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A journey to the village of Ciptagaler - Part 1

sunny 20 °C

The original plan was to visit the Baduy, a tribe located in West Java who have long managed to resist the cultural influences associated with Dutch and Japanese colonialism, as well as the sustained globalization project courtesy of the US. They have largely managed to exist outside of the Indonesian state, too, as both the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno, and the second president, Suharto, greatly respected – perhaps even feared – the Baduy. Unfortunately, however, the Baduy were refusing people entry into their villages. This was due to them celebrating some kind of festival. This news came as a great disappointment.

However, my friend, the anthropologist whom I was supposed to be travelling to Baduy with, told me that there was an alternative: Ciptagalar, which was located in South West Java. First we would travel from Jakarta to Bogor by train (a one hour journey). Then, we would take the bus from Bogor to Pelabuhan Ratu (a four or five hour journey), where we would hire a driver, who could navigate us through the surrounding forest, and then up a mountain (another several hours drive).

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The trains in Jakarta form the most useful form of daily transport for those travelling to and from neighbouring cities and villages, which millions do each day for work. Many of the trains have no doors or windows, and during rush hour, it is not unusual to see the roofs of trains filled with people. I took these pictures at approximately 10.30 am when rush hour had long since passed.

Upon arrival in Bogor, we took the Angkot to the bus station, and then the bus to Pelabuhan Ratu. The bus was small and uncomfortable; however, we were treated to a variety of musical performances by several young gentlemen out to put coin in their purse. This eased the journey.

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We arrived in Pelabuhan Ratu at approximately 6pm.

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A small town in South West Java, I cannot imagine that Pelabuhan Ratu attracts many tourists. Certainly, the only faces I saw were Indonesian, mainly ethnic Sundanese. The town consists of shops, streetfood, waroong, and more shops. It also has a beach and some excellent markets, including a market renowned for its seafood. Unfortunately, the markets had closed by the time we arrived, so we filled our stomachs in a waroong and contacted our driver.

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We were then told that he couldn't pick us up until 1-2 in the morning, so we had to wait. With this news, we decided to take to the streets of Pelabuhan Ratu and have a look around. Friendly faces, as per usual in this country, were abound.

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The above custom seen in these pictures is what people call a “Durian Party”; or, at least, that is what it translates too. The event consists of a selection of fellows and maids on the street, gathering and socialising around the infamous Durian. The fruit is eaten, although let it be said, the Durian is feared as much as it is revered. Indeed, the Durian is a peculiarity amongst fruits. Called the “King of Fruits” in these lands, the pungent odour cannot be equated with any other fruit in existence. On the markets, on the streets, wherever Durian might be (and there are entire restaurants and waroongs dedicated to the fruit here) the stench is all-encompassing. As for the taste - sweet, sugary garlic, with the texture of gunge and goo - it is weirdly delicious. The Durian has been known to murder people, too. Much larger than the coconut, the outside shell consists of spikes sharper than most knives. A Durian which falls from a tree and lands on the human head, therefore, spells certain death. Films have even been made about it, and Jakarta is often referred to as "The Big Durian." Further still, eating enough Durian also has the effect of being drunk! What a champion fruit!

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We were tired and the wait was long, so we decided to book ourselves into a hostel. This was a questionable establishment at best, although it enabled us to sleep for a couple of hours.

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Eventually, our driver arrived. I cannot remember precisely when, but it was around two in the morning. We drove for a couple of hours through darkness, and so I was completely unaware of the beauty of the surrounding land. Before long, we had some kind of technical problem with the jeep. I felt really ill at this point. I had hardly slept, I felt weak, and the journey in the jeep was genuinely painful. Finding a house, we asked for aid. At this point it was still dark, maybe around four in the morning, yet the family within endeavoured to help us. They offered us the opportunity to sleep for a couple of hours while the driver attended to our vehicle. I accepted the offer with all haste.

Upon waking, light had dawned. I had slept for just over two hours. The house we had slept in resided beside a track within a forest.

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After taking some pictures, gathering our belongings, and thanking the family who had aided us in our time of doom, we continued our journey, ascending through the forest.

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We arrived at Ciptagelar at approximately 7.30 am in the morning.

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The pictures I managed to collect are no reflection of Ciptagelar's picturesque beauty. This caused me a great disappointment, so much so that I have recently splashed the cash on a superior camera. It is a village which has only very recently begun to feel the affects of modernity, and the people there have a great understanding and compassion for their own land. They grow and eat their own rice and vegetables; and catch their own fish. The village is located in the highlands of Southwest Java, where the surrounding valleys, forests, and villages are the closest thing one as experienced to The Shire (from Lord of the Rings) or Link's home village in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

For now, I must leave you, but I will return shortly with various pictures and tales from my journey in this little-travelled, alien village known as Ciptagelar.

Posted by dabey 23:15 Archived in Indonesia

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