overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
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Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Crash, bang, 1 million rupiah please

Written by Maz Towns. Uploaded 24 November 2006.

Indonesia, Country 24, Diary entry 12 – 21st Sept 2006, Total distance in Indonesia: 8396KM

We reached Makassar in the dark, eventually. The traffic outside the city began to mount up and for the last 10km we trailed at a snails pace as the trucks, cars and motorbikes all jammed up the roads. After finding a hotel to stay in, our next priority was to find the port and the offices of Dharma Lauton to confirm the ferry sailing tomorrow and buy our tickets. Dewi had kindly already reserved them for us. We found the offices by pure coincidence, after getting some cash from an ATM and asking the security where we could find Dharma Lauton. He turned and pointed two doors down. Quite obvious once you see it! Akhyar, Alex and friend in Makassar

Only a security guard was working but told us the boat left at 8am the next morning, not 10am as we had been told previously. Hmm, suddenly in a catch 22 as the offices didn’t open until 8am, how would be pay for the tickets? On questioning again, he corrected himself and said the boat sailed at 8pm not 8am. We called Dewi who acted as translator and confirmed the boat would leave at 8PM. Dewi then called the manager, Mr Budi who she had been talking to on our behalf previously to check the price, and the manager confirmed the sailing was at 8pm the next day and asked us to come in at 10am the next morning to finalise it. Still a little concerned that maybe it was 8am and they’d got it wrong, we left being able to do nothing more but turn up in the morning at 10am to meet with Mr. Budi.

We dropped the car back at the hotel and walked to a restaurant on the waters edge to meet Frank, a guy we’d met briefly as we turned up at the hotel and was keen to find out more about the trip. The network were still in full force and a friend of Edy & Dewi’s called Akhyar met us to say Hi and if there was anything we needed help with, he’d help us as much as possible. We told him of our plans and he said that he would accompany us to the Dharma Lauton offices the next day to act as translator and smooth over any possible problems. The talented entertainmet group on the ferry

Up early, still with the fear that the boat had already sailed and we’d be stuck in Makassar for another week until the next boat sailed, we met Akhyar to go and buy our tickets. We met with Mr. Budi who had kindly thrown in a VIP room with the price of the ticket, so we didn’t have to travel economy. Meetings like this are never a quick process and two hours later we thanked Mr. Budi and his staff, tickets in hand, with new information that the boat was now sailing at 11pm and we had to be at the docks for 10pm! At least it hadn’t yet sailed.

After 35 hours we made it! We then had a day to kill before getting to the docks, so went to reserve our plane tickets from Ambon to Bali (via Makassar!), which we needed after finishing the live aboard we had booked to go on in 10 days time. Akhyar then took us to crab restaurant. The name somewhat gives it away and we had maybe one of the best meals of the trip to date. Crab in various forms along with lots of other seafood, we chose crab and sweet corn soup to start with, a huge plateful of crabs in a sweet red sauce, along with prawns, beef and broccoli with chilli on top and fish as a side order with a beer to wash it all down. It was delicious. We then had a quick visit to Carrefour to stock up on some goodies for the boat ride. It was pretty disappointing after visiting the Chinese and Thai supermarkets, with no cheese for us to gorge ourselves on, so we just had to make do with chips, biscuits and a few other goodies to get us through the 35hour crossing.

We said our goodbyes to Akhyar and then began the waiting game. We returned to the travel agents once we’d checked our emails for final details we needed and then decided to go to the port. A little earlier than 10pm, but better to be early than late. It was our Jordan/Egypt ferry scenario all over again. 10pm came and went along with 11pm and midnight. We couldn’t see the boat to begin with, but it was just waiting off shore while the other boats in the dock loaded up and set sail. Once in the dock, they had to unload it. They pack the loading bays to the max, like sardines in a tin, but with only one entrance, the trucks had to reverse off the boat or do a three point turn. Not an easy manoeuvre for some of these big trucks. We eventually drove on board to our own little parking bay 2 decks below at 1.30am. Led to our VIP room, we were a little perplexed when we entered the room to see only 1 bed. Explaining that there were two of us and therefore needed two beds, they pointed to a mattress in the corner of the room and told us to put it on the floor. Suddenly we had a two bed room. 35 hours was going to be a long time. It was immensely better than the huge hall filled with bunk beds, the economy equivalent we would have been in otherwise. The official paperwork

We had meals brought to us for breakfast, dinner and tea, all in the form of rice and something; an egg, a sparrow’s wing or just a bit of chilli sauce. Thank god for Oreos! The first night, after waiting for such a long time to board the boat, chaos reigned and the intercom blared music out for all to enjoy. I was so knackered, I at least managed to sleep. The next day we wandered round the boat, but spent most of the time in our luxury cabin either reading, on the laptop or playing Carcassone. The next evening karaoke began. Nooo. We had a wander and to our shock realised it wasn’t karaoke at all but the live entertainment! We returned to our room after there seemed to be too much interest in getting us up – the only two foreigners on the boat – to dance! Thanks, but no thanks. The following lunchtime we finally docked, 33 hours from leaving Makassar. Temple Borobudur

We needed to get a bit of work done on the car and so while we waited for another of Edy’s friends Boy to meet us, we had a lovely meal in a Thai restaurant. It was a real treat from the ‘rice and something’ over the last 2 days. We had to bring the car back the next day for the work, so Edy and Dewi’s house keeper came to meet us and show us the way to their house. The traffic was extremely busy, the motorbikes being the worst as they zipped past us left, right, nipping just in front of us to creep further up the traffic. You need eyes in the back of your head to try and keep an eye on them. Most of them not wearing helmets or propping them on the top of their head, so if they did fall off, the hats would roll off as they came off their bikes. It really is difficult to drive around these cities. Knowing our penchant for pizzas, Edy had instructed Yantos to buy us pizza for dinner! The steep steps up to the temple's tiers

The next day Alex whiled his way at the garage while I was picked up by two more friends, Ainia and Harris, who took me to the Indonesian immigration office to see if we could extend our visas. It all seemed too straight forward, but we could definitely extend as long as we had an Indonesian sponsor and a letter from them, saying they take responsibility for us. I’m sure we could manage that. The stamp in the passport would be from the current day, so there was no point getting it in the immediate future as it wouldn’t give us any more time on our visa as we still had 5 weeks left to run. Having checked and rechecked with lots of questions which Ainia kindly translated for me (we have learnt from times previous it is prudent to check things a number of times as information changes from one person to the next), it seemed possible we’d be able to stay longer in Indonesia. 2 months is just not enough it’s such a huge country. We went out for dinner with Ainia and Harris that evening before leaving the next day for central Java.

The ornate artwork on the temple walls The ornate artwork on the temple walls

We had a long days drive to Borobudur, and as the evening was upon us, began looking for a restaurant as we were nearly at the temple. We came across one and slowed to turn right. Almost stopped, Alex indicated right, checked the mirrors and then began to turn….. BANG! out from the darkness a motorcyclist appeared from nowhere and collided, head first with our front right wing. The bike and guy went spinning across the floor, and seemed an eternity before they came to a stop, just like a slowed down movie. The one thing we had feared most of all on the trip had happened.

Physically shaking, we pulled off the road, still with a flight or flight scenario rolling around our heads. Should we drive off or stay? All the horror stories we’d heard about accidents involving locals and tourists were being whipped up in our minds. Seeing the guy being dragged off the road by two passers by, we knew we’d have never been able to just drive off and ignore what had happened, but it didn’t make the scene any less scary. The guy was conscious and once he had sat down I went over to see how he was. He didn’t even have torn clothes. He was thankfully wearing a full face visor and after I checked his arms and legs for any signs of broken bones, we were thankful that shock and anger seemed to be the only two things the crash had initially evoked. A guy called Anton witnessed the whole accident and pulled over to help as he could speak English. It's good luck to try and touch these buddha's inside the bells

He’d managed to make a fair dent in the side of our car as well as rip part of the aluminium side bumper. He’d hit us at a fair speed, which must have been like hitting a brick wall. After initial conversations with Anton acting as translator, we wanted to get out of there quick before the police got involved. The motorcyclist was in the wrong, but that doesn’t always matter in situations like this. Before long, two policemen drove past and stopped. Adrenaline was pumping round our bodies faster than lightening and many emotions were hurtling around with it.

The motorbike didn’t seem too damaged upon initial inspection, only a loose front light and a dent in the fuel tank, Tinfish seemed to have come off worst. The police had been informed from both parties about the turn of events, but Antonio was our saviour. Having witnessed what had happened, he said the guy must have not been paying too much attention, realised too late that we were turning (the debris on the road showing we were half way across the other lane of the road by the time he hit us) and was going too fast to stop himself in time. He was in the wrong. As the police turned up, the motorcyclist began to say his arm hurt. Knowing this would probably happen, it did make me laugh when initially it was the left arm and then five minutes later, when he needed to write down information for the police, it became his right. Prambanan temple - being restored after the earthquake damaged the structure

The bargaining began….. initial demands for money started at 1 million rupiah to get the bike fixed. Politely declining the amount, saying it was going to cost a lot of money to fix our car, the next demand was 500,000 rupiah. Again we declined saying we would not pay anything. Explaining that there was probably more than 3 million rupiahs worth of damage to our car, if he wanted to demand money for his bike, we’d like money for our car to be fixed seeing as he damaged it. This guy was maybe not the smartest cookie in the jar, he was however determined. The demands got lower and then a cracked tooth appeared on the agenda and this was now something that needed to get fixed. We tried to keep our cool, and in the end the motorcyclist lost his temper. This is when the police stepped in. So far, they had taken notes on what happened but were quiet bystanders watching the negotiations taking place. Once the motorcyclist began to thump the bike and get angry, the police told him to calm down and explained that he had been reckless with his driving and it was his fault for the accident. We were not expecting this, the police were also on our side!

Another Prambanan temple in the complex You get amazing sunsets

After over an hour of negotiations, the motorcyclist realised that he was not getting any money from us. He said he needed medicine as he had a headache and he was aching, not surprising really. I gave him some painkillers that would help, but told him that he was just bruised and only time would help with that. In the end, a statement was signed that each party would pay for their own damages and this was the end of any negotiations. Still shaking with adrenaline, we couldn’t believe the turn of events. In circumstances like this, we would normally need to pay 2000rupiah for an official stamp for the statement, but the police surprised us still further and wouldn’t accept any payment. After 2 hours we all shook hands to show no hard feelings and were allowed to go.

Still in a daze from the events of the evening, we still couldn’t believe what had happened. A BIG thanks to the police for helping us in a fair and honest way. You guys are a testament to your society. After all the horror stories we’d been told in Malaysia, we were loving Indonesia more and more. We managed to find another restaurant, not really wanting to stay near the scene of the accident and then found camp for the night. The colourful costumes of the ramayana dance

It felt like it had been along time since we’d done much site seeing, so it was nice to walk around Borobudur temple. The structure, composed of 55,000 square meters of lava-rock is erected on a hill in the form of a stepped-pyramid of six rectangular storeys, three circular terraces and a central stupa forming the summit. The whole structure is in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha. Wading through the throng of hawkers and market stalls, we eventually reached the walk up to the temple. The temple is extremely grand and towers above you. We were mobbed by some cheerful school children doing research on the type of people who visit the temple and after every particular was received from me, I was thanked and allowed to carry on with my site seeing. Having later read Martin’s diary that he had the same welcome to the temple, I studied his picture hard to see if I could recognise any faces, but it must have been a different class interviewing today.

We began at the lowest level studying all the reliefs and scenes. It has 160 reliefs depicting cause and effect; the middle level contains various stories of the Buddha's life from the Jataka Tales; the highest level has no reliefs or decorations whatsoever but has a balcony, square in shape with round walls: a circle without beginning or end. Here is the place of the ninety-two Vajrasattvas or Dhyani Buddhas tucked into small stupas. I still find the dedication to the artwork a true inspiration when I see these sites. We managed to stretch our arm inside one of them and touch the Buddha, a ritual which supposedly brings good luck. Gunung Bromo

After 4 hours we decided we’d probably spend enough time there and carried onto Prambanan. This was more disappointing as it was only after we’d paid our money and ventured into the site that we realised you couldn’t get near the temples due to the scaffolding around most of them. Still, this wasn’t going to deter us. A quick walk round the edge of the site took us to the other side where you could get much closer to the temples and get some better photos, you just had to hide from the security guard every so often. We carried on round the site to see the rest of the temples in the complex before we got templed out. Rather than speed off, we decided to see a performance in the evening of Ramayama – the popular hindu story which we’ve heard or seen artistic scenes of in a number of other countries. It was interesting. Lots of random scenes of people dancing in fantastically coloured costumes, with a big screen on the side of the stage talking you through what was happening. Glad we went, but not something I’d probably rush back to see again in a hurry.

The witches cauldron is boiling! Tinfish is SO tiny

It was time to find camp, which ended up being incredibly difficult. We managed to find a path near one of the remoter temples and after the security guards came up and we told them we were just sleeping, they left us alone. We had a shower and thankfully I had just wrapped a towel round myself before our first visitors arrived. Unfortunately, they were all drunk. I managed to get some clothes on quickly and hoped that they wouldn’t hang around, especially as all they could say was ‘Hello Mister’ and ‘goodnight’. In the end we went to bed in the hope they would just go away. Thankfully after 5 minutes or so they did, but not for long. Returning and being even more annoying than before, the final straw was when they began rocking the car. Livid, I jumped out of the tent to find they had nicked my shoes. I leapt off the bonnet and grabbed out for my shoes while managing to push 4 of them down a little slope to the side of the car….(did I really do that!). Maybe I was just tired, it was now after midnight, but I could not see the funny side anymore. We packed up the tent and drove off in search of somewhere quieter. In the end we decided to drive for a couple of hours as the roads were so quiet we managed to get a few kms under our belts. Our palace

Camp always seems so much more secluded when you find it in the dark. At 6.15am we were woken with ‘Hello Mister’, which we ignored until 6.30am. Getting out of the tent, we were greeted by a policeman. This was the first time locals has not woken us up, but instead gone to find the police instead! 6.45am we were back on the road. We carried onto Mt. Bromo. A steep drive up the mountain side, we were greeted with touts and hawkers as we reached the top. A situation you have to accept when you visit tourist sites, but tiring all the same. Mt. Bromo is a sight! We drove to the bottom of the crater, again welcomed by touts wanting to sell us a horse ride and walked up to the rim of the volcano.

The acrid smell of sulphur hurts your nostrils and back of your throat as you breathe it in, but the scenery is incredible. The first thing that we noticed was the silence. Normally you hear the ticks of the insects or the calling of the birds, here there was nothing. The silence was deafening. We had the crater to ourselves and sat and absorbed the sights and smells. It was lovely to be remote again, away from the busy roads and packs of people. Watching the smoke slowly rise up from the bottom of the crater, reminded me of a witch’s cauldron bubbling away. It was extremely peaceful here.

Swimming in the pool fast became our past time

We returned to the car and drove further round the volcano to see the sunset with a beer in hand. The first time we had found camp in daylight for a while. Once the sun had gone behind the mountains, we parked up and began to build a fire and cook dinner. With no artificial light near by, the sky was a dazzling spectacle of shimmering stars. A perfect evening, if only it was 20 degrees warmer! After a very cold nights sleep, we woke (Alex grumpy due to the cold) to the sun peeping over the volcano. At least we could just open the tent and pop our heads out rather than have to get out of bed. :)

As we drove north from Mt. Bromo, the roads ventured through fields of crops ready for the next harvest. Once on the coast, the sea guided us round the edge of the island, tempting us with its deep blue. It took us about 5 hours to drive to the Java-Bali ferry. Traffic was horrendous, with heavy trucks doing the obligatory 50km/h, taxis crawling along at 30km/h and motorcycles still buzzing like mosquitoes all around. Still on constant alert, probably more so since the accident, the one thing I won’t miss about all of these countries is the motorbikes zipping about. Our own little hot tub - luxury!

The ferry from Java to Bali was over in an instant, a nice change from the first 2 crossings we’ve experienced and we drove to Mimpi Menjangan Resort on the north-west of the island. We were shown to our room by the staff. ‘WOW’ is the only way I can describe it. We entered a little courtyard with our own hot water spring bath and a relaxing area to chill out on. Turning to the room, we walked through huge open French windows to reveal a double bed with ensuite bathroom decked out with open air shower. Another open plan room was available if you ventured up the steep ladder above the wardrobes. We had a nosey round the resort, 2 swimming pools, hot springs, dive centre (the main reason we were here), beach and restaurant. We had a dip in our own private tub before venturing to the swimming pool for the sunset. Mountains in the distance with fluffy clouds floating past the tips, it made a nice view from our water based platform. After dinner we returned to our room and had yet another dip in our hot spring before jumping into bed.

The next morning we had breakfast with Astawa, the manager of the resort and chatted about our trip. The day passed by with a succession of dips in the hot tub, swims in the pool and reading books. We’d decided on completely relaxing for a few days. The laptop was with us, but we had no desire or inclination to open it up and work. With such fantastic surroundings, it was a lovely environment to recharge the batteries. A HUGE thanks to Mimpi Menjangan

Feeling completely relaxed after the day of doing very little, we signed up for diving the following day. A quick boat ride out to Menjangan Island for our first dive at Eel garden. Great visability but within 10 minutes the group had already lost Alex, or should I say Alex had lost the group! The coral was pristine, the only slightly annoying thing about the dive was the guide who was constantly tapping on his cylinder to try and get our attention. I hung back trying to find Alex and eventually saw his bubbles in the distance. We carried on our dive together, over a flat patch of sand, home to hundreds of eels popping their heads out of the sand, giving the site its name before it was time to come up. After a lunch break we headed over to Anchor wreck. We only really saw the anchor as the wreck was in 40m of water. The anchor itself was spectacular, huge, brightly decorated in corals and home to a moray eel. We hovered over the wreck, tantalising us as ever to just drop a little deeper to satisfy our lust for rust, but we restrained ourselves and headed over yet another beautiful reef. The coral here is untouched and as a black tip reef shark passed under us, it was time to finish the dive.

Swimming in the pool fast became our past time Not another beautiful sunset!

We were back quite early, so relaxed on our veranda for a while playing Carcassone before having another dip in the tub and then a swim in the pool. God, lifes hard! :) We repacked our kit for the liveaboard we were boarding the day after, before dining out on the resorts delicious redang penang watching the beautiful sunset for another night. We crashed out in bed after a final dip in the hot tub. We rose early the next morning as we had a fairly long drive to Sanur, the other side of Bali to which we were on and had one last dip before heading off. A huge thank you to Astawa and Mimpi Menjangan Resort for looking after us in such a spectacular resort. It was extremely relaxing and we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent with you.

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