Florentina Sri Lestari arrived back in Jakarta on Sunday from her hometown of Yogyakarta, after more than 15 hours in the car.
“I wanted to fly or take the train, but unfortunately the train tickets were sold out, and the plane tickets were unreasonably costly,” the 23-year-old told the Jakarta Globe.
“So I decided to take a chartered car that would drop me off right at my boarding house.”
It turned out to be an excruciatingly slow drive.
“We were on the road for more than 15 hours because of the heavy traffic, mostly near Kebumen [in Central Java], and because we had to stop so often,” she said.
Florentina was one of the almost one million Jakarta residents who returned to the capital over the weekend after spending the Idul Fitri holidays in their hometowns across the country.
Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo said on Sunday that of the estimated 1.8 million people who left the city this year by plane, train, car, bus and ferry, about 911,000 had returned as of Saturday.
He added that almost all the travelers were expected back in the capital by Wednesday, a week after Idul Fitri.
“We predicted that the peak of the return wave would be this weekend,” he said during an inspection of the Pulogadung bus terminal in East Jakarta, one of the main hubs for holiday travel.
“On Monday, the traffic to the capital should have thinned out significantly because workers are expected to be back on the job by then.”
Udar Pristono, the head of the Jakarta Transportation Office, said the figure of 1.8 million holiday travelers did not include those who made the trip by motorcycle.
“We’re still trying to calculate how many of them went by motorcycle, but it’s likely to be more than two million,” he said.
Of the other forms of transport, flying proved the most popular, with 811,000 people going by air, up a third from last year.
Cars and buses accounted for 467,000 travelers, down slightly from last year, while trains accounted for 445,000 passengers, also down from the 2010 figure.
Udar said that his office had readied a fleet of buses and minibuses to cater to those arriving back in the capital in the middle of the night.
“I guarantee that no traveler will be stranded at any train station or bus terminal in the city at night,” he said.
“We’ve got buses on standby until late.”
Among the rare few avoiding both the out-of-town exodus and the return crush was Bandiman, who finally left Jakarta to celebrate the holidays in his hometown on Sunday — five days after Idul Fitri.
“It’s no secret that it’s very hard to get a train ticket ahead of Idul Fitri, so instead of getting caught up in the crowd, I prefer to travel after the holiday,” he told the Globe.
“Plus I don’t want my daughter not to have a seat on the long journey from Jakarta to Malang [in East Java].”
The 43-year-old taxi driver said he had been doing this delayed mudik for the past few years. Apart from finding it easier to get tickets, he also does not want his daughter to suffer in the crush of the pre-Idul Fitri crowd.
“In the past I always went back to Malang one or two days before Idul Fitri so I could celebrate the holiday with my extended family,” he said.
“But now I prefer to stay longer in Jakarta and celebrate Idul Fitri here.”