December 14th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Sonny and his family

We wanted to leave Lovona today – it didn’t take us long to decide it wasn’t really our sort of place.  Doing nothing at the beach might possibly be alright during a holiday (tho’ I dojbt it), but when we’re travelling we soon get itchy feet.  Before we went, tho’, I wanted to derive a little more of what the place had to offer, so had booked up to go snorkelling.  Val didn’t want to go, which was fortunate, as there was just one place left.  It was an early start, 7 am, but the conditions seemed perfect – a glass-like sea.  The rest of the trip tho’ was a disaster.  As usual, I had trouble with the equipment.  The mask kept flooding, + the nose-piece was separate, so I didn’t breathe the blasted stuff in, but it soon came washing over my eyes, meaning I had to keep stopping, tread water, + empty it once again.  But even from the relatively brief time I could swim about, the water seemed murky + swirling, so I wasn’t able to see much.  And then disaster – clumsiness + bad luck made worse by stupidity.  On one of the occasions I was draining the water from the mask, the snorkel slipped out from the headband + dropped into the sea behind me, where it promptly sank.  I made one pretty abysmal half-effort to retrieve it, but then, instead of calling the boat over to me, so that I could act as a marker, I swam over to it.  That really wrecked it, since there was no way I could possibly locate the spot again, one bit of ocean being much like another.  And the rest of my snorkelling hour was just about wiped out.  I was given another snorkel, but I spent the rest of the time floating around looking for the thing.  So all in all, a wasted hour.  And expensive too, in that on my return I was rushed Rp 3000 for the snorkel.  I paid up, partly because I wasn’t in a strong position to argue, partly because I did indeed feel guilty about my own clumsy stupidity.

Anyway, that episode over, + hopefully soon forgotten, we breakfasted, packed, paid + left.  Val changed some money at the local money-changer, which turned out to be fortunate for us – there was a bemo there, collecting some furniture from the place to deliver somewhere on Java, + they offered to take us to Gillimanauk, Bali’s ferry port, for slightly less (tho’ only slightly) than the regular bus fare.  It was a bit of a squeeze actually, but no more uncomfortable than the bus, + we had the advantage of being non-stop… except for the 3 occasions when the guy hopped off to lay an offering at a roadside shrine.  I also had the Walkman going, treating me to PG, so that helped pass the time.  But it really wasn’t a long journey in any case.

We pulled up virtually on the beach.  From there, all we had to do was walk straight on to one of the landing-craft ferries drawn up there.  For some unknown reason, we were directed to the toilet, but we soon found our way up to the top deck, + there it was pleasant, an enjoyable half-hour ride across the straits, then drawing up on the beach at Banyinwangi, back on the island of Java.  I obviously wouldn’t make a very fine soldier, storming onto the beach under heavy fire.  Even in considerably more comfortable conditions, I managed to plonk my foot in deep wet sand.  And up on dry land, we were in for an equal shock, discovering that the journey from the terminal to the train station was not, as the Yellow Guide said, 2 or 3 kms (and hence presumably walkable), but 7 or 8 (+ hence, for functional purposes, not – it was a very hot day.)  We were able to negotiate a respectably cheap bemo ride, tho’, relative to their first asking price, + so were there by a little after 1.

The bad news was that there was no train before 9 at night, and heaven knows where that would have dropped us off in Probiolinggo, the jumping-off point for Mt Bromo, our next destination, so we changed plans + decided to try the bus station instead.  We were helped a lot by a young man there who apparently hung around the station quite a bit in order to give him a chance to practise his English.  He took us outside the station, in order to put us on the right bus, but a friend of his rolled up on his motorbike, + offered to ferry us across town one by one.  I was slightly nervous, more about the weight of the packs than anything else, but thought we might as well give it a whirl.  Val went off first, riding side-saddle in the approved manner, + after what seemed to be an extraordinarily long time, the guy returned for me.  I enjoyed the ride actually, despite the somewhat hair-raising tactics of everybody on the road, + the strain of keeping the weight of the pack forward.

When we arrived at the station, Val was, as I had anticipated, surrounded by importuning males.  She had tho’ more or less sorted out a bus for us to travel on (subject to my approval, of course), so we whiled away 10 mins or so, buying cold drinks, + clowning around with the people hanging around the stall.  When I’m in a good mood, I don’t mind joking + laughing with the locals, even when, as in this case, they are ripping me off in a minor way.  When I’m not, I could cheerfully kick them in the teeth.  Which isn’t a very profound statement, I’d agree.

The journey was very long + rather boring, but we survived alright.  We had front seats, giving us more leg-room, + a good view, but this turned out to be a decidedly mixed blessing.  It made the journey more interesting, but also considerably more hair-raising, watching bemos, becaks + bikes scatter before us, + even worse, seeing huge trucks +  buses hurtle towards us for certain collision… only we never quite managed to hit each other.  Sonny, the young conductor on the bus, would chat with us occasionally – he is another English student, so is keen to practise.  When we stopped for a rest, he was also nice enough to buy us coffee.  What was more, he invited us to stay with him when we arrived in Probolinggo, an offer we accepted gratefully.  He still lived with his family, which was, judging by all the curious faces looking at us when we arrived, very large.  But everyone was very kind – we were given coffee, some home-made pieces of beef crackling, + a bed.  And Sony, wishing, I think, to show off a little, borrowed his brother’s motor-bike + took me into town, where I bought some bread + honey – Val has a craving for this at the moment.  By the time we arrived back, it was very late, + we were both exhausted after a long day.  Thankfully, we were soon left in peace, + could go to bed.

And yet another of those sort of days, making our way painfully to where we needed to be, but at least saying goodbye to Bali.

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