December 27th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

We pulled in to Jakarta’s main railway station, Gambir, at about 5, + our first thought, once we’d pulled our aching bums off the seats + our aching selves off the train, was to find the station buffet + have some coffee.  This was a mistake, as we were exorbitantly overcharged.  We live + learn.  Tho’ , as I’ve said before, not much.

Suitably refreshed + robbed, we went outside.  There the taxi-drivers and helicak (motorised becak) drivers too tried to obtain their slice of the cake that is our money, so we ignored them + walked out, where we picked up a helicak for half the lowest price we’d been charged… + even that was over-generous for the distance.  We were taken to Jalan Jaksa, the cheapie hotel street, + no 5, the most popular one there.  It was still desperately early, but somebody was about to check us in, + we were happy to sit + wait until breakfast was ready.  As things started to get moving tho’, they became more + more disorganised.  In fact, during all the time we stayed there (I speak from the point of view of 4 or 5 days hence) they exasperated us every time we asked for anything at all.  And it wasn’t, as the Yellow Guide says, because they are run off their feet.  It’s because it isn’t run properly.

We finally obtained some breakfast – excellent value… but sweet bread – + then set about our major task, finding a boat to Kalimantan in thje few days available to us.  I don’t know if you have been informed of our latest plan – thoughts + plans are so much harder to record than actions – but we intend to go to Kalimantan, + thence fly to Kuching, in Malaysia.  The weekly flight across the border is on a Friday, so we would have to be in Pontianak by Friday 30th – a bit of an impossible order, un less there happened to be a boat going virtually immediately.  But we thought we would give it a whirl.

Went first to Tourist Office, to see if they could help us – they gave us a map, + redirected us to Pelni.  No luck there, tho’ they gave us the phone nos of some shipping agents to try.  I persuaded Val to ring those rather than traipsing off to town, + it was probably as well we did, since they had nothing to offer.  I’m sure if there’d been a ship, they would have known about it, + been keen to sell us a ticket.

We’d also somehow managed to fit in to the day a visit to Sarinah, Jakarta’s main shopping + dept store (+ if this is the best they have to offer, I’m not impressed), + to an Indonesian version of McDonalds.  It was strange.  Some bits they had got right, like the pictures of the various wares behind the serving counter, yet some of it was extraordinarily Indonesian – the ordinary tables + chairs, the clean yet faintly shoddy atmosphere.  Which is a little encouraging.  I’m sure if Ronald McDonald was really here, he’d iron out those little wrinkles.

In the afternoon we took a nap – we needed it – + tho’ I did rise midway thro’ + phone Julie (Of Julie + Paul/Christmas Eve fame).  She works in Jakarta, + they’d returned 123 hours before us.  We arranged to go round + visit them tomorrow evening.  I felt pretty awful after I got up, having somehow contracted a cold, so wasn’t really in a mood to appreciate the potentially good news we rec’d in the evening.  One runs into people again + again while heading up the gringo trail (unless they happen to be going the other way) + one of these people we met again today was Mike (Bromo + Malang.)  He too was trying to get to Kalimantan, he said, + was trying everything possible, with a good deal more energy than we were able to muster.  He returned in the evening with a couple of Indonesian guys, ne of whom, Harry, reckoned he could take us to Pontianak.  And for free, it seemed.  Mike himself had also got a ride, tho’ on a different boat.  It sounded wonderful, but both Val + I were strangely apathetic.  First of all, he’d misled Mike about when he was leaving, telling him tomorrow but now changing that to a maybe tomorrow, maybe next day.  We’d heard that sort of crap before.  Secondly, tho’ Harry seemed pleasant enough, he was a bit overbearing – another Yopi I couldn’t handle.  And third, even if we did leave tomorrow.  Or the day after.  Or the day after that.  We would still need an extension on our visa, + it seemed highly unlikely we would be granted one.  So we made some polite noises, +m promised to call on Harry at his boat tomorrow, once we’d been to see the immigration man, then disappeared to our separate dorms to mull things over.  Individually.

Straight to Jakarta, and immediately setting about finding our way out and on. With, it would appear, some hopeful signs; though we are invitably cautious about being too gung-ho.

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