Monday, November 8, 2010

1st day with no beer!!

After the good start to the day , I suspected it might not continue, but strangely it did continue to be a good day!!

We drove the 10 minutes down to the ferry port and saw what we thought was our ferry. It was smaller than the bus and had old car tyres tied to the sides with bits of scruffy rope. A lot of us weren’t happy as we were kind of expecting a ferry similar to those that travel between Dover and Calais. After queuing for the ferry tickets and going through a really nice immigration office that wished us all a 'Happy Holiday!!', we saw that our ferry wasn’t that one we had seen earlier, but a slightly scruffier, slightly bigger yellow version of it!! At the moment we are sitting on the said ferry to Indonesia and waiting for it to depart.

Over the course of our journey I have sometimes been looking back at the blog written by Jo Thompson in The Telegraph last year and although our journey has been similar in lots of ways haven’t felt the need to quote her directly, but at this point, sitting here on this ferry I think its worth giving a nod to her and her Oz-bus journey. So I am adding a couple of quotes from her experience:-

She said of the ferry we are now sitting on:-

'Arriving at the ferry terminal, my stomach lurches as I spot the vessel that we are about to spend three and a half hours on, crossing open shark-infested waters.

As a child I had a yellow bath boat shaped like a suppository/bullet – and here it is. The front is rusty and pointed. The back is the shape of a very old submarine, which I hope to God stays above the water.' - Haahaa that made me laugh as we now appear to be sitting on that very same boat!!

Jo also said - 'Worse is to come. On board, there is just one DVD – it is country and western karaoke', well there isn’t any country and western yet, but a loud music system, with a karaoke DVD that is showing on the flat screen TV’s they have on board. Its a strange thing to have on board a ferry that doesn’t appear to have a shop selling food or drink! Lana has just asked if anyone is listening to the music and got a resounding 'No', in response. Unfortunately Lana’s technical ability is not that of a Royal Signals Communications engineer......She now knows that turning off the TV, doesn’t stop music coming through a sound systems speakers. I did point out the speaker cables hidden around the back of the cupboard that appears to house the sound system. Now, if we pulled them out, the music would stop. Unfortunately, Lana doesn’t want any hassle with the boat crew, so it looks like we are stuck with the Karaoke DVD for the next couple of hours.

What Jo didn’t mention was the professional way our bags were loaded aboard. We basically walked up to the side of the boat where the bags were hoofed over the water onto the back by a couple of weedy looking locals, and then the bags were just left there at the rear of the boat in a big pile, where we are sure they will probably get soaked!

The boat is due to depart at 9am, so the fact that it is now just after 9.30, means that it probably doesn’t run on time very often. Jo also mentioned that she departed after sitting around for an hour and a half and then being choked by the fumes of the engine! Hmmm the delights that we have to look forward to!! I have just read some of Jo's blog about her arrival in Sumatra, out loud to Jennifer Parsonage, Linda, Vicky and Maartje and nearly couldn’t finish it because I couldn’t help laughing. I really hope we have the same guide – Mr Harris Lego Engineer!?

Well, the boat is now leaving – It was only an hour or so waiting, which gave us the opportunity to look around the boat. Amanda, Helen and Cristina have been sat at the back on the outside deck, where there is room for maybe 4 or 5 people! The sunshine was nice out there and after a chat and an aborted attempt to climb onto the roof of the boat, when I was gently coaxed down by one of the crew, I went downstairs to climb over the baggage and mellow out sat on the rails down there, with Donna. As we head out into the ocean, the karaoke DVD has been replaced by the obligatory safety announcements and video. I’m hoping they keep playing it for the entire journey!!

Well, we are now sat on the bus in Indonesia – I will tell you about the bus and our new guide 'Anto', in a short while, but first I must apologise about anything I said earlier about the ferry across.

The ferry journey turned out to be pretty good. The boat itself, was fast and when you went outside to the small deck, it was warm and dry, except when it started raining, but they cant change the weather. It didnt even bother Amanda, Laura and Helen who spent the whole trip on the outside deck! The seats on the boat also reclined a long way and I spent an hour sleeping and I have to say, it was probably the most comfortable and best hours sleep I have had on any of the bus' or boats we have been on. The crew also brought us round lunch, which was two little but tasty cakes, a dollop of jelly and a cup of water. It wasn't high class eating, but was more than I expected. The biggest surprise came when, the Karaoke went off and 'The Expendables', movie came on the DVD player -in English!! I don’t know if anyone watched it, but that doesn't matter. The fact that they tried to entertain us, made big difference to a trip that we were not looking forward to. Overall, the boat trip was pretty damn good and I take my hat off to the crew, the captain and the boat itself! May god bless her and all who sail in her!!

On arrival in Indonesia we were greeted by the sight of oil tankers and lots of oil based industry all around. The place is well known for its oil and its something that we expect to see a lot more of over the next few days.

We queued up to get off the boat and as we did so, I was handed a pillow that had been left behind by one of our group. I had my Bergen and backpack on and with no free hands, shoved the pillow up my jumper. It was then a case of wandering out through a load of locals waiting to board the boat, who all looked at me funnily as I rubbed my new belly and smiled back at them.

There was a Mexican stand off with Helen, David and some others in the group and the boats crew – The crew wouldn’t let them get to their bags, but wouldn’t pass them over either as they were busy doing nothing much. Eventually they managed to get their bags and joined the queue for visas and immigration. The visa part was easy – enter a door, say nothing, pay money ($25 U.S or equivalent), say nothing, get visa. Then out of that door, hand passport and all filled in documents to bloke in uniform, before waiting for indeterminate and random length of time, before passport is returned with fresh new Indonesian visa! It was really simple, but a little frustrating when the passports came out in a random order and about 30 locals were able to get through in a matter of seconds.

Once we were through the immigration and visa controls, we were allowed to jump the queue to get our bags scanned – I made the security guard laugh again, when I produced my pillow from under my jumper again. It was then outside into the rain and onto our new bus.

The bus is OK It only has about 32 seats and a large space by the back door where our bags are kept and the bus 'technician', sleeps, on our bags (I was hoping for the privilege of doing that myself and will take a look into it later when I get tired. I’m sure I can sort something out! The seats are OK though and our guide Anto, seems a good lad as he has already been teaching us some random Indonesian facial expressions for up, down, happy, sad etc.... I wish I could show you pictures, but they consist of daft, over the top expressions, complete with hand gestures to emphasise the point!

We have now been on the new Indobus, for 45 minutes and have been told we have another 6-7 hours today. The roads of Thailand and Malaysia have been left far behind and are as we expected them – Somewhere between the rutted dirt tracks of Nepal and the scruffy, worn out tracks in India.

Well, its been a long long day! Wr are now sat in The Hotel Dharma Utama in Pekanbaru.
The town itself is made up of about 5000000000000000 atm/cashpoints and a few shopping malls. It is supposed to be a stopping off place for people travelling south from the ports, like us lot!
It was a hell of a long day on the bus and although the seats are comfy enough, I couldnt help my arse from going to sleep, so I spent a while sitting on the arm of the chair and then another hour standing up next to the bloke who was lying down and taking uo two seats as well as lying on our bags! The bugar!!

The time didnt exactly fly by but we arrived in a heavy storm here in Pekanbaru at about 7pm. We all climbed off the bus to use an ATM as not many people had money yet. However a few minutes later we had a bus full of millionaires, as there are 14000 rupiahs to the pound!

After arriving at the hotel and getting our triple rooms, we headed out to get some food. Amanda was leading, followed by me, Chris, Mark, Donna and Jennifer Parsonage.
There wasnt much to be had except for a KFC in a local shopping mall, so most people ended up there eating and then went to the supermarket to get some beers to take back to the hotel.
I did something a bit different though, as myself and Jennifer Parsonage didnt fancy a KFC, so we wandered around and found a jazzy international hotel with a bar. The hotel actually has football themed rooms, with each room a different football team! But the bar although it looked welcoming and nice didnt seem to do food, so we left and told the others, in KFC, where it was. We then wandered around a found a great little street cafe, that did Nasi Goreng. We had a big plate each of it and both loved it. I also had a fanta to drink, but it was served with a glass of hot milk!! Strange!
We decided after eating to return to the hotel and have a night off from drinking - Its a long time since I havent had a beer at night, but I nearly had one when Donna went to bed and left half a can on the table! I resisted though and behaved myself - It is the first day I havent had a beer!!
Tomorrow it is a 6am start and a 12 hour day!! Nice! Hopefully Jennifer Parsonage will find my splitter that she borrowed and lost!!

It was a hard day carrying my pillow through immigration!

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