I love spontaneous adventures and riding on trains so I couldn’t resist an opportunity to head to Bandung with Tri to take photos of trains crossing the bridge out in the countryside, and to enjoy a short respite from the chaos of Jakarta.
I have travelled by car and train to Bandung several times over the past few years and have viewed the bridges from the Tol Road and when passing them by train, but I have never had the chance to get up close and enjoy the scenery, so this was a rare opportunity for me, too good to be missed, and ended up being a very entertaining adventure.
Arriving at Gambir Station just after sunrise we realised that the train timetable had changed without warning, in true Jakartan style, so we had a few hours to kill before setting off on our journey. As soon as the train arrived and we settled into our seats and got over the initial excitement of the impending trip and prying eyes of fellow passengers, I fell asleep, only to wake up as the train passed through beautiful green rice fields and lush forests far away from the city and traffic.
To reach to our destination we had to change trains at Cikadongdong (this has to be the best town name I have ever heard of), which was such a funny experience. After a couple of hours travelling with no a/c or circulating air in the stifling carriage, we decided to cool off with a glass of Tehbotol at the local warung at the station while we waited for our next train to arrive. The warung owner, who introduced himself as ‘Miss Heni’ explained to Tri that I was only the second foreigner to visit Cikadongdong and that’s why I was attracting so much attention. Just as I began to enjoy my drink, Miss Heni handed me his mobile phone which I had assumed must be a friend of his that could speak English that he was smiling about, but when I spoke into the phone, suddenly I heard my voice coming from the radio blaring inside the warung. Adddduh, I was now on the local radio station being interviewed ‘live on air’ but I was so confused from the feedback that I had no idea what was going on! As we waited for our train, the DJ continued to make comments in Indonesian about ‘Shasha from Australia’ and he dedicated a song about falling in love to me, which was absolutely hysterical.
We had to squash onto the next economic train that arrived – there was not an inch of spare space inside the train as passengers sat on sacks of rice and other goods, half hanging out the open doors, but still the satay and other various sellers managed to continue to squeeze their way through the crowds to sell their wares. It was incredibly hot as we stood in the covered section which joined the two carriages together and I had to be careful not to get my feet crushed between the carriages.
After passing through a long and dark tunnel, and feeling the sweat as it dripped from my entire body, we finally arrived at Sasaksaat Station. Ah, sweet relief to have some air again, albeit, incredibly hot Indonesian air. We enjoyed a little ‘basa basi’ with the Station Masters and took more photos, before beginning the walk along the railway line to our final destination. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at a bridge and my internal panic mode automatically turned on. I could never cross that on foot, not in a million years! There was a road which passed beneath, followed by a deep valley, and the gaps between the wooden tracks were just enough to make me suffer instant vertigo. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea of the train timetable and I was afraid of what would happen if we were half way across the bridge and a train turned up. We wanted to reach the next bridge along, which was much more impressive and scenic for taking train photos, but how to get there without crossing the bridge?
After climbing down to the road below to stop for a drink of fresh coconut milk, we were told there was no other way to reach the second bridge without crossing over the first, but after a look of pure terror on my face, the coconut seller laughed and advised there was actually an alternative route, to walk across the valley.
We descended through a small village on the side of the hill to the excitement of young local children, passed over a small river and up the other side of the valley and headed towards the second bridge. The scenery was quite spectacular with rice fields to one side and many trees and bushes hiding another small river down below, where a small group of boys sat fishing in the serenity. Not long after we settled on a spot to watch the trains, a farmer crossed the railway bridge carrying a large load and then to my horror a train appeared from between the mountains and started to cross the bridge. We watched as the farmer turned back and luckily made it to a small safety ledge at the side of the track just as the train passed him. It was a huge relief to see him still standing there once the train has passed, but it confirmed my wishes of definitely not wanting to pass over any bridges.
The next morning was spent back at the bridge taking more photos of trains in the beautiful surrounds, and watching and chatting to railway workers who were stabilising the lines. Once again, not knowing the train timetable it seemed that every time I went to sit under a tree or go for a walk for some relief from the sun, a train would appear and I missed my opportunity to take photos, but it was still a great way to spend time outside of Jakarta’s macet.
The economic train from Sasaksaat Station to Bandung on our return journey revealed many more ideal locations and stunning bridges for taking photos but it seems the main attraction for passengers was my ‘bule’ nose, as the satay seller had everyone laughing and staring at me and making me wish for a speedy exit!
The Executive train back from Bandung to Jakarta felt like such a treat after spending a day sweltering in the heat, it had a/c turned up full blast so we were actually shivering, foot rests, power stations to charge our batteries, and enough room to have another good sleep before alighting from the train and straight back into the hustle and bustle of the streets of Jakarta as though we had never left…