Tag Archives: The road least traveled

The dwindling farm land

DSC_0273Bekasi is the fastest-developing satellite city of Jakarta. Since 2010 it has taken the fourth place in Indonesia’s most populated cities, as an impact of Jakarta’s ceaseless economic magnate power.

In international scale, it contributes to the Greater Jakarta area being the second largest urban sprawls in the world. Previously known as a thriving industrial area of Karawang, or Jababeka, it has now spread to, if not all, new concentrated zones.

Land availability in close proximity to the capital as the country’s center of economy attracts manufacture and facilities, while it also brings affordability for the home seekers in Jakarta who find themselves locked out of their city amid the astronomical housing price.

DSC_0261Peri-urban of Bekasi

This expansion brings consequences in the changing land condition with concern to sociological aspect. The rural area in Hurip Jaya village, Babelan district, is an instance.

A stretch of road was laid out through the farm that makes up the major proportion of land there. Sporadic houses stood on the roadside, the soil surface on the most part of the road left giant dusty air and carried into the houses as vehicles pass through, although scarcely.

At the other end of the road, concrete surface replaces the soil when a newly-built liquefied natural gas processing plant is located nearby. This bare infrastructure serves the onset of the modern energy production.

The recent path to industrialization takes shape at a dramatic scale. And it remains to be seen how fast and active the residents will react to social changes when this road eventually gets crowded. They are witnessing the transformation of rural to urban area. DSC_0259

Hidden tea hills

Tea plantation in Sukabumi, West Java

There are 11 major tea-producing provinces in Indonesia that contribute to the country’s seventh place in the world’s biggest tea exporters. At the top spot of these provinces is West Java with nearly ten thousand hectares of lands in total for tea plantations.

The province’s green scenery dominated by plantation in relatively high altitude is a correct assumption. But some are off-limits to the public, as they belonged to a privately-invested lands.

But given its large size, it is quite impossible to hide it from travelers sight. This one, for instance, is situated on the outskirts of the province’s capital city, Bandung. It hides behind Setu Patenggang, a natural spot popular for its sulfuric lake on a white crater at the top of an inactive volcanic mountain, Mount Patuha.

By continuing the uphill tracks beyond the crowded meeting point at the entrance of the sightseeing place, the stony path leads to the remaining of what used to be a lush West Java forest, before it shrinks to its current condition to make way for expanding population and the living space. Beyond these trees is an abrupt change of scenery.

An unhindered vista of flat and green tea leafs blanketing the surrounding hills was worth half an hour lonely walks from what was initially supposed to be a typical tourist visit to the white crater.

With a little sense of intuition, an adventure-seeking traveler is more likely to get what he/she wishes for, more than just seeing a crowded places on guidebooks.

But this gem could have been more available to public when the demand is as popular a commodity as it is in Britain, for example. With a population four times less than Indonesia, the per capita tea consumption is ten times more.

Although Indonesia is traditionally among the top ten tea producers globally, its national consumption ranked 46. Given the topographical suitability to plant tea leaves and the enormous size of land, West Java has a far way to get anywhere near its full potential, but the downside it brings is apparent.

Forest diminishes in favor of plantation. And as fast as the rate of deforestation, people must be aware of the price to be the first in agricultural commodity.

Eeriness crept as one took a walk down the narrow path that only fitted one body, and added by the mountain breeze that brought cold air at noon. The thick fog at the top of the mountains and the gloomy weather made it seemingly hard to tell the time.

Heart raced when the sound of approaching vehicle was heard from the distance, for fear of being caught by the patroling staff. This piece of land, after all, serves for business purpose, hence those who are not employees are barred from entering.

Tea plantation in Sukabumi, West Java

Westward desolation

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Centralistic government of the past and its marked downfall in 1999 has given rise to a system overhaul that offers autonomy rights across the vast archipelago of Indonesia.

Autonomous region was a new concept that garnered widespread support, and the amendment of decentralisation law in 2004 strengthened the notion that the crises-stricken country was making changes for a better future.

But years later, some said in apprehension that we may not be ready yet for such dramatic changes. The nation of 250 million population appeared to run in circle catching its tail.

The counter-effect

The once celebrated idea has been a cause for desolation. In many regions, development has gove reversal. This rundown house is the district government property used for a secretariat office for food and agricultural stock planning.

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This is a chain of the apparent dysfunctional system that surprisingly occured in Banten, one of the provinces in West Java, and in border with the capital province of Jakarta.

Dirt road like this certainly cannot sustain regional development. No passenger vehicle can cross this fragile wooden bridge.

There is a desperate urgency for paved roads that can bring materials to build villages, power lines, and access to the closest trade centers.

The local people overcome the distance by foot or motorcycles. The means of goods transportation has never existed.

The decentralisation law that granted Banten a separate administrative province in 2000 has yet to free the people from the westward desolation.Cikaso

What lies beneath the highway

Kapuk

A road built at your convenience

There are cases when highways are laid out at the expense of existing frail connections of particular areas. Prof. Dr. Ir. Sedyatmo toll road which connects Jakarta and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, for instance, separated the vast and living space in Cengkareng. The solution was building crossing bridges available to transport people and goods on motorcycles.

A similar case is the highway that connects Jakarta with Bandung. Commerce in Bandung took a great benefit from the direct access to the capital, in which travel can now be made possible in just two hours.

But some sections of the highway had to cross exisitng villages, splitting them into two sides. Due to the characteristics of an area—size, interaction, and movement—seeking generic solution of building bridges does not necessarily replace accessibility like it used to be.

Kapuk
A man heads home by trespassing the toll road on foot, a dangerous habit to his daily commute.

But interestingly, people always have the ability to adapt with changes in their living spaces. Such a land-conquest merit in the modern context is clearly shown in the way people make access to move around, finding means to support their homes, trade goods and services, and so on.

In Kapuk, one of the areas that constitute Cengkareng district, North Jakarta, a long section of highway crossed by without an off-ramp. This backyard of Kapuk can be described as the deserted area by the river where housing is unorganised, wild plants grew naturally, and access to anywhere cut-off.

And the surrounding people at the dead-end part of the village managed to create a way of their own, a reliable dirt road passing under the highway, capable of getting them on bikes to main avenues at the west. This is one of the few open and unmapped networks in Jakarta.

Talking about the integration of city transportation modes, one can find an extraordinary case in the backyard of Kapuk that will let many engineers dumbfounded. This is an example of an actually functioning and time-tested integration of land and water transportation means. The less than 100 meters length of dirt road will end up at a riverside.

Kapuk
A man in his usual working day offers river-crossing service by boat where two ends of the rope are tied on the two sides of the river. Crossing from one side to another is made possible by relying on manual labor.

 

An alternate road that cuts the distance to and from the poor and heavily populated area of Kapuk.
An alternate road that cuts the distance to and from the poor and heavily populated area of Kapuk.

 

A small passage under the highway.
A small passage under the highway.

TEAK FOREST OF WEST JAVA

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The three-meters-wide dirt road that spans 20 kilometers deep into the forest in Central Java has existed since early 90s when loggers began exploiting the area. The hidden activity increases during summer as the road mostly turn muddy in wet season, thus obstructing trucks transporting the lumber. The fact that the plain, green area of a hundred hectares in total size is labeled a non-productive forest, coupled with the Land Protection Act issued by the Forestry Department, have little effect on preventing illegal logging. The locals told that logging culminated between 2001 and 2003. Continue reading TEAK FOREST OF WEST JAVA

Dawn at silent hills

This is barely a road. That is why we call it the road least traveled. Trekking on East Asia’s prehistoric humans site, unremitting wind whispers an exclamation of silence at Zhou Kou Dian, 50 kilometers southwest of Beijing, China. Here are images during the trail to Peking Men Site.