Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Day 440 - Jakarta

So I have arrived at the island of Java, one quarter of the size of Sumatra and with 4 times the amount of people. About half of all Indonesians live on Java, that's about 120 million.....Oooooo 'eck! It's my third island, only 17,505 to go. I still have 37 days left on my visa, but I think I need to step up the pace a little.
The run down from Bandar Lampung was pretty much as expected, the new good map showed it as flat, but my legs were telling me it wasn't, though being a main road it was never tough going. This was also the first proper main road I have been on since I arrived in Indonesia and it is noticable that the emission levels have rapidly shot up, as well as the noise levels. I think I have a pretty high tolerance to polution, but even I was really noticing it, my eyes became sore and at times I was a bit light headed. Most vehicles seemed to be emitting something undesirable, but it ranged from hardly noticable to hardly being able to see through it, and there was no shortage of those either. They must have some pretty good mechanics here to be able to produce that much black smoke. It started to rain, I don't mind cycling in the rain, honest, but I used it as an excuse to stop and eat. I didn't mind the climbs as I guessed that even the maps couldn't get it wrong and that the ferries would in fact leave at sea level, so I knew I would get my pay back soon enough, though I had to wait until the last three kilometers to get a view of the sea, and there were the ferries sitting on it. That made them nice and easy to find. Each time I had a junction choice to make, somebody would point the way without me even asking, I just hoped they knew where I was going. I was behind one car at the ticket kiosk, but men sat outside another seemed to indicate that I should go straight through, sure enough when the car went I was waved through without a ticket, I am not sure I was fully understanding the procedure here. A couple of hundred meters later I was at the dock, there was a ship heading out and another just coming in, but there was no queue of vehicles anywhere. I am British for heavens sake, I need a queue to join otherwise I don't know where I am going. I spotted 3 officials so I went over to them. "Which way is it to the ferry to Merak?" I asked, one pointed one way, one the other way and the third found it all just a bit too much. "I'm a bit confused now" I said, "Is it that way, or that way?" I asked pointing. The guy who seemed less sure with his original decision turned and pointed the other way. That was sort of good and he now agreed with the other guy who was more confident and looked a bit more if he knew what was what, but they were pointing the opposite way to what my gut instinct told me. "You are sure it is that way?" and I pointed the same way as they were pointing, they both nodded enthusiastically, "And it is definately not that way?" and I pointed in the opposite direction, at which point they completely took me by surprise and both at exactly the same time changed their minds and pointed in the other direction. I knew I should have stuck to gut instinct, I thanked them for theie help and told them that if the dock ever closed down they could always get a job with the Indonesian mapping companies. I went to a little cafe, I should have gone there in the first place, the staff told me that the ship just docking was heading for Merak at 3pm and I should get on it, I hadn't even told them where I was going. As I had a coffee and another snack a guy started to get agitated and said I should get on the boat as other vehicles were now going on. I made my way over slowly and he followed me, then I was asked for my ticket.....oh poo! My friend from the cafe said a few words and I was waved on, I didn't have to pay and I have no idea why not. Once on, various people spoke to me as I was the only foreigner. I asked each of them how long it would take for the crossing, the answers varied from 3 to 6 hours, I opted for 3 hours. 2 hours after we set off I was bumping my off at the other side. I decided not to continue any further and checked in to a hotel.
So now I had just 120k to go to Jakarta, it was uninspiring, flat and busy, very busy. Road rules are of the Indian variety, look straight ahead and do your best to avoid hitting anything, and to be honest they are very good at that, which makes it very reassuring that the chances of them avoiding me are good. I tend to look around me which is cheating a bit and hardly entering into the spirit of things. All vehicles seem to have an amber light on each side that when used, flash. They are a bit like our indicators, but mean something completely different here. I am not totally sure but I think that if the right one flashes it has a rough meaning of "I am about to do something even more unpredictable than normal", if the left one flashes I think that means "I haven't got a clue what the hell I am doing, so what chance have you got of guessing what I am going to do". If they are both flashing together it means "Get out of the way, I am a police car". I was flagged down by a motorcyclist offering food supplies, a sure way to make me stop. He gave me a bag with 2 sweet filled bread rolls in, and a bottle of water, what's more it was cold water. I don't buy bottled water I opt for the free stuff from the restaurants, though that is just boiled tap water and is supplied at any temperature ranging from warm to hot. I guzzled down the cold water, wonderful. Another good reason for not buying it, it doesn't last long enough. My new ify map had a good map of central Jakarta on it, that made life so much easier, I knew where I was the whole time, how boring is that? Hotels seemed to fit into 2 categories, cheap and rough with just enough room for a single bed and no window, or expensive and all mod cons. Guess which one I went for.
The plan for the first day here was to have a lie in, followed by a leisurely breakfast. The plan went very well especially as I met a couple from Sweden at breakfast, Marcus and Anna. We got chatting away and they too had been traveling south through Sumatra. When I told them I was on a bike they said "Oh, that's you is it?", apparently they had heard about me in Krui where I stopped the night. They seemed to be impressed with my method of traveling, but I was impressed with theirs, an 18 bus journey from Krui to Jakarta arriving at 3am, but to get to Krui had been an amazing 54 hours on a bus, not a nice comfy thing, but the rickety old type, made even worse by the fact that they cram extra people in by sitting them in the aisle. I am sure I couldn't do that, even the thought of such a journey fills me with dread, no a bike is so much easier! Their experiences have been so different to mine too. Anna said that as a women she is treated badly by the men and doesn't like to be alone, even making eye contact can cause problems. Jakarta seems to have a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde identity, on the way in it is at best shabby, at worst, well, not very nice at all really, but very quickly the centre turns into wide clean boulevards with big modern buildings, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had just arrived in the centre of Singapore. I just had a little walk around and ended up in a mall, as you do, though it is the first one that I have been security checked at before you can enter, though having seen the inside of the place I suspect they were checking that you were carrying a credit card. The place was full of designer shops, a tramp like me couldn't even afford the designer coffee, even the security people inside looked down their noses at me as if to say "Who on earth dragged that thing in here?". I looked for the one book shop that the plan showed located on the first floor, the shop name was right but they didn't look like books to me, more like very expensive watches. The evening was a sociable one starting with 4 of us, but numbers around the table grew to eight, but in true Singapore form, everybody is leaving tomorrow, I must be even more boring than I realised!
Had another lie today, back to reality tomorrow. I haven't really done Jakarta justice but there isn't a great deal here to get excited about anyway. I went up the national monument tower thing for some fine views, a bit like the Sky Tower in Kuala Lumpar but the scenery wasn't as good, nor the surrounding architecture. Still, I could see tomorrows route out and it looks very flat, so I should get away pretty easily.
It all a bit strange, but the feel of this trip has once again changed since I decided that I will return once I get to Sydney. Before I didn't think about time, but although there is no end date I still think about how long it will take me to get there. Before it was just another place to pass through, but now it feels like a firm target, an end point. Now it feels a very, very long way off, oddly enough it didn't before.


dad said...

At last a place name I can recognize and find on the map. I haven't added acomment lately as I lost my connection to the internet, but all is ok now and problems solved. I don't think I could travel the world as you are doing as I have ebough trouble getting from A to B in England!

jac said...

Another fantastic, funny blog. I was in stitches at you not getting into the spirit of things and actually looking around you on the road. As I've been driving in NZ, I've been thinking about the mayhem-filled roads in Asia, and missing the madness.
I know what you mean about the length of time feeling different - 6 weeks til home felt like yonks, but 4 weeks til home feels like nothing at all...
Good roads and sightseeing. Can't wait to see the pics of Borobodur.