Expiring visas force the long journey to continue once more, with island-hopping from Lombok to Bali then train-crossing across the island of Java to escape Indonesia.
Apologies for the poor-quality 35mm photos as scanned photos and original negatives are no longer in good condition – they are after all from 1998.
Continuing the journey
The time has come to take several train trips to traverse the island of Java and as discovered a couple of months ago, nothing runs on time in Indonesia. Everything runs on ‘rubber time’. Nothing seems to go smoothly and travelling isn’t easy in the archipelago during 1998.
Banyuwangi to Yogyakarta, via Surabaya
An overnight train from Banyuwangi to Surabaya should take around 7.5 hours. Then, a connecting train to Yogyakarta takes around 5 hours.
The first train is at 10 pm and provides no comfort in an icy-cold air-conditioned noisy carriage. Some locals have no idea. (Map credit: Rome2Rio)
Instead of the three-hour wait from 4am to 7am for the connecting train in Surabaya, the train is another half-hour late and at this stage, the body is waning fast. So, try to sleep on a couple of uncomfortable steel trollies, alongside the platform.
Finally, the connecting train slowly pulls into the station and a mad scrum ensues to grab seats. This morning’s journey passes shanties and half-houses within touching distance from the train tracks. As this is the main train line that cuts through Java, I can only imagine what it is like to live almost on this incredibly noisy train track.
Arriving at Yogyakarta and with hunger pangs gnawing at my stomach, check out a favourite restaurant in Yogyakarta – Mama’s, an odd name for an Indonesian restaurant – before strolling around the markets hunting for bargains and dodging hawkers.
Yogyakarta offers loads of exciting activities for travellers, which we indulged in a month ago – dramatic Borobudur Temple is majestic and the main reason you visit this trendy city.
Yogyakarta to Jakarta
Deciding to continue to Jakarta, we buy the very last two identical ‘Executif‘ seats for the overnight train. But of course, when boarding the train, discover the seats are in separate carriages.
After a long wait of almost 4 hours for the train, it finally arrives around 1.5 hours late. So much time is wasted waiting for transport in Indonesia. A local lady is kind enough to swap uncomfortable seats with us so that we can sit together for the 8-hour journey.
The ancient train stops constantly throughout the long night, dragging out the journey even further until finally rolling into Jakarta almost 3 hours late, to deathly quiet streets on Independence Day.
Where to stay
Dragging ourselves again to the Djody Hotel in Jalan Jaksa (remarkably, still open in 2021), relief washes over us when discovering the gear we stored here three weeks ago, is still intact and not stolen – such a bargain for a $1 per week storage fee.
Missing the Independence Day processions, wander around the unusually quiet streets of Jakarta adorned with red and white flags, colourful bunting, and even decorations on children’s bicycles.
Locals play unusual games in the streets. Competitors with strings tied to their waists walk backwards in three lanes. A long nail is tied to the end of the string and the first person to reach the end of the lane needs to get the nail in the empty upright bottle. Then picks the bottle up by squatting over it and wriggling on – bizarre but fun to watch!
With only days left on our visas, try to organise travel to Singapore to escape authorities before it is too late as Singapore is a safe place to renew visas – not as corrupt as Indonesia and can’t renew in Indonesia.
Going nowhere fast…
Discovered yesterday that the Pelni boat we booked to sail on in a couple of days crashed with a tanker and is no longer going anywhere. The ticket office isn’t helpful and advises us to return in the morning. Returning in the afternoon instead to try and swap the boat ticket with a Singapore flight, the agent tries to rip us off. Demanding a refund for the boat tickets, we leave to hunt down another office.
Finally book a Jetfoil boat at another office for the day before our visas expire, hoping like hell that the boat is on time as fines/bribes are hefty in Indonesia.
Waxing in Indonesia when you have time to kill…
Ever tried to get waxed in Indonesia?
After a couple of months on the road, I can’t go any longer so, find a hairdressing salon, which apparently does waxing. Showing the male hairdresser and then the female assistant how to wax my legs, we’re in fits of laughter as the wax is going everywhere but my legs. The more they try, the more it becomes obvious that neither can wax. Another hairdresser comes over and also tries to wax without success. Looking down at the pot of hot wax, thousands of black pubic hairs stare up at me – not sure the last time that the wax was used…
Returning to collect the Jetfoil tickets, the office advises that big waves may stop the boat from going and to return tomorrow morning – this is not good as our visas are almost expired. Plan B is reserved seats for Singapore on Pakistan Air.
The agent at the ticket office can’t be bothered to phone our hotel to advise about any delays. Instead, only laughs when we’re stressed and exacerbated that our visas are expiring and Indonesia charges hefty fines each day you overstay.
There is no comfort in knowing that during the 2 months travelling in Indonesia, our Pelni boat crashed, a Siberut boat sunk (not surprising), and 2 buses crashed – each incident with fatalities.
Tomorrow starts the 20-hour journey finally leaving Indonesia and bound for Singapore to renew our visas. What could possibly go wrong?