Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tres dias de bus para viajar 1000kms? // 3 days of bus to travel 1000kms?

Jakarta's reputation is well deserved. The city is absolute chaos, with millions of people seemingly driving no where at break neck speed or waiting in paralysing traffic jams. From what we have seen so far the city has very little to offer the 'mass tourist' or the 'backpacker', as the city does little to promote its heritage and main attractions. The city is serverly run down, overpopulated, noisy and in need of some Enyo products; it is insanely filthy and polluted.

The reputation and prior reading of Jakarta meant that we were going to avoid it at all costs, hence we arrived three mornings ago and went straight to the passenger shipping sales office. The first error committed was that we thought it was Monday, when it was Sunday. This meant that we sat at the base of an office building not having showered in 24 hrs and had not eaten in about in about 15hrs. After about 3hrs we concluded that the office was not open on Monday's, returned to the central train station and caught a train to the satellite town of Bogor. It was a nice town and while en-route we also figured out that it was Sunday! Doh!

While in Bogor we decided that rather than wait for the boat from Jakarta to Singapore (it only departs on Fridays), we decided to go back to Jakarta early the next morning and aim to get to the town of Bukitinggi in central north Sumatra.

We got up nice and early caught the economy train, big mistake as we couldn't even breath - peak hour on the train here means that people are hanging out of the windows and sitting on the roof of the bloody train. After this 2 hours ordeal we transfered to the appropriate bus station, bought our tickets to Bukutinggi and proceeded to wait for 2 hours in the bus station. We were hounded for two hours straight by touts and curious onlookers. The departure time arrived and passed and with our anxiety increasing we started to ask a number of questions, of which there were no soild answers; many Indonesians speak limited English although they all have problems distinguishing between am and pm and map reading. Through speaking in nouns and verbs we had concluded that the bus was stuck in traffic, but then talking to one of the touts we found out that it was a 3 day bus journey! The LP says it takes 24 hours! As expected both Eider and myself shat ourselves on the prospect of sitting on a bus with no toilet, about $1.50 in our pockets (we couldn't find an ATM) and a 3 day bus journey.

We then attempted to get a refund on the ticket on the basis that we had confirmed that it was a 24 hour trip upon purchase and a little fib explaining that we had to be in Malaysia in two days. Eider embarked on her mission and ended up being surrounded by about 15 people who were all screaming at each other. They were refusing to refund the money initially, then decided that a 25% fee was to be applied. We persisted and were finally able to get all the money back. So after 2 days of being in West Java and trying to avoid beining in Jakarta altogether, it seems as though destiny has decided that we spend the rest of the time in Jakarta and wait till Friday morning. The trip will take (I think) 24 hours and will arrive in Batam (Indo islands south of Singapore). We are sleeping in 3rd class with numerous others. I'm sure that a number of stories will emerge from the experience.

All in all though Indo has been great. Bali was definitely a highlight as we hired a motorbike and drove up into the central highlands visiting volcanoes, temples, rice terraces and villages. Bali is most certainly suffering from the bombs and the recent drug publicity in Australia. We didn't make it to Kuta, but the restaurants we were eating at (Ubud) were empty; every night we were the only ones dinning! The people have been friendly and very helpful, although the touts here a pretty full on. It's all smiles though and not intimidating.

Jakarta tiene la reputacion que se merece. Esto es un caos absoluto. La ciudad es increiblemente sucia y ni delante del Parlamento se puede andar 1 metro sin pisar basura y tratar de evitar agujeros en el suelo. Es impresionante. La polucion se puede saborear (no es de broma, masticas conitnuamente y polvillo negro), y hay gente deambulando por la calle en todas las esquinas. Es como que estan vivos pero no tienen vida. A pesar de todo esto, la gente es increiblemente amable (todos nos saludan y sonrien por la calle y los coches y motos nos pitan continuamente) y el pais sufre la caida del turismo enormemente y, excepto esta horrenda ciudad el resto del pais es un sueno lleno de volcanes, cultivos de arroz, pueblos encantadores y selvas. Una maravilla recomendable a todo el mundo que tenga el estomago duro para ver mucha pobreza y suciedad tambien.

Como os podeis imaginar nuestro plan no era el de pasar 5 dias en Jakarta. Todo estaba muy bien planeado: llegamos a la ciudad y nos montamos directamente en un barco para ir a Singapur. Ja! Despues de esperar durante horas delante de la oficina expedidora de los billetes (habiamos pasado toda la noche en un tren y fuimos directamente alli), nos dimos cuenta de que no iban a abrir la oficina (era Domingo y nosotros pensabamos que era Lunes...estar de vacaciones mola!). Llamamos a la oficina central donde nos dijeron que los barcos solo salen una vez a la semana, y el dia era el viernes. 5 dias de espera!!!!!!en una ciudad como Jakarta!!!!!!En seguida nos pusimos manos a la obra a pensar en diferentes alternativas:

Plan A: Fallido
La guia hablaba de un pueblo llamado Cipata donde habia aguas termales naturales. 50km desde Jakarta. Sin pensarlo fuimos hasta la estacion pricipal derca de Cipata (para entonces ya eran como la cuatro de la tarde), donde nos informaron en la oficina de turismo, que la Cipata a 50km de Jakarta no es la bonita idilica de aguas termales, sino que esta bastante mas lejos. Y esta Cipata por cierto, es un agujero. AHHHHHHHHH!
Tuvimos que pasar noche alli donde pensamos en el siguiente plan.

Plan B: Tambien fallido
Inspirada me levante por la manana y me puse a leer la guia. A 24 de autobus desde Jakarta se puede llegar a una ciudad preciosa de donde se puede coger un barco a Malasia. Le desperte a Andrew y en menos de una hora estabamos en un tren hacia Jakarta en hora punta (puertas abiertas y gente que colgaba desde la puertas, gente en el techo....). 2 horas mas tarde llegamos a la apropiada estacion de bus y compramos nuestro billete para ir a Bokutingi. Describir las 2 horas de espera en la estacion podria llevarme 1 dias entero, pero estuvimos durante todo el tiempo rodeados de unas 10-15 personas vendiendonos cosas, mirandonos, tocandonos...un calor de justicia.... y todo para descubrir despues de 2 horas que el autobus que ibamos a coger tardaba 3 dias (si, 3 dias para hacer 1000km) y no 1 como pensabamos. La odisea para que nos devolvieran el dinero de los billetes sin que nadie hablara una palabra de ingles, la dejo para vuestra imaginacion...

De verdad que parece que Jakarta no nos quiere dejar ir!....y aqui estamos....esperando durante 5 dias a un barco....por lo menos la comida es buena y la gente acogedora. Un pais absolutamente recomendable.

La foto es de Andrew delante del volcan Bromo en la isla de Java, mientras una gente del pueblo pasaba en caballo.


Anonymous Ben and Tre said...

Haha, sounds like Indo hasn't changed much since I was there last. Slowly simmering chaos is my main recollection. Have fun on the boat to Singapore and remember to take plenty of lifejackets and NO DRUGS!

We were thinking of you a couple of days ago when we bought a couple of cheese and tomato sandwiches. They were the most piss-poor example of a sandwich we have ever eaten (cheap white sliced bread, one limp slice of processed plastic and a single thin slice of tomato in the middle!) and they made your examples look very fine indeed.

7:39 pm

Anonymous Maider y Asier said...

Aqui estamos, en casa de Diego y Marisa con la Wifi. Very moderno.
Acabamos de leer vuestra página y hemos alucinado. Que bueno. No sabia yo que tuvieramos 2 escritores en la familia! Damos por hecho que estais de maravilla. Estamos decidiendo qué hacemos en verano e Indonesia tiene pinta de ser toda una aventura.
Maider y Asier

7:42 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this posting works, cause it is now the third time that I have tried.
It sounds like you guys really have embarked on the trip of a lifetime.
Let's hope things work out more smoothly when I join you in Cambodia and Vietnam.
I'll keep my fingers crossed....
Penny xxoo

3:43 pm


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