Indonesia Part III: Planes, Trains and Becaks

We had to call an end to our stay in Yogjakarta after residing there for a couple days longer than we expected. Everyone was raving about a place called Karimunjawa that was verbally illustrated as an undiscovered and viably untouched tropical archipelago of 27 islands in the Java Sea.  I’m a sucker for white sand and coconut trees. I also don’t mind remote places away from the circuit of highbrowed travelers roasting the questions of  “Where have you been” on the burner of pretentious small talk after finding out we are from, god forbid, United States of America.  After hours in transit sitting on our rumps, we craved some physical activity once we finally got the island.  Bikes.  You know, bi-cycle.  The ones you use to pedal with two feet.  This took the locals by surprise.  They surely thought we meant motorbikes, until we tromped down to the shop to reserve them for the following morning.  The owner “tuned” them up after we paid our $3 each.  The name brand meant nothing, as we used all our force to rotate the wheel just once.  We were determined.  Up and down, dodging potholes and chickens, stopping every five minutes to kick back my loose kickstand.  This was a setback.  But, so were the massive hills.  After struggling to make 4 kilometers, we walked them down the paved road and parked it by the beach.  We needed a rest and were dying for water.  A local we met the previous night, just visiting to scope out land to buy on the island luckily had a 10 person van.  He suggested we chuck the junky, sorry-excuses-for-bicycles, into his van and get a ride back.  We had no choice.  “A” for effort.

Personal Moped
I broke my promise.  Since the bike trip was a failure, we gave in and rented a moped to explore on our own, after our first day of snorkeling and island hopping.  Feeling a bit smothered by the local hospitality, (yes, we actually felt this way.  Sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad) we tested the breaks and took off to the northern part of the island.  Right or left? No one to ask. No map in our hands.  We went right, up and down roads that slithered like the trail an eel leaves behind in water.  Passing untouched beaches and shipwrecked boats, we came to a rickety bridge.  Leah was determined to cross, but I demanded she walk the vehicle over, looking at the missing slots of wood and swamp beneath.  I envisioned us in the swamp beneath.  Just after we walked to the other side, two local teenagers blazed across it full speed with ease.  Better safe than sorry, right?   An hour later, we came across a weathered map on the side of a road that pointed towards a beach and according to the picture looked suitable for our sunset requirements.  We followed the narrow dirt path to a sea of sand.  Singing songs out loud to relieve my fear along with Leah’s positive encouraging expression “Just be confident” and “You can do it”  got us through on the way there.  But, after being sent back by some trail guards, I assured Leah to hold on thinking in my head I had to blast through. The moped took control after my attempt to shoot across the terrain.  In slow motion, we got thrown off the bike, into the soft, padded sand pit.  The men came to the rescue, as we brushed off the dirt from our left sides, as they apologized for the driving conditions, while we had to catch out breath from bouts of uncontrollable laughter.  No scapes, bruises or scars.  We drove quite slow on the way home, but enjoyed the remainder of our freedom on two wheels (that actually took us places)!

I’ve always loved boats.  Especially ferries.  It brings me back to my childhood days of going to the Vineyard for our family vacations.  Josie, our Springer Spaniel, cuddled up with my brother and I, in the back of our chocolate-colored Jeep Cherokee as my parents drove through the night straight.  I would wake up, and 7 hours later, we were at the harbor in Falmouth.  It was like teletransporting.  Like time travel.  The fresh sea air moistened my face when I opened the window to give Josie air.   The clam chowder my mother would devour, giving us spoonfuls sparingly like it was laced in gold. The salt water that would spray up if you stood at the very front of the boat. That hour on the boat was like waiting in line to see Santa Claus.  You could see him, anxiously waiting in line, but you weren’t quite there yet.  The anticipation builds up.  I always relate the ferry to that excitement of my childhood.  Unfortunately, there was no clam chowder or Mom to buy me treats on this ferry.  Our only way to leave Karimujawa was to leave a day early (but we were clearly not tan enough to leave) or take the……slow ferry.

We spent our 3 days staying with a gentle, kindhearted, non English speaking native family who brought us room service of instant cappuccino and bland steamed vegetable roots, invited to us to a home cooked meal of fish soup, tempeh, rice and fish crackers, and happily took a break while we bonded with Ricky, their lovable 3-year-old son.  Once again, we had to say another goodbye.

I just recently have been cursed with motion sickness and the overbearing beats of Indonesian pop bands combined with the waves that rocked the boat in slow motion like a seesaw, didn’t act as another joyous ferry ride like ones in my youth.  Thankfully, Agung had given me an  aroma therapy stick in Bali to relieve symptoms of headaches homeopathically.  I sat for 6 hours sniffing and applying the stick to my temples and neck every other minute until I saw land.  I was really looking forward to a plane after all our adventures!

Despite the unforgiving transportation at times and other times unfavorable accommodation, we had to get from place to place.  And, cheaply.  We had to find a place to rest.  Cheaply.  And this was the part of it all that made us appreciate the simple things.  And also that made us enjoy the moments of transit, if only to get a quiet spot to look out the window and think.  No one to interrupt.  Or the moments when you reach a room, and a pillow and mattress is the highest standard you demand, and amusingly sometimes the only thing you do get.  Then when you get free water and internet on top of it, it feels like you are staying the JW Marriot, but for a microscopic fraction of the price.

I relate Indonesia with the people.  More specifically the people of Java, and even more specifically, Yogjakarta and Solo.  The sights were worth seeing, but overall the people who went out of their way to make each day a bit more comfortable and pleasant for us, ranked it up there with Myanmar.  Maybe it’s just their natural demeanor. The smiles didn’t stop.  In Myanmar, you had to show the first smile, but in Indonesia they were waiting for you around every corner.

Next stop: Singapore.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Judy
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 23:36:15

    Awesome, thank you! I too have a wonderful ferry memory. I was traveling from Vancouver to Victoria on a ferry with my sister, mother and brother. Due to the fact we were in our lakte teens, we wanted to seperate from our mother and brother on the ferry. OK, we had a mission! There was one of the most handsome men I have ever encountered on the ferry! Obviously, I will never, ever forget that wonderful vision!


  2. Max
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 00:48:08

    A-mazing. Love that you found a map on the ground and went with it. This is what traveling is about – there’s a serious metaphor there jojobee6! Miss you girls muchisssssimoooo


  3. Donna
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 22:40:09

    I want to travel with you. However, if you rent a moped again, I will run behind. haha.
    love hearing from you! Where are you now and where are you going?? Be Safe!


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