I spent all the time that I had, convincing myself that I am not a missing piece;
that I was complete.
But upon meeting you,
I realised that all along
I had just been another half
and with you I feel whole.
I spent all the time that I had, convincing myself that I am not a missing piece;
that I was complete.
But upon meeting you,
I realised that all along
I had just been another half
and with you I feel whole.
Circulating lights in a coffeeshop,
Unsure if cultural or commercial.
“Right now, my brain is in three languages.”
“Mine is only in two.”
“Okay, what’s next?”
Outside, the sun peaks and hides.
Hi all, in the past week, Clément and I have been volunteering at Jeffrey’s Animal Retreat, here in Langkawi. Here, Jeffrey single handedly or with fellow volunteers, manages the day to day activities of caring for, rescuing, homing and rehabilitating traumatised or disabled animals. Not only that, he also cares for additional stray dogs housed by Hindu and Buddhist temples. He manages this out of his own pocket and with the help of some of his friends.
In a week we rescued 3 pups, all are healthy and active babies! This morning we allowed them to interact with the other dogs for the first time.
If anyone is coming to Langkawi and is interested to volunteer (there’s no cost) at this shelter and accommodation is provided. You will learn so much on animal behaviour and training. You will feel more connected with animals than you ever had and these skills are transferable outside of the shelter.
Dear readers, I know most of you are animal lovers, I know there are some of you who would cry just hearing of an animal being in pain. I know there are those of you who want to do good by the helpless and will support those that share your love and passion. Jeff looks after these darlings from his own pocket (from his savings during the time he used to work in USA. The care he provides is a 24 hour commitment hence he’s very limited time to gain more income to keep his care going.
I know there are those of you who are truly love dogs. I’ve seen your posts of Facebook and your anger when dogs get hurt. $3 AUD is the cost of a shot of antibiotics for a week here. That’s less than a cup of coffee. Help keep this care going on for longer. Any little amount helps.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a cup of coffee for the life of a puppy you can donate it here : Let’s Help Some Pups!
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.
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.
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!
Al Quran Al Akbar, Palembang
Our host in Lampung, Adi, and his family reminded us on a daily basis to take trains and buses and to not hitchhike. They mentioned of their previous couchsurfers (male ones) and how they hadn’t taken their advice into consideration and got robbed by the very people they hitchhiked with. We spent 5 days with them deciding what to do. When they told us we couldn’t sleep in the same room let alone the same bed we initially planned to spend a day or two maximum at his house. We had never spent a night apart since the day we met. Even during our arguments we had never let one go to bed without the other.
But Adi and his family were more than accomodating and we ended up spending 5 days with them. The days were hot and dusty but Adi was always up to take us to spots around Lampung that he was excited to share. To be honest there weren’t any amazing sights to see but you don’t always find an attachment to a place because of the place. (More details to come in next post).
Adi’s mother was constantly feeding us South Sumateran food; mostly mi goreng, tempe with a bit of chilli due to Clem’s intolerance for the vegetable, and nasi uduk for breakfast. Otherwise it was constant various snacks made from tubular vegetables such as yam and tapioca. And of course coffee!
His parents were delighted to have their first traveller who could converse with them. They knew nearly null English and although my Malay was probably scraping beginners, they still took opportunities to indulge in conversation with me and brought me to their friends to “kongsi cerita” (share stories). Their home itself was unique, i had never seen one like this before, though im unsure if their home is standard in Southern Sumatera. There was no stove top, they used coal to heat their water in their ‘kitchen’ which seemed to have been built around an authentic well.
In the well, his mother rares fish to consume the mosquito larvaes. The water then gets siphoned by a pump into the bathroom. The bathroom is a standard Indonesian toilet or better known as Turkish toilets in the western world. All in all, the house wasn’t anything lavished but it had its own flavour.
At night, the rituals were to burn mosquito coils in every room and rub insect repellent lotion on your ankles. I said goodnight to my love and went to my room to sleep. I awoke again at about 1am as i was feeling too hot to sleep and the mosquitoes were much hungrier and vicious tonight. I was waking up to a new bite everytime I had managed to stop scratching the previous. I went out to get a glass of water.
Adi and his family were awake too and in the living room. They had been feeling feverish and Adi’s dad was performing twp traditional methods of healing the body from such feelings. He was performing a cupping massage on Adi’s back where he lights a coal on Adi’s skin and quickly covers it with a cup so the flame quickly loses oxygen and dies out, creating heat and suction inside the cup. When he pulls off the cup they believe it to “tarik angin” (pull the excess wind) our of the body. It leaves a red ring on the skin that disappears in an hour or so. Prior to that he also performed a coin scratching method where you scratch orderly lines on parts of your body. The marks left are red, like a scratch except they usually scratch the same area over and over again until the skin gets sore.
I drank my glass of water and went back to bed. At about 4am i woke up again. I was feeling very nauseas, I stumbled my way in the darkness to the bathroom. Not even a second passed before my gut reflexes activated and heaved my dinner out. The familiar burning feeling when you have just had stomach acid passed through your oesophagus and throat was spicily unpleasant but from experience i knew I would start feeling better now… I just need to go back to sleep.
I had to walk past Clem’s room before arriving at mine, but didn’t feel like sleeping alone and was being a sook. I pushed the door into Clem’s room. He had a small fan in his room so it wasnt as hot. He was also fast asleep on the little bed. I was like a caterpillar. I crawled into the bed, next to him, nuzzed and curled up in his warmth.
My stirring around woke him up. He asked me what was wrong as he kissed me and I told him I was feeling sick. He brought me water, a bucket and more kisses and hugs until i eventually fell asleep again.
Two weeks after we had met, Clem had said to me he wanted to have children with me. He had never in his life wanted to have children before. I told him at that time I still didn’t want to have any. 5 months later my views have changed.
Below are photos of parts of Adi’s house. 1st is the small 1m x 1m courtyard where they also cook and boil their water. 2nd is the kitchen area and well. Photography by my Clément Duliege.
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