A Wonderful Day At Tidung Island

I was supposed to go see the crater of an active volcano today. But my guide greeted me in the morning with the words, “The volcano is closed today“. Seeing the baffled look on my face he proceeded to explain that the department of volcanoes, or whatever it is they have here, had blocked access to the volcano due to high levels of sulphur at the crater.

I believe that the best way to experience a country is to move away from its cities, spend time in the countryside and meet the people there and do the things they do. With 17,000 islands Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. So it made perfect sense to go spend a day on one of the islands. I picked Tidung, a small island around 60 kilometers from the main island of Java.

Local fishermen in their colorful fishing boats were all over the place.

The first thing you notice on the island is the mode of transport. There are only motorcycles on the island. The village roads aren’t wide enough to fit anything else. With the result that public transport ends up being something like this.

If you look closely this is a motorcycle (a flimsy moped actually) split in half with a carriage replacing the pillion rider and the rear wheel. This is nothing new for me as we have these contraptions in India. What surprised me was the opposite. I mean keep the rear half and replace the front wheel with carriage. Like this.

They call this contraption “becak mesin” and I rode this particular one today, both as rider as well as passenger. If you notice it can have a pillion rider as well.

As a rider you get the feeling that this thing is going to fall apart any moment. As a passenger the feeling is a little different. And no, I’m not talking about the plank of wood with fabric that gives the appearance of a cushioned seat but gives your ass a whacking. I’m talking about the fact that you are right up front where the action is and the rider is safe behind you. If the rider crashes into something this thing becomes a canon and you are the canon ball. If something crashes into it then you become the air bag for the rider. Either way you are screwed.

In case you are wondering about the chances of a crash, consider this. It has no head lights. Really. Look at the picture again. Do you see any? However I did notice a light switch when I was riding it and asked the “cabbie” about it.

He pointed to this bulb next to the passenger.

OK, so if I get this right, this automobile comes equipped with a reading light for the passenger (who also doubles up as the front bumper), but has no head lights. Awesome. 😉

Anyways, I sat in the becak mesin as passenger while my guide rode pillion and the three of us roamed around the island. Here is a video.

At one end of the island is a bridge that connects to a smaller island. The bridge is called the “Bridge of Love” and walking it is an excellent way of enjoying the coral reef between both the islands.

It was sad to see that the wooden bridge was badly damaged in a number of places. Burnt actually.

I guess there are morons who think that having a bonfire on a wooden bridge is a great idea.

I believe you come the closest to eating the local food of a place not in a restaurant, but in someone’s home. I shamelessly invited myself over to my cabbie’s house for lunch. The man’s wife was extremely gracious in cooking for my guide and me at short notice.

I’m told this “cake” is a specialty of Tidung island.

The couple has been married for two years. Their wedding picture hangs prominently at the entrance of their home.

This is a picture of me with the couple in front of their house.

As we were returning back to the boat to take us back I saw this.

I think I had better not comment any more.

Today was a very simple and pleasant day for me in Indonesia. I had a wonderful experience on a beautiful island which made me spend some time thinking about the things we do and the people we meet along this wonderful journey called life.

  • ssweeney

    Very nice. Looks like a great trip.

  • Guruvardhan

    Deelip.. Just wondering what crazy contraptions these people might create if they had knowledge of CAD… innovation at grassroots level.. would be mind boggling… 🙂