Photographers' Blog

A very long wait

June 8, 2012

By Beawiharta

In the morning paper I read that thousands of trucks were lined up at the harbor to cross over to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. For three days in a row the newspaper reported that trucks were stranded at the port not far from the capital, Jakarta. Traffic jams are a daily occurrence in Jakarta but this was unusual for trucks headed to Sumatra Island. On a calm day news wise, I decided to go to the port just 120 kilometers (74 miles) away.

After driving for three hours, I arrived at the back of the truck queue. I started to walk through. Truck drivers sat on the street alongside vendors. The smell of urine stung my nose.

I wanted to show the number of trucks lined up so I thought my first photo should be an overall view from above. I started to look for high ground with my goal being on top of a truck, so I needed to talk nicely to a truck driver to get permission. I thought they would welcome me with a smile when I approached them. But my prediction was off. Instead, they looked at me suspiciously as I initiated the conversation. After I told them I was a journalist they were less suspicious. Later I discovered they thought I could have been a thief or a pickpocket.

I chose the tallest truck and his driver Zaenuri. Carrying soap, detergent and shampoo Zaenuri’s destination was Lubuk Linggau, a city in South Sumatra province. To cover the 940 km (584 miles) he usually drives for two days.

Zaenuri and other truck drivers happily helped me reach the top of the truck. First, they carried my camera to the top and then pushed me up. Having reached the top, I had to sit as there were no handles or safety devices. For almost four hours I enjoyed siting on the truck until darkness fell. The view was perfect. Over the four hours the truck only moved around 550 yards and stopped again.

As a thank you I thought I would take Zaenuri for dinner at a roadside tavern after dark. But, I am ashamed to tell to you, as it got dark Zaenuri climbed to the top of truck to sit next to me, carrying two box dinners of nasi Padang for us both. I was ashamed but what could I do? I said thank you and enjoyed my dinner on top of the truck with Zaenuri in the dark of the night.

Zaenuri said he spent a lot of money when stuck near the port. More food was a must, but the big expense was paying someone to keep his truck safe in the queue. If he didn’t pay for “security people” he couldn’t have a long night sleep because thieves would rip the tarp and steal his goods. If the goods were lost, he would need to pay for them out of his salary. Because of his “security people payments”, the amount of money he takes back to his wife and children is reduced. “I am ashamed to go home because my money is small, but if don’t go home I miss my wife and kids.”

After dinner, I climbed down from the truck and walked around trying to capture some detail pictures. I was on high alert after Zaenuri warned me to be careful as a lot of thieves were on the street. Yes, walking alone with two cameras in the dark between trucks was a big attraction for thieves. Twice I felt a person following behind me wherever I walked. Not feeling comfortable, I walked back to my car and stopped taking pictures. It was time to sleep.

I spent the night in my car and woke early in the morning. The rain came down and it was time to make other pictures. After I received permission from the port authority, I started taking pictures inside the port. And around 11am I received a call from Zaenuri. He said he had bought a ferry ticket to Sumatra island and the ferry would leave soon. After spending more than 20 hours to travel 8 km (5 miles), he had finally reached the ferry.

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