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- Sam Bowen "Jasper had warned us about the road, but I had applied the concept "bad" to Australian standards. This dirt road was a WWI no-man's-land of deep pot holes and gaping crevasses."

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Letter to home from Indonesia
by Sam Bowen, Australian in Jakarta, Indonesia
Mar 5, 2000

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Later we sat around drinking cask wine with a contented group of middle-agers which was dominated by Ffyonna Fortesque-Smythe or something or other. She was one of those posh English women whose accent was so plum and la-di-da that she had lost the ability to pronounce the letters "r" and "l". I'm sure you know the type. She heard we were going to Ujung Kolong

"You'd better be carefuw. I hope you've had your tabwets. It weawwy is a dweadful mawahwia awia" "A what?", we sniggered "A mawahwia awia. It weawwy is quite dweadful" "Sorry?" we chortled "A mawahwia awea! It's a bwoody tewwible mawahwia awea!" she cried as we collapsed into howls of laughter.

Now, my mother always told me I should listen to people who know better than me. In the first place, I should have listened to my mother. If I had, I would have listened to Jasper and perhaps even Ffyonna. But I didn't, so I didn't. And so we got up early the next morning and began our trek into the dreaded malaria area, unprotected.

We decided to take the overland route. This was a mistake, because even though it sort of looked like one, our Toyota Kijang was not a four-wheel drive. And as it turned out, we really, really needed one.

Jasper had warned us about the road, but I had applied the concept "bad" to Australian standards. This dirt road was a WWI no-man's-land of deep pot holes and gaping crevasses.

I asked Bazuki, if he thought we would make it through.

“Maybe” he said “All right,”, I replied cheerily, “Let’s give it a go” Bazuki sort of stood there for a while with an odd look on his face, but it seemed to me as if he was only checking out the route. I sat in the car looking for something to replace Genesis (I’d had enough by now), wondering what was taking him so long.

Eventually we got going, and after a few hours of bone-jarring and bashing our heads into the roof we made it into Taman Jaya, a village so remote that you can't get cable television, let alone mobile phone coverage. We met the local guy in charge who was so happy to see his first Buleh since the crisis that he attempted to triple charge us for everything we laid eyes on, especially wood carvings of the fabled rhino.

We were shown around a medieval-like village with dogs, goats and chickens joining naked children and prune-faced old Ibus following us in a noisy procession. Most of the houses were bamboo framed with thatched palm leaves done in intricate square patterns for walls. They had open fires inside where people cooked food in pots, so it appeared at least that the Iron Age had arrived. The village head pointed to a mountain. "Up there live the Badui people. They shun the outside world. In Indonesia, there are many types of primitive people"

And looking around at his village, I felt inclined to agree.

The journey continues..

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