We only had one full day to explore Jakarta before heading off again and so it was time to cram. The first thing we learnt was that you can’t avoid walking alongside a motorway. Everywhere you went was along a four lane road, so crossing the road was a deathwish. There wasn’t anything revolutionary like a zebra crossing or traffic lights, it was about guts and commitment. If you wanted to cross the road, you had to stop traffic, like Neo stopped those bullets in the Matrix. After risking our life three or four times, we got to the museum and absorbed a few facts:
Bali is known as the island of 1000 temples.
The dead in Bali are meant to have a cremation, a Ngaben ceremony, but if they can’t afford it, they have to wait for someone else in the village to die to have a joint ceremony to combine funeral costs. This could be years of waiting though, so they bury the body temporarily and then dig it up for the cremation when ready. It can be bones by the time it’s ready. If it is bones, they make an effigy for the body and burn that too.
For the Toraja people, a dead person cannot be considered dead until the ceremony, so before that bit, they are sat up in a bed, offered food and drink, and even chatted to as if still alive (more on this in Indonesia Pt3).
Papua is the second largest island in the world, second only to Greenland. The name Papua is Malaysian for curly hair. An ex-president wanted to differentiate the name from neighbouring Papua New Guinea, so called it Irian, an acronym which translates as ‘join the Republic of Indonesia against the Netherlands’. Catchy.
The Koteka is a Penis guard. The more decorated and longer it is, signifies how prestigious you are in society. Bloody men, some things never change.
Next, we visited the biggest mosque in South East Asia. As we took a picture outside, we were mobbed by loads of Indonesians wanting pictures with us. It was mental. They all came and shook our hands, posing with us, and we had absolutely no idea why. Maybe they thought we were famous, maybe they were mocking us, but we decided that it could have been due to the length of Ednora’s shorts outside a mosque. Either way, we’d made it, we were the big time.
Museum in Jakarta
The Cathedral opposite the huge mosque.
The next morning was an early start. We were up at 4am to head to Yogyakarta, an 8 hour train ride across Java. We bought business class tickets which was completely meaningless as they were pretty much identical to every other seat. When we asked what was so fantastic about business class, we were told they had reclining seats. This was a lie, they absolutely did not have reclining seats. We got to our hostel after battling the pouring rain and met a guy, Logan, on the hunt for his musical muse. He had been busking with the locals for days and so we tagged along with him and his friend Yasmin for a night of local street music. They utilised their talents: singing and playing many instruments, and we utilised ours: watching – I think we did a good job. We came across a quirky local guy walking up and down Malioboro street – the main road in Yogyakarta (apparently our equivalent is Oxford Street) – wearing a cowboy hat, looking as though he’d just come from the ranch, and holding a picture of the prince of Indonesia. What a guy.
We wanted to check out what this famous town had to offer and the best place to start was the Sultan’s palace. Word on the street was that not only did the Sultan still live there, but the princess was in residence while we were visiting. However, we couldn’t worry about that as we had bigger fish to fry. There was a school trip of around 100 children being given a spiel by their teacher about the palace. We went about our merry way and checked out one of the rooms, until in flowed a barrage of kids armed with cameras, Instagram accounts, and a thirst for western blood. We were strategically split up and ambushed by these mini adults as camera flashes came from a thousand angles. From the corner of my eye, I saw the teacher come into the room, who we thought would break it up. He headed over to Ednora, pushed the kids out of the way only to pull out his camera for a selfie! We were on our own. Twenty minutes later we got out of there, our faces all over Social Media. We hated/loved it. We headed over to the Water Palace which was another gaff for the Sultan. Apparently he would stand in his tower every morning overlooking 25 women washing themselves in his swimming pool, then would pick two lucky ladies for the day. For what, I am not sure, maybe he was a keen Twister player and needed a few challengers, or needed new members for his Monopoly tournament. Either way, as he made the women swim towards his ivory tower, I am sure he only had the most legitimate of intentions.
We went for lunch with Logan, our musical bard, and he got food poisoning. We headed onwards on our own along Malioboro Street where we learnt that car parks get so busy that they let cars block other cars in, as long as you leave your car in neutral so the car park attendant can push your vehicle out of the way. Normal. We were also noticing that there was a constant theme in shops, on TV and advertisements, that all Indonesian actors and models were extremely white. It seemed that the lighter you were, the more you were considered high society. We found this so odd as we risk skin cancer to get darker.
An eight hour train ride…
Really happy we got business class
Fortunately we didn’t bring our stove.
Performance at the Sultan’s Palace
Swords all the guards wear which looks a lot like the one my brother used to have as a kid.
Because everyone wants to see the Sultan’s socks
Entrance to the water temple
The tower where the Sultan picked two ladies
Ednora having a great time
Getting a tuk-tuk thing
We checked out the huge market
Ednora telling them they’re doing it all wrong
Our next adventure was a huge box ticker, we were to climb an active volcano! We were picked up at 10pm for our night hike to the peak of Mrapi volcano. The idea was to get to the summit for sunrise. We were hoping to get a look into the crater too. This reminded me of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee the Brave and their quest to destroy the one ring to rule them all, by tossing the ring into the fiery chasm from whence it came. The car ride to get to base camp was the most pot-holed road I had experience. The irony was that the houses were really nice and looked expensive, yet the road to get there was like a rocky path through middle-England in the 1300s. We took on the hike which we thought was two hours. It turned out to be four and a half hours up and around three hours down. This length of time reminded me of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee the Brave and their quest to destroy the one ring to rule them all, by tossing the ring into the fiery chasm from whence it came. It was intense and certainly not an average hike. At an 80% incline, we had to rock climb the final leg to the summit.
By the time we had nearly reached the bottom, our legs were shot to pieces and we were completely shattered. To rub salt in the wounds we were passed by little old ladies storming up and down the volcano carrying huge bags of grass on their backs. Ednora was pretty amazing at hiking, constantly leading the pack and setting the pace. I looked at her from afar and thought about how she reminded me of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee the Brave and their quest to destroy the one ring to rule them all, by tossing the ring into the fiery chasm from whence it came.
‘I will conquer you, you ghastly beast,’ Ednora said to the volcano, in her head.
‘But first, I must tie my shoes,’ Ednora said to the volcano, in her head.
The strife of a hiker
Here comes the sun, do-do-do-do
Just Puds next to the crater with his climbing sandals
Ednora writing a note at the summit. To the right is the crater with sulphur in the rising smoke
This was the best one
The amazing little old ladies with legs of iron.
We paid the price of a long hike with an even longer journey from the foot of the mountain, to Makassar, a bustling city on the island of Sulawesi. It is based north of Indonesia and east of Borneo. From the foot of the volcano to our beds in our hotel in Makasser, it took 45 hours. 45 hours without sleep was one hell of a test. I was so delirious I tipped the porter for bringing my bag to the room. I had never tipped a porter before and it made me feel like a character from a movie in the 1930s, but with severe sleep deprivation.
Makassar was a stopover for us to see a more rural Sulawesi, and the only thing to shout about in Makassar was Fort Rotterdam. This was a big Dutch fort built when the Dutch were in charge. There was a phallus stone on display, which was a stone shaped like a penis. In pre-Islamic times, this stone was seen as a symbol of fertility and courage, but in Islamic times, this were used as gravestones. So, people are buried with dicks on their graves.
Our second hotel had a Beatles themed bar which was cool. There were posters and memorabilia scattered everywhere. They even described the room as ‘Beatlemental’. We ate there for two evenings to watch the live music and on both nights not one Beatles song was played. You would have thought that the main element required to make it a Beatles themed bar would have been Beatles music; so near, yet so far. I also got the random opportunity to play 5-aside football with some locals. We went in to take a peek and before I knew it, I was pulling on a jersey to play in bare feet. They were pretty young, and my fitness was lacking. To say the least, I was nutmegged a minimum of one time…
Our next destination was Rantepao, a rural town 8 hours north of Makassar. To begin our journey we took a pete-pete bus to the coach station. A pete-pete bus is basically a blue mini-van with two benches in the back and no door. Prisoners on death row being transported to the electric chair would have found the time to complain about this bus. Nevertheless, it was an experience. And what an experience! There were about a million of these on the roads so it was pretty confusing to know which one to get. We jumped in one and foolishly didn’t confirm a price. We were told by the hotel staff and Beatlemental restaurant owner that we should pay around 5000 rupiah. Our pete-pete driver/criminal dropped us nowhere near the bus terminal and demanded 200,000 rupiah, which is an inflated rate so high, it’s actually impossible to do the math; it’s unmathable. We were on the side of the road arguing with him until Ednora couldn’t take it any more, and completely lost her shit. She screamed at his face and pointed with a purpose. He was silenced. I’ve never seen anything so incredible. The next step was to get to Rentapao, which would be an eight hour bus ride. We thought this would be a nightmare, much like our Yogjakarata experience, but the bus was luxury! Reclining chairs and padded cushions – a delightful trip.
In Makassar, Ednora caught me off guard with this completely unplanned photo
The midget section of Fort Rotterdam