Concrete Jungle

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April 17th 2015
Published: April 17th 2015
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Writing this blog, I realized that my second week in Indonesia has already past. It is amazing how many new experiences a person can have in that short lapse of time. I’ve gone through amazing “highs” and some tiring “lows”, all leaving an unforgetable impression.

On my real first day in Bogor I decided to go for a walk in the city centre. This was already my first “European” assumption about how the world functions. After trying to explain to several people what I was looking for, the word “shopping” finally got me in the good direction. Immediately, the right Angkot was stopped for me to take me down-town. The city is full of these mini vans taking you where ever you need, if you have time. The different bus lines sort of have a route, but always deviate to drop people off or try to fill their vehicle with more customers while making a terrible noise.

I found myself going through a typical neighbourghood with tiny streets called Kebun Kopi. Apparently, the city is constituted of this kind of villages which are attached to eachother by a few main roads. It didn’t take long until everybody knew a Bulé was in town. I have been offered street snacks and drinks and taken around the block by the locals eager to share their world with me. What a warm welcome. After a few hours, I wanted to go home and experienced for the first time what would be one of my lows during this week: if you don’t speak the language of the people you depend on to find your way back, you will walk long distances in this concrete jungle.

Java is the most densily populated island on earth and you cannot but notice it everywhere you go. The noise, the pollution, the ungoing traffic, the trash and this incomprehensible city can be quite tiring and several times I wished I could just have teleported myself. The main way of transportation here is by motorbike and for a few thousand rupiah official (or not so official) ojeg drivers will take you where you need to be. They have saved my life quite some times already, especially at night. Little did I know, the city kind of suddenly shuts down at 9 pm. Noted, life starts early with the first prayer at 4:30 am and also stops early. And it is highly unusual for a lady to walk the streets on her own at that time…

Ofcourse I also worked very hard this week, but I will safe that story for the next blog. I have been preparing my first field trip and I won’t bother you with the desk work I have been doing until now. In stead, I want to share my hiking experience to the crater of a volcano. The smell, the smoke and the water damp provide you with a mystique ambiance. For at least half an hour we (Florent, Diëgo, Rik and I) walked around in the crater, touched the hot water, fled the toxic fumes coming out of earth’s crust and observed the beauty of nature. That may sound really spiritual, but I guess that is the impact such an intrinsically dangerous place has on a human being. Just 30 kilometer away from the city (which takes you about 3 hours because of the traffic jams created by markets held on the main road, cleaver) you can experience a sceneray close to a lord of the rings movie. This was my first, but will certainly not be my last volcano as something about them attracts me and makes me want to go back. I think the photographs will speak for themselves.

After this “epic” moment on the Gunung Salak, the difficult task of going back home started. We asked several people including officials of the National Park how far it was and everything between 3 and 10 km in space and 1 and 4 hours in time was mentioned. Well, after a total of 7,5 hours of walking, half an hour of going down hill with 3 people on one ojeg (imagine two giant Europeans on the back of one tiny Indonesian driver going down the bumpiest road you can think of) and one hour of Angkot, I could finally go to bed.

This week I’ve learned that the adventure starts when you leave your front door and that it only ends when you are back home. Time and space are very relative terms, so you should just enjoy the ride and not think about it. Hence, that is what I do and it gives me a real sense of freedom.


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