Tyre-d of call to prayer so relax at Gili Air!

Trip Start Sep 09, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

So having been told by everyone we'd met that Jakarta was a whole lot of nothingness and one to avoid we were disappointed to spend a couple of days here and discover that they were right! Luckily there were a couple of pretty large scale protest marches while we were there (over 100,000 people turned up to a 'Free Palestine' march in central Jakarta one day with trucks blaring out Anti-America songs, and flags, banners and placards being waved all around) which meant there was at least some signs of life and activity!! The rest of the time there we amused ourselves in the National Monument (Monas) park by watching the joggers who were absolutely clueless (and, in one case smoking!?), the hundreds of paper kites being flown and the policemen who drove around looking for fit young girls to chat to and perv over!

One of the problems of traveling in Indonesia is that you can only get a one-month visa if you buy on arrival which, for such a huge country is nothing really. To try and make sure we got to see as much as possible we took a few domestic flights, hoping to save a bit of time. Unfortunately our 'flight delay' jinx followed us everywhere we went and the final flight, taking us from Bali to Jakarta to then fly up to Malaysia was cancelled and re-arranged, meaning that our last TEN FLIGHTS (going back to the Business Class shenanigans en route to Fiji) have either been delayed or cancelled. Of the one month we spent here, we reckon we lost almost a week to traveling/waiting around - the Scrabble board has had a lot of outings and I reckon we could now get a job on Countdown in Dictionary Corner! Delay number 6 from Jakarta-Solo I actually jinxed myself, claiming once we were on board to an American family that this would break our 5-flight run, only to be told there were heavy delays at Solo due to former President Suharto's funeral and we had to go back inside to the waiting room. The trusty Scrabble board came out again and we beat the Americans though - woo yeah, we're number one, we're number one!!

After finally flying to Solo, we arrived in Jogjakarta where I decided to build on the riding skills I'd picked up on the mopeds in Goa and take out a bike for a few days. The only ones they had were 100cc motorbikes with manual gears but after a crash-course (literally!) in gear changing and having been sent up and down the road a few times by Charlie before she would even get on the back, we were off! A few bunny-hops and a broken flip-flop (which we had to sellotape up so I could use the brake pedal) aside, I think I did pretty well - Charlie refuses to comment! - and we covered around 400 km in just over 3 days. The roads weren't quite on the scale of India in their craziness but even so the odd stray goat had to be dodged and people still tried to cram as much onto their cars or bikes as possible. The 5-on-a-bike record of Mumbai is still intact but there were lots of 4's, whilst huge bales of crops, crates and crates of fresh eggs and entire cigarette shops were all being held onto the back of little motorbikes with string. It was also nice to discover that not everybody beeping their horn at us was complaining about my driving, and some of them were actually beeping just to attract our attention and say hello... and then to complain!

We rode around Jogja (or Yogja, Jogya, Yogya or Djogdja depending on which road sign you looked at!) for a few hours, taking in a Batik art gallery which had some really beautiful and original paintings.

We then headed down Malioboro Street , which is lined with market stalls selling anything and everything for a bit of haggling before setting off that evening for Borobudur . The hour-long journey took us nearly 3 (trying to find our way wasn't easy using just a pathetic little map and the kid's compass on Charlie's rucksack, as well as sheltering from the tropical rain showers which flood the road one minute and then are out of sight the next) but we finally arrived at a hotel near to the temple that night, soaking wet and saddle sore and in need of a Bintang!

Luckily we had planned to see the temple at sunrise so when the chorus of call-to-prayers began at 4am it at least gave us a 'wailing alarm clock' (although I slept through most of it!). We made our way up to the temple and we were rewarded for our efforts that morning and the night before: the temple itself (which is the largest Buddhist monument in the World I'll have you know!) was most impressive in the morning haze and the scenery around it was stunning as the mist floated around the surrounding rainforestmountains and volcano, which was smoking at the top. It was a fantastic sight and at that time of the day was so peaceful. An hour or so later, as the convoys of coaches and bus parties began turning up it was less peaceful but at least we got to revel in the 'celebrity status' feeling once again as we posed for photo after photo with people of all ages, including a group of about 40 Chinese pensioners - Percy even got in on the act and posed with a few Indonesian schoolgirls, the dirty dog...

We left Borobudur and set off - again with the help of our trusty map and compass! - for the coast, where we took in Krakal, Kukup and Baron beaches. The waves were huge and the water was multi-coloured as you moved along the coves from beach to beach, very impressive. As time was moving on we decided to head for our final destination that night, another beach just a few km up the coast called Parangtritis. What should have been a pretty routine journey was anything but: firstly, we took the right direction but the wrong road as we bumped, crashed and juddered our way over a rocky track through villages of gawping onlookers, not realizing the nicely tarmaced-expressway was running parallel about 2km North! After a helpful local kindly pointed us away from the 'bum bruiser' road we managed to head in the right direction again, despite the lack of any road signs or street lighting. There were some really steep hills and bends which were made all the more difficult by not being able to see where we were going, and by having to brake suddenly to check we were going the right direction (Charlie actually came off the back of the bike one time when I stopped dead going uphill!).

Worse was still to come when our back tyre had a blow-out as we raced downhill in the dark. Luckily my riding skills saw us to safety as I managed to keep control of the bike like a bucking bronco between my thighs (ooh err missus, brings back memories of those night clubs in Sydney!) and bring it over to the side of the road.

After finding a garage and having managed to persuade the young lad to open up and repair the puncture - for which we tipped him double and he danced a happy little jig! -we were back on the road... for about ten minutes until the tyre went again. I didn't know whether to find a garage or go back and slap that dancing cowboy. Luckily, we were close to a village and a lovely family running a shop there came to our rescue - firstly, they put the call out for one of the local lads who was doing a mechanic's course. As he took the wheel off and then rode 10km to the nearest garage to have it fixed for us, the family invited us in and offered us water, fruit and cigarettes. All the while, word had obviously got out around the village about the 'white couple in distress' as a crowd gathered outside the front of the shop!

With a brand new inner tube fitted, our tyre safely fixed back on and an empty wallet we set off again for Parangtritis! We arrived covered in dust and dirt, tired and down to our last 16,000 Rupiah (less than a pound), looking for an ATM and a guest house to recover in... only to be told that the nearest ATM was 28km away! Luckily the lady at the guest house we found was really nice to us - she took us, brought us noodles and beer, gave us a room for the night and then told us we could pay her the next day when I'd had the chance to ride to an ATM. A loooong day, a broken pair of flip-flops and two garage bills but some lovely people made up for it.

After all the dramas getting there, Parangtritis actually turned out to be a little disappointing so after a failed attempt at a pub crawl (the place only had one bar, and they only had two songs, both of which were terrible plinky-plonky xylophone instrumentals!) we headed off to Bali via a night in Solo when our flight was cancelled, a whole day's waiting around at Jakarta airport and a 'free meal' of McDonald's soggy fried chicken and rice courtesy of Air Asia - see what happens when you fly 'budget'?!

We wanted to wind down at the end of our time in Indonesia so we decided to head for a little island we'd been told about but a twitchy Brazilian guy who was hanging around Jakarta airport (see, who needs the Lonely Planet?!) called Gili Air.
The place was just what we were looking for - really peaceful, hardly anybody there and with wooden huts right on the beach which cost the equivalent of 2 quid a night for both of us and included breakfast... job done! We spent 6 days just completely relaxing, doing hardly anything and it was great.

A couple of Swiss lads moved into the hut next to us while we there and after an afternoon drinking Bintang on the beach we headed back to the huts with a bottle of Arak (araf!) for some drinking games. I tried (badly!) to climb a coconut tree, Charlie was buried in the sand, the Swedish couple in the hut on the other side of us had to leapfrog their way to bed to avoid being disturbed and Maurus did 'the worm' and ended up with a mouthful of sand... it was a good night!

The next morning I woke up with some cuts and graizes on my wrists and back which I didn't know anything about. It was only when Charlie reminded me that I remembered leaning back at one point to take a photo and rolling backwards down the steps...
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annie1000 on

Love reading your stories
hello Charlie Tom and Percy ,I just love reading all your stories ,you write so very well .
You will have to compose a book when you get back.
I sit back and relax and slowly read through your stories and it makes me feel like it is me who is having all these adventures .
The photos are great too.
Take care love ann xx

tomandcharlie on

Re: What is that you're wearing Tom?
Funnily enough, we were talking about those bermuda shorts the other day - didn't I have a matching hoodie to go with it too?!
So where would the definite no-no's be...

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