• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 41

Day 41 – 5th February 2020

Thank you all, the messages are getting through.

The morning started pleasantly enough with a Grab taxi, to the shipping agent who booked the ticket from yesterday. I was anticipating all kinds of mix ups but much to my admiration of their communication there weren’t any. The terminal, transaction, boarding and customs went like a dream and I was about to leave Malaysia. Before the very modern ferry started our journey we were played a DVD to keep us entertained. It was only Aladdin – the same one as three nights ago in Kuala Lumpur. I don’t think I ever want to speak that name again, even the songs keep coming back into my head. The ferry was speedy(around two and a half hours to do the sixty two miles across the Malacca Straits. We sighted Rupat Island around 11:25am with only the channel in between them left to negotiate. Entry into Indonesia was not as easy as many of the countries that I have passed through, but with going all through the process, I got my entry stamped.

My third mode of transport for the day was a 125cc Motorbike ridden by a man with a clubbed foot. I felt sorry for his when he approached me outside the terminal, but I assumed it would be a Tuk Tuk type arrangement rather than a straight forward motor bike. So, I am back pack laden holding the seat for dear life as he zooms the two of us the mile and a half to the hotel for about £1.80p. Now checking into the hotel presented massive problems. Firstly, hardly anyone in Indonesia, I am quickly discovering, speaks English. The second point is that I haven’t changed to an Indonesian sim card therefore my translator app is not running. Between myself and the young man behind reception, we found a way. However, the problems started from that point. He showed me to my room. Outside through a maze of two foot wide passages, then into a walled tiny garden are we arrived at my room. Not only was it filthy, there was dangerous electricity sockets nailed to a wall and hanging off, but the shower arrangement was a stand in tub, with a saucepan to collect the cold water, (hot water, only in the Ritz!)then douse myself with the contents of the stainless steel pan. The door finished around three inches above the ground outside. The gap was so big you could have limbo’ed a dextrous piglet under the thing! Not happy, had to rationalise.

Had to go!

New plan try to make it to Pekanbaru today and cancel the room here. Now I had the problem of finance because the small amount of Indonesian Rupiah that I had changed for my Malaysian Ringlets on board the ferry, weren’t going to be enough. So here’s the plan! Get Grab cab to take me to an ATM or dollar exchange facility, then new sim card so that every could understand the translations. Next was to go back to the hotel to collect the back pack, (which I had left in case I couldn’t find alternative,) then purchase bus tickets on advice from Grab cab man Andy. It took quite some time, especially after travelling to the bus station, to find no buses, no tickets, just a deserted building where buses used to live. Andy was my dream ticket really, because he found out that there was a parcel delivering minibus service at two this afternoon that would take me to Pekanbaru. Everything got done as per, eventually. Hats off to Andy, but obviously his bill rocketed, for the hour and a half he was at my beck and call.

I was quite excited because I had looked at a map and I knew that we would be passing through some national parks with heavily forested areas. There would be a fair bit of Sumatran Jungle either side of the road to enjoy, thinking that somewhere out there are the last few remaining Sumatran Tigers roaming around. The species were listed critically endangered in 2008 believing that there were less than 600 total population.

So here I am about to board my final mode of transport for the day.

This is the mad man of a driver - check the rings out (one on every finger)

A Turquoise minibus. No one spoke a word of English, thank heavens for the translator app. He filled the rear luggage space with everything from heavy steel banded packages to rolls of carpet. Letters, parcels, the five passengers luggage, the lot went in. I was at the very back of the bus sharing a three seat section with a young bloke who could not speak a word of our mother tongue. If he could he might have understood my muted cries for help. The five hour trip over the most horrendous pot holed, loosely tarmaced roads, was the very worst journey that I think I have ever endured. Our driver owned the road. All of it! For anything coming towards us, on their proper side of the road were in danger, and they were the ones who had to get out of the way. The brakes screeched, the horns blared, the minibus swerved in and out of precarious situations between vehicles. He was overtaking vehicles completely blind! Inside bends and more perilously outside bends. We would be just yards from head on collisions on the other side of the road, when at the last minute either our bus, or the oncoming vehicle would swerve and brake to avoid smashing into one another. Chaos! I am so glad I was in the back because I could turn away to some extent. All this time his stereo was on full blast, playing a hit list from the Indonesian Top of the Pops nineteen seventy nine. All the songs sounded like a cat had learned the sitar and was asking everyone to singalong! Even with the light gone and the blackness of night upon us, with only around ten miles to go, our driver tried to beat a logjam just stopping in time for us not to hit a group of four motorcyclists tootling along.

The sounds are as bad as the looks

The driver thankfully dropped me right outside my hotel door, that I was so extraordinarily grateful to see. This time the hotel seems fine.

Position: 00°32'06” N 101°26'23”E – Miles completed: 12151

Location: Pekanbaru, Sumatra 22:48 - 5th February 2020 - Journey 41 days 21 hours

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