A Lucky Man

I wonder if you know

that you are a lucky man?

To savour her in her most vulnerable state;

asleep and naked, in your bed.

 

I wonder if you realise your own good fortune,

to be able to watch her brush her damp hair,

that sticks to her moist skin.

Fresh from the shower!

Your towel is all that she has

wrapped around her.

 

It kills me inside, just a little bit and sadly not enough,

to know the sounds that she makes,

are all for you to hear.

From the noisy sips of her coffee,

to her laughter,

her burps,

her muffled sobbing behind cupped palms,

her exasperated moans when she scrunches her face tightly, oh

and her explosions…

Yes, you get to hear them all.

 

I wonder if you have come to realised yet,

what a lucky man you are.

 

-Tiffany Teoh

 

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Journey to France: Day 97

Our 2 weeks in Ipoh turned to 3 weeks. Not because we needed 3 weeks to see everything.

Our initial 2 weeks were prearranged as it was the preferred length of stay for our Helpx host at Bed and Bike Studio in Ipoh, Malaysia. It’s a cosy snug 12 bed dormitory in an office suit that pretty much resembles a cosy large studio style apartment.

As they had bicycles we could borrow for free we spent alternate days going in and out in the morning as the afternoons were much too hot it kills me.

On one of our ventures out,  we were meant to go to a river and we took the local bus at a cost of probably Rm2.70 each to Gopeng bus station. From there we were to find another way there, probably through hitchhiking.

We got off the bus stop and had not even walked 2 metres when Clément spotted something that stopped him in his tracks. I asked him what was the matter and followed his gesture and eyes to a dark, little figure under a the bus station seat.

It was a puppy!

It was barely moving except for when it opened and closed its eyes slowly. Someone had placed a few pieces of dry dog food in front of him, but he wasn’t eating even when we brought the pieces to his lips.

We picked him up to have a better look at him, though we could already see he was covered in fleas. When we have a closer look he also had a large tick on his side and red ants were nibbling away at him. His skin was flaky, dry and discoloured, he had bare skin in areas where there should be fur. To top it off he was also extremely weak.

We took a look around, it didn’t seem as if this puppy had an owner. Or a mother and father around for that matter.  I went to the small sundry store in front of us to ask for a box and they gave the perfect sized box for the puppy. We caught the next bus back into Ipoh.

We got back to the hostel, and right away took down the bicycles, tied the box with the puppy to the back and peddled to the vet in the noon sun.

The vet assessed the puppy to be not more than 6 weeks old. He was severely dehydrated, infested with worms and covered in lice on top of the fleas, ticks and ants.

The vet dewormed him, sprayed him for the bugs and gave him a shot of antibiotics for his mange,  a kind of mite that infects dogs’ skin.

We had decided to extend our stay in Ipoh another week to ensure puppy could have all he needed from the vet before we continued our travels.

The next couple of weeks turned to parent duty for us.  On our first night with Puppy he was already eating within the next few hours we took him in, and when it was time for bed he refused to sleep in his box and climbed out to wedge between Clément and I to fall asleep.

Toilet training was a constant hit and miss especially living in a property with stairs to go outside. We had to constantly carry him downstairs if we had an inkling that he wanted to urinate or defecate. Walking him was a joy from the start. He was always walking with us and if he stopped, it was because the were steps in front of him and he needed help getting up or down. Otherwise he would start running to us right away when I said “come baby come” or when Clément whistles.

We take him everywhere with us. We took him to Gua Tempurung where he wandered around the caves with us. We took him to Taiping with us and Kuala Sepetang. He was on the buses with us,  in the cars we hitchhiked, on the boat we cruised the rivers on and on the ferry to Langkawi. He mostly sleeps in his tote bag and when we are out of a vehicle he eats with us at the places we stop at and walks with us to the next place we start to hitchhike. He’s an incredibly clever puppy, he adapts so well, he insists on cuddling with us in bed every night, he’s out little bundle of sweet bread,  and already the best thing in our lives.

Dear readers, we are now a family. Let me introduce you to our incredible, little Puppy.

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Journey to France: Commentary

I have days of journal entries to catch up on but before I may allow myself to resume with the entries, I hope to take the opportunity to provide clarity to some questions about our travels & why we have chosen to travel this way.

Catching a flight from Australia direct to our destination would actually be much cheaper than how we are traveling now. These days flights are If we had flown we would only need to pay the flight which would include meals for the hours we are travelling. We would also not have to pay for visas to all the other countries we are flying over as we would not be entering them.

Why are we making ourselves susceptible to changing environments & uncertainties? Why limit yourself to 15kgs in a backpack that you have to carry around with you when you have to move from place to place? Why wait by the side of a road and be dependent on someone going your way to give you a lift?

Because it is exciting! It is a challenge with rewarding outcomes that cannot be expressed in words. The gentle thrills and satisfaction of the adventure cannot be created in any other way other than to live it. The experience is unique, one of a kind. These days we are so blindly subjected to believe that our capitalistic society is the most idealistic way to live that we dont even realise the trap we are in. Anyone can take a plane to fly to anywhere. It does not require wits to do so and it definitely does not require a special skill set. But how many will have the courage to approach a stranger, form a friendship and then travel with them temporary. How many would have the ability to trust a stranger?

Through hitchhking we have met people with brilliant ideas about the world and society, we have and will continue to learn different ways of living which broadens our understanding of the world and most importantly of people. We realise and see the beauty in life and people. That the world is not as dark and dangerous as the media makes it out to be. The media is selective but they are missing one thing we have, first hand experience.

Through travelling from country to country we get to see places, connect with people, have experiences. It was something I have dreamt of doing since meeting my first bunch of travellers who were working in Australia in the same company as i was. Hearing their stories; the sights they’ve seen, the waters they swam in, the winds they woke up to and the sounds they fall asleep to, made me yearn to have the same experience. But as all euphorias, it is always a better experience if they find their way to you.

Last year I took a somewhat spontaneous trip on my own to Germany. This was via flying as I was fully employed and could take just about 2 weeks off work.  I decided to fly to meet my friend Lisa in Mannheim. That was about it for my plans. When I was there, aside from spending time with her and her family I took a day to wander off alone. I took a train to Gernsheim and from the train station it was a walk to the Rhine river. I spent the day there perched in a tree, watching the boats passing by, they unaware of my watching them. I didn’t wander back to Lisa’s till about 9-10pm and that night finding my way back to her house in the dark, and relying on the few Germans i came across to help me. I was lucky 1 out of 3 of them could somewhat speak English.

It was either that same night or the one after, I sought bus tickets to Amsterdam. I found one for just €25 or something relatively cheap. In two nights i was on that bus heading there. I only had a bed for tonights in a hostel there. On the first day I wandered around the picturesque city and only realised by sunset that I had been wandering for 6 hours & that Dutch names were much more challenging to pronounce or rememebr than German. In the end i procured a map and wandered all the way back to the hostel. My ankles were in pain but I was exhilarated from the slight adrenaline of the event. After my second night I asked the hostel receptionist if they had any last minute drop out for a bed. They said no, but recommeneded their sister hostel, 40kms out of Amsterdam, at a beach called Noordwijk. I wasnt left with much choice so I said yes and took a train to the hostel.

It was a life changing decision for me, as simple as it was. When I arrived, and I did not know what to expect. I had never even heard of Noordwijk before, let alone how it looked like. But my night there had changed how I decided to travel for the rest of my life. That night, I didnt even sleep in the bed i had booked. I found company in a group of backpackers at the hostel. One local mature Dutch man, 2 19 year old Irish boys, 1 Asian australian guy, an Australian girl in her 20s, some Chileans, and an American man (those were the only ones I could recall but there were about 18 of us). We brought our instruments and conversation out to the beach. We laughed, we philosophised and we dreamt. We ended up falling asleep on the sand underneath the stars, with the sound of the waves hushing our excited thoughts of new adventures to be had the next day.

My next experience was in Fiji. I booked one night in a hostel by the ocean, the next morning was a whirlwind of adventure. I found myself on a boat heading to Mana Island. I had no idea what to expect, it was partially my decision to go there. I had intended to head to a different island but the cost of the boat was much more than I expected so I chose the cheapest island to head to which was still $80 Fijian Dollars. On the boat I started conversation with an Irish girl because she had a colpurful bag and an erratic personality. We instantly clicked and wandered around the island together and we still keep in touch.

One of the days back on the mainland, I went to a port & hitchhiked a timber barge to an island back in a day. This was the island that was initially too expensive for me to go to. That was when I realised there are always other ways of getting to your destination, other than the conventional way. And the experience was so much better than taking the conventional boat. I had nearly the whole boat to stretch out and fall asleep on, waking up to see a turtle swimming close to the surface of the turquoise waters next to us.

I made friends with one of the island’s staff members and he took me back to his village where his large family took me in as one of their own. They shared what little they had with me, and they really had little. They were a huge family, the parents, his pregnant sister, her husband, their nieces, basically about 13 or so of them were living in an area where the government had cut off all water and electricity to the zone after Cyclone Evan (2012) had destroyed their house and all basic facilities around them. The 4 nieces slept in a tent and the other 8 + myself slept in a 5x5m corrugated iron shelter. Yet they shared their food with me, they insisted I spend my last remaning days in their humble home, they looked after me like one of their own. It was my first time living with a complete stranger and his family in a  ondition that was out of the ordinary travelling way and hamefully I had not realised until i was staying with their family, that away from the gorgeous turquoise waters and glamorous hotels, majority of the local inhabitants were really poverty stricken.

And yet they were happy! They were kind! They were accepting of others! They were generous with others! They were everything I had imagined beautiful people to be!

It was not as comfortable living with them in such conditions but the truth is, it is livable and it is a whole new experience of travelling to learn how other people live, and what they can live without. Most of all it sparked my passion for humanity. I gave all my clothes to the girls. And went back to Australia with just the clothes I had on me.

I said to myself I wanted my next travel to push it’s limit. I wanted to live of on as little as possible for as long as possible, and i wanted to live in various conditions. I wanted to experience everything I could and push my boundaries. So here I am, that’s why I decided to travel like this.

To have a travel partner for life, as was found in my fiance, was just some kind of luck I can’t explain other than the universe has a wonderful way of bringing things together and helping you realise it when you are ready for it.

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Journey to France: Day 45 (14th March 2016)

We spent a few days at Adi’s deciding what to do. Our initial plan to go to Lake Toba didn’t seem feasible anymore. It was much too far unless we took a bus but that would also entail spending a bit on bus tickets.

On the 12th of march we took a train out of Lampung to Palembang to meet our next CS host. Clem and i had decidee to slowly make our way to Dumai and spend some time in each province. The train from lampung to Palembang was really cheap for economy. 35000 IDR each. That’s around $3.80 AUD for a 10 hour train ride. To clarify, that’s a 10 hour train ride to another province. Yes, Sumatera is that big!

When we arrived in Palembang we managed to meet our host Dwi without any issues. Probably one of the most smooth sailing arangements we have had so far. Palembang was a muc flashier city than we predicted. You know you’re in a well off city when you pass by a sushi restaurant that’s as big as an office apartment block.

Being in a city felt so unsatisfying. It wasn’t part of our original plans to travel to cities. A city is like every other city. There’s not much to do but contribute to the capitalistic ideal. Spend your money on shiny things and build attachment to them for as long as they are in trend/up to date. Oh and by the way if you are worth a lot of money you can stand a chance to receive a wave of false smiles and the illusion you are in control of people.

Our host Dwi, was so accomodating and determined to make our stay satisfying for the soul. The fact that he lives in a village was a bonus. Seeing chickens running around with the village kids generates happiness in its purest form. There is no purest form of happiness than seeing children free and frolicking. There is no warmer form of happiness than being happy to see others happy.

Dwi’s love and passion for his religion was beautiful. His religion is Islam, and his practice was “acceptance”. Though being a devoted Muslim, he understood the difference in culture and took into consideration we would want to be able to fall asleep with each other. He gave us his room and his bed (we never needed to ask for it) and was more than accomodating. He was the first religious individual we met that was happy to share the beauty of his religion, what he loves about it, but yet not encourage us to practice the same beliefs. He wasn’t enforcing, he just wanted to share. On top of that he had the sweetest personality you could meet in a man who works in finance and also teaches karate.

Our trip together with him to Al Quran Al Akbar was refreshing. It was lovely to see how happy he was to be there and the carved scriptures of the Quran on wooden blocks, the size of an average human were majestic. He taught me some Arabic numbers and id his best to get me involved in conversation to take my mind off some unpleasant thoughts.

We chatted with him of our plans. A few nights prior to this, back at Adi’s house, I said to Clem that I still wanted to hitchhike, despite the stories everyone have been telling us, despite the warnings. My risk assessment was based one two factors;
1. The people who warned us about hitchhiking in Sumatera had never tried it before or ever left their comfort zones
2. We have both been searching in news papers for the alleged gang attacks and crimes but found nothing related to our method of travelling.

Before, Clem was not happy to put hitchiking on hold but for my own safety, he hesitantly accepted that we should put it on hold. In the end we decided to do it anyway.

Dwi didnt want to hinder our adventurous spirit but he couldn’t ensure us our safety either. He was so kind that he wanted to buy us bus tickets to which we politely rejected so he bought us coffee instead. The morning after our day out together, Dwi dropped us of on the main highway of Sumatera (Jalan Lintas Sumatera) and we started our hitchhiking journey again. As usual we didnt have to wait long until someone stopped for us.

Two electricians who were employed to service the electric posts and cables on along the highway offered to take us 14kms further front from where we were. We happily accepted. They fed us bread and soft drinks. Our diets have been very sugar heavy or oil heavy in Indonesia. They took us as far as they could that was still on their way to work.

Norman, the passenger who spoke English better than his colleague, dropped us off not too far from his office and gave us his number. He said if we ever needed help we were more than welcome to call him. We got out our sign that said “Jambi numpang gratis”. There wasn’t much traffic and those that drove past didn’t seem interested in stopping for us.

Then a friendly man came up on his motorbike and spoke to us. We chatted a bit about our journey in Indonesia so far and our method of travelling. He was very much interested in hearing more of our story and even more interested in helping us. He said he was going to Sungai Lilin which was 1 hour before Jambi. We were welcome to come along with him but we had to wait for him to go back to his office and get his car so he could collect us.

As the whole conversation took place in Indonesian, after the man left I started translating the conversation to Clem.

Suddenly a less friendly man came to us on a motorbike. Despite the heat, he was dressed in black slacks, a white collared shirt and a black jacket over it. His jacket also had a hole in his pocket and his feet were enclosed in black leather shoes. Without a smile he asked us where we were from and we answered appropriately. We were used to these questions by now. He then asked what we were doing in Indonesia, again without a smile. Travelling, was our reply.

Then he asked what were in our backpacks to which I responded with slight assertion that they were just backpacks. He discontinued the question further.

He then asked for a photo. Again this was something we were accustomed to by now, for Clem anyway. Everyone we met in Indonesia wanted to take a picture with the white man. Except normally they asked for a photo with him. This man snapped a photo of just Clem alone. I was wary of our belongings when he asked us what were in our bags so I stood next to them.

I then said rather than offered to take a photo of this man with Clem. I took his phone of his hands. In truth i was trying to delete the earlier photo he took of Clem but failed to figure out how without looking suspicious. When i passed his phone back to me he told me he was a police officer and wanted to see our IDs.

I refused and asked to see his first. He pulled out a card from his wallet. The name was somewhat readable but the photo on the card was so faded and scratched that I couldnt make out if it was really him. He asked again for our passports. I refused yet again saying I didn’t trust him.

He pressed again that he was a policeman. I asked him where was his uniform. No reply. Clem asked him why he wanted our IDs and the man said it was to “collect data”. To which Clem further interrogated. What was the data for? How are you collecting it without any official computers or devices? The man was either pretending not to understand or he must have actually not understood but was too proud to admit it.

He asked for our names and we refused to give it either. He wasn’t nasty, but he wasn’t friendly either. I said repeatedly to him, feigning discomfort, that his behavious was making me feel uncomfortable and anxious and if he would kindly stop. I  knitted my eyebrows to the centre, put my hands girlishly behind my back and made my body language smaller. I pretended to be afraid of him as everyone was watching us and I wanted us to appear as the victim, should anything start to erupt out of this.

It worked because he started speaking softer and softening his tone. Eitherway, he asked once again for our IDs, he said it was to make sure we were safe. The link still did not match up. I said to him yes we are fine, we have friends waiting for us tonight in Jambi and family waiting for us in Malacca. Then he instead said he wanted to check our passports for our visas, if we had the right to be in Indonesia, to which I responded if he knew his facts, people from Europe and Malaysia ,may remain in Indonesia for 30 days visa free. He wasn’t going to find anything in our documents.

Just in time, the friendly man returned with his car. I was beyond relieved. We gathered our things to load into the car, the less friendly man was chatting with the friendly man. The friendly man seemed to vouch for the other man, saying he really is a policeman.

We stood by our ground and said no. The last thing the policeman said to me before he drove away was, this is my province and I have authority here to ask for information from you, as you are in my territory, to which I replied, that may be so but my private property, no matter where in the world, is still mine and we had the right to refuse to share it.

We got in the car where the friendly man took us to his sandal store. (Literally half his car was filled with sandals). His coworkers made us Luwak coffee and offered us various keropok to eat. They had to reload the stock in the car to take to Sungai Lilin. The ladies were excited to take photos with Clem. At least they were normal locals about it. They giggled as they uploaded the pictures to Facebook. I was surprised when they wanted a photo with me too.

When the car was finally loaded, the man’s younger brother drove us 2 hours out towars the direction of Jambi. He said we would only be an hour away from Jambi once we get to Sungai Lilin. His brother didnt speak much except when he was offering us cigarettes. Men in Indonesia smoke so much constantly it’s almost scary to watch.

When we arrived at Sungai Lilin, the sun was already over our heads. It wss probably around 1pm as the ground was so hot it was burning Clem’s bare feet. And his feet usually have a high tolerance to his environment. I recalled the day we met when we were both walking barefoot at Wee Jasper and I was constantly feeling the pricks of thorny bindis under my feet, but he was just comfortably sailing on the same ground.

We found a shaded area and started to hold our sign. Almost immediately a car stopped for us, but they stopped much further front. One of the passengers came out to meet us and to help us put our bags in the car. They were 3 men on their way to Medan from Palembang. They were asking us if we had been to Danau Toba, to which we said we wanted to but it wasn’t feasible anymore. They started sharing with us their experiences at Danau Toba and kept recommending us to go there. They mentioned it was between 2-3 hours out of Medan.

I looked at Clem and whispered to him if we would want to give it a try to go to Medan with these guys and go to Danau Toba from there to which he agreed. I asked the guys if we could come with them to Medan and head to Danau Toba from there? They said it would be tine of course! I then asked how many hours more were we from Medan, thinking it was probably 10-12 hours  and he replied, 30 hours! They were going to drive all night!

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Al Quran Al Akbar, Palembang

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Journey to France: Day 37 (6th March 2016)

Our couchsurfing host picked us up and completely spoilt us with delicious Indonesian food.

Clem had looked up natural attractions along the Bandung area and found one that particularly stood out. It was called Kawah Putih (white crater). It was a sulphur lake, with natural waters streaming into the suplhur pool emitted by the volcanoes. Clem has seen a couple of volcanoes in his time, ive yet to at least be in a 10km radius to one. So we decided to head there.

Our host, Reyner, was gracious enough to drop us at a bus station where we could take a bus to Ciwidek and from there change buses to the Kawah Putih entrance. The minibus was 12000IDR per person so it was about $1.40 AUD. We could afford that, plus the driver was honest with the price and didnt try to ask for more from us. Being seen with a Caucasian in Asia means you get a lot of attention, both good and bad. Most of the time ill begin speaking Indonesian with a us driver or shop owner and the moment they see my fiancé they immediately swap to terrible, terrible broken English and heir attitude changes to a very fake, hospitality attitude. And they also gve outrageous prices for the service, thinking we must have money due to the power of a western country currency.

But this bus driver was honest. The minibus had 10 seats including the driver seats, we somehow had 15 people in the van, including the driver. We had 14 when we left the bus station and i thought, cool its Indonesia , they wont leave till the bus is full. But then along the way the bus stopped for another lady and her big bag. Asia is remarkable! It honestly makes me proud in a way as its so comical of asian culture to sacrifice comfort for efficiency first. Unless you’re wealthy of course, then you can afford both.

When we arrived at the bus terminal in Ciwidey, we were swarmed with “taxis” and “bus drivers” even before our minibus stopped. They all knew right away that we were probably going to Kawah putih. We ignored the flock of harrassing drivers and made it to the actual bus stop where a minibus was waiting to fill up it’s last remaining seats. There were a mix of Indonesians and Caucasians in the bus.

Travelling in Indonesia has taught us to always ask the price first before getting into any vehicle or accepting any food/service. Clement asked them repeatedly what the price was, but the men (we didnt know who they were as the driver was already in the van) kept trying to get him to get in the van. He asked for the 5th time before I raised my voice in Indonesian, “berapa harganya?”. He again tried to push us in the van and i asked again. He at first said 14,000IDR per person and his friend spoke Sundanese really quickly to him and he then said 20,000IDR each. I asked the Indonesians taking the minibus if that was the price they paid and they refused to reply. I knew they understood me as they were having a conversation with me prior to my question.

Yeap, we were pissed off and just walked off. They yelled back at us to come back but we kept walking. We had hitchhiked enough times in the past 2 weeks to know that we could easily get a ride to where we needed to be. So for the firsttime in our trip, Clem and I looked at each other and both agreed without doubt that hitchhiking was how we would do this. We would definitely not be taking any of these minibuses, unless we met a driver just as honest as the last.

On our way out to the main road, an informal yellow minibus (only the green and yellow ones were actually on route to Kawah Putih and Lake Patenggang) stopped us and offered to take us for 20,000IDR too and we said no, he then quickly dropped his price to 15,000IDR.

We kept walking. I asked for an old box so we could write our sign on. There was a man in uniform, i believe he was directing traffic in that intersection, who we started chatting with. He saw we wrote “numpang gratis” and realised we were hitchhiking. He asked why didnt we just take the bus? I said it was because the drivers were dishonest. They refused to disclose their prices and then said it was 20,000IDR each. The man in uniform said it was 8000IDR on weekdays and 10000IDR on weekends. The prices the driver gave us were way wrong.

The man in uniform must have also felt sorry for us because he also helped us to wave vehicles down to stop for us. He waved down a large ute and asked the family in it if they could take us up the hill towards Kawah Putih and they said yes!

We happily hopped in the back. I hoped the bus driver from earlier saw us and that he would be greening with envy for he lost two customers.

The man who gave us a lift went the extra mile for us. It seemed all Indonesians that we hitchhiked with were doing as such. They really went out of their way to look after us and to make sure we were safe. This is our experience in Java anyways. For a country with 300 million people or so, they seem to value the life of another. Well these are the ones that helped us anyways.

This man took us 15 minutes further than his destination to drop us right at the entrance of Kawah Putih. We took a photograph with his family. (Im sure it was because of Clement). Next we had about a 10km hike up the mountain to the crater itself. We had been fed so much deliciouz food yesterday, the hike was happily welcomed. On the way up however, we had a car stop for us to give us a lift up as they said it was far and tiring to walk. The lift was happily welcomed too!

Being at Kawah Putih was amusing, it seemed my fiance was more of the main attraction than the actual crater. Locals kept coming up to him to take a photograph with him. The crater’s lake itself was an amazing light aquamarine blue. The smell of sulphur wasnt that strong but every now and then the winds would push a cloud of smoke towards us and you inhale a significant amount of gas that irritates your throat enough to cough. We didn’t need masks though and we spent about an hour or more there.

It wasnt quite the strenuous hike i had in mind, but it was beautiful especially sharing the experience with the love of my life.

It’s amazing how quickly humans can adapt to their situations and surroundings. When we left the crater, i had no doubt in my mind that we would be able to hitchhike our way to our host’s home, or to a landmark anyway.

It took us only 3 cars to get back home. Everyone was friendly and again tried to gaive us money and offered to take us around the area. I was so exhausted i just wanted to head home, also the other attraction in the area didn’t really fascinate us.

I had broken sleep the night before, we woke up at 7am that morning, and speaking a second language after not using it for 8 years was draining me so much. On top of that verbally fighting off the flocks of “taxi” drivers and speaking loudly over the sound of traffic took the energy out of me.

Even after our 7000IDR delicious and generous portioned lunch wasnt enough to regain my energy.

When we got back our host took us to the top of a hill over looking Bandung city for some Sundanese food.

I’m not sure when we will be able to sleep well, shower, and eat this well again. It has only been about a month since we had stayed somewhere long enough to become vegetables, but I am starting to miss it very much.

Today we are hitchhiking to Merak from Bandung to catch a ferry to Sumatera. Everyone has been telling us what a dangerous place provinces in Sumatera can be, especially Lampung (where the ferry port is) and Riau. I was so nervous i tired myself to sleep last night.

We had two options, to either take the highway which joins to cities like Palembang, Pekanbaru and Medan, or to take the west roads which meant going through mountains and little towns or villages. We have another couch surfing host in Lampung so we will just ask him for his advice when we get there. Sumatera is over twice the size of Java! We wouldn’t want to stay in a dangerous province for too long.

I was told to keep my necklace and ring away when we get the re to not tempt thieves who can and may stop you at knifepoint/gunpoint. This isnt me being dramatic, this was words we received from nearly every Javanese we spoke to when we asked about Sumatera. One Javanese who gave us a lift and fed us bread and juice advised us to take the western route. Even if they are small roads, it would be safer to go through villages as the western population have Javanese residents who have purchased land there to become farmers.

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Journey to France: Day 31

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.

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Journey to France: Day 29

Yesterday afternoon we motorbikes into Kuta to see one of Clément’s friends who had been there for a few days now.

We thought we would do something touristy while we were here and take a drove to Tanah Lot. We motorbiked through the hectic, heated, smoggy centre of Bali. We passed through the party/backpacker area of Kuta, entered into the shopping street of Seminyak, (There are so many Australian clothing labels for an Indonesian island) and finally broke out into smaller residential roads where smaller puras (temples) could be seen at every block.

We relied on signs and asking for directions to find our way. This led to many wrong turns, meeting many faces and seeing so many parts of Bali that could have been missed. The poverty driving through was apparent. The grey and grime of poverty contrasted logically with the terraces of green paddy fields we rode past. The drive was therapeutic aside from Clément’s Asian style driving. I’m proud to have him as my husband-to-be.

When we got to Tanah Lot we saw the rows of cars and buses in queue to get in at the ticket windows. We manoeuvred the bikes into a no entry area which was the back of the car park. So far so good. We may get to see an area of Bali that makes Bali unique and we may be able to get away without a ticket. When we walked across however there was another checkpoint where we failed to get through without a ticket.

We decided to take another bike ride back to Kuta. The view of bright green rice paddy fields against greener banana trees and tall coconut trees was more than enough. You could feel the atmosphere on your skin, or maybe that was the heat and the humidity.

It was easy to navigate your way around Bali but it was also easy to lose your way. Well for us at least. We would have been happy to keep wandering. The motorbikes only took 3-4L of fuel to fill it up and it would cost between 25000IDR to 40000IDR depending if you decide to fuel up at a legit gas station or the latter price would be the result from buying fuel from those side shops that sell them in 1L alcohol bottles.

However we were racing to end our journey this time as dark, heavy grey clouds were already over us and it was apparent in the air that we would be drenched in heavy, heavy rain if we didn’t make it back in time.

The moment we had the opportunity to stop on the side to ask a passerby or even on the biker next to us for directions, we did.

Several overtakes, driving on sidewalks, cutting through traffic and accelerations later, as well as probably directions from a dozen people we made it! Just as the clouds finally gave way to the weight and rain heaved down but as we parked our bikes.

It rained and rained for hours.

Our scooter had a busted light and I’m not much of an adrenaline junkie to drive back to our accommodation without one. I mentioned previously on our first day in Bali that the paths to our host’s house had no streetlights and we had passed the nights of the full moon.

That night we stayed in Kuta.

The next morning, we woke up in the spare bed in a dorm at our friend’s hostel. I woke Clem up in case someone was coming around to check the beds. We grabbed our helmets and headed out the door… Well after we helped ourselves to a cup of Balinese coffee that was a self serve at the front.

He wanted to take me to Lovina Beach which was 148kms north from Kuta. It would be a challenge to cover that on bike, especially when we had to keep stopping for directions every 10-15 minutes or so when the signs failed to inform us.

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