Onrust and Cipir as Hajj Quarantine Villages (1911-1933)

The situation of hajj pilgrimage quarantine on Onrust Island in 1911-1933

Since it was managed by Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) –by the permission of Batavian ruler at that time, Prince Jayakarta- in the early 16 century to the present, the Island of  Onrust has been functioned for different puposes. One of them was –in 1911-1933- this island along with its neighboring island, Cipir, were functioned as Hajj Quarantine Villages by the Dutch Colonial Government.

Two of many old structures remains of hajj pilgrimage facilities on Onrust and Cipir Island

As can be seen today, most of the old structures on the Onrust and Cipir are the remains of the Hajj Quarantine facilities. Then, sea line transportation was flourish since aircrafts has not been developed. Three month sail by ship was the time needed to carry hajj pilgrimages to the Arab Peninsula and another three months to take them back home. Therefore, the hajj pilgrimages were adapted to the sea weather. The departure and arrival of the pilgrimages were regulated here. The remnants of the facilities which can still be seen, among others, are hajj pilgrimage barracks, a medical staff residence, hospitals, registration office, security offices, communal toilets, and bathing facilities. Some of which have been renovated so their existence are quite complete. The doctor residence now functions as a museum for The Archaelogical Park of Onrust Island.


Onrust-Cipir-Kelor for Recreation

This historical, 12 hectare island is located 14 kilometres in the north of Jakarta. Onrust, along with its neighbouring islands, Kelor, Cipir (or Cuyper or Kahyangan) and Bidadari make part of Thousand Archipelagou (Kepulauan Seribu) in the Bay of Jakarta. Administratively the area belongs to South Kepulauan Seribu. The area in 1972 was assigned as preserved historical and in 1999 as cultural heritage reservation sites by the Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta.

Trip to Onrust (the largest of three), usually include visiting Cipir and Kelor Islands, but exclude another neighbouring island, Bidadari, since it is managed by a private company. The islands can be reached by speedboat from Marina Ancol or fisherman boat from Kamal Muara. The wooden boat is the cheapest and adventurous way. To enter these three islands are free of charge. Having been on these islands is amusing, they have pleasant warm atmospheres under the trees’ shades and surrounded by the sea.

Cipir Island was our first stop. It is located very near to Onrust. There was a dock connecting this island to Onrust, its remains can still be seen. Exploring this island was truly amusing. The remaining old structures of the Hajj Pilgrimage Quarantine Hospital found in every corner of the island, brought our imagination back to the first quarter of 19 century, to imagine the life at that time. Many visitors were around, some of them were campers, they did swimming, fishing, barbequeing, cooking, chatting, or just lying on mats. From Cipir, we can see Bidadari Island.

The second stop was Kelor Island, the smallest of three. The outstanding structure is the Martello Tower which can be seen from faraway. A part of the island is made of white corally, and gently slope beach, convenient place for sunbathing, caressed by sea breeze. The island is uninhabitated and therefore has no facilities. Before noon we left Kelor for Onrust.

From midday toward the end of the day we stayed on Onrust. We performed day-prayers and had lunch, played games, explored the land, and took pictures. There are many old structures found, some are remnants, such as the foundations of a windmill and a warehouse, a few are still in good condition, such as medical staff residence and registration office for hajj pilgrimages dated back in 1911-1933. Some sites were built after Indonesia declared its indepence, such as DI/TII executees’ tombs.

The structures which are found on these islands were built at different historical times. Visiting Onrust (and its neighbouring islands) means learns their histories, which are part of Indonesian history. Colonization of Nusantara by the Dutch was started in Onrust (see: History of Onnrust). These islands are good for recreational as well as educational purposes. There are public facilities, such as toilets, rinse rooms and simple coffe shops. Unfortunately, the facilities are still far from satisfaction, unconvenient ones and the water tastes brackish, need to be managed seriously and improved here and there, concerning the healthy and clean environment.

The day was running toward late afternoon when we back to the mainland. The afternoon sun slided to the west, shaded golden colour to the bright blue sky. We were exhausted but happy…   (Imtihanah————)

By Wooden Boat to Onrust

Got on a local public car we broke through the morning streets of Jakarta to get to Kota Tua. It was a holiday, Jakarta’s busy streets was quiet. Our assembly point was Fatahilah Square.  From there we took ten minute walk to the place where another public transport carried us to Kamal Muara Pier.

Fishy smell was floating in the air. Typical scent of fisherman villages. We walked along a fishy black watered road in the middle of a market to the pier. On the arrival even more unpleasant view welcoming us, the waterfront environment was full of garbage. That’s another life in another side of Jakarta. For something adventurous to pass through this area was no problem at all…..but imagining to live here…….it is a big NO WAY.

One after another we got on board. A wooden boat was ready to take 30 of us to the trio Cipir, Kelor and Onrust Islands in the Seribu Archipelagou. The boat moved slowly among other fisherman boats, ripped apart the black water body, getting away from the pier.

The weather was rather dull, …… one, two, three raindrops fell down mixed with sea water splashs entered the boat.  Black water waves were glittering and sparling under the  warm morning sunshine. The sea breezes lullabied some of us. The boat steadily cruised among green oyster farms (tambak kerang hijau) to wide sea.

Floating on sea, the morning sea breeze makes us sleepy

It took the boat moreless one and a half  hours floating on sea before it reached our destination islands. Islands which full of history. We explored these islands around for at least three hours before cruising back to the mainland, the Island of Java.

On Island of Cipir and Kelor

The sun went down.  High tide created bigger waves. The boat swung to the left and to the right, as if it was going to turn upside down. We were screaming, was it a joy or a fear screaming, I did not know.  A breathtaking  journey on the way back. A boat crew who slept soundly made me feel a slightly calm. Though, I prayed hard and sure some of us did that too. The splashes from boat’s sides wet our skins and clothes. The sea water was dried under the hot, sunny afternoon sunshine left the salt on my skin, made me feel like a salty jambal roti.

High tide brings us back from Onrust to Kamal Muara

Time run very slowly because of the tense I felt, but when the cluster of green oyster farms emerging from a distance  I became completely calm, even more when the water colour was turning dark. It was a sign, we nearly there. Wooden houses and a floating mosque emerged on our sight. The boat was getting closer to the pier.

The golden sun shined 160o to the west when we set foot on the mainland. I relieved, all the tenses were over, blown away by the afternoon sea breeze, replaced by such a joy. I have got through this journey. What a wonderful day with a wonderful experience. The story is worth to share…….. (Imtihanah————)

To Witness the Traces of 2004 Aceh Tsunami

On that bright sunny day, the weather was so hot. Fortunately, our car had a good suspension system and its air condition was working properly so that made me comfortable. Four hour journey from Banda Aceh to Calang did not make me tired. The car drove fast on the west coast of Aceh, along the wide, smooth, thick black asphalt roads, still in ongoing development. The roads were deserted, not many vehicles we encountered with.

A landscape of Barisan Mountain Range

The scenery on both sides of the road was really interesting, made these eyes widely open, so valuable to be ignored. Some of  road segments extend cutting through sedimentary rock hills, clearly reveal the rock layers and also the structures. These relatively newly cropped out cliffs are free of vegetation  and has not been weathered.

A coastal area of Calang in the morning

On the left side, Barisan Mountain Range makes lines of triangular structures. Stand sturdyly with towering cones, looks blue from a distance. In the foreground, there were a landscape of  green shrubs,  one or two groups of coconut trees standing like poles among the grass. The leaves were waving, blew by the wind. Under the shadows of coconut leaves, the cattles like cows or goats were calmly grazing. Once in a while there were cattles playing on the street. Also found were  bodies of water in the form of small ponds filled with clear water.

On the right side, tourqoise Indian Ocean spread widely. There are a few small islands off shore. Some coastal lands were arid, no grass grew, looked red brown or corally white. Parts of coasts were planted with sea firs, function as sea wave barriers as well as shades for them who want to enjoy coasts. The coasts were still natural, has not been managed professionally. If coastal land were planted with firs, then watery coasts were filled with mangroves, which also function as sea wave barriers when tsunami hits the coastal area.

Tsunami traces visible include a destroyed former road, situated side by side with the new one, the remnants of tsunami swept fisherman village. The fragments of houses’ poles emerge  among the water. The area was a village and now becomes a part of Indian Ocean water. The coastline has changes. The stumps of  mangroves dried and from the water new generations of mangroves replace. The ruins of a bridge at an estuary connecting both sides of a river, which are now submerged. The bridge is now replaced by rafts which can cross over one or two cars at a time in return a sum of money.

Ruins of a bridge connecting both sides of a river

Now, the villages by the sea are disappeared. The settlements have been moved away from the coasts, occupy  higher places whenever possible. The west coasts of Aceh were terribly devastated  by  the 2004 tsunami, of which are Lamno and Calang. The tsunami victims are more than the survivors. Now,  life along the west coast becomes more quiet. For some of them the memories of the tragedy still linger on, they can tell the stories how the giant waves attacked their villages. Some still feel traumatic, especially they who lost their dearest dan nearest ones, their spouses or children.  Slowly, they stand up to manage their lives. Life must go on….. (Imtihanah, May 12th 2011)

The faces of Aceh

It was that day, I recalled my mind…. I was packing everything into my suitcase so excitedly. I felt such a sensation knowing I would visit Aceh for the first time. Well… anyway, traveling always gives my body such a sensation. Not to forget, I carried with me my brand new DLSR camera (hm..hm…hm…smile). With my camera, hope I could see many things there through the view-finder and frame them.

As I met my travel-mates, one of them gave his impression on my look,…”Iim already looks like an Acehnese’. His comment made me release a little smile. Let see if he was right..! And then…. off we went to Aceh, flew above the Indian Ocean and Barisan Mountain….to the westernmost province of Indonesia.

Still in the same day as I arrived, I visited 2.500 tonnage Floating Diesel Power Electricity Plant (Pembangkit Listrik Tenaga Diesel Apung (2.500 ton), a ship which was originally anchored at Ulelee Port, as caused of 26 December 2004 Tsunami was stranded away as far as moreless 4 km to the residential, in Punge Village, Blancut, Banda Aceh. A local guide who walked me around the area telling me things about the tragedy. He also helped taking pictures of me posing in front of the tsunami historical monuments, such as the ship, a boat in tsunami education park, and a small building full of faded pictures, they call it a museum….. At the end, the local guy told me that my face look like the Acehnese women’s.. Hehhehehe, two guys had told me so, on the same day. (The other day, the second time I visited Aceh, we went to a local government office, and what happened….? When I offered shaking hand, as my colleagues did, to the office staff, he did not make a move, but after a while he realized and shook my hand while telling us ‘ I thought you are one of our staff here’….)

The Betor Family

The following days, I enjoyed watching the Aceh people. Yes, most of their faces show similarities, it is very obvious on male faces. They have dark brown (sunburn) skin, gaunt face, look pretty much like arabs or indians. Most of the Aceh women have average height, around 150 cm tall, petite postur, sweet face, and slightly dark skin. Some of Acehnese are recognizeable as Chinese descendants, it is very obvious, as majority of them are non-moslem their women do not wear head-scarves. As already known, Aceh itself gets its name as an abbreviation of Arab, Chinese, European, and Hindustan. The Aceh people nowadays are reckoned as descendants of the people from those regions. If so…. where have the European descendants been hiding? They can be found in Lamno, a small coastal town. They have blue eyes and white skin. But I haven’t seen any one of them. The driver who drove us there told that.. their population was reduced, most of them were wipe off due to 2004 tsunami, and the survivors now live remotely…. Hope one day, I can see those pretty blue-eyes and frame them trough my camera window.