Difficulty- Sam 9 Shanna 8
Weather- light rain
Awake at 6am and the sweat is already pouring from my body. The tiny archaic air-conditioner making a loud noise in the corner of the room is doing nothing, and the heat is oppressive. Laying there I can’t help but think about our first day in Java and wonder if it will be the same for the next 1000+ kilometers. What if it is, what if the crowds never stop, the people never stop yelling, all needing or demanding an answer to their ‘hello Mr’s’ or cries of amazement, laughter or bemusement. What if the constant honking never stops, the heat never ceases, the array of hopeful suitors never cease their attentions or the food never changes?
We cool ourselves with a small bucket of water in the decrepit, grimy bathroom and the feeling of the cold water washing over my body is exquisite, cleansing and instantly refreshing, but I try not to let the water enter my mouth, my stomach already feels queasy and I’m wondering if today is the day our resistance gives way.
Back on our bikes and we soon realize that that day has come. Frantically searching for a bathroom, (not as easy as you might think when you are in the backwoods of Java) we finally locate one just before our powers of resistance are embarrassingly about to give way. Attempting to squat, with tired legs over a grubby pan the steaming pungent stinky liquid explodes with an embarrassing cacophony of noises.
I hear what I think is laughter… I turn the tap on, the sound of the running water is comforting, and it hides things. Removing my shorts (for those who don’t know toilet paper is only used here in café’s or restaurants as serviette) I fill a bucket in the corner with water and pour it down the hole, it doesn’t work so I try again. This time the mess goes down the hole, most of it anyway, a few more bucketfuls, in the hole and on myself and back on go the shorts (all the while careful to stand on my thongs). The water runs down my legs, my shorts are a little wet, but it feels nice in an odd way, kind of like using a bidet but a little more real...lol
My stomach is still queasy, and so is Shanna’s, but we buy some cold drinks from a roadside shack and tentatively get back on our leather bike seats. In an hour we find a roadside café and eat some rice, we have to eat, we have no energy and laying down while drinking flat lemonade in an air-conditioned room (what we would have done at home) is not an option. Stomach’s still funky, we lay down in a hut beside the café constructed from Bamboo and tin, and eventually fall asleep despite the honking of horns and the screaming of motorbike engines revved to there limit. A short sleep but a delicious one, sharply awoken by the sound of screeching honking trucks.
Over the next few hours we stop three times in various locales to find places to relieve our bowels. We haven’t gone far and our energy is depleted, most of my carbs I presume are in various holes across the Javanese countryside… But at about 3pm a storm approaches, the sun is covered in dark cloud and the temperature drops. Weak and tired or not, this is an opportunity we can’t miss. Over the next 3 hours despite our whining bowels we ride 65km, and as the dark begins to take over the light we desperately search for a hotel. During the morning, when we refused to stop we saw many, but now, even approaching a city and we cannot find a single one. We stop at a traffic light, urgently scanning the streets, trying to ignore the questioning faces when we hear a ‘hello Mr. how can I help you.’ Trying to hide the desperation in our voices I ask him very slowly if he knows were a hotel is. “Yes Mr. he says, hotel jus’ down her’, you go der’, dey very good dere.’ ‘Thank you very much,’ we reply.
This time it was clean, a hotel with a white sheet, a luxury we never realised we would seek. The girl at the desk spoke very good English, astonishingly good and we wanted her to know but it seemed that no amount of 'terimah kase's' could do it justice. The hotel was out of rooms with aircon so we had to make do with a small fan pushing the hot air around the room. We filled the small bucket with cold water over and over and over again, and let the water wash over our tired bodies, peeling back the grease and grime, feeling in that moment a sense of achievement unlike we had yet felt, an inner satisfaction that needed no words.
Exhausted, and covered in lathers of sweat, the heat, the noise and the bed conspiring to make sleep a contest; yet inwardly smiling, content.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia