A man from a village in East Java has embarked on an unconventional mission to raise awareness about preserving forests: he is walking 800km to Indonesia’s capital, backwards.
Medi Bastoni hopes that, after taking thousands of steps backwards – and hopefully forwards for mankind – he will have the opportunity to meet President Joko Widodo so he can ask him for a symbolic tree seed, which he intends to plant on the slopes of Mount Wilis.
The 43-year-old set out from his village of Dono in East Java on Thursday last week and plans to make it to the State Palace in Jakarta for commemoration of the nation’s independence day on 17 August.
The father of four hit the road in an unusual ensemble: tracksuit pants, high-vis vest, and a rectangular contraption of piping around his body that holds a rear-view mirror in place above eye level, so that he can walk backwards unobstructed.
He plans to clock up to 30km a day, buy food from roadside stalls and sleep at mosques, police stations and security posts as he walks his way across Java.
By planting a symbolic tree, which he says will be named after the president, Medi hopes to raise awareness about preserving the forest around Mount Wilis, a volcanic mountain in East Java.
“Not only me, people on the slopes of Wilis and the younger generation, all must care about the nature of Wilis,” Medi told local news outlet Surya.co.id, “I hope that everyone is involved in caring for the sustainability of Wilis.”
Environmental activists are regenerating the area, he said, but a tree given by the president would support their efforts.
Asked why he is walking backwards, Medi gave the Indonesian press a philosophical answer, saying that in the lead-up to Indonesia’s 74th independence day he wanted Indonesians to “look back” and reflect on the nation’s history and “the service of heroes who have fought for the Indonesian state”.
Complete with a red and white Indonesian flag affixed next to his backpack, a sign on above his head bears Indonesia’s emblematic golden eagle with the words: “Tanda Bakti Anak Negri”, meaning “A tribute to the motherland.”