Marin Bukljas and his girlfriend Eva-Marija Frntic traveled to Indonesia and saw everything they saw and lived in an interesting text accompanied by beautiful photographs
For the past few years, our joint and independent travels, we spent on bicycles, recording travelogues called My Friend Bike. This winter, when we got a chance to travel to Indonesia for a month, we decided to leave the bikes at home and take a travel book to us a new way – traveling backpack.
After six hours of a flight from Zagreb and seven hours of waiting at the Dohi airport, where we played serious buyers at Tiffany’s jewelery, just to try ten thousand euro rings, we landed in Jakarta – the largest city in Southeast Asia with over twelve million inhabitants . Great Asian cities do not attract us, so we are also trying to avoid this gigantic city, known for its massive traffic jams and population density of over ten thousand inhabitants per square kilometer.
Transportation on Gili Island
Immediately after landing, we headed for the bus to Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world, in the hope of experiencing the famous wild nature of the full of rare and protected animals and plants. But the plans changed to us soon after arrival. Unlike other Asian countries, Indonesia does not have a riverside ride, and in parts of Sumatra cities such as Bandar Lampunga, where we stayed at one of the few hotels, there is often no public transport.
Locals generally own scooters and cars, and few tourists rent cars with a driver in most cases. Our plan was to visit the National Park “Way Kambas” in which one of the last populations of the Sumatra tiger and rhinoceros live. Attempts to reach the national park and the journey of 100 kilometers lasted for two days, in which we, besides the transport, faced the language barrier, since the rare inhabitants speak English.
Every person we tried to explain where we wanted to arrive gave us contradictory information and directed us to different places. When it became obvious that there was no public transport that would lead us to the desired destination, we managed to agree with the driver of the hotel for a reasonable price. But at the moment of departure, he suddenly changed his mind and raised the price even several times.
Public transport on the island of Gili
Soon we concluded that the journey to Sumatra requires large amounts of money. Except for having to pay a driver and finding an interpreter who knows the basics of English, you have to stay at a bad and very expensive hotel all the time. In the end, we decided to go back to Jav. Only then did not yet know that we were waiting for a fourteen-hour ride on the bus with questionable accuracy and even less comfort to arrive at Borobudur, the largest single temple in the world.
The exhausting journey lasted all night. Any attempt to sleep was prevented by hitching on humpy roads, overturns over full lines, or completely unnecessary sudden turns. In such cases, it is best to plug the headphones into the ears and not look at the road, hoping in the driving skills of the man behind the wheel.
In the morning, exhausted and unpunished, we reached the entrance to the temple. Standing in the line for the cards we marvel that we are the only foreigners who want to see a huge building on nine floors that competes for the title of the new world miracle. But we did not get too tired, seeing that the price of the map was very acceptable. Only thirty thousand rupees. We quickly calculated that it was fifteen kunas and quietly continued to wait in the sun that was already beginning to sow strongly. Upon arriving, the woman behind the counter showed her hand without a word behind our back. We confusedly turned around. Only then did we see a special entrance for tourists.
It was a special facility, with excellent English-speaking staff, air-conditioned and very modern. When we got inside we felt comfortable until they told us the ticket price. Even two hundred and eighty-six thousand rupees. It seemed as if the climate suddenly stopped working. After a short deal in which we concluded that for those money can sleep for three nights in the hotel, eat a few dozen lunches or drink one hundred teas, we still decided to buy tickets.
Despite the many visitors, most of whom at all costs wanted to paint with us, we were able to absorb the ancient, soothing energy of the temple, and in a couple of hours to return the strength to further study the country. Later, we found out that the Indigenous people, especially in less developed tourist places, have a great honor to paint with Western travelers. The photographs are usually framed and placed on the wall to later imitate them to friends and relatives.
Departing from Borobudur meant another turbulent ride by bus to Banyuwangi – the easternmost town on Java, from which you travel by boat to Bali. Driving by local buses is incomparable to European standards. Seventeen hours in a vehicle that looks like it will break down into hundreds of pieces, spotted by speedy driving on extremely bad roads, something that faces most of the passengers in Asia.
Diving on the coral reef
But on every journey so far, every hard experience has led us to unpredictable situations and full knowledge of the country we were in. We both believe that every valuable experience must be earned by our own efforts, and once the experience comes, it is much more valuable than the energy we have invested for it.
The new turbulent journey brought us closer to Sophie – the young French woman we met at the beginning of a new trip. Sophie revealed to us that near the Banyuwangi there is a volcano Ilan, so we arranged a trip to the crater with her. All three of us were settled down in a cheap hotel, they were allowed to cheat on a hideous taxi driver and collapsed to bed in order to gather strength for the next adventure.
The three-hour climb to the volcano usually starts around midnight, so that before dawn, you can see the phenomenon of a blue lava, or an acidic volcanic lake that overlooks a blue overnight. Already at the base we felt the sharp smell of sulfur, which is in large quantities in the heart of the volcano. Fortunately, at the entrance we rented gas masks that made it easier for us to breathe. When we started to descend into the crater, the air assumed even more intense scent, and the rocks, like the other planets, appeared through the gaseous fog that surrounded us.
Waiting for dawn in an active volcano is one of those experiences that a person remembers all his life, and the concept of this world gets a whole new, more powerful character. Through the way, we are convinced that several dozen workers, daily in order to earn a living every day, climb to the crater at an altitude of over 2,500 feet on foot. There, they gather collectors of sulfur that carry in the village on their backs in baskets weighing over one hundred kilograms.
Gas masks are for them a luxury they can not afford, and the inhumane conditions in which they work lead them to an average lifespan of 47 years, when their body from inside and outside gets the appearance of a double-sized older man. Nevertheless, we were very surprised to see that all carriers are full of greetings and gladly salute every passer-by whom they meet.
The smell of sulfur on clothes, skin and hair, we brought with us to Bali – the most famous island in the world and the most popular Indonesian destination. The island is fully adapted to the western tourist, and most of the visitors do not remove it at all. That’s why we kept it very briefly, trying to spend time in the smallest and lesser tourist places, which makes Bali less abundant.
Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali
For the base we selected Ubud – a small town located in the middle of the island from which we could easily start exploring. Ubud was once home to numerous artists and bohemians. Today it’s an overwhelmed bastard with rugged streets, a host of stylish resorts and expensive stores. But just a few kilometers outside the city, the prices of handicrafts and souvenirs are several times lower.
In the south of the city there is a “monkey forest” that is local people of the world. Immediately at the entrance, each visitor will be surrounded by those playful animals, most of whom will try to steal something. That is why boards are warned to warn visitors not to try to compete with them, nor to look them in the eye because they perceive it as aggression. They should not be caressed or run for their cubs. As soon as these simple rules are followed, walking through the forest becomes a real pleasure.
The masses of tourists, especially those of the Australian, are coming to Bali in search of activities like surfing on the famous Kuta Beach or looking for spirituality modeled on the one from the “Eat, Pray, Love” movie. We were attracted by activities like jungle rafting on the Ajung River or the exploration of small temples like Goa Gajah – one of the oldest holy places on the island.
The sanctuary was built in the 9th century, and the highlight is the entrance to the cave that is carved as if it were entering the mouth of a mythological being. In the dark cave there are three lingues – phallusoid symbols associated with the worship of the god Vishna. A complete darkness in the cave represents a symbolic return to the womb, a very common motif in far-eastern religions.
Bali – Goa Gajah
Like most other passengers, we rented a scooter in Bali – the best means of transport, whose rent costs twenty kunas per day. This gave us freedom of movement and independence in the exploration of the islands. For a few days we had to adapt to the sharp and dangerous driving style in heavy traffic, but once we relaxed, we began to enjoy watching the world around us.
Soon we discovered that the Balinese people are very proud of the way of coffee processing with a unique production process. One type of local mammal called Civet loves eating fresh coffee beans but can not digest them. These unprocessed grains are collected by selecting from the feces, and they become the richest and most expensive coffee on the planet, the price of which can go up to $ 7,000 per kilogram.
Beach at Lombok
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world with over 250 million inhabitants. Due to its abundance, it counts a lot of cars and motor vehicles, which most passengers start to disturb at some point due to noise, and even the lack of living space. That is why we were especially happy when we left Bali on the neighboring island of Lombok, which many call unspoiled Balija, that is, Bali before the arrival of tourists due to similar landscapes and beautiful beaches.
At Lombok we enjoyed peaceful traffic, long beaches and exploring the culture of the Sasak tribe, which today makes up 85 percent of the island’s population. Waterfalls hidden in pristine forests, high palm trees and cliffs that descend into the sea beside the gentle beaches of Kuta (which only shares the name with Bali) have enchanted us with their beauty and originality.
Kuta Lombok beach
In addition to Lombok, there are also three small islands of Gili, which means “little” in the Indonesian language, attracting tourists eager for a peaceful holiday, which is not surprising given that the transportation of motor vehicles is prohibited and all transport is carried out by car or bicycle. The islands are also known for their tolerant law towards magic mashrooms, or magical mushrooms, which unleashes the sensations of spectacular sunsets that are often felt by the crowd.
At Gili Air, we decided to relax from the exhausting journey of the trip and to give up long-desired hedonism. We spent the day swimming in the turquoise sea, diving on the coral reef and tasting fish specialties at a local restaurant on the coast of the ocean. The evenings were reserved for drinking local Bintang beers and admiring magical sunsets.
Thanks to everything we’ve gone through, once again we have confirmed that the magic of travel is one of the strongest spells of our most beautiful moments and this time we managed to record the camera.
A spectacular sunset