Hot Stuff Coming Through

Jul 15th, 2009, in Travel, by

A visit to Lusi, the Lapindo hot mud eruption site in Porong, Sidoarjo, East Java.

Three years or a bit over 1000 days later, the Sidoarjo Mudflow is still erupting. While Lapindo Brantas, the government, the courts and NGOs continue to argue over responsibility and compensation, you can help the former residents by visiting the eruption site.

Getting there isn’t difficult. Any bus from Surabaya’s Purabaya/Bungarasih bus terminal to Jember/Bondowoso/Probolinggo/Pasuruan/Banyuwangi/Bali will drive past it, because – ever since the Surabaya-Gempol toll road was submerged – there is only one road, and it goes beside the dam wall. Or, if you are coming from Surabaya, you can take the economy/commuter train (Rp2000) from Kota/Semut or Gubeng station going to Porong and get out at Tanggulangin – the first station after Sidoarjo. Then board any minibus (Rp3000) going in the same direction as the train for the remaining 1-2 km to the mudsite. The total travel time will be about 1 hour. Being bereft of trees, it can get really hot there, so I would recommend the 8:10am train. Check the train schedule at Tanggulangin for when trains return to Surabaya.

Taking the train is cheaper and more comfortable

You will be asked to pay an entry fee (Rp3000). This will give you free range to walk around the dam wall, take photos, etc., but for Rp50 000 you can get a 1-hour ojek (motorcycle taxi) tour that makes it a lot more interesting and “real”.

Ojek tour group
Our ojek tour group.
Muslimah (see below) is on the left

It’s not just interesting for scientists and engineers. Some of the stops include:

– A viewing tower of the original eruption point and the surrounding area.

Eruption Central
Eruption Central

– See some of the former villages, some submerged and others not.

Submerged village
Here the mud was 9m deep, burying everything except the tallest mosque minaret. It felt like something out of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” or “The Day After Tomorrow”.

– A nearby warung/restaurant that runs its stoves on methane collected from a gas leak.

Methane-powered stoves
Gas stoves with a difference

And if you speak some Indonesian, you can talk to your driver a bit about their experiences. My driver, Muslimah, said she has four children. She was forced to relocate about three months after the initial eruption began. She has been to Jakarta four times to protest (taking the Kertajaya economy-class train), and she brought some mud with her. If she met Aburizal Bakrie – current Coordinating Minster for People’s Welfare and de-facto head of the company that was drilling in the area – she wouldn’t say or do something rude (like I would), just politely ask him to pay the compensation as previously agreed.

If you want an extra souvenir, you can also buy a DVD for about Rp30 000. It’s not a documentary, just footage of former villages and Indonesian-style music in the background.

In summary, I was pleasantly surprised with my visit. I was previously worried that it would be depressing or exploitative, but instead it was both interesting and fun, plus it helped the local former residents of the area.

(Please PM me if you want the details of a reliable ojek operator. However, you would need to speak some Indonesian).

5 Comments on “Hot Stuff Coming Through”

  1. Suryo Perkoso says:

    The gas stoves with a difference might really set things off one day –

    Like the little boys who recounted their summer holiday exploits to teacher –

    “Well Miss, we spent our holidays putting firecrackers up frog’s arseholes”

    “Don’t you mean “rectum” Johny?”

    “Yes Miss, blew ’em to f*cking bits”

    All joking aside, you have to feel very sorry for those who still own a house or Ruko near to porong and are trying to sell it.

    The sooner PT JSI gets involved and starts up their power station project, the better for everyone, it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses in on itself.

  2. Chris says:

    The gas stoves with a difference might really set things off one day

    Actually, the place where the gas was being collected for use at the warung – down the street a bit – caught on fire and burned down a week after we went. There was a picture of it last week in The Jakarta Post, but it’s not on their website so I can’t post it here.

  3. Suryo Perkoso says:

    It’s only a matter of time before a carelessly disposed of puntung rokok hits the spot, and then it’s goodnight vienna.

    I expect I’l hear it from home when it goes off.

    As an aside, my wife slept through the Buncefield blast that hurled a lump of iron through the sunroof of my mercedes, so I expect this won’t upset her too much – odd though, open the fridge at 5 in the morning and she is out of bed like a gazelle, looking for her bloody sego.

  4. sputjam says:

    Why don’t we get this bakrie chap to look for oil in singapore? That will solve their land reclamation issue once and for all.
    How come the plantation companies hadn’t claim and planted their palm oil yet?
    Where are the tourist who swears by the benefit of hot mud baths?

    Why don’t they bottle the methane and distribute it nationwide?
    Who will be the first to do a documentary and sell it to discovery Channel?

  5. diego says:

    I hope Bakrie very soon will reincarnate as a worm living in the mud.

    (got the link from jakartass blogspot)

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