Mind If I Climb Into This Smoking Crater?

Yup, we’re in Sulawesi now, as of about two hours ago. It’s a big spider-shaped island north of Bali. We took a thirty-hour ferry ride to get here, and it was the easiest day and a half we’ve spent yet. A meal every six hours, a movie theatre (that showed karaoke videos with bikini-clad chicks instead of movie previews), and our own room with camp-style bunk beds. Some Indonesian guys saw me playing solitaire and got me to teach them and then they showed me how to play one of their games. It was a lot like “Asshole”, except with more rules, more of which kept appearing every time that I seemed to be winning. Odd. We actually played for quite a while considering only one of them spoke any English at all, and my Indonesian has gotten just good enough to be useless and confusing. It’s always good for a chuckle, though.
OK, back to the beginning. Our trip from Lovina, Bali to Mt. Bromo included two buses, one flat tire, one ferry, a shared beer, three hours of sleep, one jeep ride up the mountain, and about a one kilometre hike up the sandy mountain side at five in the morning. A lot of work, but well worth it, as the views were incredible, first of Bromo and the other smoking peaks, and then from the rim of a crater with a massive, greenish, steaming fissure in the middle. We travelled with a girl from England named Claire who’s mother is Indonesian. She looked local so her accent really threw me at first. We spent twenty hours straight in her company and then hastily waved good-bye at the bus terminal. The real adventure came later that morning as we attempted to negotiate our way from Bromo to Surabaya, the major port city of Eastern Java. We took a small local bus for the first hour and a half and then hit the chaotic bus terminal in Probolinggo. A guy on the street tried selling us tickets to Surabaya for 17,500 rupiah but we turned him down, said we’d buy a regular ticket in the terminal. At that point, we were shown to the “info centre” where we were greeted by the guy from the street selling us official tickets for 8,000 rupiah! Then we were directed to follow some guy to the bus who tried to scam us, either with phoney tickets or regular tickets at air-con prices, we’re not sure which, but he became awfully scarce when I insisted on receiving actual tickets before I paid him. Anyway, it worked all right with the major exception that we did not end up on an A/C bus but were packed in on a local bus complete with people selling stuff in the eighteen-inch wide aisle in between stops in the cities, stifling heat and overall unpleasantness. Yeah, yeah, I know, the real experience and all. Uh huh, whatever. Glad to leave it behind.

So, from there we got settled into Hotel Paviljoen in what I would, upon arrival, classified as a rough part of town. We learned soon after that, from what we saw, there was nothing but rough parts of town in Surabaya (2.4 million people) with one exception, that great western haven of comfort and capitalism……..the mall! Yep, I’m ashamed to say that we killed several hours wandering the mall amidst other capitalist pig (so to speak). Cell phones, McD’s, KFC, DQ, escalators, cologne-sprayers, the whole nine yards. A huge Marlboro display was a bit perplexing; there was a lot of fake snow and a couple of skidoos. I’m not exactly sure what they were giving away but I am pretty certain that we were the only ones in the building that had ever actually driven a skidoo. I doubt most people even knew what they were. Internet was ridiculously cheap there, but as we found out, there was a reason for that. That’s why you haven’t heard from us until now. One other note about Surabaya, the streets resembled a real life version of Frogger. Crossing the street involved recognizing a small crack and making your way one car at a time, slowly and not so surely, across the road surrounded by roaring mopeds, motorbikes, and mini-vans. The first few times we would just find some poor old man and follow him across, using him as a buffer, if you will. You do what you’ve gotta do, all right? It gets easier, but probably not much safer.

Unfortunately, we had arrived there on a weekend so the things we wanted to do were impossible, mainly booking a ship to Sulawesi. So first thing Monday morning we went to the Pelni Office (government ferry service) to book the three o’clock boat.

“Sorry, boat cancelled.”

“What? Are there any others?”

“Fudi.”

“Fudi, what’s a Fudi? When is a Fudi?”

“Eleven o’clock. Not much time” (It was currently 9:30)

“I’ll take two.”

Pay, rush out, catch a cab to our room, a five minute pack job, cab to the harbour………..wait a minute, this ticket says ten, not eleven. Hmmm, what is that horrible feeling in my gut, anyway? Well, it is only 10:10, maybe they’ve waited for us (Yeah, sure). So we got out of the cab, ran in………and waited until the boat left at about 11:20. The mystery remains unsolved.

Now we are just on our way back to the first hostel we’ll be staying in. We made a grocery stop to stock up on snacks and fruit for tomorrow’s (allegedly) nine-hour bus ride to Tana Toraja. I don’t expect you to know where that is but I can tell you that it involves a lot of pointy roofs crazy funerals and pampered water buffalo. More info next time around.

Dean

You may have noticed that Dean seems to be doing all of the updates. He claims that he hates to write and this is the only way for him to keep a journal. I think that he mostly wants to so that he can sneak in some time to look at the scores. He’s a bit sports-deprived here. So I will send some individual e-mails as we go along and perhaps add to his as he often forgets pertinent details in his ramblings.

Laynni

Well, the master speaketh. It gave me time to remember the most important news; Can you believe that an orange  cost fifteen times as much as a banana over here? Didn’t think so.

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