I'm really not sure whether this ought to be described as a trip report.  In truth it was half sight-seeing holiday and half steam
bash but since Java is now one of the very few places in the world offering opportunities to photograph real working steam
and with the intention of encouraging others to go where I have been, here are some notes, observations and anecdotes to
embolden the intrepid traveller.  Whilst an experienced guide or tour operator may make life extremely easy, it is still
possible to visit all of the remaining steam operations on the island and to access all areas with a little knowledge and a
degree of enterprise.

Having had the misfortune to entrust my safe delivery from London to Jakarta with Gulf Air in 2004 it was with great relief
that I stepped aboard an Etihad flight from Gatwick to Jakarta via Abu Dhabi on this latest occasion.  The standard of the
airline and quality of service, even to those travelling in 'cattle-class', was exemplary and the price was way below all
competitors (except Gulf Air - of whom I have no wish to speak anything but evil!)

On arrival in Jakarta I transferred to the domestic terminal by means of the yellow shuttle buses which leave from the front of
the international terminal and waited several hours for a delayed Lion Air flight to Surabaya.  I was actually able to book this
flight on-line in advance of departure from the UK although I am sure that the frequency of flights between the two cities
would make 'turn up and go' a realistic option.  The flight to Surabaya was totally unremarkable and once there I took a taxi
to the bus station from where I caught a long distance express bus to Situbondo with a view to commencing the trip at the
fabulous Olean mill.  (When using buses and taxis never accept the first price suggested and in taxis never use the meter for a
long journey - haggle and negotiate!)

The overnight bus trip to Situbondo allowed me to catch up on some much needed sleep and I was deposited in Situbondo bus
station shortly after 6.00am.  The Ramayana Hotel (which is next to the bus station) is certainly not the best the city can
offer but it is convenient, the staff are friendly and the prices are cheap.  Don't expect a shower - enjoy the mandi instead!  Its
all part of the rich cultural experience.

In order to get the best out of Olean it is worth considering hiring a motorcycle and driver so that chasing field trains can be a
realistic option.  On most days there will only be one or two trains to chase so maximising opportunities is of the essence.  
Contact Zaenal Combo on
vidicombo@hotmail.com for a first class service - English spoken and a great knowledge of the
Olean system.   If chasing around on the back of a motorbike is a little too action packed then a becak ride from the city
centre to Olean mill will not make too big a dent in your pocket (providing you are getting better at haggling over fares) and
will take about 30 minutes.  Plenty of time to absorb the local scenery and grow used to the pace of Far Eastern life.  Buy
cigarettes en route - the locomotive crews will expect nothing less and (very importantly) - nothing more!   The interior of
Olean mill is certainly worth a visit - get your driver to drop you off at the mill gates and report to the security guards who
will take you to the main offices where you can either practice your Indonesian or hope that they understand sufficient English
(they almost certainly will) to provide you with a mill permit. This will cost you about £5 or so but it is money well spent.   The
mill is then yours to explore.  Be careful - the Health and Safety culture of the UK is nowhere evident and the dangers are
manifold.  Be sensible!
Prior to departure from the UK there had been the usual concerns expressed by my many and various friends that I might
perish as a result of earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption or boiling mud flows and that it was clearly madness for a white
European to set foot amongst the Muslim hordes.  Of course the truth was far less interesting and I was completely oblivious
of any anti-Western feeling (except towards the Israelis who were bombing the crap out of Lebanon at the time of my visit.)  
Imagine my slight surprise therefore when I was approached in Olean mill by an elderly gentleman who quite distinctly told
me to "Go home!".  Maybe I was mistaken.  Was I an unwelcome infidel in this foreign land?  However after a highly fractured
conversation using my extremely limited Indonesian it became apparant that our lack of mutual linguistic prowess was the
cause of the misunderstanding and that my interigator merely wished to know how long I would be staying in Java!  The
information was imparted and after handshakes and smiles we went our respective ways.  Moral of the story ......... don't jump
to conclusions!

On this occasion all of the field trains at Olean were operating on the Gelung branch rather than the Semiring line.  The
actual pattern of operation was unchanged with empties going out to the fields in the early morning, the engines returning
light in late morning and then returning to the fields about 2.00pm.  Loaded trains then came back between 2.30 and 3.30pm
according to the available loads.  On four of the five days I was at Olean there were two trains from Gelung, following fairly
closely behind one another and at least one train from Duwet.  The use of the motorbike meant it was possible to get four or
five shots of each train although the actual variety of locations was fairly limited.   The use of coconut husks instead of the
usual bagasse resulted in slightly more exhaust than in 2004 although the calorific value of coconuts seems to be fairly small
and 'firing' was more or less constant.  Olean is truly a jewel in the Java crown and I pray for its continued existence.

Nightlife in Java has always appeared pretty limited and in Situbondo almost non-existant.  Most evenings were spent
chatting to the becak drivers who congregated outside of the Hotel Ramayana and watching the world going past.  I can
happily spend hours just people watching ....... but the becak boys had other ideas and by the second night of my stay it was
decided that it would be good sport to get me to ferry them around instead of vice versa.  Which is how come the centre of
Situbondo came to a near standstill as the amused locals dashed out of their shops and roadside stalls to watch me sweating
my way round the alum-alum with two natives in the passenger seats.  Piece of cake really!

After the rigours of Olean and my becak driving it was time to relax for a couple of days at Pasirputih (I couldn't be arsed to
go to Asembagus - which is to my shame but anyone wanting to do so will find lots of buses heading that way - see my 2004
trip report for full details) and to spend a few days stretched in the sun on a deserted beach.  The Hotel Sido Moncul at
180,000Rp per night (£1.00 = 17,000Rp) was little changed from my last visit and the facilities are certainly not of the highest
calibre ..... but what a location and what an atmosphere.

In 2004 my travel was entirely by bus except for the journey from Jakarta to Cirebon.  Since this visit was about 'cherry
picking' some mills which I had either enjoyed or felt I had not fully explored and exploited, my journeys were somewhat
longer and even travel by the so-called express buses is relatively slow.  For this reason I decided to travel from Situbondo to
Solo mainly by train.  Train travel in Java falls into three categories - Exekutiv, Business and Ekonomi travel.  All three classes
are not accomodated on the same train and the cost variation is considerable.  Since I actually enjoy travelling on a
shoestring budget this presented no problem and my journey from Probolinggo to Solo via Malang (don't ask - its a long
story) was an entertaining experience.  Ekonomi trains have no need for such luxuries as padded seats (cushion hire available)
or doors and so it was possible to sit on the steps of the carriage and feel the wind in my (thinning) hair and enjoy the sights
and sounds of the countryside for many hours.  As with the buses there is an endless supply of food and drink on offer from
the local peddlars and plenty of good company.

Once established in Solo it was time to revisit Tasik Madu.  On the previous occasion I had followed the conventional wisdom
and taken a Tawangmangu bus out of the city - which drops you off a good 2km from the mill.  Whilst waiting outside the
main bus station I spotted a bus bearing the legend 'Tasik Madu' and was delighted to find that it passed right by the main
road delivery yard from whence the steam locomotives collect their loads and head into the mill itself.  No more hikes down
the long highway!  Two days at Tasik Madu resulted in lots of shots of their glorious Luttermoller and most of the rest  of the
fleet including their pet locomotive (Orenstein & Koppell 0-6-0 No.1), total disruption of the local primary school following
my impromptu visit and a new set of friends at the local warung (roadside food stall).   Photography at Tasik Madu is possible
in the morning and afternoon.  In the morning there is a short stretch of roadside running immediately the train leaves the
road delivery yard, another section close to the entrance to the mill yard and the mill yard itself.  Entry to the mill is possible
by visiting the main gate and paying the appropriate fee.  In the afternoon there is a delightful section of roadside running
through the village and on the headshunt.  However after mid-day the mill yard itself is more of less unphotographable
(unless you are turned on by 'sun up the bum' shots).  
Finding myself suffering from a rather nasty repetitive stress injury to my right index finger (caused by taking over 120 shots
at Tasik Madu) it was clearly time to recuperate.  I took a bus from Solo via Yogya to Ambawara and a microbus from there
to the nearby hill village of Bandungan.  Checking in at the Hotel Kencana was an interesting experience.  As the only resident
I was invited to tour the establishment and choose my room from those on offer.  Truly a no-brainer but I'll leave it to others
to discover which are the two best rooms available.  The hotel swimming pool was thus my private preserve and the ice cold
water was extremely refreshing as the sun beat down from a cloudless blue sky.  If this is what the lives of the rich and
infamous are like then I must remember to buy an extra Lottery ticket.  I amused myself by visiting the temples at nearby
Gedong Songo, wandering the Sunday street market and watching the Independence Day marching competition around the
village.  Simple and innocent pleasures but extremely enjoyable.  

After three lazy days in Bandungan it was time to pack up the rucksack and head for the north coast.   The local bus took me
into Semerang and from there I caught the Ekonomi bus along the coast to Pekalongan.  Having located a hotel almost
opposite to the main railways station it was time to find the way to Sragi mill.  Not exactly the most difficult of tasks - take a
minibus out of Pekalongan (5000Rp) in a westerly direction, tell them where you are going and wait until they kick you off!  
This should be just after a large girder bridge with a road running to the south.  A change of minibus and a further 2000Rp
later you should be dropped off in easy walking distance of the mill (
pabrik gula in Indonesian).  I was, and spent the afternoon
watching a seemingly endless succession of locomotives shunting loaded loris into the mill.  I'd been impressed by the number
and variety of locomotives at Sragi on my 2004 visit but on this occasion even that feast was outdone.  Over a two day period
I saw at least nine different locomotives at work in the road delivery yard.  Sadly however this did not include Krauss 0-4-2T
No.1 which was built in 1899 and which was hard at work over a hundred years later during my 2004 visit.  This wonderful
centenarian has now been bought and exported to England where it will NOT be spending its days shunting loaded cane
wagons!  There are times when I have very mixed views about preservation.
From Pekalongan I caught the bus to Pemalang and visited Sumberharjo mill (for exact travel details see my 2004 trip
report).  Here I was delighted and excited to find that they were running field trains and disappointed to find out that they
only ran after dark!  As on my previous visits there were plenty of locos in steam - all of which moved off the lovely shed and
then  spending most of their time doing absolutely nothing!  C'est la vie.

I returned to Pemalang and caught the bus as far as Tegal where I stayed once again at Hotel Gren.  The journey to Panka
was most rewarding although the weather was not quite as good as it was farther east and the skies were far less clear and
blue.  However the locomotives at Panka look supurb and in common with all of the other mills that I visited there was much
work for them to do.  Three of the locomotives were employed bringing loaded wagons from the road delivery yard whilst
the other two were shunting the patio in front of the mill building.  The main change was that a line of trees has been planted
on the north side of the road delivery yard.  This prevents shots being taken across the paddy fields - which in turn lessened
the chances of a repeat of my 2004 nosedive into water, mud and rice plants!
My trip to Jatibarang was far less successful as the mill was closed for maintenance and although two locomotives were in
light steam there was no movement and no action.  My disappointment was quickly evaporated by a day on the beach
between Tegal and Cirebon.  Here it was possible to mix with the local fishermen and to enjoy their hospitality.  Sometimes
there simply are more important things then the next mastershot of a locomotive.  Eventually I arrived in Cirebon and stayed
at the Hotel Aurora which is immediately to the left as you leave the station approach road (stuffed and mounted
locomotive)  This was a pleasant enough spot which charged a modest 125,000Rp per night.  Better (and more expensive)
hotels are easy to find if you so wish but the Aurora met my needs - namely a comfortable bed and a working AC system.

My final mill visit was to Teresa Baru but before doing so I made time to book my ticket on the Cirebon Eckspress for the
following day.  Advance tickets are sold in a small building in front of the main station.  Fill in a green form and present it to
the clerks along with 55,000Rp and with a modicum of luck you will receive a reserved seat in either Business or Ekecutive
class - depending on your whim.  

Once  secured it was time to catch an
ankat (minibus) back to the bus station and then head back along the coast towards
Tegal and alight in the centre of Gebang.  A road leads off to the south from where it is possible to catch another bus all the
way to the mill gates.  Tersana Baru seems less organised than other mills when it comes to visitors and it took some time to
organise my permission to visit.  However this was eventually received and I was informed of the presence of other railway
enthusiasts!  Eventually I came across two French enthusiasts with whom I spent much of the day.  Towards the end of a
frustrating days's photography (sun out wherever the locos weren't and vice versa) I eventually managed to persuade the
crews to line up the five locomotives for some posed shots.  This involved considerable glad-handing of cigarettes (no problem
at 50p a packet) and naturally my efforts were enjoyed by the French as well.  However their pockets were empty and my
suggestions that they might like to go and purchase some resulted in some them suddenly losing all command of the English
language!  My opinion of the Gallic race was further lowered to the approximate level of a fox's bottom when we were
leaving the mill.  Although they were well aware of the fact that I had reached the mill by public transport and was, like them,
staying in Cirebon, they regally climbed into their hire car and drove off without so much as an 'au revoir' ...... let alone the
offer of a lift.  If by any chance this was you .......... **** off!

And that ........ broadly ........ was that!  A great three weeks in Java.  A chance to visit old haunts and a couple of new ones and
to enjoy again the wonderful hospitality of the Javanese people.  To see an extraordinary display of steam power struggling
on against the odds.  To swim in the ocean and gaze on the temples and volcanos.   Given my penchant for travelling
Ekonomi, being happy to stay in hotels which are more than adequate but maybe not up to Western standards and eating at
warungs (pavement restaurants) it was pleasant to discover that the three week trip left me change from £800.  That - in my
book - is extraordinary bang for the buck.  Go now - before its all too late!
Orenstein and Koppel 0-6-0T No.1 (built 1921)
Orenstein and Koppel 0-10-0 No.VI (built 1929)
A rich assortment from the Sragi roster including No.5 and No.7 (BMAG 0-10-0T's of 1928),
No.12 and No.16 (Hartmann 0-8-0T's of 1912) and No.17 (Jung 0-8-0T of 1911)
Wandering around the road delivery
yard I was somewhat astonished to
come face to face with Osama Bin
Laden!  Not in person I hasten to add
although that WOULD have made for
a great shot - one which would certainly
have paid for the whole trip with a hill
of beans left over! This particular
manifestation was on the back of a
cane delivery lorry.  I wondered
whether this was the local chapter of
the Mujahideen but such fears were
somewhat allayed when the driver
joined me for a cup of tea and a chat!
Steam In Java
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