I have to admit, Indonesia wasn’t at the top of my long list of places to explore in South East Asia. Although certain areas of this country have caught my attention, the real reason I spent 1 month traversing the islands of this nation was due to the fact that I had a friend living in Jakarta at the time. Enjoying the expat life with her husband and 2 kids (now 3!), I have always wanted to visit her and her family abroad. And what better way to explore a country than with the guidance of someone who lives there?
While visiting my friend E in Jakarta, she signed us up for a hiking trip into the gorgeous Javanese countryside. The tour was through a local grassroots, ecotourism company called id Guides. Always on the lookout for unique experiences, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take part in this one-of-a-kind and literally, off the beaten path experience. This hike provided a welcome break from the busy metropolis of Indonesia’s capital city and also a wonderful introduction to the country.
About id Guides
id Guides helps to promote ecotourism in Indonesia through many avenues. One of their main projects is training locals to become guides in their region, thus adding value to their natural world. id Guides also does training through outdoor education courses and expeditions.
E and I decided on the Easy Escape Jakarta day hike. I was happy to learn that half of what we paid goes directly back into the community we hiked through. What made our hike unique was that we had a local guiding us through farmers fields and back country roads that would have otherwise been inaccessible to us tourists.
Our day started early as we took a 90 min taxi ride out of the city and into the lush green countryside. Meeting our guide Budi at the designated truck stop along the highway, he guided our taxi another 15 min down the road. Eventually we pulled off the highway and onto a dirt road, winding its way through the countryside. Budi soon stopped next to a farm and we paid our taxi driver who made a hasty retreat back to the city. This seemingly random spot was the starting point of our hike.
Our guide, who had grown up in this village community, began leading us right through a rice paddy along a narrow dirt path, belonging to the farm. Feeling like I was trespassing onto someone’s property, we made our way into the forest and found a hiking path. Every now and then I caught a glimpse of the beautiful hills and rice terraces through breaks in the trees.
Never knowing when we were on communal roads or someone’s private farm land, E and I faithfully followed Budi. It quickly became evident that in order to do this type of trek you most definitely required a local to lead you. This wasn’t a hike you could do on your own with a map.
The scenery was nothing short of spectacular! I stopped often to take pictures and admire the views while taking sips of water from my water bottle. The weather was hot, humid and sticky but every now and then a cool breeze would sweep up the valley and into my face.
Over the course of a few hours we walked through rice terraces, down dirt roads, across bridges over rushing mountain streams and up high on mountain ridges. Sometimes we would see workers bent over in the rice fields, hard at work. They would often cast us strange looks as I’m sure they were wondering who we were and what we were doing.
As we made our way through tiny villages (really nothing more than a small collection of houses), children would come outside and say a shy “hello” to us, this being the only English they knew.
I have no idea how our guide knew the way, but he never once hesitated in leading us. Eventually we arrived at a picnic area with bathrooms that the company had set up for hikers to use. Covered in sticky brown earth from trekking through the muddy fields, our feet aching and t-shirts sweaty, we quickly took a seat at one of the tables. My friend and I pulled out a picnic lunch from our bags and enjoyed a welcome break.
The Ride Out
At this point we had been hiking for approx 4 hrs. We had initially signed up to do an all day trek and still had another 2 hours to go. With me still feeling the effects of jet lag and my friend a few months pregnant (something I learned only the day before), we made the decision to end our wonderful trek. Our guide was more than accommodating, offering to return us on the backs of motorbikes to a more populated village near the highway where we would be able to catch a taxi back to the city.
Now this was one of the most enjoyable parts of my entire trip and another great introduction to the public transportation system of Indonesia! Motorbikes are more prevalent than cars, something that seems to be a common thread throughout all of SEA. Catching a ride on the back on one is as normal as calling a taxi in North America.
It only took about 5 min for our guide to arrange the motorbikes and have them at the picnic site. My friend jumped onto the lead motorbike with our guide while I figured out just what to hold onto behind the driver of my motorbike (another guide from the company). Soon we were off, bumping down the narrow dirt road, riding through the beautiful countryside. We passed through a few small villages as the road eventually turned into a paved single lane.
Arriving at a road side attraction (closed for the season) on the main highway, my friend and I jumped off the motorbikes and gave a heartfelt thank you to our guide for such a wonderful day. Slipping into the back seat of our taxi, E and I were thrilled and thoroughly exhausted from the days trek. I settled into my seat as jet lag took over and began to doze off while thinking what an incredible country Indonesia is. I was thrilled that I still had another full month of exploration ahead of me.