Trains Go Really Fast

By Jane Mountain | June 17, 2014

14,974 km so far.

It was without an ounce of regret that we jumped on the train this morning to head out of Jakarta.

We knew we’d made the right decision as we watched the crowded streets of Jakarta sail by for what seemed like hours. I didn’t want to be down there on my bike.

For a short time we passed through upscale neighbourhoods with mansion-like houses and tree-lined streets. But more often, we saw slums, where the streets were bare dirt and the houses made of discarded wood and corrugated steel. While the rich hide inside their homes, presumably with the air-conditioning on full blast, the poor take to the streets, chatting with neighbours and living their lives as part of a community.

It would be hard to say who is happier.

Moving Without Moving

Having risen at 6am, it wasn’t long until the rocking of the train lulled us into sleep. The feeling of being asleep and moving forward at the same time is a rare and beautiful experience for cycle tourists. In case you didn’t know, trains go really fast compared to bikes, and they do not tire your legs out at all.

Once out of Jakarta and its urban surroundings, we passed through some awesomely beautiful landscape in the centre of the island. It is mostly given over to rice paddies, colouring the world bright green. As if to make the scene as picturesque as possible, workers in the fields wear hats and clothing of bright orange, red, and blue, making the scene look like the paintings we’d seen in Jakarta at Gudang Gambar art gallery.

Of course, the window of the train was filthy, so I didn’t get any pictures. If we could have been on our bikes for this section of the journey, I wouldn’t have minded at all.

This one's for the ladies.

This one’s for the ladies.

We were both nervous about our arrival in Yogyakarta. Would we be able to find the cargo office? Would our bikes be there? Would they try to charge us an extra fee? Would something completely unexpected go awry?

As it turns out, a few helpful guards pointed us in the right direction, and just outside the train station, there were our bikes, sitting with a dozen motorcycles, all wrapped up in corrugated shipping cardboard.

Our bikes, all wrapped up and waiting for us. Like Christmas came early!

Our bikes, all wrapped up and waiting for us. Like Christmas came early!

One of the workers at the freight company helped us remove the packing from our bikes and we were on our way. What a great service!

Remember, just email us and we can give you the information needed to do this yourself should you be headed this way.

We All Have Problems

After such a smooth and easy day, it was only fitting that something should go wrong. For the life of us, we could not find the homestay I had booked last night.

The homestay should have been on one of the dozens of back alleys in a residential area, an accurate map of which doesn’t exist. It just didn’t seem to be where it should be though. As we rode up and down tiny, narrow lanes, none of the half-dozen locals we asked knew what we were talking about.

Cue the “discussion” about whose responsibility it is to make sure we have the address, phone number, multiple copies of maps, and other failsafes in case the point we’ve marked on the map isn’t enough to get us to our destination. Sure, I booked the hotel, but navigation is Stephen’s responsibility, so who is at fault? Both of us, of course, since by now we should know that nothing is ever easy to find in Asia.

With frustration mounting, we made the smart decision, temporarily abandoning our search in favour of dinner.

On full bellies, we stopped in at another hotel to use the WiFi and search for the homestay’s phone number and address. No one answered the phone though, and the address didn’t help much, since the maps don’t show the names of any of the backstreets. Sigh.

Turns out, what we really needed was the Indonesian name of the place. In English, it’s called Mango Tree, but the full name is Mango Tree Dipudjo. We headed back to the right neighbourhood and asked people for Dipudjo Homestay. That did the trick. A man on a bicycle said “follow me” and away we went right to the gate.

Our earlier search had had us within 50m, but we’d never come down the right alley.

The Dark Night

There were no lights on at the homestay, and initially I thought it was closed. But then we saw some candles burning and realised it was just a blackout. By flashlight, the owner showed us around, gave us a safe place to put the bikes, and took us to our room.

In the dark it looked pretty good, and we had prepaid, so we couldn’t really back out now. Despite being past 8pm, it was still hot and humid outside. Unfortunately, without power, we couldn’t use the AC or take a shower – not even a cold one.

It’s amazing how you can pass through the slums in the morning, thanking your lucky stars that you were born when and where you were born, and by evening be whining that there’s no air con or water for a shower. How quickly minor misfortunes can wipe out our gratitude.

Doing our best to not feel sorry for ourselves, we dug out our headlamps from our packs, and made makeshift lamps by sticking them inside some (empty) water glasses. Then we filled up a couple of our water bottles and each took a quick bathe in drinking water before lying down to watch TV on our laptop.

By the time our show was over, the power was back on, the room was starting to cool, and we were ready for sleep.  

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Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

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