Our second month in Indonesia was completely different. We left behind the isolated communities living slow-paced lives on the beaches and in the mountains of the distant east, barely touched by the global world and its brutal economies (if you missed that part of our travel, click here). Now we were getting to the core, to the heart of the country alike the Roman Empire bonding vast lands and most diverse cultures – and I imagine going from borderlands on the shores of Black Sea to Rome in the year 100 A.D. would look similar. We got close to the place most Indonesians from the East will never afford to travel to, but if they have electricity they often see it on the TV full of whitened faces and straightened hair – Java.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Keeping a blog while travelling is extremely hard. Even harder if your travel is as fast and full of experiences as ours was in Indonesia (we’ve spend the whole April and May there). We found ourselves still posting articles from Timor-Leste when we were already in Singapore.
While articles about particular happenings and organisations are in making (and some of them will be for months), we’ve decided to write a kind of ‘been there done that’ article for the sake of showing you what kind of stuff we’ve been engaging with (and rockin’ it!), as well as documenting dropthetension’s activities.
Hopefully this will show you where we are now with our project, how amazing it’s going and what a learning experience it is for us (to be utilized in the future!) Let’s begin!
The bus pulls out of Dili and starts it’s steep ascent. It’s loaded up with people, luggage and bags of rice. Inside and out. 4 people share the seat across from us: grandma, mother and 2 children, trying to avoid my gaze. However, young boys, who can’t be much older than 19, seem to be running the operation and their cigarette smoke, blasting music and testosterone dominate over the other passengers. The aging engine groans, in its upward struggle. Dili, the sea and further out Atauro Island, are visible below us for the first hour, as the climb reaches more than 1000m above sea level. My ears pop. The bus stops a couple of times and the adolescent males open the engine hatch, hit something with a spanner and it comes back to life.
Hey guys! While I’m having an incredible time, it turns out the overland travel thing can also be really exhausting. Huge trips on rough roads on hot over crowded buses, sometimes with more bags of onions than human passengers, leaves you really tired. 6+ hours on hard floored ferries full of smokers, where you can barely find a clean space out of the sun to lay out your camp mattress (which deflates these days anyway, so provides little relief from the hardness of the metal floor); then just when you’re comfortable it starts raining and you have to relocate in a hurry and most passer-byers will stop to ask for a photo with you, all starts to take it’s toll. Your bum is so sore and you’ve started developing some weird pimples from all the sitting and sweating that it now part of your everyday life – will it ever look the same again?! Looking at a world map in some hotel lobby, leaves you feeling completely overwhelmed at the distance that lays ahead of you… How many more bus trips will that mean? Why am I doing this? What difference would a plane make anyway?
Thursday, 9th of April 2015
At 5.17am Rita knocked on the door and asked us to have a tea. The rice was already cooked, boiled eggs and some tasty noodles were also waiting for us. The sun was rising and ayams (or chickens) were getting crazy, echoing through the whole town. Rita didn’t have to shout through the door as the house’s roof hangs above the walls with no ceiling, allowing for the hot, humid air to circulate throughout the building. Still very sleepy, drinking the sweet tea, Wendy told Rita ‘Wow, pagi-pagi tapi sudah ada nasi, terima kasih! Kakak tidur bagus?’ (So early but already have rice, thank you! Did sister sleep ok?) ‘Cukup’, enough, replied Rita smiling humbly.
We took a shower, sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent, packed our bags and quickly went along the street full of banana trees to the main road. We had to catch a bus and it was already after 6. We were in Larantuka, East Flores, heading to Maumere after a wonderful week there. Rita had just started her CouchSurfing profile and we were her first guests. All of us were really excited to meet each other and we felt sad saying goodbye.
This morning I woke up to the sounds of coconuts hitting the ground from the tall palms in the backyard and children gleefully playing in a language I don’t understand. For the first time in many weeks I woke with a sense of being refreshed and allowed myself to emerge from beneath the mosquito net when I wanted to. Entering the kitchen, I found Emily pouring a freshly macheted coconut into a pot with ice for the group of chattering siblings from next-door. The smallest girl looks up at me and eagerly begins telling me something excitedly in Tetum. My “la kompriende” must be confusing to a 5-year-old who is speaking so clearly and confidently. I’m stoked to be in Timor.
OK, here’s something we need to tell you about. We became victims of immense psychological violence.
The journey itself was absolutely amazing. Another time we might write more about the endless sea, the playful dolphins, the flying fish and the stunningly fluorescent plankton like a fairy dust competing with the sky almost about to overflow with stars, where the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper met at the same place and time.
For this kind of information you might also want to have a look at Wendy’s description of the whole cruise.
But the captain of the yacht we sailed appeared to be a dangerous, persistently and extremely abusive person. Continue Reading →
I was apprehensive about hitch-hiking. On my departure from home, with skeleton plans and no car, my mother, who’s no whimp, asked me not to do it. Her words and the stories of Ivan Mirlat, ‘backpacker serial killer’ of the 1980s, nagged at the back of my mind. But I was traveling with Jurek Lubinski now. And hitch-hiking is his favourite sport. After hitching in places like Romania and Tajikistan, telling Jurek “hitch-hiking can be dangerous”, as we walked to our hitch-wiki suggested point of suburban Sydney, seemed a bit lame. We stuck out our thumbs at the side of a freeway entry ramp and within 5 minutes we were away!