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Central Java Road Trip
Road Trip Through Central Java
In the summer of 2004, we took a road trip from Jakarta
to Yogyakarta (joke-ja-KAR-tuh) to see the place
from where Vero's family came. Getting there was not easy, and car was
still the best way, even though it meant 12-16 hours on the road one way
(airplanes and trains are options, but not particularly good ones) and the roads
are pretty tough in spots. But the road allowed us to capture all the
great sights along the way, of which this photo gallery is but a small
sample. It also gave some good insights to life on Java outside the big
This travelogue begins at the point where we left behind the industrial
complexes east of Jakarta, at the small West Java harbor city of Cirebon
(CHEER-uh-bone). The route we took followed the north coast of Java from
Jakarta to Semarang in Central Java, then south through the volcanic passes to
Yogyakarta. Some of these places may warrant a longer stop over in
|Central Java is
predominantly Muslim, and also very proud of its role in the
independence of Indonesia from Dutch rule in the mid-20th century.
Most cities on the route has a brilliant white Masjid and one or more
independence memorials, such as seen above. Most cases, the Masjid
was the best maintained structure in the city.
||From Cirebon to the
beginning of Central Java province, we hugged the coastline, crossing
over river after river. A number of such rivers harbored
traditional Javanese fishing vessels such as shown in this photo.
These wooden boats were incredibly colorful, but at the time activity
was low. Javanese fishermen typically head out to sea in the very
early morning and return mid-morning with the days' catch that they then
sell at the local markets or to larger distributors. (Much of the
fish sold in Jakarta itself is grown in modern nurseries.)
|Several of the cities also
had a central roundabout near the town square with a column like
this. They had a plaque on the side that listed 10 goals for the
town, things like 'quality services,' 'care for the environment'.
These 10 goals were virtually identical for each town. We also saw
a few sculptures of a hand showing two fingers, legacies of a 1970s
population-control program where the states was recommending all
families have only two children (similar to a program in China that
||This shot was from the
Central Java city of Tegal, on the coast east of Cirebon. Tegal
was one of the wealthier towns, a benefactor of a common Javanese
practice -- sending the eldest children to Jakarta to make their
fortunes and send the money home. Vero pointed out that a number
of street sellers around Jakarta are listed as "Warung Tegal",
roughly meaning "Tegal Food Stand." As street food is
still a primary means of subsistence across Indonesia, it doesn't take
too long before the money sent home is enough to fund the construction
of modern shopping malls like this one.
|But in between signs of
civilization were miles and miles and miles of these scenes -- rice
fields as far as the eye can see, worked by a handful of men and
women. It was planting season, and people were out planting the
rice the old-fashioned way, by hand under the baking sun. Although
it was mostly clear, it was so hazy that none of the pictures we took
caught the beautiful mountians in the backdrop.
||Once we turned south from
Semarang, the terrain changed from flat rice fields to thick mountain
jungles, and the cities largely gave way to small villages. This
shot was taken from one of the steepest passes, capturing the palm
forest below, and a Javanese man standing at the side of the road
wearing a traditional conical straw hat, the same hat worn by most of
the workers in the rice fields.
|This is Mount Merapi, the
largest active volcano in Indonesia, most recently erupting about ten
years earlier. At the top is a small billow of steam that was more
visible from the south side toward Jogja, an indicator of the potential
for future activity. Such would be a disappointment for the
Central Javanese, who have been given offerings for protection from such
events for many years, and whose faith was badly shaken after the last
||But Mount Merapi was not
the only volcano, here it is in the background with Mount Merbabu,
another volcano that is now inactive. Mountains like these lined
across the middle of Java like a spine, with beautiful plains in
between. About once an hour during the return trip, we stopped off
the side of the road to take a couple pictures, and respite for a moment
while the scenery took our breath away.
|This shot was taken from
the interior of Java island. The rice fields here are more
terraced, naturally, much like the paddy fields all around Bali.
The rice grown here was on a different cycle from that of the coastline,
much of it was already grown and nearing harvest time. There are
several varieties of rice grown, each with its own time cycle -- from
three months to six months. The longer the growth cycle, the more
expensive but the higher quality the rice.
||But the Javanese don't just
eat rice. Buffalo meat (daging sapi), chicken (daging
ayam), and goat (daging kambing) are also staples.
The cuisine is known as 'sundanese', encompassing Java and neighboring
Sumatra, and can be characterized as spicy-sweet, using chili peppers
and palm sugar among other ingredients. Buffaloes are also beasts
of burden in Java, but those buffaloes are usually black or brown.
Sadly, these white ones are bound for someone's dinner table.
Late May was a good time to go because the summer heat wasn't so
bad. There were numerous rest stops along the way with good quality
Javanese food and clean facilities. The only drawback was the
traffic. So much of the route was secondary road with no outlets, and
trucks dominate the roadway. Java is so spread out that the cost of
producing a true autobahn system is prohibitive, meaning that anyone wishing to
follow our route must be prepared for occasional slow-going and the risk of
significant delay. But don't let that deter you. It's a really great
Trip taken 31 May 2004 through 2 June 2004 -- Page last
updated 28 October 2006 --
(C) 2004 Tom Galvin