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Drinking coffee in the kampung, part 1 YOGYAKARTA - However it wasn't Saturday for sure, but a Tuesday, still I had the feeling that I had to take my motorbike for a nice day of traveling. Where it would bring me? At least as far as Purworejo. To my amazement and some shame I had never been there before, so that became the primary target. I at least had to go there so I could honestly say that I had been there. Furthermore there were no plans, like usual. It was already late in the morning, so it was not really supposed to become a long trip. Maybe after Purworejo it was time to find my way back. That also depended on what I would find along the way of course. Seen the distance and the road conditions it was to take about one and a half hour to get there. My modest estimation.

Trip information
Distance: 165 kilometer
Route: Yogyakarta - Wates - Purworejo - Banyuurip - Sendangsari - Bendungan - Srandakan - Bantul - Yogyakarta
Area: mainly flat rural area with mainly rice and sugarcane fields

Keys, some pocket money and a photo camera. That is all I would need today. Trips like these were not that expensive. The biggest investment I most likely had to make was the fuel, and that was just Rp. 10.000 (84 eurocent). I often keep my wallet at home. Not that I was afraid of being pick pocketed, especially not outside the city, but it sometimes was something extra to bring with, so it could better be left at home. In this way, my credit card and bank card could not get lost as well, because if I take them out, I will actually lose them. Not really a good solution as well. My camera needs to be cleaned I noticed. After ten months of volcanic dust and diesel fumes I should start looking for an official Canon service center.

After I departed from home I directly entered the northern ring road. It was already crowded at this time of the day, so again not right through the city center. Maybe later on the way back. I always say to myself that I will take the same way back, because after the first time you may have seen locations that you want to stop to make a picture, but I never manage to do that. The moment to make pictures should not be delayed too long, because turning around on the busy main road is almost committing suicide, especially on two lane roads with a narrow or non-existing emergency strip, like most roads here.

Wates and Purworejo

First I would bring a short visit to two cities, Wates and Purworejo. Both are not much bigger than provincial towns, but it's a nice opportunity to take a look around to see if there is something nice to visit here. Earlier I had been in the area of Wates, back then I was following a big group of supporters of PDI-Perjuangan. They held a meeting in a village near Wates. Taufik Kiemas, the husband of Megawati Soekarnoputri was there that day as well. Today nothing of that. I would stay on the main road because my initial target was beyond just Wates. The road here partially follows the railroad track to Jakarta through the gentle hills.

When crossing Kali Progo (Progo river) the main road directly turns south to avoid the hills of Bukit Menoreh north of Wates. The railroad is gone by then and probably finds it's own way behind the rows of hills in the green landscape. However traffic is still thick here, I still had the hope that this would come down somewhat later on. Of course I was mainly the one to decide how I wanted to have it, there I was able to take an alternative road whenever I wanted. First however, I wanted to make some distance, so I was able to look for a nice way back via an alternative smaller route.

Green rice fields are scattered in the flat landscape of southern Java.
Green rice fields are scattered in the flat landscape of southern Java.

Near the village of Demangrejo the road turns right again. Not that sharp as a map might show you, but it is clear that, all of a sudden, you are driving in western directions again. Wates wasn't too far ahead anymore. Here, the railroad is back as well. Once you arrive in Wates, be sure to take a look, because you will have passed it before you realize it. A local market, some shops and a nice wide main road - here as well - cause this town to have a typical Indonesian look. At first glance a completely standardized town where not stopping was what most people probably did. Me too. Maybe I should take some time to look around here, but that was for a future trip.

The beautiful highway ran straight through the flat landscape. Earlier on in the hills and the cities it was still pretty hot, but now it became - in between rice fields - remarkably cooler. The big difference with the city that is. Here the sawah's are still flooded and a little bit of wind from the south made this into an ideal strip of asphalt. Just to the south is the beach, however from the main road you are not able to see that anywhere. Only that little bit of wind reminded you, even no silt air, maybe there was not enough wind for that, or it was still just too far away and the fresh smell of sea was absorbed into the smells of rice fields, sugarcane plantations and other crops that can be found everywhere.

After crossing the border with the province of Central Java the road turns to the north again, away from the beach. The railroad track, which has been doubled here already, still played with the main road, but it didn't cross it many times. That is different in Eastern Java where road traffic regularly grinds to a halt because of a passing train. That same train is most likely to cross their paths several more times. Here it's different, just a few times there is a railroad crossing here; at one location a nice long bridge was built, which only leaves out the traffic, because after Wates it has become remarkably more quiet. Arriving in Purworejo was much more faster because of that.

From Purworejo into nature

Purworejo mainly looked hot. The clock told me that it was already half past eleven. Indeed a late departure but that doesn't hold me back. What is remarkable here is that there are churches, many of them directly along the main road, where they are more obscure - there are always exceptions of course - in cities like Yogyakarta for example. But maybe this all was just an optical illusion. In any way it was clear that different religions - just like in many other parts in Indonesia - can exist peacefully with each other. It was time to look for a place where I could buy something to snack and a fresh drink as well.

A glass of iced tea and a few gorengan (fried snacks which come with a main dish generally) - yeah, I eat them without the main dish - was what I ordered from a nice young lady that seemed to run a warung all by herself, just along the main road in Purworejo itself. I had become black from the diesel fumes and other pollution, so some tissues were needed as well. At least I could wipe my face and arms clean. When it became clear to the young woman that I had been driving around for quite some time, the first questions came as well. When drinking and having a snack we finished the standard list of questions. After that a few more which are quite predictable as well. My age. How long I lived here and why I was going to Purworejo. Too bad for her I was just traveling. But when there is more time, I'm sure to stop by for another drink. 2.500 Rupiah was transferred and I got back on my motorbike again. One friendly greeting and I hit the road again.

Now see where I would go. The town itself didn't seem that remarkable, but maybe that was more related to the fact that I was looking for a much more rural environment. Green is what I wanted to see, palm trees, rice fields, sugarcane and meadows. But so see that, I should not stay in the city of course. It was time to take that almost famous unexpected turn. A green sign - that's about the only thing green in the city here - pointed me at the route to Kebumen. That was too far away for now. Directly below it was Banyuurip (literary; river of life), the same direction. Sounds nice. Let's go that way. Just like earlier this month it was a turn to the right, but that doesn't really matter here I think.

The road was still kind of crowded, mainly with school kids on their way home, it was around twelve o'clock again. I noticed that most children here still used a bicycle. Cars from parents that picked up their children from school, I didn't see at all. Motorbikes are still much more rare than in the city and if they are available they are generally used to earn money, not to transport children from and to school. Just a few families could afford to send their children to school by motorbike. The distances that had to be made by bicycle were not small in most cases. From one village to the other is often a few kilometers over small roads.

A wide view with a straight road that runs for kilometers through the flat landscape.
A wide view with a straight road that runs for kilometers through the flat landscape.

So it were mainly schoolchildren in the area of Banyuurip that made these roads dangerous. Together with some bemo (minivans for public transport) that was the only form of transport that is on the road here. The children formed a single tickertape but sometimes they tried to go two by two, however the road wasn't suitable for doing that. Especially not in the villages where the already small road has to find a way around houses and other buildings, which caused the road to linger through villages. A small bridge was often also placed at a somewhat illogic location, so that had to be connected to the road in one way or another by some sharp curves. No problem for bicyclists and people known with the situation. All others had to be really careful here, so speeding was no option.

Speeding is without exception not for me if I am not on a wide main road. Firstly it is not really safe to speed alongside a group of children at 60 kilometers per hour. It is also not too smart to miss a curve here, because often you will find yourself stuck against a tree or a wall, or maybe down in the little river. Furthermore there are some personal reasons for it as well. When I am driving around like this, I would like to have enough time to see what is happening around me. I can stop everywhere I want, but that is also more easy when I take it slowly. I don't get stuck behind the schoolchildren, because that is just a little bit too slow for me, but in Banyuurip I decided to stick behind a seller of inflatable toys.

Banyuurip and further south

The salesman had - as usual - a whole collection of already inflated plastic toys stuck at the back of his motorbike. This created a brightly colored cloud of plastic paws, heads and stomach's tied together at the back of the motor. With enough rope and something like a fishing net no animals should get lost on the road. Most likely theft is not a big danger here, but the bad roads are much more dangerous and unexpectedly steep bridges can cause a wild ride all of a sudden. However the man didn't seem to have a way to alert the kids that he was coming, the littlest of kids already knew that they wanted to have something. I followed him a few kilometers however without seeing him stopping somewhere. Maybe he was on his way back to home.

From Banyuurip - a small village in fact - I decided to just follow the road. There wasn't a spot where I could take a seat for a drink. Maybe because those hundreds, if not thousands, of schoolchildren were to be found everywhere. Bicycles everywhere, bemo were overcrowded as well and furthermore all warung were filled with drinking and eating children. Even under every tree that gave some shadow were little groups of children. The streets were crowded and however that was only just temporarily, I decided not to wait for it but just to follow the road towards the south again. It would certainly take a while before I would hit a main road again, at least that is how it felt.

The not so well maintained road eventually brought me to a next village. This is not just a short distance, but quite some bumpy road ahead and past hundreds of sun-reflecting sawah's on the left and right side of the road. All of a sudden, at the end of another village, something red and white showed up. That must be a railroad crossing, and indeed that is what is was. Here a double track as well. There was even a warning sign stating that the new track is already in use. When I arrived at the railroad crossing I noticed that that had to be the case indeed, because the old track has been removed by now to be laid out anytime soon, ready for a new era called double tracks.


However the railroad tracks were perfectly straight, and already half way construction, there were no trains here. Maybe I had to try it again a while later. A diesel train that passes the tracks with several completely worn-out ekonomi-wagons is something amazing to see for those who don't have to travel with it. I crossed the railroad crossing. However there was a double track, it seems that there was no effort made yet to improve the crossing itself as well. Sad to see that all these schoolchildren get flat tires crossing the railroad here, but it seems that not many people really care for the moment. Maybe it was already planned? I had my doubts, constructing a double track was more than enough work.

However the double track is completed here, that is not everywhere the case at the moment. For now no hourly train services.
However the double track is completed here, that is not everywhere the case at the moment. For now no hourly train services.

On the road again, still I was looking for a quiet place to have something to drink. I turned left just after the crossing. It seemed the best choice I would make because not much children were going in that direction. The road quickly became deserted and just the sound of a single motorbike disrupted the almost perfect tranquility here. To enjoy it for the most, I tried to drive as quietly as possible. This beautiful environment deserves it to be appreciated and watched if you ask me. That is exactly what I did. At some places the schoolgirls managed to put out a "Hello mister!", to turn away their red faces, shy as they are.

However the weather was sunny, it wasn't very hot here at all. Of course it was warm, but still a completely different kind of warmth than that of a city. There it's mainly pollution, asphalt and many people that cause the heat. here it's the big trees, wide open fields and a gentle breeze that cause the heat to be eased. Especially the shadow is a perfect place to drive. However it is hard to tell which route will have most shadow, it can be assumed that hilly areas and villages tend to have more shadow than the flat rural areas, which are often designed to produce crops as rice and sugarcane on wide open fields with a few coconut trees as a finishing touch.

Ahead was an intersection again, between a hill, a row of houses and the railroad track. It just looked like a cozy corner in a fantasy world what was in front of me. The choice you stop here was in fact made when I first saw the location. This was the place where I had to take some pictures and take a rest. That prove to be a pretty good decision, because there was a warung at the intersection. The railroad crossing was serviced. I first crossed the railroad to find a place to put my motorbike in the shadow. The man from PT KAI (the state railroad company) followed me from the warung. Because I already got off the motorbike and I noticed the man, I first took some pictures from the environment here, knowing that I had to have a conversation with that man in one way or the other.

Blowing of steam

After I walked back, a little downhill, the man approached me. I wasn't able to avoid him in any way anymore by now, but well, it didn't have to take very long and who knows what I would learn from it. I didn't even know which direction Jakarta was for example. My orientation has never been a strong point I believe. Here also the standard questions. Because I always had some interest in trains and beams of iron I had the chance to ask some questions here, as I was sure he was able to answer some of them. The first one was easy, Jakarta was the other direction than I expected. As you can see, I already learned something here.

Also read part 2 of 'Drinking coffee in the kampung'

Posted in Travel @ 17 May 2007 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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