• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 43

Day 43 – 7th February 2020

Keep the messages coming guys I am so grateful for them after many hours of travelling they give me a tremendous lift. And thank you so much for recent donations.

Yesterday was a day that I am quite happy to forget. There haven’t been many on this long journey of mine, but yesterday I was well and truly banjaxed when I got to my hotel late last night. What I always knew would be a tough ten-hour journey turned into a horrid twelve and a half hour trial, made worse by hold ups and accidents along the way. Chaos does not describe the intense lines of traffic, the impatience of Indonesian drivers, the cramped vehicle, and the road conditions over just short of three hundred miles. I try to stay positive, but ordeals like yesterday just really sap your reserves of energy.

The hotel reception after a very long day

I can’t remember which day it is for but I have booked an accident on Sumatra, from one of these drivers. It is waiting to happen because their driving skills are obscene. As part of the driving test that is taken they must have to show that they can drive one handed while smoking and holding a mobile handset at the same time. It would appear that the white line in the centre of the road is put there for administration purposes. It has no bearing on which side of the road you travel. The whole premise of driving and not colliding with other road users is in the anticipation of their actions. As a driver, your actions are irrelevant and not called into question. I have been here for three days now, and I am still not one hundred percent sure which side of the road they drive on. And that is after travelling upwards of eight hundred miles on the darn things. Anyway rant aside, yesterday is gone, there was no blog but there were some things worth recording, so here we go.

I was picked up as scheduled and taken to a very, (and I mean very,) seedy part of town. It was so bad that even the monks had machetes. The stray dogs I saw had their own security and the tour office employed an armed guard. Our bus driver, was called Nippon, so obviously I nicknamed him Nippon the bus, and his brother was the security guard, for both the tour and parcel office as well as the café next door. Once I had my ticket purchased, by instruction from Nippon the bus, he walked me over to introduce his brother to me. I did not want to meet his brother thank you very much but felt obliged to pass the time of day after Nippon had introduced Tinga. He wore a black shirt that had been laundered sometime in the nineties, and rather more obviously to me, carried two, not very well hidden, guns in his trouser waist. I wasn’t happy talking to this man as I know nothing about guns, their culture, or in fact their purpose for being in Tingas trousers. Nippon presently, had introduced me for reason as ‘Mr Bobby.’ (No idea why?) His brother opened the conversation through a translator app. It unfolded thus...

'Mr Bobby you have gun?’

No gun – I don’t carry one. I replied to his question on his phone as quickly as I could type the words. (Took ages – few mistakes were made due to my nervousness at the subject matter.)

‘Bobby no guns?’

‘Yes that is right – no guns.’ Handing the phone back. Trying to look anywhere other than at him. He had the kind of face, that was made from the inside of a blacksmiths glove. His eyes were not for romance. As I looked on intimidated, the phone was pushed into my hand yet again.

‘Tinga have two guns – known by many people as Tinga two guns’

I was desperate to say “Why’s that then Ting? Thank goodness the urge for a laugh ran around the ether for a bit, before racing helplessly towards the inside of my teeth, and spurting out through the wilful orifice at the front of my head. I managed to quell any thought of humour which may have flown over his head. Through his app I relayed, ‘Okay.’ I really didn’t want to communicate anymore with two gun Tinga, but it was too late, the phone had been thrust again. It read, ‘So people know I carry two guns.’ I smiled and hoped to goodness Sydney seven barrels didn’t show up in the next ten minutes. Thankfully Tinga left at this point to get himself a coffee. Meanwhile Nippon the bus had furnished me with a bottle of complimentary water and a paper cup. I poured some before the urge just overwhelmed me to ask, what turned out to be the stupidest of questions that may have eventually led to my arrest. Nippon had been joined by two others and was casually supervising the last parcels being placed in the luggage area of the car, by the passengers baggage. Before I go with the question, I need to set the scene and list the protagonists in this production.

Nippon the bus, face so pock marked that you could expect children to wave from inside of the pocks.

Next to Nippon the bus, was Benny Bad Breath. Whatever he’d eaten for breakfast had not died recently. His full time position was a milk curdler at the local yoghurt factory.

Next to Benny Bad Breath, was Tommy Three Teeth. (Now I want you to know that the names have been made up but I can assure you that the descriptions are accurate.) Tommy had, as described, only three teeth in his head, and theoretically should have been the most fantastic whistler. Shepherd standard no less.

Then ‘C’est Moi’

I have asked the question verbally first, then a second time using the translator app. Then finally the third time using the now famous ‘Bobby talk.’

“Do we stop for a break to record crossing the Equator today?” I thought simple enough. Not so! They all looked at me with that, ‘He’s out of bed again nurse’ expression. So I went again with the Bobby talk version. This time both Nippon the bus and Benny Bad Breath had faces that expressed the agonies of childbirth.

So time for a third effort: I took off my right flip flop, held it in the air, then used it to draw a line in the dirt where the collective were all stood. I then put the flip flop back on. I took the paper cup and poured some water into it. Then to emphasis what I thought was a perfectly reasonable impression, I jumped over the line, stuck my finger in the water and spun it Clockwise. Noticing that I had grabbed their attention, I jumped back over the line, and repeated the whole process, this time spinning my finger in the water anti clockwise. There were others that wanted to see what was happening. Still blank. I repeated the whole jumping and spinning water process again. My god Benny Bad breath had started to shuffle. Tommy Three Teeth was bending forward slapping his knees.

I imagined that they had invented a tune – say for example the Okey Kokey or something Sumatran.

You put your flip flop on

You take your flip flop off

You draw a line in sand, and put your flip flop on

You jump to the left and then you spin the water

Then you jump to the right and do the same thing over again

That’s what it’s all about,

Oh the dopey Bobby

Oh the dopey Bobby

Oh the dopey Bobby

Jump in, jump out rah, rah, rah.

Oh my goodness BBB was actually dancing to the clapping sounds of TTT, then to add to the proceeding a guy from behind TTT produces a tin with a broom stave attached to a stretched wire. He manufactured a tone that sounded like a ruptured baboon. Suddenly their all shuffling and swaying. Benny Bad Breath is completely lost control, giving it the full ‘Fame – I want to live forever’, when the hand of authority firmly gripped his shirt from the shoulder. The policeman was not a happy bunny. The crowd dispersed, Tinga two guns, had disappeared sharpish, and poor Benny had been frogmarched off somewhere. Nippon the bus instructed me to well… Nip on the bus, and we left the scene within three minutes flat. We don’t know what happened to Benny Bad Breath, I presumed he was arrested for causing an affray or dancing without a permit, but we didn’t see him again.

This is a guy who feigned death to try and get a discount.

The drive was dreadful and by eleven, when I eventually checked into my lodgings, I was truly done for. The equator came and went without any due notice or recording of such. That is save to say that I watched every degree, minute and second count down until the compass read 00°00'00” N. Then in a trice changed to -00°-00'01” S. It perhaps means nothing to most people, but for me it was special. A first crossing over land. Unremarkable agreed, but still special.

One of my hotel staff members knocked on my door this morning around 08:15, (I was almost ready to check out so it didn’t really matter,) to tell me that the car was ready to take me to meet the mini bus, for my journey today. By 09:15am ticket in hand ready to face part three of the four most arduous legs of the trip. I knew in advance, but they were starting to get the better of me. I was without recognising it a bit crotchety in anticipation of what was to come. All six hours of it. By nine thirty the vehicle had arrived. Rear passenger, which I was guided to join. Front passenger, a girl of about twenty five, and the driver (similar age) John Travolta grease lookalike at the wheel. The dash of the vehicle was covered with a goats pelt that looked as though it had been dyed in its own blood, and two Mr Men soft toys, (around 10’’ high) dangling from suckers high up on the windscreen. We started off with the music (some strange Indie beat box gubbings) cranked up to invalid level, with the three of them sharing a joke at my expense. (Probably – a smidgen of paranoia creeping in.) We pulled over twice with the young lady going into a couple of shops before being able to buy the driver a sim card. She got back in the car, passed it to him, and he was so grateful he leant across to kiss her. Nice gesture I thought, until it developed into a full face wrestling bout in the motion of a reversing propeller. As the seconds turned into a minute plus, I began to think they were underwater pearl divers. They both had the lungs of dolphins. Goodness knows where it would have lead if she’d bought him a new phone!

King Cobra gear stick extension

We, sorry he, bade her farewell at the tour office before we all set off, but he seemed to disappear for a while. The young Mrs Dolphin, came around the side to address me. I got a bit nervous because I can only hold my breath for ten seconds max, but thankfully I wasn’t in for that kind of ceremonial farewell. She asked me in broken English, and then with the aid of the ever present translator app, if I wouldn’t mind sitting in the front because it was a full vehicle today, with other passengers joining us. I was torn, between the comfort of the front seat, and the first to see the danger angle. I hadn’t fully made my mind up when I saw her tippy tapping on the translator. She came back with, “Only it’s wider for you.” “How very dare you!” I thought, but got in anyway. I wasn’t to know this at the time, but only around forty percent of our journey today was made over tarmac. The roads were in an atrocious condition. Potholes big enough to lay a dead cow to rest in, with the surfaces leading up to them often just a bed of stones. Our driver, Mr Dolphin, just like the last two days also turned out to be a suicide jockey, but to his credit he did have an eye for these potholes. I mused: The local Mayor must have misinterpreted the brief with his budget for pot holes, when he took all fifteen office staff of the council, on a pot holing holiday to Vietnam. You can imagine the auditing staff going through the receipts for drinks and meals, trying to understand the correlation to Pot Holes. We were lucky though because we were travelling in a 2016 Toyota Moon probe, that leant itself to these kind of surfaces. With additional features including, impact bearing springs and a cushioned roof lining. When we stopped for a break, I felt like my sports bra had come undone. Leaving Sumatra the day after tomorrow and it can’t come soon enough.

This thing kept hitting my forehead every time we hit a pot hole - never once got on my nerves, can you believe it?

Position: 02°58'11” N 104°44'16”E – Miles completed: 12642

Location: Pelambang, Sumatra 23:00 - 7th February 2020 - Journey 43 days 22 hours


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