We arrived in Yogyakarta, in central Java, with not much time left to extend our visas; we had only one day left before they expired. There, we stopped at the house of Sardi and Eve who were our new sponsors for the extension. The process was relatively simple but the authorities made us wait 3 days to finish up with the bureaucracy involved. Yogyakarta (also Jogjakarta) is considered to be the cultural capital of Indonesia, where artists and intellectuals study and live. If it weren't because people refer to it as a city, the feeling is rather being in a large village. It is unusually quiet and you just need to go outside the city centre to find yourself amongst extensive rice fields and people wearing the traditional conical hats typical of the region. The city is flanked by the Merapi volcano famous for terrorizing the population every once in a while, killing people every few years. Yogya was the perfect place to recover after the tough volcanic endeavours we had just gone through, and to visit one of the most famous historical sites in Asia and the world: Borobudur
Llegamos a Yogyakarta, en el centro de Java, con el tiempo muy justo para hacer la nueva extensión de la visa. Nos quedaba tan sólo un día para que expirara. Allí, paramos en la casa de Sardi (y Eve) quién sería nuestro nuevo sponsor para la extensión. El trámite fue relativamente simple pero aquí nos hicieron esperar 3 días hábiles para finalizar con la burocracia involucrada. Yogyakarta (también Jogjakarta) es considerada la capital cultural de Indonesia, donde se forman y viven los artistas e intelectuales del país. De no ser porque la gente se refiere a ella como a una ciudad, la sensación es más bien la de estar en un pueblo grande. Es una ciudad inusualmente tranquila y basta con salir de pleno centro para encontrarse inmediatamente entre extensos arrozales y gente tradicional vistiendo los sombreros cónicos típicos de la región. El fondo está siempre enmarcado por el fabuloso volcán Merapi, que no hesita en hacer destrozos y matar gente cada algunos años. Yogya, fue el lugar perfecto para reponerse luego de las duras travesías volcánicas que habíamos pasado, y para visitar uno de los más famosos sitios históricos de Asia y del mundo: Borobudur.
We arrived at Bekasi, 40 km on the outskirts of Jakarta at noon. We got out of the bus with hypothermia, after 16 hours to complete the 650 km, traveling in what it had to be the closest thing ever to a refrigerator on wheels. I never appreciated the tropical heat as much as when I got off the bus literally shivering that morning. It took us 5 hours of cycling (whenever possible)to complete the 40 km between Bekasi and Jakarta and from that very first day it became very clear to us why Jakarta is famous for its traffic. It is literally, hell on Earth, I can only compare it to the hell I had to go through entering Delhi or leaving Tehran. Those are at the top of my list, still I think Jakarta offers enough hassled to dispute the first place. The traffic is so bad that shapes people's habits. Many choose to stay at home on their days off and watch TV or spend the day in nearest shopping mall, since driving the car out of town might take 6 or 7 hrs for just 2 hours of amusement in a nice place. Neither the agility of the bicycle is a benefit here; you get stuck in the traffic jams without finding the slightest gap to get through. That being said, before getting here, I believed that we were going to find a horrifying city like Manila, but not taking the traffic into account, Jakarta although not a beautiful city so to speak, it's prettier than what I expected. Nevertheless, it didn't feel like being in Indonesia. After three months of cycling mainly in rural areas, staying in remote villages filled with wonderful traditional people, getting tothis huge megalopolis had a great impact on us. The CBD, with its cutting-edge architecture, glass skyscrapers, shopping malls, restaurants and sophisticated people, seemed completely alienated from the rest of the country. It is difficult to associate this Indonesia with the one we had previously encountered. Needless to say, it didn't come as a surprise, that is what the third world is like, a world I know more than well. The tycoons who profit from the misery of others and the destruction of the environment, live in Jakarta, mind you behind massive walls, high fences and of course a whole troop of private security. The wealthy people here are famous for buying in cash properties of millions of dollars in its luxurious neighbor, Singapore. Everyone knows that is "dirty"money, here and there, but nobody does anything, the money shuts all mouths and leave everyone happy by keeping silence.
By the railway tracks
The seem to be completely immune to the noise and thundering roar of the trains passing by
Daily tasks and chores do not change
You are always welcome at home.
There is always time for motherhood
And there's never ever shortage of good mood.
Having spent time here was one of those experiences that lead to reflect. If I had had more time I would have come back several times there, to try to understand and learn more about their lives, the reasons why they decided to migrate to the big city and change a rural and quiet life for the overcrowding of the city. I still have many questions, especially as a South American, where poverty often degenerates into hatred, violence and crime. These are are not new questions, they are questions that I have since the first time I set foot on Asia 14 years ago, and after living and traveling in the continent for nearly 8 years, I still cannot find the right answer. Our stay in Jakarta was very positive. Once the Chinese visa was ready, it was time to move on and begin the long crossing of Sumatra.