Vert l´Horizon – NEWSLETTER 1 – Crossing enchanting Indonesia

To see our photos from Indonesia, click here.

1 Introduction

Our ferry is now heading towards Pulau Batam, an Indonesia island which faces Singapore. We are seating on the back of deck 8, on a terrace with wooden tables. Here, fellow travellers come to smoke, drink tea, listen to the karaoke played on TV, and glance at Sumatra’s islands in the far away. Since we are the only foreigners on board, many people invite us at their table. They are curious about our journey, or want to use this chance to try their English skills. We have a good sensation of speed on this boat although our GPS indicates that we are “only” cruising at 32 km/h. We also notice that we are now changing of hemisphere, from South to North. Tonight, we´ll jump on the “Batam fast” boat and will then leave Indonesia. Indonesia, it’s almost finished! We have spent 23 days there. We have seen so much, met so many, and experienced a lot. These 3 weeks seems to have last much more, and the souvenir of our arrival at Denpasar, Bali’s airport is now far away. Bali was our first contact with Indonesia. Bali, what shall we remember of it?

2 Bali

After a 24 hours journey we landed in Denpasar, Bali. The journey was tiring and included some stressful moments: we had to fight a little to make sure our bikes were following us at each transit. After mounting the bikes we start cycling towards Refi’s house (friend and old classmate of Mick). This is weird; people are all driving on the wrong side on the route! ! Unless, people drive left in Indonesia! This first day, we also discover a very dense, chaotic, polluted traffic. They are many scooters. Cycling in Denpasar is not an enjoyable moment: we have to stay focused all time, while pursuing our way on the GPS. However, it doesn’t seem to be dangerous. Locals are very good drivers and, at an intersection, you can cross even if a swarm of scooters is coming, you can be sure that they will brake for you. In fact, they often use the klaxon to warn others when passing by for example. When driving here, one also needs good listening skills! In Bali, the very crowded routes are in the South-East and South West. We have experienced it when cycling towards Padang Bai, 50 km in the West when we went there to take the boat towards Lombok Island. As our trip is a biking trip we want to enjoy the ride and therefore, we decided to modify our itinerary and cross Bali through its centre, within the rice field area. This way, we will cycle on quieter route. What we know, and what we fear is the altitude of 1400 m that we will have to climb with our heavy bikes. This happened to be a good choice. Yes, we did suffer a lot but we also had the chance to contemplate superb rice field in the vicinity of Ubud; cross a sacred forest inhabited by monkeys; discover numerous Hindu temples and Balinese houses; admire beautiful crater lakes in the centre. There, we actually bargained some locally produced strawberries with a lady who spoke very good French! After a superb ride down we reached the North coast and had great time on the bike. The roads were pleasant to cycle on; we refreshed ourselves with coconut juice, papaya, mango, (yellow) watermelons! The beach was waiting for us at the very end of the trail; or should I say, we were really looking forward to jumping in the sea and swimming in the corals amongst colourful fish. When we did it, we were amazed by such a treasure: corals of all shapes and colours, curious and colourful fish, warm water. We felt like swimming in a giant aquarium! Biking in Bali was rich of meetings; locals are extremely warm-hearted, smiley, and generous. Most of the people greet and encourage us on the way; some offer us food and some insist on taking photos with us!

049_045 Exhausted cyclist-49

3 Lombok

Lombok island is East of Bali. We went there because we wanted to climb Gunung Rinjani, a 3726 m high volcano, and one of our symbolic summits. Rinjani is the second highest volcano in Indonesia and it is mostly famous because of its crater lake filled of turquoise water. It took us three days to climb it, starting at 700 m the first day and climbing up at 2600 m. On the second day we climbed down to the lake and up again, towards the summit. We reached it on the third day, one hour before sunset. Hiking Rinjani was a great experience: we saw lots of grey and black monkeys; we were astonished many times when walking in the rainforest and discovering crazy trees. We also had good times with our porters although they didn’t speak any English. A downside of this trek was to see so much waste along the trails and all around the different basecamps. Hopefully, it will be better managed in the future or it will have a negative impact on tourism.

Unlike Bali, Lombok is Muslim island. They also very much like mosques here and we saw something like one mosque every 500 meters! They are beautiful but, their muezzins are calling for prayer at as early as 4:30 AM! In Mataram, we were welcomed by Munawir. He and his very friendly family introduced us to the local gastronomy.

We spent only 4 days on the island. Taking the boat to and from there was a cool moment too: we saw dolphins, flying fish, met a couple of Dutch cyclists!

030_026 Gunug Apung volcano in Bali,as seen from the Rinjani-30

4 Java

We enter Java from the Banyuwangi harbour. We know Java is a very dense and the most populated island in the world: 140 million persons for 140 000 km2. Not only is it dense but also it lacks of secondary roads. For that reason we have decided to shorten our stay on this island by one week, and go around using trains and buses. In the East of Java we took one day to visit the Kawah Ijen volcano. It is famous for its sulphur production, in the smoking crater. Workers come to extract it as a liquid form, crystallise it, and bring it 3 km down the volcano. They probably have one of the toughest jobs on earth, carrying twice a day baskets filled with 70 kg of sulphur on their shoulder. Furthermore, they breathe a large quantity of toxic fumes all day long. Unfortunately, they are still poor workers; the sulphur is bought to them 1 kg for 780 RP, that is 0,05€. Ijen is also famous for its blue flames, when the sulphur is burning. This show is only visible at night (refer to the post going to hell). That was a truly impressive and unique on earth landscape!

Our next stage in Java was Malang, there we met our couchsurfers, first Pras, then Rani. Rani has a homestay in a little village above the city and luckily for us, she is the daughter of the chief of the Bromo national park. We spent one exquisite day together, they brought us to the sea of sand with the national park jeep and we climbed up the Bromo crater together. This crater was the most impressive to us, it was large, deep, and creating a large column of smoke. Sometimes we could distinguish a crater lake in the bottom, filled of acid water! In the back, we could also see the Semeru. This volcano is also active and has small explosive eruption every half an hour on average! Indonesia is called the land of the thousand volcanoes; it’s not only an advertisement but the reality. All these volcanoes make the nature terrible and dangerous, but also luxurious since the ashes act as fertilizer.

After Malang we took the train to Yogyakarta (Jogja). We went there because it possesses the largest Buddhist temple in the world, built at the beginning of the 9th century; and an equally impressive Hindu temple, built in the 9th century. The first one is named Borobudur and the second, Prambanan. Borobudur’s architecture represents three steps towards the enlightenment. The complex has more than 500 Buddha statues and 2700 reliefs depicting Buddhism’s mythology as well as scenes of life. The last floors possess 72 stupas in bell-shape, as a shrine for Buddha. Prambaban, like Borobudur, was abandoned, forgotten and rediscovered in the beginning of the 19th century, under a thick layer of forest and ashes coming from the nearby Merapi volcano. Prambanan honors the three main gods of Hinduism, Brahma the creator, Vishnu the keeper and Shiva the destructor. The complex had more than 200 temples but only 18 are still erected now.

In Jogja we stayed at Ning’s place, a couchsurfer. Even if she wasn’t there, her friend came to pick us at the train station, helped us to get the following bus and ferry tickets. Ning also let her scooter for us to go visit the temples. We were amazed by so much hospitality.

092_090 Yes, sunsets definitely give wings!-92

After a night in the bus we headed towards Jakarta, our final stage in Indonesia. There, we were welcomed by Citra, another couchsurfer. She lives in a complex of tower in the city centre, with a swimming pool and tennis court in the inner patio. In Jakarta we did what most Indonesians do when they come to the capital city! we visited the huuuge malls there. In fact, that was more because we needed to have some parts of our bikes repaired, rather than for pleasure.

During our second day, we visited the Ragunan zoo/park in the morning. We saw a lot of animals, including the very famous Komodo dragons, orang-utans, gorillas, and elephants. Although, we didn’t really feel like in a zoo because the place is very spacious; many families just come here to walk around as if it was a park. In the afternoon we discovered Kota, Jakarta’s old city and met Anto there (friend and former classmate of Mick). That day, we also tried the famous durian (which we really “didn’t like”, just to stay polite!) and Kopi Luwak (a very expensive coffee, which seed has been digested by a civet).

Java is now futher and further behind us; Nortern’s Sumatra islands are just in front of us. In a few hours we will leave that ferry and take a small boat towards Singapore. We know that it will change a lot from Jakarta. For a few days we will stay in a very modern city, with all its comfort (including the possibility to drink tap water!). Indonesia has enchanted us. Indonesians have enchanted us. We like to say that the first richness of a country is its people. Well, in this case, Indonesia is very rich of warm-hearted people. We had so many smiles along our way that it really made us feels good. We are particularly very grateful to the 6 couchsurfers that hosted s on the way. Terima kasih and see you later!

061_057 Blue flames on Kawah Ijen-61

5 Energy/Environment

We have chosen the energy and environment as the main theme of our travel because we enjoy learning about it, because these are very important in the light of the actuality, and because we feel there is a lot to learn about it during our journey. We don’t have enough time and computer resources to investigate about these topics on a broad perspective, but we do have time to visit site and meet local stakeholders.

5.1 Green School in Bali

In Bali, we visited a Green School, which was founded 7 years ago by John Hardy (see his TED conference here: He wanted a school in the jungle with high standards of teaching, insisting on the respect of the planet, the hosting region, and stressed the importance on the search for sustainability. The school has this year around 330 children, coming from 50 different countries, and with level from 1st grade to 12th grade. Its professors come from all around the world. The classes are given in English and also in Indonesian. The goal is to teach the normal syllabus, but adding a strong component of sustainability. There a many gardens between the buildings, to produce organic food for the school, and also to teach the children the importance and our relation to the Earth.

The school tuition fee is around 10 000 US$, which makes it a normal price for Western countries private school. However, it represents a considerable expense for locals consequently, grants have been created to help Balinese enter the school. This year, around 10% of the children are Balinese, with grant, but the goal of the founders is to arrive to 20%.

All the buildings of the school are in bamboo, a local abundant material. The design and construction is done by the company PT Bamboo. A special care has been taken as for the aspect of the buildings, with many curves, very harmonious. The school counts among the most advanced constructions in bamboo in the world. There are many aspects that intend to make the school green:

– The parents and most of all the teachers are eager to make the difference, to aim at sustainability.

– After the school started, other projects came in its orbit, such as organic café, organic restaurant, !

– A big part of the food is organic food directly produced by the school

– The school produces up to 70% of its electricity thanks to solar panels, and will soon produce more than needed with a new kind of turbine on the nearby river.

– The school uses recycled products.

– The school waste is recycled, and soon will be sorted and organised to facilitate its reuse by local people.

– The buildings are adapted to the floor, with the least modifications possible.

The classrooms do not have walls. Instead of distracting children from the black board, it has a positive effect, the “Green School” effect. When the children see the blue sky, feel the wind, hear the water flowing and the birds twitting, they are much more calm and eager to learn!

009_004 Bridge made from bamboo-9

5.2 From Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to compost, Clean Development Project nb. 1885

To start with, a very quick introduction on Clean Development Mechanism Project (CDM). The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of the flexibility mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol (IPCC, 2007) that provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units which may be traded in emissions trading schemes.

The facility we visited was created some 5-10 years ago, with the goal of reusing the organic waste coming to the landfill in order to produce compost. The production of compost comes from an aerobic (i.e. with enough oxygen) decomposition of the waste, which generates CO2. It replaces the storage of the waste in a landfill, where an anaerobic (i.e. with lack of oxygen) decomposition of the waste takes place, and which generates methane. Methane is a very powerful Greenhouse Gas (GHG), some 23 times stronger than CO2. By preventing organic waste to produce this gas in a landfill, the site is helping reducing the GHG emissions. For that reason, it has been accepted as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project as defined in the Kyoto Protocol.

During this visit, we can see the different step of the process of creating compost from organic waste: separation of the organic waste from inorganic waste; transforming, processing these wastes into raw compost; selling it. In addition, the facility possesses a landfill (serving the whole Gianyar Regency) and a small laboratory.

In detail, 30 tons of wastes arrive each day (it’s about 1/3 of the total amount produced by the Regency of Gianyar). These wastes are manually separated. The workers separating the waste are not hired by the facility, but outsourced. Depending on the quantity of waste, there can be up to 200 workers here, but generally, they are around 50. They are paid 45000 RP (3€) for 1 ton of organic wasted separated. Many of them are from Java, and live in barracks just next to the facility. Organic wastes represents 85% of the total weight (a typical percentage for a developing country). Recyclable wastes (plastic bottle, aluminium foil, etc) represent 5% of the total weight and they are sent to other facilities in Java. The remaining 10% consists of non-organic waste and it is disposed in the landfill. There is no plan for that landfill when it will be full.

After, the organic waste is stored in a big hangar with piles of 4m high. There, it receives the necessary air (blown from under) and water (added from above) supply every day, so that the decomposition happens correctly. Periodically, the waste is turned to homogenise the process. The total decomposition of the waste takes 3 to 4 months. At the end of this period, the waste has been converted into raw compost. This compost is cut and put into bags in order to be used as fertilizer, at the price of 1000 RP par kilo. Among the clients are the local people of course, but also gardens, parks, hotels, the company PT Biotech!. Every day, some 8 tons of raw compost are produced. A small part of the raw compost (around 1 ton per day) is processed 1 additional month so that it becomes a finished compost that can be mixed with soil to grow plants.

After the visit of the installation, we meet David Kuper and he explains us about the bureaucracy he has to go through to keep alive the project. The funding for building the facility came from many parts: the Indonesian Ministry of Public Work has been in charge, along with the local government, and the help of the Rotary Club of Ubud. But then, for operational cost, it’s another battle.

The subsidies come from: the selling of the produced compost, the GHG emission reductions sold to another company, and the funding for being a CDM project. The expenses are mainly: buying the separated organic waste, the workers for producing the compost, the water oil and electricity needed by the installations, paying back the loans from the banks. Most of these operational costs are variable (as opposed to fixed), which is of course an advantage for the company.

In this complicated equation, the facility has the support of the local people, the local government and also the interested visit of other Indonesian or foreigner local government to assess a possible creation of the same facility.

For selling the GHG emission rights, there are two main markets: the Compliance market, where the price of the ton of CO2 is about 3€ per ton of CO2 eq., and the Volontary market, with a price of around 6€. The facility is operating in the Volontary market, and has been lucky to be chosen by the sustainable Swiss travel agency KUONI. Indeed, they buy the GHG emission right way above the market price, at 22CHF per ton of CO2 eq.

David had to make considerable efforts to obtain the CDM approval for the project. The CDM evaluation for producing compost from waste is not all coherent. On one hand, the CDM gives money every year proportionally to the tons of GHG avoided during the year. However, in this case, the landfill produces methane during 60 years. Consequently, the CDM money naturally increases with the years passing. On the other hand, the investments needed are very high at the beginning, and lower later. The company had to borrow a lot of money to the bank to start its activity and it now has difficulties to pay it back. This would be avoided if the CDM rules were more “logical”. In addition, an inspector of the CDM comes once a year to the facility to check all the accounts. Consequently, many details are required. These concerns the type of waste, its weight, the CO2 footprint generated by the transport of the waste, by the production of the electricity needed by the facility, etc! even though they represent a negligible quantity related to the GHG emission reductions.

Technical description of the project we have visited can be found here:

045_041 A Clean Development Mechanism project visit on Bali, 2-45

6 Help us to offset our greenhouse gases emissions with the Solar Muscle!

Nowadays, it is fashion to talk about sustainability. Many of us talk about sustainability but have a very bad carbon footprint. Many companies love to “green wash” their product! Because our journey wears the theme of energy and environment and because we want to apply what we believe related to sustainable development and the crucial importance of fighting climate change, we want to offset, or compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions generated during the different flights we take.

For that reason we would be very grateful if you help us compensating these emissions. For more explanations, please refer to

In the next newsletter, we will tell you about our journey at Singapore. We had a good overview of the city and met very interesting people. Singapore lacks clean water therefore it invested a lot in an innovative technology that turn wastewater to drinking water. We visited the plant and will tell you that story. We were also lucky to meet with Ho Hiang Kwee, who works at the Energy Studies Institute but also the government of Singapore. He very kindly gave us a presentation about Singapore’s energy situation and we will share it with you!

Thank you for reading, and see you on the roads!!!

Mickaël & Julien

024_019 The two protagonists-24