The heat is killing us. Each day the air is stifling and we are covered in a layer of sweat unlike anything we’ve experienced in Australia. The sweat forms pools in the crevices of our elbows and drips through the dirt that cakes our legs. We decide to spend half the day relaxing at an internet café and ride in the late afternoon, when the temperature drops significantly.
We spend a blissful couple of hours updating our website, catching up on facebook and researching ferries from Jakarta. But before we’re ready to leave the power and internet go off. The café quickly empties but we’re reassured that this doesn’t happen all the time, and when it does things are back to normal in 20 minutes. We’ve got the laptop so we keep typing, but after 45 minutes we’re told the power won’t be back until 4pm. With no internet we decide to ride after all.
The roads are terrible. Massive potholes, rocks, different surface textures… we’re constantly weaving around the holes and trying to avoid any overturning jolts. It’s impossible to build up any speed. On top of this, the trucks, buses and cars seem to be particularly determined to kill us. Despite it being one lane in each direction, they’re overtaking three abreast and well and truly coming onto the shoulder on our side of the road. As we weave around the massive holes in the road we’re also concentrating on traffic in both directions. No one cares about rules and the lives of two strange white people. They beep at us to move out of their way, the locals still yell at us for attention, school children and teenage girls laugh at us, teenage boys yell out in Indonesian what we can only guess to be insults based on the mirthful laughter of their peers.
We check the GPS phone and look for a train station. Nothing nearby. We have to keep riding until we hit another city.
Storm clouds have gathered and big rain drops start to fall. Scooters are pulling over and people are pulling on rain jackets, but we welcome the cool relief. The fields next to the road are already flooded almost up to the road, and the thunder indicates a lot more rain is coming. We’ve only done 40km, but the weather makes the choice for us. We decide to stop at the next hotel we see to recover mentally and plan our future course.
Just as the rain starts pouring down we pull into a fancy looking hotel with Wifi and a reasonably priced café menu. We shower and order a feast – rice, chicken, veggies, a burger, soup… we haven’t eaten all day our nerves are fragile. As we sit on the internet waiting for our food the storm rages outside. The power goes out, but the hotel is prepared and turns on a noisy generator. We sit in a haven of light while the bikes and scooters and cars and trucks continue to move around outside without any street lighting and most without any lighting on their vehicle. After waiting 45 minutes they come to get our food order again. We are angry but they speak no English so we can’t communicate to them that the food should already be here. We have no choice but to keep waiting.
Our food comes out and we eat to the sounds of bad karaoke upstairs – a service they provide for the wealthy businessmen who stop here. We go to bed early but throughout the night Sam is disturbed by the sounds of drunk people being escorted back to their cars and scooters where they drive away. Exhausted, Shanna sleeps well.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia