Where’s Wally’: check. Okay, that should do it. Let the journey begin!
My to do list told me that I had to arrange a visa to get into Indonesia. Again something to check from my list. Easier said than done. Let me start at the beginning.
The day it all began. I made an appointment to apply for a visa and filled in the form that was part of it. After having answered all the question and made up half of it, I was ready to go to the appointment on March, 11.
“Date of return. No idea, I’ll just write something down.”
“Is it possible to follow you during your travelling, Joyce?”,
“Making us jealous with you stories, Joyce?”,
“At least, you have 1 follower for your blog already!”.
A blog, right. I hadn’t thought about that. These quotes brought me back to that little girl who, every time she got a new journal for her birthday, Christmas or Easter, swore an oath to write something every single day. The result: In the farthest corner of my closet lay five journals containing not more than 5 stories each. All the other pages: just white pieces of paper, never touched, forever unwritten.
But, that was then and now is now. Hereby I am going to take the oath once again,
Wait, that is not right.
“Dear readers, hereby I swear to write about my Indonesia adventures on a regular base”.