Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 35 - Java

Guide shows us a Nutmeg Nut

Today we docked in Semarang, on the island of Java in Indonesia. We had breakfast sent into the room so we could make our early tour start.  Today's tour was called "Steam Train and Plantation."  We first took an hour bus ride to a plantation where they grow coffee, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, rubber trees, and a couple of kinds of fruit I have ever seen before. We took a walking tour of the main grounds where we saw examples of the various plants and trees, then saw how they shell and grind the coffee by hand.  Coffee, tea, and pastries were waiting for us on the patio for refreshment before re-boarding our bus.

Steam Train

The bus then took us to the train station.  This is also a train museum, with 21 engines on display.  There were also musicians playing Indonesian instruments in the station, as well as a number of locals walking around trying to sell us souvenirs.  They had batik bags, shadow puppets, hats, postcards, and a few other local items.  Years ago I might have bought something, but since we moved into a smaller house last year my first thought is now "what would I do with it when I get home?" 

Locals wave to the train as we go by. Foreground is a rice paddy

We boarded the open air train and took a wonderful round-trip ride through the Java country side.  This was a great chance to get an idea of what life is like for people who live on Java.  We saw rice paddies, people fishing in shallow ponds, and local villages.  All along the way people waved and smiled.

After the train ride we rode back to the plantation for an Indonesian lunch, then embarked on the hour long ride back to the ship. 

Fishing from a Small Boat

All of this was great, but the best part of the whole tour was the bus ride itself.  We were in the 2nd bus in a convoy of 4 buses with a police escort leading the way.  Java has a lot of traffic on 2-4 lane roads. Whenever the roads got congested, the police directed traffic either on our side of the road or in the oncoming lanes to move over and let us through.  We went through red lights and very often drove on the wrong side of the road, following the police lead.  

Red Police car leads our bus convoy

To make it more interesting, there are more motor bikes on the roads here than cars.  Ray & I managed to get the front row seats on the bus, just behind and above the driver, so we had a great view of the maneuvers. I got some great video of the ride. 

Without this police escort, I am sure we would not have made it to the plantation and back in the 6 hours allotted.

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