December 19th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

A travel day today, but one that went remarkably smoothly.  We strolled down to the corner where we’d alighted from the bus yesterday, + waited for another one to come along.  Which, after 5 mins or so, one did, + one with plenty of room too, so it was a comfortable ride.  The only thing of real note about it was that Val saw, or says she saw, a small elephant pulling a plough.  (Any doubt I express is out of envy that I didn’t see it too.)  We had intended to take the bus to the end of the line, + then take another to Jombong, on the main railway line between Surubaya + Yogya, but Val happened to spot, at a fairly major crossroads, a signpost pointing to Jombong, + not far away.  So we hurriedly got off + rushed over to the Jombong bus, which was waiting there at the junction.  Thus saving us a good deal of time, + presumably money.  The bus dropped us off a km before the railway station, which meant a hot walk.

The news at the station was good tho’, – a cheap train to Yogya was arriving in about an hour.  We were short of cash, so I trotted off to town a couple pf kms away to cash a travellers’ cheque.  I was considerably disconcerted then, to be told that the only bank in town didn’t handle foreign transactions.

On my return, Val + I totted up our rupiah, + discovered that we had just enough for the train fare, plus a small meal on our arrival.  But no extras.  For some reason that we couldn’t work out, we weren’t allowed to buy our tickets until just before the train arrived, + since we anticipated a huge rush for seats, we thought this might cause a problem.  Our fears were confounded actually – our tickets were bought, + there was no rush, but it was all of academic interest since the train was already full.  We went thro’ the difficult business of forcing our way along the inside of the train to look for, not a seat, but a big enough space on the floor to accommodate us both.  Stupid, since it would have been so much simpler to do the same job from the platform.  There were too many loud-mouthed kids making, to them, hilarious comments about us for my liking, but we eventually found a big-enough space, + using our rucksacks as cushions, we made ourselves as comfortable as possible.

I’ll confess that the rest of the journey passed very easily for me, not because of comfort or fascinating scenery, but because I was buried in 19th century England, reading “Silas Marner”.  I finished it at one sitting, + enjoyed it immensely, so much so that it was only after I’d finished that I realised I hadn’t once looked out the window.  As the journey went along, we moved into seats as they became available, but I wouldn’t really say they were much of an improvement – Indonesian 3rd class trains are cleaner than their Mexican equivalent, but the seats are rather harder, if anything.

Arrived in Yogya a little before 5, + set out to find a place to stay.  The Hotel Bagus had been recommended, so we headed straight there, ignoring the touts + other helpful individuals along the way.  But the Bagus struck us as dingy, so Val minded the bags while I set off, armed with my trusty Yellow Guide, to find somewhere better.  It was no easy job.  Tony Wheeler, author of The Guide, reckoned there were lots of good cheap places in Yogya, but I tried several of the ones he mentioned, + none of them were good, + not all were cheap.  Compared to other travellers’ centres – Kuta, Ubud, Lovina – I would reckon Yogya as very poor value.  Did eventually find somewhere a good deal better, mainly because of the price, a small losmen down one of the “gangs”, or alleys.  The room was pokey in the extreme, but I thought it would serve at least for the one night, + the losmen was clean + reasonably pleasant.

In the evening we wandered just for a while up + down Malloboro, the main drag, which is just awash with stalls selling artefacts, good + bad, mostly bad.  And then we ate at a small restaurant which has just opened.  It seems they need the business – we were the only people in there.  They deserve to do well – the food that we had was excellent + cheap.  But they have to contend with being in an out of the way location, plus a couple of what I would rate as marketing errors – over-bright lights, pewky muzak, + uninspired surroundings.  Carefully letrasetted posters in day-glo do not make for tasteful décor.  We were not over-impressed with our first view of Yogya, “the most popular city in Indonesia.”  Tho’ I do not know what I had been expecting.   But this was just another city, + not a particularly interesting one at that.

The usual sort of travelling day, made more palatable by the fact that things went pretty smoothly, the only disappointing thing being our destination, and not being able to find somewhere decent to stay.

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