20-Feb-2011 -- On maps it looks like 8°S 112°E shouldn't be too difficult to get to and in fact it turned out to be a drive-in confluence.
I was on my way back from Flores to Jakarta, and the town of Blitar made a good stopover between Banyuwangi to Yogyakarta. My plan was to take a bus from Blitar to Kediri, around 60 km north, and get off in Slemanan, about midway between these two towns. From there it was just another five km to Besuki, a village near the confluence, which I thought I could walk or find some short distance transport.
But arriving at the bus terminal was sobering. I had already learned that public transport in Indonesia is declining recently, since nearly everyone can afford a motorbike today. But this was a bit of a surprise: Only one single bus was standing there, still completely empty. At least its destination was Kediri.
I asked the bus driver if he could drop me in Slemanan which I looked up in Google Earth, but no one around knew a place with this name, just 30 km away on one of the main roads leading out of town. So the bus driver told me to better look for an ojek, a motorbike taxi, to take me there.
I didn't rave about that idea since I was still recovering from my last ojek trip from Banyuwangi to the Ijen volcano I did two days before. The road there, one of the worst I have ever seen in Indonesia, was even a challenge for a 4WD car. For two people on a 100cc bike it was impossible, meaning that I had to walk the steepest and worst parts of the road.
But while still thinking what to do next, a guy approached me and offered me to take me on his bike. When I asked him, if he could take me to Slemanan he surprisingly said: No problem! And on to Besuki? No problem! How much do you want for the trip? Up to you!
These answers made me somehow skeptic, he sounded like one of these guys who offer services and have no idea what to do - just to earn some money.
But fate or coincidence brought me to Mr. Sadali and his ojek and it turned out that this was the best what could happen to me. Sadali told me that one of his brothers was living in Besuki and apparently business on this Sunday wasn’t booming. So he was happy to do business with me.
And as if he could read my mind, we didn’t take the busy main road but instead we drove through sleepy suburban Blitar and scenic countryside. It was a pleasant sunny day with no sign of the rainy season that I had experienced on most days of my trip.
When we came nearer to the branch-off to Besuki, it became clear why no one in Blitar knew about Slemanan: The signs on the buildings showed that we were in Udan Awu, which Google Earth puts some km south.
The wide streets of Besuki looked quite deserted and in the whole village there didn’t seem to be a single shop. When we passed the confluence by only 100 m we found a small sandy footpath leading directly to the point that was located right on farm track.
The confluence is a nice place: rice fields mixed with sugarcane on one side, gardens with banana plants on the other side. A few people passed by, asking Sadali what we were doing there. Though I didn’t understand their conversations since they spoke Javanese, my driver apparently found satisfying answers, though I was quite sure he had no clue about what I was going to find there.
With a celebration clove cigarette on the point I tried to explain the “importance” of the zero point we were standing on. He politely tried to make a convinced face when I showed him these thin blue lines on my map. But as usual my explanations were nearly completely fruitless and left me misunderstood.
It was still quite early when we left the place. We went to visit Sadali’s brother, but he wasn`t at home. So Sadali proposed to visit the touristy places around Blitar. I agreed, since I had planned to go there anyway in the afternoon. So I could even move on to Yogyakarta in the evening.
We headed to Panataran, one of the biggest Hindu temples in Java and a dedicated Unesco world heritage site. The ride was just great. We drove through rice paddies and on shady alleys, over bridges still made of bamboo. A cliché of a peaceful tropical landscape one wouldn’t expect in crowded Java.
Panataran was not overwhelmingly interesting, neither was the grave of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia. Though these locations drew a crowd of Indonesians on their Sunday picnic, the guestbooks in both places showed that I was the first foreigner there in a month.
While the day had already become quite hot, I wasn't in the mood to visit the Sukarno museum, where, according to Lonely Planet guidebook, one could "check out his old Mercedes in a garage"! Instead I took a rest and in the late afternoon Sadali picked me up at my hotel and brought me to the train station from where I left Blitar accompanied by a gorgeous sunset in yellow and red.