After hours stuck in traffic due to detours caused by recent heavy rainfall and flooding, we finally crossed from South to North Jakarta to arrive at Muara Angke Port. Muara Angke sits between the West Canal and the Muara Angke River but it is far from being prime waterfront property. The residents have named it “TPAA” (Tempat Penbuang Ahir Air), which translates as, “the place where the last water is dumped”. It is the area where the sewerage comes downstream from Bogor and Depok and garbage flows downstream into the neighbourhood, where it collects under the homes built on stilts in the kampungs and causes flooding. Muara Angke fish auctions are also situated here and the markets are open daily from 2am to 9am and provide fish for all of Jakarta.
The kampungs are a maze of alleyways and the land is either filled with the shells where the ladies sit daily and open shellfish, or rubbish which can only be harming the residents health. The people are welcoming and hospitable as always but I can imagine that life here is not easy for them and there is no clean water so bottled water must be bought for drinking and cleaning every day.
The traditional wooden fishing boats are moored on an amazing web of bamboo piers which proved a little tricky to walk on with my shaking legs as there is no barrier to hold onto and the bamboo paths are narrow, although the locals are obviously accustomed to them and cross them with ease.
We all boarded on a fisherman boat and headed out on the short journey to a Thousand Islands, stopping first at one of the bamboo fishing areas constructed in the sea so that Boi could demonstrate his skills of spear fishing. I was in awe that he was able to dive into the sea with nothing but a mask and his spear and a short while later he surfaced with his first catch for the day.
A 15 minute ride later we arrived at Pulau Kelor (Kelor Island) which is a small island with no inhabitants (except for a few very hungry looking cats…), and although the area is not maintained and therefore has rubbish washed up on its shores, it is still a beautiful place to visit. It is surreal to be able to stand on an island of white sand when just a short trip away is the chaos and traffic of Jakarta and it feels like a whole other world. At one end of the small island sits the circular ruins of an old Dutch fort which was once used as a surveillance post to store gunpowder. It is a wonderful building with vines now growing up through the bricks and if you can manage to climb the walls to the top you can have a clearer view of neighbouring islands as well as seeing the outskirts of Jakarta.
Two kilometres from Kelor is Pulau Onrust (Onrust Island) which is a protected historical site. In Dutch ‘Onrust’ means “no rest” and this island used to be buzzing with people and activity as it was an old shipyard and port, but these days it doesn’t receive many visitors except for local fishermen.
The Dutch rebuilt their Onrust Island naval bases several times after attacks by the British fleets and in 1883, a tidal wave – caused by the eruption of the Krakatoa Volcano in the Sunda Strait – destroyed the last Dutch navy base in the island.
Onrust was used as a hospital in the 19th Century for people suffering from tuberculosis and was later used by haj pilgrims heading to and returning from Mecca. The old hospital now serves as a Museum housing artifacts, pictures and a minuature replica of what the island used to look like.
There are also the remains of the old Dutch Graveyard which holds the tombstone belonging to Maria Van De Veldes who died in 1693. Maria was the most beautiful girl in the area and an icon and legend has it that after she died she followed a young girl back to Jakarta.
There is also the remains of the old prison and although it is located in a very picturesque setting, the view of the torture room gave me chills and I can understand why visiting Indonesians won’t stay overnight..
After viewing all on the island, we headed to the pier to watch the beautiful sunset in peace and quiet before heading back to the hectic macet and noise of Jakarta…