Km 13861 – Melbourne, Australia
As we arrive in Bandung, we see several touring bikes in the courtyard of „community 108“. In two years, we didn’t meet such a community. Here, in the middle of Indonesia, on the island Java, a group of local cycle tourers is hiding. Every day, there is people in the community, meeting up, organising tours, making music, relaxing after bicycle excursions. Their travel reports cover many parts of Indonesia and some even have travelled abroad. One courtyard, a small café and even a room, especially for hosting visiting bikepackers. Here are a couple pictures from Florian Schmale , who also started cycling in Germany and whom we have „overtaken“ in Australia – but that is another story. 😉
In the same community we also meet Suci. She studies environmental engineering and tells us about a recent excursion to the city’s rubbish dump with her uni. Clearly can we feel the excitement of the 20-year old, she is struggling for words. What she saw there, is preying upon her mind. Every day 120 tonnes (one hundred twenty!) of trash are delivered from the city of Bandung. Every day! Suci says that this is the biggest problem that they have in Indonesia.
I am impressed, not only by the amounts of trash. But by her attitude and her involvement. She is starting a group right now, to search for solutions. She is a glimmer of light, a flicker of hope, a new generation. It will be a long battle, but Suci has started it, has done the first step. And because this development is coming from inside (not from Westerners with a wagging finger), I do have hope as well.
We are modest cyclists and usually don’t flow with the current of mass tourism. But sometimes our pathes cross and it can be difficult for us to be in the surroundings of splendour holidaymakers who would like to take the best pictures as fast and efficient as possible. Doing that they exclaim: „Everything is so cheap here, great!“, although they just paid ten times the normal going rate.
In the meanwhile we had some disappointing experiences with people (trying to) rip us off. In these places of the world the prices rise and – at the same time – the appreciation of the human counterpart drops. Just a couple days ago, people were constantly stopping us to take a photo with us. Here, no one takes notice, doesn’t shine unbelievingly, when we talk about our journey in the local language. How does mass tourism effect the people who live here? Do they learn arrogance and greed from the Western tourist?
At 6 am in the morning another :“Loom selvice! Coffee or tea?“ Aaarghh – when in this country will it finally be possible to sleep?
Since not too long ago a double pricing system has been introduced for entrance tickets. Foreigners now pay almost 7 times the price. We are sick of these methods. It’s not so much about the money. It’s about a global trend which gives every country (visa), every mountain, every beach and every water drop a price tag.
Would there be a sign at the entrance of the Ijen vulcano believably assuring that these massive entrance fees are invested into creating schools, education, social systems, pension funds and the improvement of democracy, I would pay with a pleasure. But these incomes vanish in the pockets of corrupt rulers. Riccardo, an Italian traveller, asked us at the top of the mountain as he saw the hard working sulfur workers: „Why do these workers still work under such conditions although all this money is brought here by the tourists? Why don’t they receive a small goods lift?“
The workers carry approx. 50-70 Kilos on their shoulders up to the crater rim and then down the mountain. I tried to lift one of those double baskets and couldn’t move the thing, not even a millimetre. I don’t know if I ever saw harder and such bizarre working conditions. At 2400 metres of altitude these men get up before dawn and work next to burning blue flames of gas, enwrapped by huge grey wads of smoke. They detach huge yellow blocks of sulfur with the help of a crowbar, then load up their baskets until they are full and start going down the vulcano.
In Bondowoso we get to know Jongki. He has a bicycle store and has lived in Australia for a longer period. There, he had three jobs. Two as a dish washer and one as a cleaner in a hotel. All together an 85 hours working week. A migrant who is a burden to the welfare system? For Jongki this was a chance to save up money to then start a bicycle store in his home country. Now he smiles at us and tells us about his dream to travel the world with a motorbike. What Indonesians are for Australia is what Turkish people are for Germany. The economy grows and there is a big need for additional workers. People who lend a hand. People who give their sweet and blood and transform the country into what it is today. Did anybody ever say thank you for that officially?