Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trip to Komodo: Part IV - Getting Home at Last

We took the overnight ferry, arriving in Sape, east Sumbawa, at 2am. After a brief break someone mustered a rickety bus to carry us to Bima (2 hours). Sumbawa is a highly agricultural island, and Indonesians loaded our buses with their commercial payloads. Large containers of fresh fish and sacks of rice are typical. And on this morning's ride was particularly memorable. Carrie and I sat in the back, and an older Indonesian man had placed bags of chickens (live) under our seats. I could feel the birds moving around. Then, someone put their goats, screaming like bloody murder, onto the roof. That's right, they strapped the goats to the roof. I've got pictures below.

In Bima, it took less than 2 minutes from getting off of our first bus to stepping onto the next bus. This next bus took us to Sumbawa Besar, most of the way across the island, and was a memorable affair. Again they strapped goats to the roof.
Here's a view of the rice fields in eastern Sumbawa from my back seat in the bus. The Indonesian man is the 'kenek,' Dutch for 'boy,' an essential part of every bus in Indonesia. This assistant to the driver yells the destination out of the open doors to potential customers, collects the money, smokes clove cigarettes (usually), and gets to indulge his inner 5-year-old boy (by which I mean, stick his head out the open door and feel the breeze like a dog in the family van, jump on/off the bus while it is still moving, step off the bus on the forward entrance and back on at the rear door, etc.). The kenek yells or taps the door or side of the bus with a coin to tell the driver when to stop for a customer to get on, then yells 'terus!' or 'straight,' when the customers are safely aboard.
Indeed the kenek is not the only one who gets to enjoy getting on/off buses while they are still moving. Everyone gets to do this. The buses rarely have regular stops or running times; instead, they stop to pick up anyone who waves or yells at them, and drop them off wherever they please. This is very convenient because you can get on any bus you see at any time, and get off whenever you want. But it's also massively inefficient and makes bus rides take longer.

This bus driver was especially nuts. We took the windy road's turns way too fast, and bottomed out several times. Before long a tire was blown, and Nicole really, really had to pee, so we stopped. It may not look like it (and I'm facing away from the equipment or anything that would give any indication this was the case in this shot), but this is an auto repair shop:

If you didn't already notice the goats strapped to the roof in the previous shot, here's a closer one:

We made it across Sumbawa and boarded the ferry for Lombok as the sun began to set. Here's so-called Mouse Island, off the western coast of Sumbawa:

We got to Mataram at about 9pm, just four hours after our initial flight departed. Nicole and I dialed up a hotel (Carrie and Kelly were off to continue their travels at the Gilli Islands) and grabbed a quick bite from a warung across the street before sleeping. This quick bite turned out to be some of the best food I've had in Indonesia, or anywhere really. Working tirelessly in the heat coming from his enormous wok, this street chef produced fresh fried vegetables to rival any you've ever tasted:

The hotel owner woke us up at 3:30am for our 3:45am taxi to the airport, only minutes away. The airport wasn't even open yet. Thankfully, switching our tickets was easy and only cost 215,000rp ($22), and the flight left at 6am. So began Christmas in Indonesia!

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