From Indonesia to the world
Have you ever imagined touring Indonesia on motorbike with your children? Businessman Youk Tanzil and his children have done it, touring all the way to Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Bali and Java. He told GlobeAsia’s Elsid Arendra about his experience at his home in South Jakarta.
Youk Tanzil is a veteran businessman, a man who has lived in many countries and dedicated his life to his four children. When he was younger, he made a list of things he wanted to do and over a period of decades he attained all but one – having the time to show Indonesia to his children and the world. In the end, three of the children, Banyu, 32, Chintara Diva, 23, and Geovani, 20, took part in Youk’s Ring of Fire Expedition.
His love for Indonesia – and his children – was realized. They witnessed close up the largest ring of islands in the world, an archipelago that stretches the breadth of all Siberia from east to west, or from Great Britain to Eastern Europe, with its vast natural beauty, wealth and diverse ethnicities, dialects and cultures normally seen only on foreign-made documentaries.
To fully realize his dream, he saw he had to continuing touring Indonesia with his children and document more of Indonesia’s natural beauty and unique cultures. He decided to make a TV program, Ring of Fire Adventure, and bring Indonesia to the world through the eyes of an Indonesian.
Ring of Fire (RoF) Adventure is putting Indonesia’s exotic but little-known tourism destinations on show to the world for the first time. The series is a story about traveling through the country on motorcycles, interacting directly with the local people. A story that acquaints you with the richness of Indonesia, its rainforests, rice fields, conservation zones, mountain peaks, virgin beaches and down to the core of the earth, via the country’s many dramatic volcanoes.
With the project well underway, global television channels have access to a well-produced documentary package for all ages with music by well-known composer Addie MS. The RoF expedition was conducted in five stages. The first and second legs which covered all of the Lesser Sunda islands and Java and then all of Sulawesi and Maluku have been completed. The third stage will start this September with 80 days touring Sumatra from cities to remote areas.
The RoF expedition’s vision is to produce a documentary series on natural beauty, ethnic and tribal groups and their dialects and cultures, packaged as an encyclopedia about Indonesia accessible to everyone, including the younger generation and Youk’s own children.
I want my children to know Indonesia as their motherland. This expedition is for them and for the world. Indonesia is extraordinarily rich and worth a close look,” says Youk, who regrets the fact that many young Indonesians know more about foreign cities and products than they do about local cultures and the exotic sites in their own country.
“Given this situation, we have tried to produce our documentaries as an adventure series suitable for all ages. In between the sequences, we insert human approaches and values such as the activities of people of a remote village, the relationship between children and parents, interaction between peoples of different religions, ethnicity, dialects or even the children’s struggle in reaching out to the future,” Youk states.
“The main point of the expedition is to show the true colors of Indonesia,” says the filmmaker. True colors, or warna asli in Indonesian, depict the ancient tradition of cohabitation in a modern way.
In East Nusa Tenggara, expedition members stayed with a village chief who is a Protestant. “But when the village chief enters the forest, he prays to the spirits of the local guardians at a place which they call gerbang rohani or gate of faith, so that they will be granted safe passage through the forest,” Youk recalls, adding that many such traditions are unique to Indonesia.
An example of religious harmony comes from Flores, where a Muslim scholar teaches at a Catholic school and a Catholic priest teaches at a Madrasah. In Tana Toraja at one stage of the expedition, Youk’s son lost a small hand bag containing millions of rupiah – he had to carry cash as ATMs were simply unavailable. To everyone’s delight, an 18-year-old boy found the bag and returned it to Youk’s son with the money untouched. Honesty and harmony are maintained at all times in remote communities.
For each stage of the expedition, the members contacted social institutions to see if the local people needed assistance. In East Nusa Tenggara, World Vision was invited to contribute thousands of liters of clean water to an area where villagers have to walk kilometers just for a few liters of grubby water.
Social NGOs also worked together with the Kick Andy Foundation to channel aid in the form of prosthetics for the handicapped in areas the expedition visited. These social gestures are part of the expedition’s mission to forge a special relationship between the expedition and the local people.
Youk, leading the expedition of 12 people, fell from his Kawasaki 600 off-road and broke his leg in an accident at Fatuana village, Insana, in North Central Timor, East Nusa Tenggara. He was flown to Jakarta from Kupang for an operation at the Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital but was back on the bike after six days to continue the expedition. Youk’s wife wasn’t even told he had the accident.
Youk, born in Surabaya on March 13, 1953 and a student of architecture at Ecole Boulle in France, recalls that he did not want to be left behind by his expedition members, so he carried on even though his leg was still in plaster and he had to walk on crutches. He still managed to make it to the top of Mount Kelimutu in East Nusa Tenggara. He admits he is driven by the realization of how small and weak man is before nature but how strong he can be if he respects nature.
Fit again, Youk was back on his motorcycle touring from Sumbawa Besar to Lombok. The Ring of Fire expedition rested in Lombok for a while before ascending Mount Rinjani. Youk climbed up to 2,800 meters, to an outpost called Pelawangan just below the peak of the volcano.
The terrain is more difficult than Mount Kelimutu. I didn’t go all the way to the top because of the weather and the poisonous gas which could affect the wounds on my leg,” Youk recalls.
Although he didn’t reach the top, Youk was happy when the Indonesian Museum of Records named him as “the first handicapped person to climb Mount Rinjani.”
More problems emerged in the second stage of the expedition covering Sulawesi and the Maluku islands. In Central Sulawesi, Youk’s support vehicle broke down and had to be replaced in Palu. Youk’s driver, who has worked for him for 30 years, gave up and quit the expedition.
Youk vows to complete all stages of the expedition, whatever it takes. He has prepared everything in detail from financial management to management of the crew, and of course the business aspect of the adventure. Above all, the adventure has helped establish strong individuals through sweat and tears.
“As a father I am very proud that my children participated in the expedition. It is a rare beauty which you can’t buy. The learning experience, the preparations each member had to cope with, the idealism and the will. Now they can call themselves ‘The Tanzils.’ Can you imagine how happy I am? I was not just a father but a friend as well. What I get out of this expedition is extraordinary and the dream of many,” Youk states.
Reflecting on his experiences so far, Youk calls on the country’s tourism authorities to think twice before launching expensive tourism campaigns in other countries with a population of less than 50 million. Why not promote what you have in the country with a population of more than 240 million? He hopes the Ring of Fire expedition will inspire other two-wheeled adventures and promote tourism.
Youk’s company PT Ring of Fire Indonesia was established in 2010. He also owns other companies, including a production house which makes popular TV productions and documentaries.
His Ring of Fire Adventure series will be packaged in a concept derived from a combination of Discovery Channel, BBC Knowledge, National Geographic, Travel and Leisure and History channels. Distribution will include airline services and Indonesian embassies overseas. GA