half past seven? no, half past six. bad start into a day. i mixed up the times and it seemed impossible to reach the train station at padang panjang in time to get on the weekly train to sawah lunto. colonized by the dutch in 1888, it grew as a mining town until 1940 and the train insured profitable business. today the train goes just once a week and the old steam train was replaced by a diesel locomotive to reduce the costs.
a run to the bus stand seemed to get us closer to reach the train but our hopes were shattered as it took ages with the mini bus and on top we were dropped at a bus stand instead of the station, even though i managed to draw a quite convincing train i thought, to explain where we wanted to go. we were about to give up as two gentleman with motorcycles agreed to drop us off at the next stop of the train. i don’t want to repeat that ride as we broke every record in breaking speed limits. but as we were nearing a railroad crossing we first heard and then saw the train as it was passing and we eventually reached the station of batutabal in time before the station master gave the signal for the departure.
the train ride was so great. sitting at the open sliding doors and watching the landscape ‘fly’ past. the wind in your face and the typical ratatat of the rails as soundtrack.
we just had two hours to spend in sawah lunto before the train was going back. again my path crossed with that of an english teacher who was running a school, wishing for foreigners to speak with the students. we had lunch together and then he showed us the way to the old mine. under the dutch, political prisoners were sent to work there and forced labour was part of the mining process in the early 20th century. the trip under the earth was not that exciting. with a guide explaining only in bahasa indonesia what might have been interesting, our outfits with the helmets and the sexy boots were the most entertaining part.
after the mine we had a quick look at the former canteen and kitchen complex with some old german equipment standing around.
‘roehrendampfkesselfabrik’ is the german word describing this monster oven. something like tube-steam-boiler-mill.
the train is an attraction for the people along the way and a playground for the children once it halts at a station.
the route along the singkarak lake.
this would be the same road i would take to leave bukittinggi towards solok.