Indonesia, boleh!

Trip Start Mar 17, 2007
Trip End Mar 11, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Climbing out of customs into dusty Dumai, was to say the least, overwhelming.  The heat, we were used to, though never had we been closer to the equator (latitute 1.6833).  The real kick was the 35 guys yelling in our faces as soon as the air-con had left us behind.  Half intelligable among the cries was 'bus, bus,' sellers of course.  Luckily some locals we had met one the ferry got us onto the free one into town.  There we paid exhorbitant prices to get across Sumatera into Bukkitingi, a nice town at elevation, and in the southern hemisphere I might add.  This bus ride was more than overprized and absent of leg room.  This was an 8 hour tours of Dante's inferno.  As the sun went down, our driver's eyes started to glow red slightly, and he began to pass cars, bikes and other buses more and more frequently.  Let me divulge that all roads in Indonesia have one lane coming, one lane going, and three vehicles and a family of 4 on a motorbike abreast of each other at any given moment.  We spent at least 40 percent of this trip in the oncoming lane, lights flashing, horn blaring, daring the oncoming cars not to slow down, for we weren't.  After so many frights, evolving into so many grim sureties of death, I had to close my eyes and imagine grits covered with livermush.  A luxury behind us.  One has to notice, when your life flashes before your eyes 30 to 40 times in one night, you start getting bored with the story.
Bukkitingi, once achieved at these costs, couldn't help but be awe inspiring.  But for reason's it couldn't help really.  The good one being the start of Ramadhan, and I suggest everyone see this in Sumatera.  I revived my love with spirituality seeing how excited people were to start fasting, and the calm on so many faces, for you can't get angry at anyone or anything either.  And the mosques had the Koran going on loudspeakers at all prayers, which we would hear watching beautiful sunsets, or at 4 in the morning, making my dreams much the more etherial.  I actually tried the fasting (for one day, and that discluding water) and it is possible, just takes dedication (and water).
The down side to Bukkitingi, you might have heard in the news, were two earthquakes within twelve hours of each other on September 13.  Though both epicentres were at least 400 kilometers from Bukkitingi, we felt it at about 5.0+- according to the locals.  The first one started when we were in a grocery store on the 4th floor of a mall.  Floor and I were shopping for soap and everyone was staring, simply because we were the only white people in town.  So when the soap aisle started shaking back and forth lightly, we thought it was a kid on the other side messing with us.  When a couple of bars of soap fell off the shelf, Floor started putting them back on, until one big tremor hit, and all the bars fell on top of us.  We looked around, and the moments before packed store was now empty.  We didn't know if we would have enough time to get out of the building, so stayed under a column, and waited for the action to finish.  I have sat through hurricanes and watched tornadoes, but nothing can compare to feeling the actual earth shaking under you. The power was so belittling, well all we could do was hope for the best.  The best part was, when it finished, there was just us and the employees, so we skipped all the lines of 20 or so people and had 3 people check us out!  Outside, nobody acted as if anything had happened. 
Through the night were many more tremors, and as we had been taught what can happen during a real earthquake, we wasted no time descending the 5 flights of stairs to get out of the hotel floor.  Upon getting to the ground floor though, we would meet the 4 or 5 men there watching TV nonchalantly, and they would wave us back, saying not to worry.  Well, 5 flights up we would trudge half asleep, only to do it again in an hour or so.  The only redeeming to this act was around 6 another big one did hit, and we made it out.  This time, plaster was falling from the cieling around us, and the plumbing was leaking on the floor.  There is some 6th sense with the locals on when to be worried or not with these things, that we are totally blind to.  Floor and I sometimes still think we can feel a tremor starting, but it's usually nothing.
So from there we headed north to lake Toba, which was wonderful, flew to Jakarta, in Java, and worked east seeing a few destinations until we hit Mt Bromo, the most beautiful  landscape I have ever seen.  Take note that whilst taking this photo, we had real concerns of frostbite, and were wearing parkas (latitude 5 degrees, 52 minutes south).
From there, a ferry to Bali, and some nice motorscooting all over the island, and then back to Malaysia!
In Malaysia, we quickly returned to Tioman on the promise of 30 meter visibility underwater while the wind changed in the last 2 weeks before monsoon.  Also here we celebrated the end of Ramadhan, and, more importantly, Hari Raia- which is the afterparty where all families cook for two days and share everything.  Good food and good times.  Leaving Tioman brought us here, back to Kuala Lumpur, home of the world's second tallest building.  And that about catches things up.
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