In December 2010 I spent some time in Indonesia. After an exhausting Nepal trip, I simply needed some rest: Three lazy weeks in Indonesia, surfing it up in Bali and a bit of paddling in Java would be perfect. To surf was an experience worth while, as well as seeing the people and the culture. Though, after just one week I had had enough of laying in the sun, living a somewhat boring beach life, only waiting for good waves to come around. Hence I booked a ticket to Jakarta on the island of Java. Paddling was back on the agenda. Surprised? I believe not.
A fellow kayaker, Benjamin Herbrügger from Germany, is studying in Denpasar, the main city in Bali. Since he had already studied for almost half a year in Indonesia, it wasn't his first time kayaking in Java. Benjamin has very good friends and important contacts to get to the river. Lucky me, as it meant that for once I had nothing to organize. Together with Benjamin's father Gerd, who joined the trip as well, we could simply follow the locals and enjoy our trip.
Once we arrived in Jakarta, the biggest city and capital of Indonesia, we got picked up at the airport. The driver, a river guide from the local raft company called "Arus Liar" (wild waters), drove us two and a half hours to their raft base on the Citarik river. We arrived late at night, tired from the travel, but happy to be right there. Instantly upon arrival we stumbled to our bamboo bungalow situated right by the river and slept like little kids come home.
A typical Indonesian breakfast the next morning was served to our bungalow. Chicken, rice and vegetables. The exact same items as in the nepali food, but differently prepared and just much better. Delicious.
Since there weren't many foreigner kayakers paddling in Java, everyone wanted to paddle with us. Two rafts full of guides and locals and three local kayakers went on the Citarik river with us that day. We had a great time, paddling in warm water wearing only a t-shirt, gazing at lazy palm trees bending over the river and slowly passing the local people working hard in the rice fields. Watching their daily life from my kayak, I felt grateful for being able and allowed to enjoy the life I am living, although they seemed happier and more content than a lot of people in Europe.
At take out we got picked up by a big pickup truck owned by Arus Liar. Amazingly enough, all the people and equipment fit on it and it made for a fun ride back to the base. Once again we got really good, local food served for dinner before I showed them photos of my last travels to Pakistan, Nepal, Colombia and Chile. They were exited to see photos and hear stories from other countries, cultures and people, and of course they liked to see photos of running big waterfalls and paddling big rivers like Rio Baker. Only a few of the local people spoke english. Sweena, a 19 year old powerful and well educated woman translated my stories for the crowd.
The next day we paddled another river two hours away from the base. Again, it proved to be beautiful whitewater, only class three to four, but flowing through amazing canyons surrounded by palm trees. We had another amazing time on the water, the only negative thing being the bad water quality in the rivers all over Indonesia. It is a problem that is increasing, and I hope the local authorities soon will take the problem seriously.
The same evening we were invited for dinner by the family of the best local kayaker. It was amazing to be there. The family and most of the people in Java are muslims. This was the second muslim country after Pakistan that I have visited, and again, I was amazed about the friendly and open-hearted people I met. As a guest you're always welcome and your safety and comfort is their duty to look after. After dinner we watched the final soccer game of the Australia/Asia cup: Indonesia against the Philippines. Indonesia won! A great experience to share with the locals, even with a TV with really bad signals. It didn´t matter at all, as the enthusiasm I saw from everyone around me made me cheer for Indonesia as if I myself held an indonesian passport!
The next morning we had to say good by to all the nice people, promising to come back one year. Benjamin and Gerd flew to Thailand for a couple days of beach holiday, I went back for one week of surfing in Bali before heading to the next stop; the promised land of Patagonia.
Nookie Team Rider