Welcome to hell

This will be my post about West Java. Like I said, it was a very different experience from East Java. Very very different. There will be hardly any photos in this post. I was in no state to take photos for most of the time.

Day 33 – Riding straight into hell: This day was supposed to be easy. Get up early and ride for about 7 hours to Jakarta to catch an afternoon flight to Singapore and back to get another 30 days visa for Indonesia. Basically a 4 hour ride on country roads with not too much traffic up from Borobodur to a town called Tegal and then a smooth 3 hours doing 100km/h on the newly built toll road to cover the last 300km to Jakarta. Easy. I had booked a 4.30pm flight to Singapore which I would easily make if I got going around 7am in the morning.

Day starts off great, I’m on the road well before 7am and I make my way up towards Tegal and the north coast of Java. Piece of cake. Going through Tegal I even find there is an even earlier entrance to the toll road than I had thought. Lucky me, just saved another 10-15 minutes. I turn on to the toll road entrance as most of the traffic (which is already pretty heavy at this point) continues straight on the regular road towards Jakarta. I roll through the automated toll gates, pick up a ticket from the machine and off I go.

The toll road is a magical place. Two lanes each way, never more than 3 or 4 other vehicles in sight and 100km/h speed limit. So I just turn on the cruise control, sit back and start looking for somewhere to get lunch. I keep going for probably 20 or 30 km, having the most delightful of times, still only seeing the occasional car or bus. Maybe a truck every now and then. No motorbikes. And when I go past a road work people wave and everything is just great.

Did I mention I saw no other motorbikes on the toll road? Well. After those delightful 20 or 30 km, a toll road patrol car (kind of police, but not really the police) catches up to me and signals me to pull over. So I do, assuming they just want to take a selfie as per usual. Turns out motorbikes are not allowed on the toll road. After a brief discussion where I try to argue that my motorbike is so big and has so much luggage on it that it is practically more like a small car than a motorbike they decide that they need to escort me off the toll road. Escort me BACK off the toll road, to the very toll station where I entered… so that happens.

Just before we get to the exit, we stop again and they explain that I also need to pay a fine for bringing my bike onto the toll road, 250,000 rupiah (~$25). I give them the cash and my ticket and when we get to the toll station they sort everything out for me, so that was great I guess. Then they finally escort me another kilometer or so back to the main road where we stop a final time. They do in fact want to take a selfie with me. They could maybe have asked before they ruined my entire day… but hey, who am I to crush someone’s selfie dreams just because I’m grumpy. Selfie it is.

So here I am. Side of the regular road which is full of traffic and pot holes. I pull up my phone, open google maps and flick the “avoid toll roads” setting. BAM! The last 300km is still just 300km, but the time estimate has gone from a leisurely 3 hours on the toll road to 9 hours on the regular roads. It’s 11am, my flight is 4.30pm. And as will soon become apparent, those are 9 hours of pure hell. Anyway, I stop for lunch and reschedule my flight to 10pm.

Of the next 9 hours, less than 3 hours are getting to the edge of greater Jakarta, the rest is crossing Jakarta from east to west to get to the airport. Jakarta was recently ranked as having the worst traffic in the world (http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakarta-worlds-worst-traffic-gridlock/). It is really really bad. Much worse than the video I posted from Jembar the other day. If you have a car and drive into Jakarta, you’re basically screwed. You will get stuck forever, might as well try to get a job close to where your car is stuck because you may never move again. If you have a bike Jakarta traffic is basically shifting between tightly packed cars and trucks whilst dodging other bikes. And it’s 35 degrees. And the pollution is horrendous.

This is what it’s like (photo borrowed from Google)

Jakarta traffic is difficult enough if you are on a tiny 100cc scooter (which most locals are). On my 400kg (true story, bike+luggage+me) world-crossing behemoth of a bike it is really really hard. And a solid workout. The other down side of having a 400kg bike (and being utterly exhausted after about two hours going through Jakarta) is that when someone accidentally gives you a bit of a nudge trying to squeeze past you don’t just elegantly parry with half a foot in the ground and keep going. You fall. And because you’re on a road in Jakarta there is nowhere to fall but into something, like a car. You just hope the car is really cheap so the damage isn’t too expensive. It was really cheap, so I got out of there just $100 poorer. On my end I now have a nice streak of pinkish red down the front left side of the bike as well as no front left indicator and only half a clutch lever (great exercise for the two fingers that still reach the clutch)…

Through some sort of miracle I made it in the end. Exhausted, both mentally and physically. And caught my 10pm flight to Singapore.

Day 34 – Civilisation therapy: After the intense suffering that was crossing West Java and Jakarta I decided that 24 hours of civilisation therapy in Singapore would do me good. So I booked myself a late Sunday evening flight back to Jakarta, which gave me all of Sunday to just enjoy Singapore (I arrived late Saturday night) and all the civilised things it has to offer. Also one of my very best friends, Leilei, was in Singapore so it was a great opportunity to catch up with her.

Enjoying civilisation in Singapore, and trying out my newly bought hat

I had Swedish breakfast and fika (gravlax sandwich and semla), went shopping, had a really nice burger, went in several taxis without ever being stuck in traffic, had red wine (!!) and a very civilised time in all regards.


Day 35 – Leaving Java: After getting back late from Singapore on Sunday night I gave myself a slow start on Monday morning, taking the time to update the blog and make some high level plans for Sumatra. Then around lunch it was time to go back out to the hell that is Jakarta traffic…

It turned out much better this time, mainly because I was going out of the city and I was already in the western outskirts. Even so, it took me 6 or 7 hours to get to the ferry on the western tip of Java and another hour or so to cross over to Sumatra. Where it was raining. Really hard. So I found a guesthouse on the main road less than an hour from the ferry terminal and called it a day there. At least I’m on Sumatra now.

I’ll be back soon with some Sumatra updates, which will be much more positive!


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