Travelling to the Baluran and Uijon national park in Java, Indonesia.

Travelling to the Baluran and Uijon national park in Java, Indonesia.

Having attended the Baluran nationalpark with my friend Wolfgang Mennig, I decided on doing the travel once again on a different route. This time I was to see the utmost west and east of the country. After some inquiries in the Internet and other preparations I set off. The starting point was Nimmanhaeminda in Road Chiang Mai in Thailand. At first I went by Tuk Tuk to the bus terminal from where I took the night bus to Bangkok about 680 km further south. At 6 a.m I arrived in Bangkok, from where I took the taxi to go to the airport Survanabumi. The flight via Kuala Lumpur started at 11.10 am and at 6.30 p.m we landed in Surabaya in Java. There we had already been expected by a taxi which had been ordered by Rosas Ecolodge and we set off on a 4 hours ride to Sitomuljo in the west of Java. Well shaken up and bathed in sweat due to their unconventional way of passing other cars when there is oncoming traffic, we reached Rosas Ecolodge at 12 p.m. There we were heartily welcomed from the Ecolodge team and after a hot cup of tea we made our way to the well-earned night rest. To save money I travelled more than 28 hours for 3500 km. The next afternoon we set off to the Baluran national park 20 km further. There you can still watch a big variety of animals like peacocks, green jungle fowls, eagles, wild doves, little birds, deers ,Bateng-cattle, monkeys, waran, mungos among others. The best time to watch them is in the morning at 5 a.m and at 4 p.m in the afternoon. Packed with many good photographs and video tapes and nice memories we left the east of Java. We decided on going from Banyuwangi via Surabaya to Jakarta.

The taxi made one hour for the 30 km to Banyuwangi. Then we got on the train to Surabaya which took nine hours, three more than announced, trough this scenic distance. After that I changed my plan at short notice and went to the airport of Surabaya, where we luckily could get hold of two tickets with Lionair for Jakarta where we finally landed at 23 p.m. At the exit it was teeming with taxi drivers offering their service.

After some skilful negotiations a taxi driver agreed to bring us to a hotel in Jakarta. The next morning the journey was supposed to go to Labuan on the west coast of Java. As promised, we started at 10 a.m to Labuan 120 km further west. The distance we covered in four hours after having inquired several times for the way. My legs were hurting from braking continously, since I was virtually the driver,for the indonesians are fond of passing other cars when there is oncoming traffic.

It did not even saved my teeth for all the holes in the road. I think the best thing to do is to be equipped with a teething ring to smooth the pain. At 2 p.m we arrived at the park administration of the Uijon Kulon national park. There you get the permit to enter the park and where you plan ahead the journey. Besides, a ranger was put on our side to accompany us through the park. The administration office helped us with our further planning. They ordered us a fishing boat with a crew which were to bring us the following morning from Sumur to the Peucang island. The island is 450 hectare big and one of the westernmost points of Java and approximately 500 km off the mainland. I learned from the internet that you have to provide yourself with provision and so we met our needs still on the same day with fruits and biscuits, since we intended to stay for four days. We found accommodation near to the park administration which was not excactly clean but the only one on the spot. The next morning the journey was supposed to continue in a mini bus which only circulates to Sumur in the morning. Towards five o'clock we were already well packed at the bus stop. A passing mini bus stopped and the driver made us the offer to go with him for 300000 IR, what is equivalent to 20 Euro, to Sumur and I agreed to it. The driver who is normally in charge of the local traffic in Labuan changed his route without further ado. We packed our equipment into the little bus, the spare wheel served as lock for the door and off we were. Before long the driver asked me to sit on the front seat in order to show him the way. Oh, that was not unknown to me,since many drivers are illiterate but nevertheless fight for every order. It was good that I had made some preparotry work, had a good map at hand and I knew the villages of our passage. It was raining heavily and the holes in the street were that deep that I thought one of the axles would soon break up.

After a three and a half hours ride and 73 km we arrived at the fishing village of Sumor, where the national park of Uijon Kulon starts. The Bemo driver, having received the money went straight into the nearby shop to spend part of it on shoes, cigarettes, biscuits and other several things.The ship owner awaited us with a hot cup of tea and bananas baked with milk from coconuts. Then the owner tried to haggle over the price which I fortunately had fixed before at the park administration.Our provisions consisting of cigarettes, water, food-stuff and fuel for our stay on Pecuang Island had been put on board, after we severally pressed for the loading to be done. Some things were also destined for the little office on the island. For reasons of the rain season and the ensuing troubled sea the boat was supposed to ferry us over to Pecuang Island and to remain with the crew until the return journey. Towards 11o'clock arrived our ranger who was to accompany us on our trip. Our equipment was put into a little fishing boat in order to be carried to a trawler, 12 meters in length.

In Sumor there is no port for which reason the boats lie at sea. Having stowed away the equipment we waded our way back with the water up to the naval to the little boat and climbed into it by way of the crew. My thought was for the photo-and video equipment and I was very happy to get to the trawler safe and sound. There they put life jackets on us. We set off with rain and a troubled sea. I did not dare to take out my precious equipment and merely took some photographs with a small spare camera. We made the passage more or less along the coast to Pecuang. On the island are two guesthouses apart from a ranger station where are always three up to five persons. After three hours and 56 km at sea, the boat berthed at the landing stage of Pecuang. I felt relieved. On the passage the ranger showed us the areas of the national park where the Java-Rhinoceros and leopards are living. After a short look round the accommodation which merely consisted of a mattress and a toilet A big water container in a stone wall served as shower and water-closet plus ladle. Having judged it we set out for the boat to get on the mainland 500 meters away. After a short walk through the mangrove swamp we came to a clearing at Cidaon. If you are lucky you can find there Bateng cattle or green peacocks. In West Java we had rain season and it kept raining incessantly and to make matters worse they were about extending the savanna. My mood has sunk to rock-bottom since there was a report that the mating season was going on and the birds were in the middle of moulting. The ranger in charge of the savanna informed me that he would restrict the time from 8.30 to 16.00 in order to give me the chance of watching some animals. Once again we set out for the Pecuang Island, had some biscuits and went to bed. The following morning we set out towards four o'clock with a little motor boat for the savanna.Despite heavy showers we had luck to watch some Banteng cattles and peacocks. Furthermore we could see a huge number of flying foxes, deers, Batengs, warans, wild pigs, Beos, wild doves and rhinoceros birds whose beat of its wings reminded me of a swan. What turned out to be very nasty were the inumerable mosquitos which you can not bear without proper precautions. We called at the mainland about four times and on the second last day we were happy to see the sun for three hours at last. I believe, we had not really been dried off during the four days we spent there. Our food consisted of water, biscuits and some plates with rice and fried eggs which the ranger kindly prepared us. We are used to plain fare, but sometimes it can get hard if you are a vegetarian. After four days we began our homeward voyage in the morning at 6.30. The sea was so troubled that not only we the passengers but the crew including the skipper and the ranger had to put the life jackets on. Once again I was worried about the equipment and our lives as well. Fortunately I had nothing for breakfast and we pulled in at Sumor after four hours, safe and sound but rather pale. Back in Sumor, the first thing I had to do was to get my back on my feet again, since I was so terrified from the passage. A hour later we found somebody who brought us back to Jakarta via Labuan where our ranger was at home. The driver mastered the distance in an absolute record time of four hours without using the fourth or fifth gear but therefor at full throttle in all the others. Around 4 p.m we reached our hotel in Jakarta and adapted ourselves again to our normal life. Before going on our homeward journey to Thailand three days later, we had attended the zoo and a bird market in Jakarta. In the morning we took a taxi to the airport. At the counter of Malaysian Airlines they kindly informed me that the airport of Bangkok, Survanabumi, was out of order for strike. I should drop by on them the other day to see if the situation may have eased.

I had an uneasy feeling and was determined to go back to Thailand and to examine my photo material after two and a half weeks in Indonesia. I decided on going to Kuala Lumpur, from there to Phuket and proceed to Chiang Mai,howsoever. I reached Kuala Lumpur without any trouble and was lucky that they altered my booking for Phuket instead of Bangkok. At nine in the evening we made our landing in Phuket but from there was no more way to advance to North Thailand. Tickets were no more available or the airports in question were also out of order. A taxi brought us to Phuket town to find a place to rest. All we wanted was sleep and to see what the next day would bring. In addition to all that I had caught a flu, caused by the wetness in the national park and the air- condition at the hotel in Jakarta. The next morning a hotel porter provided us one of the last available bus tickets to Bangkok. The bus took 13 hours to the southern bus terminal of Bangkok, from there we headed with a taxi to the northern terminal where we immediately bought the tickets to Chiang Mai, and off we were five minutes later. Twelve hours later and 25 hours altogether in a row we were glad to be back home again.

The national park of Kulon I will attend once more, but not during the rain season. It is paradise- like with a crystal sea, and on Pecuang Island deers and wild pigs are that tame that you can feed them with your hand. I have already seen some reserves, but I have never seen so many animals as in the reserves of Java.