|For our first stop, we found ourselves in Jakarta. There is a tour of Hidden Jakarta we elected instead of shopping or seeing Barry Obama's boyhood school, although I would have loved to seen the kids there. Twelve stalwart fellow cruisers join on. There are various versions of how many people are in Jakarta. Numbers range from 5 million to up to 20 Million, depending on who is talking, the government, the NGOs or people on the ground. Anyway, we opted to see how the uncounted folks live. Our guide took us down an alleyway worthy of any Alice in Wonderland rabbithole. Pitch dark with various doorways on left or right. The ground is wet but it is fairly clean, it seems. People live in these one room cave sort of affairs. There doesn't seem to be running water, but you might catch a peek of a 5 gallon bottle with a pump in the room... and the communal squatty toilet runs out, you guessed it, straight out the river running alongside. Am wondering if at this point fellow adventurers are looking for my head. One string of houses runs parallel to the train tracks, make that, right on the train tracks...you could look out to an alley on the left once in a while and catch the train hurtling by. But everyone is glad to see us for some reason, they all say hello or pagi back to us with big smiles. We try not to step on their flops that they leave outside their tidy cubicles, but they are hard to avoid in the wet darkness. Some do have electricity and it is actually legally acquired.
We jump into a local taxi which is a van with bench seats along the sides, no door. Very safe. We go out to the a market of sorts and again swap our mode of transport. This is a mototrishaw kind of thing. It starts to rain but Uncle drops a flap down to keep us dry so we can still see the traffic mayhem as he invents another lane out of the nonexistent shoulder. Good fun and only hits the curbs once. Turning radius is quite tighter than appearances indicate. Perhaps he has done this a time or two. The girls take to this like a duck to water and don't bat an eyelash. The smells aren't bad at all with an exception of one minor trash heap near the fish market.
Next stop is the old harbor. To get there, I think we are boarding a traditional wooden boat. It is in pretty close quarters but I am not too concerned...or is this thing bridge? Never mind, this is merely a ferry which these ibus (old aunties) pull along a rope to the other side. Maybe about 4 or 5 feet? But those or 4-5 I m not willing to swim, so no complaints. Here we arrive at long skinny wooden boats that take us around, akin to the long tails in Thailand...except without the long tails... To see the old big beamy wooden boats.
We arrive at the pier and Ronny our tour guide cum champion of the slums brings his study club on board and about 30 kids greet us and sing frer Jacques in 6 languages, including Polish?! And then we are off to the kampong.. These people have already been evicted off this property once and the housing was rebuilt we are told. Great, I am thinking! Then you walk around and they were provided with heavy gauge tent like Quonset huts. One good blow and they are gone, but they seem quite sturdy other than that. The whole scene is perched upon a gargantuan pile of rubble like concrete block and tiles bits. Not tiny bits, huge bits. I am not clear on what is going one here, but the people are extremely smiley and jolly and always smile back. There isn't begging here and it is remarkably clean in spite of the circumstances.
We dive back into the not inconsiderable Jakarta traffic melee in regular vans, this time with ten kampong kids with us. They will go to the port to see the ship which is something new for them.. The girls play violin Christmas songs for them at the port. They draw a crowd and even the polisi are asking for more. Since everyone there knows twinkle, and boy does a Suzuki student, we enjoyed a universal song to share and then we gave out candy canes with cards explaining them in both English and Bahasa, translation in huge thanks to Linda, one of our CC moms who happens to be Indonesian. All in all one of the great travel experiences with about a dozen of our shipmates and half the profits to benefit the local children.