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.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More about Indonesia

If you can get over the fact that in the last two weeks in Indonesia there have been fatal aircrashes, an earthquake, a landslide and a ferry setting on fire and sinking. Then there have also been less fatal but also worrying active volcanoes bubbling, typhoons, H5N1, typhoid and malaria scares. Then if you can also get over your recent dog bite (family pet and I have already had the jabs but still pretty mental looking!), attempted pickpocketing in Jakarta and the constant stream of 'Miss Miss, you want this, that, the other, where you from?' 24/7 then Indonesia is great! Phew! I am loving the place but it is so tiring. Java was a blur really. I didn't stop to do all I wanted, see volcanoes bubbling and the environment centre in the mountains because either they were inaccessible or I basically didn't have enough energy to try to tackle them alone. It is so quiet here in terms of foreigners (even in Bali and Kuta) and so some tours don't run for one person and being the only white person, a young women too, turning up in a remote hill town at 5am just was too much to contemplate. I hadn't seen more than about two white expat faces for a few days and not spoken to anyone other than an Indonesian in the same time. Then I found some nice folk at the Satia Kawan hostel in Yogjakarta and decided to stay there and chill for a while. What a cool hostel, all decorated in beautiful and funky paintings and murals by local artist kown as 'Bedhot', good value and great breakfast - banana pancakes are standard fare for western travllers here. Yogya is pretty chilled and quite arty although I am thankful I was warned about the 'Government Art Centre/Batik scam' before I went. It was nice to hang out and share stories with other travelling folk and practice a bit of Indonesian with the locals. I am loving the language, it is really not that hard and I am managing to have quite a few good conversations. The best seems to be a mix of pidgin English and 'phrase book' Indonesian. I helpfully taught a local the word for 'flour' how useful!? This was when I made the effort and took a day trip out to see Merapti, the local bubbling Gunung. Sadly it is closed for walking (due to poisonous ash and lava) and when I make it to the viewpoint the cloud has descended and covered most of the view. It is a good walk and nice to be out of the city. There aren't many people around, just a few Indonesian tourist couples snuggling up at the viewpoint and zooming past on their scooters. It is a pretty nice and quiet spot to just sit and read and chat to the inevitable stream of locals who wander by. There were some odd but nice art sculptures made by the local kids out of bamboo and old footballs and some keen gardeners who I was pleased to see were reusing old paint tins and buckets for flower pots - more reusing in Indonesia yay! (and also loads of low energy light bulbs in Indonesia too!) Due to luck or fate or whatever I met an Irish guy named Konrad in Yogya who I managed to convince to join me on a bus and boat jolly to Sumatra. He had plans to go to Sumatra but had problems with flight bookings. It was good to have a buddy to travel with - more fun, less scary etc. We are both trying to tavel very economically to so this was good to be on the same budget. We got the overnight, economy train to Jakarta. Here I managed to get a fair bit of sleep on the floor on the blanket I hired. I was only interuppted at every stop with the sounds of the walk-on hawkers calling out 'Nasi, Nasi, Nasi', 'Kopi, Kopi, Kopi' (rice and coffee) ans stomping past. After debating the option of a Pelni ship to Kijang (24 hours to an island which is part of Sumatra but very near Singapore) or a bus and ferry to Bukitinggi (80km from the recent earthquake!) we take the bus as it was leaving first and we were keen to get out of Jakarta asap. After a lot of confusion, misleading information and bad communication moments we are waiting in a bus depot somewhere in Jakarta for about 4 hours for our bus. There are some crazy dudes here and many can't help but stare at us - unnerving especially when it is twenty blokes. Finally we board and after a few hours make it to the rusty old ferry. What a laugh, upstairs there is a bar with a few 'chrome' tables and chairs and fairy lights and an electric keyboard. After a few songs from the 'demo' we finally get some real musicians and singers who are top class, gyrating, singing flat and very loud but good entertainment. Being the only two westerners on board we attract a lot of attention and I get to practice my balancing skills trying to use the squat toilet with has slippery wet tiles by it and the door doesn't shut - this becomes a common dance/stretch I do over the next 36 hours. I manage to get a good nights sleep in our super reclining seats except for the 3am wake up call where they kept saying 'Mister, Mister, Miss, Miss, Makanan, Makanan (food/meal)' we kept closing our eyes and saying no and finally our snoozing won out. The next day consisted of bumping along looking at beautiful old Dutch colonial style houses and village life, interspersed with the odd bit of ride on busking (v. common here) and some good guitar and harmonica combos. Also an interesting moment when all the 'laki-laki' (men) had to get off and walk over the bridge before the bus went over - I think I would rather have been outside the bus if it was going to snap but it seems that was the way. We also got the option of eating mouldy beans - yum and laughs everytime I try to ask for some 'pisang' (bananas) - nowhere to be found in Sumatra apparently. Also keep being half amused and half worried by the number of buses from the same company at the side of the road steaming. Luckily we were soon to join them. Only 78 km from our final destination and after 33 hrs of journey we get some smoke and all pile off. It seems the bearings have gone and after wating for nearly 5 hrs someone turns up with a wrench and some oil and after a bit of a bash all is well - could they have not found a wrench and some oil here!? we were after all in a big town. Anyway onwards and now we got to see the destruction in daylight. Quite a few crumpled buildings and loads of refugee tents set up, big stores of food and money collection points. Even my wonderfully practised phrases don't help us as we arrive in Bukuttinggi and we are dropped about 3 km from where we want to be. So we trudge along, find some food and a bed and collapse. Incidently, I am currently managing to travel on the equivalent of 10 pounds a day here for food, travel, accommodation, everything!


At 4:52 am, March 12, 2007, Blogger djfoobarmatt said...

babs - you need paragraphs! great blog btw.

At 4:56 am, March 12, 2007, Blogger djfoobarmatt said...

Hey BTW, even locals can have trouble with those slippery dunnies. I heard a guy fall into one when I was in India.

At 3:59 pm, March 13, 2007, Blogger Paunch and Jaded said...

Wow!!!! All good stuff for the story - and to tell your grandchildren about in 40 years. Will make sitting on a ship like watching paint dry very slow indeed - but less stressful hopefully. I'm sure you'll look back on it with amazement even if it was so 'full on'.

From your itinerary it sounds like your journey has taken you through the rain forest to the coast - should be fascinating as well. I did that on Borneo when looking at the potential impact of dams on the inland rainforest.

Hope you managed to enjoy the days relaxing (?) in B.tinggi. My geography of Sumatra is also improving significantly. Thanks for that.

Hope that all goes well to Singapore. Keep writing it down, it's great stuff.

All our love

At 2:26 pm, March 14, 2007, Blogger Babs said...

Sorry about the paragraphs thingie! I just got carried away trying to be quick in the internet cafe before the black out or server going down! ...I will try harder...


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