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EINDHOVEN (THE NETHERLANDS) - On several different occasions, I travelled by train over Jawa. Some of the trips were made in the evening or at night, so there wasn’t much to see except some white lights from distant villages and every once in a while a train station where we made a short stop to let other trains pass, since most of the rail network still is single-lined.
There are some trips however, mostly during my first few visits to Indonesia, which I made a broad daylight. From that, I still remind the very first long distance train ride from Jakarta to Yogyakarta, the Taksaka train which had a scheduled depart at seven in the morning back in 2000. As I arrived at the train station with a friend, there was no train yet. As it was quite early in the morning, the train station, Jakarta Gambir, was not yet overcrowded with travellers, of which most of them were waiting to board eksekutif trains to various destinations all over Jawa.

As we departed from Gambir station just before eight o’clock, I was probably excited as a little kid, but I wasn’t really showing it. I had my one-time-use camera ready to make pictures, but since I only had a few of them, I didn’t want to make too much pictures because there was so much more to come. Slowly the train picked up some speed as we entered the vast Jakartan outskirts. The sun was rising fast along the sky.
Nothing much happened for some time. The landscape could be compared to with I was used to back in Holland, green and somewhat flat in between towns and villages. Okay, in Holland, the green is mostly pastures and potato fields, and the ‘almost flat’ was all created by humans, but well, green is green and flat is flat. A stop in Cirebon, stretching legs and before we knew it, the train departed again. Still many hours to go. Refreshments and snacks were included in the already cheap ticket price.
After Cirebon the landscape started to change more dramatically. As we left the coastal plains, we entered the Jawanese ‘highlands’ with it’s mountains and volcanoes. All of a sudden I realised it would be the first time that I would see a real life volcano from a distance so it would really look like one as well. I had previously visited Gunung Tangkuban Perahu near Bandung, but that was just a drive onto it and a view into it’s sulphuric crater. This was different, I would see big volcanoes rising in the Jawanese landscape.
Some time later I was quite amazed to actually see some of them. Majestic volcanoes with high peaks, no trees and all this against a virtually blue sky. Some of the summits had a little cloud with them. Yeah, that was my first encounter with real volcanoes and ever since I’m kind of trying to climb one. It’s wasn’t high on my list of things ‘to-do’ for years, but every time it got higher on the list. Maybe it’s time to climb one soon.

Bogor to Jakarta

What I did on one august day back in 2003 was probably the thing that most people advised me not to do because of various reasons. I’m not the one who is never listening to people, but in this occasion I felt I had to do it once, just the same as a horrifying bus trip I made in 1999. After I heard a number of stories about why I should avoid the third class train (also known as kelas kambing, animal class) I was suddenly confronted with travelling it as I had spend my first two days of holiday in Bogor and I wanted to go to Jakarta in the morning after my late breakfast.
I had the choice of waiting for some hours until I could take a bisnis train to Jakarta, or I could hop onto a crowded commuter train. I had seen images of people jammed into one such train, with even people on top of it, talking about dangerous. It shortly flashed my mind, but I bought a ticket. Forgetting the low price, Rp. 2500 for a single-way karcis, I wanted to pay with a Rp. 50.000 bill. After correcting myself I found it more proper to pay with a smaller bill, I even had the exact amount.

The train was empty when I entered it. Soon I found out that it was the wrong train. This train wasn’t scheduled to leave for another half an hour, so I was advised to get into the first train, in which a handful of people had parked themselves on the few wooden banks near the windows. It wasn’t crowded at all. Maybe because the rush hour was over already? I didn’t really know what to expect, but a crowded train in Holland was even more populated than this one, so it was quite hard for me to imagine this was just everything.
There are more short stops in Bogor itself. As soon as the train started to pick up some speed, it was time to slow down again to stop for the next station. It was almost of no use to make some speed at all, but well, at least we were moving towards Jakarta Juanda station and it still wasn’t crowded. More and more people started to board. After the wooden banks were filled, people stuffed away their boxes, bags and other objects and found their place along the side of the train, near the banks and the windows, of which most sliding windows were busted out. Fresh air? It was fresh enough now. I had given up my seat to a young woman with baby.
Soon I realised that I, as a foreigner travelling on this kind of trains, would get what I paid for as well, a cramped space somewhere in the middle of the wagon, somewhere between a big sweating guy and a group of noisy youngsters. As the train stopped at the next station, my fears were honoured, more people entered the train. We weren’t even in Jakarta yet! Normally this ride should take about one hour, but that hour had already passed. I didn’t know where we were, all I could see were roofs of houses, some railroad crossings and a lot of black hair.

What did I do!? I was starting to sweat as the natural fan of fresher air stopped when we drove into another train station. The ventilator above me seemed to move away from me, although I realised it was me that was losing his good position near that fan. Other people’s arms and heads blocked the direct line from the fan. Some people from the middle of the wagon had to go out. Not the most smart way to hold your positions there only until the train stopped at the station, but well moving out while the train was driving is not really an option too.
Now I could imagine how it was for a young woman to be in such conditions… daily, simply because you have to work in Jakarta, somewhere, and you are living in Bogor, somewhere. I can imagine those looks from people. They are not the same as I get them, but well. Maybe it’s not just only looks. Dozens of people cramped in a tiny space like that is an attractive location for touching people. The best excuse is to say that your hand had nowhere else to go (true too), but holding up your hands doesn’t work either. I was happy I gave away my place to the woman with the baby, just an example of such a young woman.

The train stopped more often and the building around the train weren’t just small houses anymore. We had arrived in downtown Jakarta, but I still hadn’t a clue yet how long we still had to travel. Now, more people got off the train than on, but still it was a silly situation I was in. I still had a hard time keeping my bag with me, me being wary about ‘cutters’ who simply cut open your bag to slide out your mobile phone. In my case there was no mobile phone in my backpack, nor was there anything really valuable, but of course it’s no fun when your bag is damaged for nothing, while you still have to travel around for weeks. Still I wonder what is worse, my bag cut open, being looked at by the commuters which only seem to think why I took their little space or being touched ‘by accident’ being a women.

Train information
Taksaka timetable and pricing
Bogor to Jakarta Juanda timetable



Posted in Travel @ 30 October 2004 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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