Karimunjawa, A Spiritual Journey Part Two

Finally, the boat left the harbor on 9.30 AM. A white shinny boat with a capacity of 300 passengers according to Bangun and in my opinion the boat can go up to 70 km/h. It feels like riding a giant jet ski, so fast yet so big. The weather was cloudy since the beginning of the day, but fortunately it wasn’t raining. The sea was calm too in Kendal harbour waters, so I expected a smooth journey on our way to Karimunjawa.

After I put my bag on my seat, I moved to my favourite spot of the ship which is the deck on the second floor and it’s located on the back of the second floor. Here you can feel the breeze and breath the fresh air. I sat there with Bangun for about half an hour then we moved to return to our seat that located in the lower deck and the front compartment.


Bangun is a slim guy and he’s five feet tall makes him really agile. He also possesses high volume of voice so you can hear him talking so loud despite he’s not yelling at you. He is a chemical engineer by training. He already started a business in Karimunjawa since five years ago, no wonder the ship company was willing to wait for us because he brought a lot of fortune too to the company.

One thing that I can’t still hardly understand about this guy is about how could he still be able to sleep amidst the high tide of waves that we faced on our way to Karimunjawa. He lied his body down and utilised four seats so he can stretched his leg just like sleeping in the real bed. He was able to do so because the boat wasn’t that full like the one that running from Jepara to Karimunjawa. He slept like nothing happened.


The boat was shaking as we smashed the high tide of the sea. I can feel the vibration below my feet as the boat was sometimes flew above the sea and hit the sea again. Then the boat was also swinging toward port and starboard almost like capsizing because I could see the sea water was all over the window. I could see the curtain was swinging too to compensate the tilt of the boat while we were trying to balance ourselves against the waves. When there was a big bumb, it woke Bangun. When he woke up, he asked me what happened? What do you think just happened, lad? After I explained what happened, he went back to sleep meanwhile I’m still fighting with the seasick.

Before he woke up, I could hear numerous passengers who sat on the compartment behind me already puked. The sound intimidated me to puke too as I started to feel dizzy and I could feel that my stomach is shaking and almost like going to throw everything that I ate that morning out. When it reached my throat, I tried to calm it down by coughing and it worked.

I tried a little bit mind trick to my self because the feeling of nausea was unbearable. I saw the sailor was passing through with the plastic bag as they were ready to face the unexpected. I was tempted to ask the plastic bag to the sailor but I didn’t do that. What I did was I closed my eyes and I imagined that I’m in the middle of the train. It also worked and I began to fall asleep. It’s good though because when you are under the tough situation, suddenly time runs so slow. I always looked at my watch to determine how far are we from Karimunjawa, how much the time left until we arrive to Karimunjawa and every time I looked at my watch, over and over, it only moved for two minutes. Sleep helped me to fast forward time.


Finally we arrived at Karimunjawa at 1.00 PM, but we missed the designated harbour. There are two harbours in Karimunjawa. The main purpose of the first harbor is to transport everything from Karimunjawa to Java island. Everything from passengers, cargo, live stocks, trucks, etc. Meanwhile the second harbor is for recreational purpose. This where the smaller boats take the travelers or tourist to hop between islands to dive, snorkel, have lunch and to see sunset. We arrived at the second one.

The Tiny and Agile Boat that Just Survived The High Tide of Java Sea
The Tiny and Agile Boat that Just Survived The High Tide of Java Sea

Bangun left his motorcycle in the first harbor, so when we arrived, I had to wait for him to take his motorcycle first to the main harbor with some guy that he met in the harbor that it seems like they already known each other for a long time. After 10 minutes, Bangun returned and we drove to the house where he stays every time he is in Karimunjawa.

The house where Bangun lives is very comfortable, it’s a big house and he got a small quarter on the right side of the house, a room of 3 by 7 meters and it is divided by wall but it doesn’t cover the whole side, it left small space to go through from one room to another. After we finished unloading our stuff, we went to find some place to have lunch.

Prior to go to have lunch, I contacted Hakim, one of my friend who becomes a committee of the Barikan event to notify my arrival because couple of days ago I told him that I couldn’t come to Karimunjawa, but now I’m finally here.


We arrived at Warung Bu Ester, the famous restaurant in Karimunjawa who served mostly traditional food. On our way to Warung Bu Ester which is located next to the village square, I saw the stage that used for the Barikan Festival is still there and remain there until the closing ceremony on October 22. Bangun told me that this restaurant was the first restaurant who played the big role in supplying foods in the hotels in Karimunjawa for years before the tourism in Karimunjawa become so well known like nowadays.

After finished my lunch, my first platter while waiting for Hakim to come to see us, somehow I still felt hungry. So I took another round. I had an excuse why I ate two rounds of lunch that afternoon, I survived the high tide on our way to Karimunjawa! I’m still alive and intact, it’s such a good thing to celebrate. When I went to cashier to pay, I told the cashier that I took two platters of lunch for myself, she was kind of shock and I spent almost Rp 50,000 only for lunch. Hell, I still catch the nausea when I stood in front of the cashier and by filling up my stomach with large amount of food made me feel better.

We continued our day to go to the village square to meet Hakim. Hakim shook both of us because he now looks completely like local beach boy with the burned skin, disheveled hair, long beard like he never shaves for years, and he gained weight just by staying here for a week. Hakim invited us to visit a hidden place in Karimunjawa named Bukit Naga or Dragon Hill. A high hill in the middle of the island with the view to die for he said, but before we went to that place, Hakim told us that he needs to go back to where he stayed to bring his camera with him. So I told him that I think we are going to go back to Bangun’s house first to change my trouser to shorts to make my movement easier in this climate and meet him at 2.00 PM in Ranting Bambu Café.


We arrived in Bangun’s house a moment later, changed my trouser and we went to Ranting Bambu because Hakim told me there are other members of committees are residing on that Café. When we arrived in Ranting Bambu, I saw a lot of committees were resting because they held a workshop for more than a week since October 13th to the children on that island. From many people who were there, I noticed some familiar faces. They were Mas Umam (“Mas” is used to address a people that is older than me but the age difference is not that far from me. Almost similar to address an older brother) and his friend Mas Adit from Wayang Tenda, the one who gave the workshop to make Wayang to the children. I also saw Mas Daniel from Travel Jepara who previously I knew him as a Dutch teacher in Dutch Cultural Centre of Widya Mitra in Semarang. I was really glad to see other familiar faces over there.

Mas Daniel and Mas Umam told us that this morning was raining so bad. Then he told us that the planting of coral reef was held yesterday, the weather was bad too bud it didn’t affect the event.

To celebrate Barikan event, this café is closed to host the committees since October 13. Mas Umam comes to this event twice, this is his second Barikan and he told me that he never sees this café opens every time he is here, because he always come during the Barikan and during the Barikan last year, the café was close too. When he told me his story, Mas Umam was preparing a traditional tobacco that he assembled by himself because for him, a normal or factory made cigars don’t kick him anymore.

It was a kinship situation because we talked about every thing while we are waiting for Hakim to pick us up at Ranting Bambu. I told Mas Umam about our story this morning that we were running like crazy to catch our boat, then Mas Umam described our experience like Jack Dawson and his friend when they were running to catch the Titanic. Bangun disagreed with Mas Umam’s thought because we didn’t earn our ticket from gambling like Jack Dawson.

I was wondered by the old pictures that hanging behind Mas Daniel. Then I asked him what are those picture all about? Then he began to tell us about the history of Karimunjawa. He told me that the history of Karimunjawa or Crimoon Java as he told us using the old Dutch spelling, back to the begining of 19th century the islands was filled with pirates just like island of Tortuga in the movie of Pirates of Carribean. No wonder there’s one lagoon in the island of Karimunjawa called Lagoon Bajak that means Pirate Lagoon because that where the pirates lived. Then in 1818, the government of Dutch East Indies sent a person named Carel Rudolph von Michalovski to whip out the pirates in Karimunjawa. He was a Polish who came from Prussia but when he was a kid, he moved to the Netherlands. The Dutch government believed that there’s a way to whip out the piracy that became a norm there, the way was by building the settlement over that island. When he arrived, the island was filled with swamp that prone to Malaria outbreak. So that’s why at the first attempt to build this island, so many people died from Malaria. Afterwards, the island served as an island for the outcasts and criminals like Australia. Those who are no longer accepted in Java due to his crime were sent there. They were also received some supplies of rice and salary from the government to help the resident built the island. Some who already finished their sentence on this island prefer to stay in Karimunjawa because they already felt safe there and why should they return to Java if no one wants to accept them anymore.

After Mas Daniel finished his story, he asked us where are we going. I told him that we are going to Bukit Naga with Hakim. He also told us his experience of climbing that hill. It was a tough one, he even had to hold on the roots in order to help him up. Mas Daniel then picked up a telephone and he called the local named Goto to guide us to go to that village because the path is still covered with bushes and to guide us so we are not lost.

Not long after he called Goto, Hakim came with his friend named Handy and we just rolled out to follow him, but first we needed to fill up our tank. We were driving for 15 minutes to the designated place. when we arrived in the foot of the hill, there were another three people waiting for us. Goto was one of them. He’s a typical of beach boy in Karimunjawa, a half Bugis, long hair, big rounded nose, dark skin, 160 cm tall and a little bit fat. He was waiting for us with a big knife to cut down the bushes and high grass that blocked our way. After we parked our motor cycle, we started to enter the bushes. So here we were with the squad of seven and Goto as a lead squad.

We climbed the steep untouchable path. Sometimes we stopped to take picture and rest a little bit. After we climbed for about 30 minutes, finally we arrive at the rocky top of the Bukit Naga. A 150 meters tall hill overlooking the north coast of the island. From there the view was really a view to die for. A serene hill with the big blue water below us and we saw some small boat passing by. There we were resting and exchanged stories. Hakim was taking picture most of the time since he is a professional photographer, he needs to take a lot of pictures as possible for his portfolio. I was looked at the view and wondered, finally I made it because I still felt a little bit nausea before we start to climb the hill. It’s really a view to die for.

Bukit Naga
A picture of our squad taken from Hakim’s personal collection. Hakim is the one who stood in the front holding the camera. Bangun is the one who wore a hat. Goto is the one who sat behind wore a white shirt.

Actually the reason why I climbed this hill was to test my physical ability, can I climb the hill under this unwell circumstance? But it turned out that I made it! thanks to the physical training that lasted for 8 months and still counting. Special thanks to my ex-girlfriend too for suggesting me to go to the gym to lose some weight, It’s still hard for me to lose some weight though since I’m still finding it hard to control my appetite, but I felt another benefit of exercise which is my physical strength is increasing than before. Now I can’t live without you, exercise.

We rested for one hour before we returned to the place where we parked our motorcycle before the sky was getting darker. I was slipped for couples of times though because of the slippery road and unsuitable footwear. When we arrived to the parking place, we went to separate place again with Hakim and other fellows. Then we returned to Bangun’s house, to get ourselves cleaned up and went to accompany Bangun to open his merchandise store in Karimunjawa.


Barikan festival is held at the village square of Karimunjawa, on the stage that already standing there since couple of days ago. During the night, the main event was praying led by a Muslim clerk or Kyai or Imam then continued with the speech from the Imam until an hour before midnight. I could hear the speech from Bangun’s store because his store also located not so far from the square.

While we were waiting for the customers, we were interrupted with the blackout that still happened on this island even though the government proclaimed that now the electricity in Karimunjawa is online for 24 hours starting from June 2016. But on my last visit on June, we still experienced the blackout though. The power supply in this island is still unstable. During the blackout, the store was stormed by a lot of customers. There was a Canadian customer who tried to exercise her Indonesian with us but in the other hand, there was an Indonesian who tried to exercise his English with us.

The store was closed at 11.00 PM. Afterward we go to Bangun’s home to sleep. I was terribly exhausted with what we’ve been through that day but it was a wonderful day because as a historian geek, I finally know the history of this paradise falls on earth and as an explorer wannabe I made it to climb up that steep hill after a tough journey from the sea. I just fell asleep as I lied my body on the bed but Bangun in the other room still had something to do with his job so he slept a little bit later.


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