My aim is to travel from the UK to Brisbane for one of my best friends' wedding. Plane travel is so environmentally damaging so I am looking for another way. I also think that by travelling over land and sea I will be able to understand our world better as I will connect with the people and landscapes and not just look at the departure board in the airport. Any tips gratefully received!! Departure date 1st September.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The end of Indonesia and out of Asia

The final 'challenge' was to get from the earthquake zone to Pekenbaru, only a 4 hour bus ride away, get a boat ticket to Pulau Batam and then a quick hop on a ferry to Singapore....easy peasy...on paper at least! In Bukuttinggi (sorry spelling awful) we discovered the es krem goreng (deep fried - like everything in this country I am surprised they are not all obese - icecream.) and also the weird pancake which was like chewy cake with sweetcorn, cheese and condensed milk - wierdly nice but filling and also bad for the waistline. So after donating some clothes and medical supplies to the earthquake appeal it was time to leave. We missed out on a trip to Lake Maninjau - the road was collapsed from the earthquake and a trip to the world's largest flower - I couldn't justify the 16km trip on a motorcycle (and apparently there was no bus which I know was a lie but I didn't have the energy to argue or work it out). I saw another tourist's photo and that was good enough, it stank a lot apparently anyway. It made me wonder if I should have tried to experience more of the wonderful nature found in Indonesia but also whether maybe it is better to leave our rare and protected environments alone and not trample on them?

So farewell to Konrad and good luck! Over the equator, hurrah, a real milestone but the journey just went from bad to worse! After changing drivers three times and all of them insisting that I should have some 'Makanan' - honestly I have not been eating that much but I am definately no waif! We set off with our chosen driver who looks about 18 through some beautiful mountain and remote countryside scenery. Then the thunderstorm starts and the landslides get ever more apparent. Strangely we pay to go through the worst bits - I guess the money goes to fixing it? The journey takes 8 hours and not 4 and when we arrive suddenly it seems they won't drop me where I was told, at a hostel where I was told I was booked in......and they don't speak English - hello quick phrasebook flicking!! Why do they all shout at once at me when they can see I can't understand?! We drive round aimlessly for a while and I am finally taken to a flashy hotel and told to stay here - no way! but at least the guy here helps and rings the hostel and checks where it is. I wasn't booked in before but I am now! So we head off again and I am put in the front seat and we are joined by the driver's friend - for assistance! yeah right! I realise what kind of help as they try to distract me and pick my pocket when changing gear! I am savvy to this now and thankfully have no pocket to pick anyway but it makes me more nervous. We finally arrive after I adamantly keep saying the name of the hostel and no to other offers of going out on the town! and they demand money for driving me about! I politely tell them to piss off and with the help of the lovely owner of Poppies Hostel in Pekenbaru they get lost. It is late so Jenny (owner's sister) accompanies me to get some food (it is not safe). I feel bad arriving so late and causing chaos so I buy her some food and drink and we have a nice chat. She is/was a missionary and has been out in the tribes spreading the word with the Orang Asli (indigineous people) who knows if they want the word of God? It sounds interesting out in the tribes and I would love to go with her and stay for a while...but not that much!

Next day early I get the first 'boat' out of there. It is actually a 3 hour drive (where I do get out to get food to great amusement as I finally find some fresh bananas and eat them!) and then a 4 hour boat trip, which left early aargh! I had a fun few hours chatting to a lady who wanted my advice on her love life..interesting. She also kept asking me about money and as usual everyone is looking at me so I feel nervous for a bit longer. She is very nice though and shares her food, translates the karaoke, tells me I have a 'sharp' nose (a good thing) and invites me to stay at hers - fun maybe but I am not hanging around any longer. When she departs her space is filled by another friendly, English speaking man who is extremely worried about me travelling alone and so when we get to Pulau Batam he takes me under his wing and gets me to the Singapore ferry safely. Here I am chatted up by the boat hand - flattering maybe - drink a can of 'Pocari Sweat' - it tasted as good as it sounds, bought some cashew nut chocolate I had been looking at for 3 weeks (nasty it turns out!) and nearly leapt aboard the Penguin Ferry to discover all sorts of previously unheard of safety devices and to discover my bag smelt like a dead rat - nice and embarrassing.

So to Singapore and so nice to know my way around, I get the MRT to a hostel and crash. I'm feeling quite unwell and so laze about for a few days until I realise this hostel is a rip off (Summer Tavern) and go free camping at East Coast Park for 3 days. By the beach and not much to do except watch the continual stream of planes flying in and out of the airport. Depressing to say the least. I have decided to take the quickest route home and am planning another boat to Europe. I just have to wait in Singapore for a while longer with no money and no enthusiasm for travelling anymore as well as the prospect of 2 weeks on a boat. I am seriously quite excited about this as I can have some space, no one will stare at me, this time there is a pool and a gym so I can get fit again , write loads of letters and digest and debate all I have seen and done. I will be spending my birthday on board which will be a bit wierd but who cares, next stop Italy!


At 9:09 am, March 21, 2007, Blogger Outlander said...

Hi Babs,

Sorry I didn't catch up with you at Woodford Folk Festival...lots of stuff happened I guess like dead phone batteries and bad reception, but what a great festival! I'll post some photos I got of the festival soon and send you a link to them.

Sorry to hear you are a bit bummed out lately with your travelling. I'm still trying to work out where to have my next holiday, was thinking India. It sounds amazing but not very relaxing. Maybe a holiday trip to Wales would be more my pace? heheh.

Hope you don't have too many more hassles on your travels.

Keep having fun :)


(Brisbane guy who took you to the organic markets in Windsor and drove you around a bit)

P.S. - I still haven't been to that iridologist yet, I'll try to get there this weekend.

At 10:12 am, March 22, 2007, Blogger steveestir said...

big leg of the journey this one then. Im sure that mentally you will feel a lot closer to home when you land in Italy. After all its where your journey began!

Trying to juggle a few commitments and hoping to run into, as opposed to over, you in europe.

I dont know what your commitments are back home but if i were you, i would take my time on the final leg.

you continue to inspire people all around me as i ensure you are never far from the thoughts of those who know you.

happy birthday. even if i cant get in contact i will raise a glass.

At 3:05 pm, March 23, 2007, Blogger Sol said...

Hi there!
I was fascinated to hear you on the radio last Saturday and even more fascinated to see your blog and the related links. Thanks a lot for the man in seat 61 link, it's excellent!
I'm planning a trip to New Zealand with my husband and kids, and we don't want to fly. We've looked into the cargo option, but it is so astronomically expensive that we are also considering an overland route. Do you think this is advisable/ safe to do with kids? They will be 10 & 11 when we traval so I guess reasonably grown-up and sensible.
Also, do you know if there is a way to get from Indonesia or Malaysia to NZ without taking a cargo? (you talk about the possiblity of fishing boats etc...)
Any tips /links would be most welcome!
Solen Lees Gratiet

At 6:11 pm, April 11, 2007, Blogger Babs said...

Not sure I understand your point Panpipe. If it is that the planes go anyway then that is not a valid argument for non-plane travel. As I have said before by choosing plane travel we are 'voting' for it as something we agree with and support. We are demonstrating we think it should continue and I don't agree. I still belive in the power of one and we all can make a difference and should stick to our beliefs. In Singapore I sat and watched hundreds of planes come and go from my tent where I stayed on the beach for 3 days. It was pretty depressing. I knew if I had got on one I could have been home in less than a day and I know they all still went but I really believe so much plane travel is not the future and things will change.

At 6:17 pm, April 11, 2007, Blogger Babs said...

Sol...I am not sure I can be more help. I am not a parent so I have no idea if it is suitable for you to take you kids. I didn't see many along the way that is for sure but I don't see why it shouldn't be safe. Of course many of the journeys are very long so they would need to be able to occupy themselves and not need entertaining. I was interested to see that when I did see an Asian child they were always very quiet and very well behaved, even when travel sick...something I don't see much in UK and other 'Western' countries....anyway...
With regards other options. I don't know about other boat options but ther are lots of good websites for yacht crew positions. I found 'Findacrew' to be very good and also it is worth knowing the Darwin to Bali yacht race is in July and so after that a lot of boats return to Australia and may take on crew, not sure about New Zealand though. A lot of people take their time to go slowly through the Pacific Islands I think.


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