Early wake at the Paradiso Guest House, Surakarta, Central Java, in order to be on time for my train to Baniunwangi, a seaside town on the eastern tip of Java, the place where ferries to Bali are leaving from.
The air of the early morning is already hot: time to get some snacks for the journey and queue up in the already busy station. The crowd and the colours of the people reminded of those Indian train trips, another favourite of mine.
Indonesian trains are usually fully booked in advance, as the number of passengers is huge compared to the availibility of trains. there was no way for me to get a general class ticket, so i had to buy a AC one; 130.000 Rupiah (13US$), for an epic 16 hours journey through East Java. The epic thing was not about the lenght of the trip, but rather for the temperatures inside the coaches. I’m not used to travel with air conditioning, and i did’nt have any heavy clothes with me, resulting with me trying to sleep laying on the empty seat, wrapped i a light sarong.
As the train proceeded in its journey, the landscapes i could see through the thick foggy glasses were stunning: many beautiful shades of green and yellow, contrasting the blue of the sky and its white clouds. The occasional banana trees, popping out enriching this amazing natural texture.
Visually interesting subjects always get me hungry; luckily this train abounds with people selling food: old ladies are providing the passengers with light local delicacies, like deep fried tofu and little packets of rice, vegetables and peanut sauce, carefully wrapped in banana leaves.
On its way to the eastern tip of Java, the train has to do a zig zag itinerary, passing through the main coastal city of Surabaya. Red roofs and the top of the mosque, are such a classic feature of any javanese city.
Towards the end of the journey, the weather gets rainy and dark clouds are dominating the sky: i love this slightly eerie feeling, when all of a sudden the air gets fresher, the wind blows and the smell changes. The end of the rainy season is definitely a great period to visit this part of the country; the green is at its best and the temperatures drop a little giving you a bit of relief.
Once again, i think of how much i love travelling on trains: time stretches, one has more time to think. There’s no traffic jam to deal with, and the only movement is this relentless but sweet going forward, straight and smooth, from station to station, across places that one could’nt find back really easily.Trains take you through places where there are no streets; its windows frame the land with a different perspective. Little local children playing along the tracks say “hello” as you pass therm by, and the farmers dotting the green fields with their colourful sarongs, stop working for a bit and turn their heads towards the big metal snake on wheels, as if it was an ancient and respected god, walking through their lands once a day.