The Train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta (2/2)

Thirty minutes passed before the horn sounded and the usual fight to be first on ensued. A short while later we pulled into the large station at Cirebon, which was a classic old Dutch colonial building with wrought iron gates, stained glass windows and a large overall roof. After the usual hoard of sellers, beggars and other oddities roamed forth up and down the carriages awaking everybody in odiously loud voices we rattled off and soon most of us had passed out.

After a few hours dozing that passed for sleep, I awoke to find us riding over a very high bridge with a boulder strewn river underneath and rice fields rising up to misty mountains and everything dripping wet and green. For the next few hours it was a succession of small streams, viaducts, muddy little villages and rice and trees and all plant life running out of country. Very beautiful and dreamy, and many of the locals who were about seemed to be sitting around doing absolutely nothing except watching passing trains and the water run down the street and getting wet.

Came to the town of Pokawataroo and the engine was taken off for fueling causing more cries of dismay and disgust from disgruntled passengers. I saw some old rusting steam locos in a siding so promptly sodded off to investigate and was followed by a pack of kids who could not see why anyone would want to look at such things, and naturally tried to induce me to part with small change also.

After leaving, some of the local bands got on and roamed up and down the coaches expecting handouts for their dubious music skills. By the time the sixth one had come up and down a few times along with the rest of them, conspiracies were being hatched to eject them out over the next large viaduct along with guitars, bongos, ukuleles and other musical impedimenta.

Then there were the sweeper kids. Armed with a trashy old broom, they would run ahead of the railway cleaners – not difficult as they only appear at the end of the trip – and remove rotting food, dead roaches, wrappers, slumbering bodies, etc and also expect a gift too. Needless to say, we all ran out of small change very quickly so some had to miss out.

I was looking for things of railway interest and the first goods train we passed was a petrol train, though people seemed to have this mixed up with a passenger service as they were on the top, sides, buffers, inside and out of the loco, anywhere a spot could be found. Of course I began to enquire excitedly how I could also do the same, and soon.

We had a fast run for a change until arriving at Yogyakarta some 15 hours later. Another great old station and upon leaving we were mobbed by taxi drivers, tricycle operators and various horse and cart services. Later we were to take one and it cost about 1 dollar for half a day.

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Feeling very washed out, grubby and smelly, we escaped from the seething mess of humanity to a hermetically sealed, comfortable hotel with a pool. The first priority was beer, food and a shower. The dirt, mosquito and roach remains went down the drain and while it was a good experience no one was in a hurry to repeat our Indonesian train experience.

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Older comments on The Train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta (2/2)

Happy Hartono
14 September 2010

Having read your train travel to Jogja, I could almost believe that it was such a hideous train that I don’t recall of ever riding one in my entire 100 plus train travels between Jogja to Jakarta. But then, I remember what my friends used to say about daring to take economy or business class cabs. For 15 to 20 bucks more, you can get a treat of air conditioner, sealed from non-passenger daredevils, and a priority routing to only 8 hours travel with minimum chances of delayed departure. It’s titled The Executive Class by the train authority in Java.