Location: Bogor, Java, Indonesia


It is not uncommon to see two white guys motorcycling through the busy streets of rural Java. But it was the local school kids that where the most entertaining, as they shrieked, yelled and laughed as we rode past them. This was not an isolated event but happened from village to village as we neared our destination - the coffee growing areas of Bogor’s high country.

My riding companion, Merdeka Coffee master roaster, Alun Evans, lead the way, rounding bends, passing rice fields, avoiding potholes and road slumps as we slowly gained altitude.

Being cautious not to lose the centre-stand on the sweeping corners, we arrived at our first stop. It is true ‘that the best places to visit are those that are the most difficult to find’. A non descript lay-by in the road lead us walking up a narrow trail, passing flooded rice terraces, coconut, banana and robusta coffee trees. It reminded me of a scene from Good Morning Vietnam, set amidst the picturesque landscape of rural South East Asia.

Alun is no stranger to the locals and fluent in Bahasa Indonesian - along the trail we were continually greeted with friendly and inquisitive smiles. Living conditions in the villages are basic, clothes are washed in streams, toilets are holes in the ground and electricity is from portable generators.

The local Robusta variety coffee grown here is predominantly for local consumption. You can find it sold at the village store, as a neatly packaged, simply branded sachet filled with finely ground coffee. The sachets make an ideal alternative when travelling throughout Indonesia, rather than drinking the complimentary kerosene flavoured Nescafe instant that hotels generally leave in your room.

Dutch settlers began planting coffee in Java, as early as the 17th century. Disaster struck during the 1870s when coffee rust disease decimated crops, wiping out much of the Typica cultivar that was initially planted. In the early 1900s, new crops were replanted, firstly with Liberica, then Robusta, which is the dominant coffee grown in the region today.

Onward we hiked to the next village doing a loop toward the main road. Luckily for us, we came across a group of village youths offering us their professional guiding services to get us back to our bikes safely. Without their assistance we probably would off perished or been enslaved by bush pygmies! Thirty thousand rupiah was a small price to pay for the fast track back and the money helping support the local community.

Food, water and shade were now our top priority, as we navigated through rural roads partly blocked with coffee beans drying in the morning sun. We would stop often to chat with the locals or venture off road up a rutted trail to see what’s at the other end. We become intrepid travellers searching for a lost or forgotten coffee plantation or ancient Dutch fortress buried beneath rampant vines. We press on, catching glimpses of early Dutch settlements, gatehouses and rubber tree plantations.

We are making our retreat back to the main populous now. Weaving through narrow village streets, some paved, others rough and pot holed requiring us to stand upright on our footrests - bodies absorbing the terrain. We stop at the roadside when a stand of cacao trees grab our attention. As with coffee, Indonesia is an excellent cacao growing region, with its rich volcanic soil, microclimates and high altitudes.

We pass a derelict housing estate – yet another development gone bust before completion. Our final stop is at an abandoned Balinese style cafe perched on top a hill overlooking Bogor. Beautifully crafted stone statues protect the entranceway seemingly left untouched by vandals as a mark of respect to the gods.

Corkscrewing down the mountainside we finally hit the flats and urban traffic, feeling invigorated, alive and a little indestructible. It has been a day of motorcycles, adventure, history and coffee.


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