We stepped off the ferry from Bali onto Java on the 29th of February. We checked the time on the ferry and it showed 6pm but we havent even reached the port yet. Clément said he was concerned hitchhiking would be too difficult once it gets dark. I recalled reading that Java was on a different time zone (an hour behind Bali) so it was 5pm in Java still and we would still have enough time when we arrived to at least get one ride. When we got down however, we saw the street lights were already on and the sun was gone from the sky.
Only a bit of dusk light was leftover and it wasnt going to last long. We had some food while contemplating if we should set up tent for the night or try hitchhiking anyway. We looked around. It was a one road street and all along it were shops or houses or some sort of construction that didnt leave us enough room for even to place a sleeping bag. It was looking bleak, we had no choice but to give hitchhiking a go.
We were exhausted. We had been awake since 7.30am as we were told we could get a lift to the airport in Bali at 8.30am. However we didn’t leave until probably 9.30am as the others were late to get ready. It didnt matter. It was still morning and we had a free ride to the airport at least.
Upon arrival we asked the person within the closest proximity to us where the bus station or bemo station was. He said there were no bus stations or bemos around. IT WAS AN OUTRIGHT LIE! And I was getting pretty sick of being lied to, being viewed as someone’s income instead of human being. Here we were, two backpackers asking someone for a bus station and they had the ill-minded mentality to lie to us.
I saw a security guard at the corner of my eye, someone who was paid by the airport and would have no intention for himself to lie to a tourist. I asked him the same question. He said yes there were both a bemo and bus station just outside the airport, not too far from where we were!
I turned back to the taxi driver who had lied to us and his friends and i yelled at them “Kamu semua pembohong!” (You are all liars).
They said nothing back.
Clement and I went off hand in hand in search of a bemo. We reached the outside of the airport and was stopped by someone again, someone who was a motorbike driver. He asked where we were going. We said to a bemo station and we werent interested in a ride. He said to us the bemo station was really far. I was preparing myself for him to sell his transport service but to my surprise he didnt. In fact he told us a bus would be passing by really soon from where we were standing and it wouldn’t cost us more that 7000IDR to get a ticket to a bemo terminal where the bemo to Gilimanuk (where the ferry to Java would be departing). Bemos had terminals in Bali and each bemo had specific terminals they would arrive and depart from.
The man who helped us with the bus was from Lombok, not Bali he explained, and he never felt it was right to convince or lie to people to sell a service. He was not going to be a salesman that was for sure, but he would restore faith in humanity in his own little way.
We hopped on the bus, it wasnt a proper bus stop, we waved it down. This was a blue bus that departs from the international terminal and it has white outlines of skyscrapers on it’s sides. There was traditional Balinese music being played on the bus. The lady who was playing the music off her phone was happy to share her music with me.
When we got to the bemo station we were shocked to find out that the bemo was going to cost more than we initially thought. We expected to pay 35000 IDR maximum per person. The price was 50000IDR each! The driver said it was because of our backpacks too as bemos were small and our backpacks easily took up the space of 3 seats. (Indonesians had very small frames).
I thought for sure we were being tricked again ablut the price. But i was tired, i wasn’t keen to try hitchhiking in a place like Bali. I looked at Clem and i was sure he didn’t want to pay the price so I said, it’s okay I would pay for it. I was also still sore with him about the night before in Kuta where he spend about 120000 IDR or more on cigarettes and alcohol, but he was counting money for transportation. We had different prioritisations on what we would spend money on.
We got on the bemo and paid the fare. It was going to be a 2 hour ride we were told. It must have been much longer than that as about an hour in, the bemo broke down. We were the last 2 remaining passengers and in a place like Bali i was afraid , being seen as tourists, that for sure the driver would just tell us too bad and tell us to find our own way. Thankfully he didn’t, he called another bemo driver who was also droving to Gilimanuk to stop where we were to take us. The rest of the ride was smooth sailing.
That was the whole of our morning and afternoon.
After our meal, we prepared our hitchhiking sign. “BANDUNG, NUMPANG GRATIS” was what we wrote. The night before i googled hitchhiking in Indonesia for some tips and a reliable website (insert link later) told us including the word gratis was very important as it meant free. In Indonesia if you asked people if you could “numpang” (hitchhike/hop on board) you will get people who will stop for you, however they will ask for money.
We waited for no less than 20 minutes when a truck driver stopped for us. He had just finished work and was on his way back to his village which was about 6 hours away from where we were and we could hop on board and he could take us as far as we could go, close to Surabaya. He hopped into his high truck and there was some room, though not much, behind the seats.
The driver’s name was Koko. He said he stopped for us because he felt sorry for us. He thought we had no money and he knew for sure not many people would have stopped for us. We struggled to find a comfortable position to sleep behind the seats. It was going to be a very long drive and as we didnt know when we would get our next ride it would have been smart for us to sleep.
I fell asleep several times but not for long as each part of my body was constantly aching. I looked at Clem and he was struggling so much more to sleep. His eyes were red. I was about to say something to him and then my eyes dropped and I drifted into a deeper sleep that time.
We got woken up because Koko wanted to get some food, he woke us up and insisted we sat down with him to eat. We weren’t hungry and we werent looking to spend money on luxuries such as eating when we weren’t hungry. It wasnt a healthy habit for the body to that anyway. But Koko insisted. He asked the lady to fill up a plate of rice and pushed it to us so we had no choice but to fill it up. We shared a plate between us. He paid for our meal and bought us water and biscuits.
We were soon to learn that hitchhiking in Java would be relatively easy and those that stop for us really looked after us so well. It wasn’t just because Clement is caucasian and it wasnt because i could speak Bahasa Indonesia. It was the way of their culture. Its the way they are to help others when they have the capacity to.
Koko wanted to take us to the train station and buy us train tickets direct to Bandung! He was a truck driver and has a wife and a child. We could not have accepted the extent of his kindness nor did we fathom the extent either. So he dropped us off at an intersection as he was going a different direction and had to part with us. It wasnt more than an hour until a car with 6 young Indonesians stopped for us and took us to Surabaya. Before they arrived we had several people stopped out of curiosity to ask where we were going. They rarely see anyone hitchhiking with a sign let alone two interracial backpackers. One group of 3 on a motorbike stopped to take a photo with us. We obliged. Then the man requested something a bit out of the ordinary. He looked at Clement and asked “boleh turunkan?” He touched Clément’s stomach and touchee his female friend’s stomach after. I wasn’t sure if i understood him correctly and asked what did he mean?
“My friend wants to get pregnant but she can’t (he didn’t say why), would he like to help her out?” (He asked in Indonesian)
I raised my voice at him in shock and partially laughing at the audacity of it. “This man is my fiancé!”
He repeatedly apologised and then left as abruptly as his question was strange.
The 6 youths that stoped for us took us into Surabaya and a bit out of it. It was 2am when they picked us up and 3am when they dropped us off. It seems the traffic never ends on the mainroad in Java and there were food stalls (warung) and convenience stores open. The youths asked for a photograph too. We must seem quite the novelty. They left us at a petrol station as that qas the furthest they could take us that wasnt too out of their way. We slept in front of the petrol station for a few hours.
At 7am or so we woke up and resumed our journey. We waited for perhaps 20 minutes for a car to stop. Again many people on bikes stopped to quench their curiosity. A couple of them stopped to give us advice. One man even offered to give us money!! He offered to give us 100000IDR each. We declined the really kind offer. The man said if he saw us at the same place when he gets back he would then help us. But not long after he left, a man stopped for us.
He was on his way to work. He goes from town to town selling metal for his supplier. He took us as far as Magetan which was about 5-6 hours drive. We talked ahout languages and countries and cultures.
I havent hitchhiked for very long but I can see why Clément, and every other hitchhiker I’ve met, enjoys it. To say you meet people is an underestimation. You really do get to connect with people. Especially in such a long drive. And i think the connection is formed more when there is silence between people. It’s not always easy for strangers to keep conversation going, but it’s even harder to enjoy silence together. And the unspoken, assumed trust between the hitchhiker and the driver was a relationship that was completely new to me, but it was nice. Why do people have to prove trust to people? Why does society have to alwsys play this back and forth game when most people claim they dont even have the time of the day for their families?
Back in canberra once, when it was winter and raining, a colleague wouldnt even give me a lift to my car once which was only about 300m away from her car. Instead she handed me an umbrella and said “make sure you return it.” This was in a first world society where people had the mentality to spend their earnings on beers and excessive clothes, but to not offer 5 minutes to help someone down the road in the rain. Leaving Canberra was a blessing.