Jakarta Part 2

Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
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Trip End Jan 28, 2005


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Fri Aug 06 - Day 96
The Republic of Indonesia covers a vast area, from Sebang off the northern tip of sumatra it extends virtually 5000km east to Meranka in south eastern Papua. From the island of Rote off the southern tip of Timor, north to its border with Sabah it straddles the equator for some 1,770km, making it the worlds most expansive archipeligo. Satellite photography has shown Indonesia to be made up of approx 18,100 islands, 6000 of which are uninhabited.

The five main islands are Kalimantan (Indo Borneo), Sumatra, Papua (western part of Nee Guinea), sulawesi and Java. Back on the IOM (Oh land of our birth etc), with a population of 75,000, 36 miles from top to bottom and 12 miles across, a trip between Douglas (the capital) and Ramsey is considered quite a trek (16 miles), so all these facts and figures fascinate me and I'm afraid you'll have to indulge me or skip to tomorrow (which you'll never reach).

The total land and sea area of Indonesia is 2 1/2 times that of the land area of Australia, but Indonesia's land area is only a little larger than Queensland, it's mainly sea. (Hang in there. Make a cup of tea).

So with so much to see, covering such a huge aera, and with the added constraints of a 30 day visa, attempting to travel overland, and a compelte dirth of onformation, route planning is difficult, frustrating and incredibly time consuming. (Beware! Fast approaching facts).

The fourth most populous nation in the world, Indonesia has a population of 232 million. Java, the most fertile island, contains 128 million, and is about half the size of the UK, so you can't travel far without bumping into someone.

In Jakarta, you can't travel anywhere without bumping into someone, it has a population of around 10 million, and attracts people frmo all over Indonesia, who come hoping to make their fortune. Most of them don't, so Jakarta is overloaded with slum dwelling desporadoes, people living in abject poverty, scratching a living rooting through the city's colossal rubbish dumps. Tens of thousands iof people do this.

Jakarta was a boom town in the 1990's with an explosive economic growth, noey pouted in and buildings and roads shot up. But within a few months of the 1997 monetary crisis Indonesia was bankrupt, and the ensuing human tragedy was swift and incimprehensible. In just one year the number of Indonesians living below the poverty line jumped from 20 to 100 million, nearly 5% of the population. Here, unlike Western countries, poverty is defined as not earning enough money to buy enough food to avoid starvation. 100 million people. So it's hardly surprising all this resulted in the worst riotung and violence for 30 years. Further unrest, the 2002 Bali bombing and last years bombing of the Marriot Hotel, mean Indonesia and Jakarta in partcular, have been tainted as terrorism hotspots, leaving the tourist industry shattered.

Being aware of all this recent history and desperate poverty, means you can't help but be slightly anxious and uneasy when in Jakarta. You become suspicious of everyone, which is sad but true. It's not anxiety driven by terrorism, it's driven by the fact we're travelling around a city full of people who have nothing, carrying all the usual tourist paraphanalia of passports, money and camera, because it's safer than leaving them in the hostel. You feel like you're walking round holding a placrad with $ signs and 'come and get it' written on it, which is absurd but that's how we felt. In the likes of beijing and Hanoi, it was wonderful to get lost in the maze of backstreets and alleyways, never quite sure at first how to get back. You daren't do that in Jakarta, as you feel you probably wouldn't come back.

Jalan Jaksa is pretty safe, even at night, many of the businesses on this street rely on backpackers custom, so it's in there interest to keep it so. There's a lot of warungs (food stalls) with charcoal fired flaming barbeques filling the street with smoke, and plenty of prostitutes trying to ease the loneliness and wallets of any single male travellers.

The 4am call to prayer no longer wakes us, but the thought of missing our free breakfast does. Hash brown, baked beans, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, thick white toast, and a big mug of tetley tea is what we prayed for. Old and cold thin white toast with some marg and pineapple jam (we think), a jokeshop rubberised fried egg and a small glass of footspa dregs tea is what we get.

We take a walk, in search of train information. It's an assault on the senses, like walking around in a ginormous greenhouse, full of traffic. The heat is opressive, the bumper to bumper vehicles are deafening and create a visible, heavy fog of pollution. There is a constant slight whiff of fetid sewerage drifting up from the pavement and by the end of the day, clothes are dirty and fingernails, feet and bogies are black. Apart from that, it's a joy.

As mentioned earlier, we have revied our travel plans. Instead of heading to Kalimantan first, we are travelling to Flores, then island hopping our way back to Java. Hopefully we'll connect with the ship to Nunukan (Kalimantan) which leaves Surabaya on aug 23.

Train tickets to Surabaya in hand, we emerge from the travel agents, a few metres to our left, tucked in by a 2ft high threadbare hedge that seperates the pavement from the buzy road, is a small birdcage. It's one of those metal wired, cylindrical songbird cages, that are so prevalent throughout S.E.Asia, the ones with a domed top. Inside, is a pitiful looking Slow Loris, which is a tail-less primate. It's mainly brown, with a distinctive black stripe down its back. It's a small primate, about 35cm long. he birdcage has a tiny container with water in, but no food. It's in full sunlight, right next to a busy, noisy, polluted road.

This totally unecessary buying and caging of unusual, threatened or endangered animals and birds is illegal, but all too common in Asis. It absolutely infuriates us. If we were Incredible Hulks, our muscles would be bulging and our shorts ripping at this point. But we're not, so I go back inside the travel agents and question the staff about it. After much incredulous laughter, they are totally bewildered as to why we would be even slightly concerned by an animal in a cage. I learn the owner of the Loris is the owner of the travel agents. But, they're not in.

By the way, the Slow Loris is nocturnal, feeding on insects, birds, small mammals, lizards, fruit, nectar and poolen and should be sleeping in trees during the day. Lorises walk slowly and deliberately through trees, but can move fast when hunting.

Having written down the owners name, address and email, we moved the loris into what little shade there was and spend several hours n the internet, looking up and emailing Jakarta based animal rescue centres. Fortunately or unfortunately, there's plenty. There's even a specific Loris rehabilitation centre, which just goes to show the scale of the problem.

Indonesia is one of, if not the most corrupt country in the world. It's widespread systematic, and deeply entrenched. The government is the largest employer, but the pay is pitiful, making corruption rife. The 1997 monetary crisis and corruption are the reasons why a country with phenomanal natural resources has a foreign debt of US$135 billion.

Angus had a dozen stories about unbelievably greedy officials, who officially earn US$200 a month, but are multi millionaires, creaming money from logging concessions and government building contracts. (I am going on a bit, but I'm writing this in Surabaya, whilst waiting 2 days for a boat. I'm just warming up so put the kettle on, and dunk a digestive. A milk chocolate digestive. Hmm. I can see it and taste it. Don't dunk it too long, it makes a right mess in the bottom of the mug).

There really does seem little hope for the wildlife of Indonesia, their habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate, and despite being fully signed up to CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) the trade in endangered species is a whopping US$1 billion a year. Again corruption is to blame, for a fee, logging ships leave Kalimantan unchecked and are carrying wildlife caught by the logers. These ships arrive in Jakarta and the wildlife is sold at Jakarta's Pasar Burung captive bird market. It is reported that on any day you can buy an orangutan or a tiger here. The going rate for an orangutan is US$50,000. It's big business, even in the sanctuary of the zoo, an official was caught selling a sun bear having falsified a death certificate.

It's a depressingly sad state of affairs.

We did everything we legally could to help the Loris, and did later receive an email thanking us for our information, and assuring us it would be looked into.

The rest of the day was taken up filling out and posting our insurance claim and feeding fruit to the Loris, who remained on the pavement all day. LAter, on our way out to eat, the travel agents was closed and the Loris had gone.

Expenses (Rupiah 16,500 / pound): Train tickets to Surabaya 440,000, accom 110,000, insurance claim admin 113,000, internet 18,000, fruit for the Loris 4,000, lunch 47200, book 35,000, drinks 6200, dinner 75000
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