Monday, 28 October 2013

Du Mai to You

Mike and I woke up in Batam and left our spooky hotel for the ferry terminal at 6:30am.  As we got told it would get busy we decided to get there a little early to fight off the crowds and make sure we got some sort of a seat.

We had read up the night before how the ferries over weren't the best so we were prepared for the worst.  Ten minutes later we were there and all checked in, making our way to our boat.  To our surprise there were no crowds what so ever, just families who had stocked up on goods from the amazing Mega Mall in Batam and were taking the trip with us to Sumatra.

Once on the boat we found that the information that the ferries weren't the best was an outright lie. We were chaperoned to the VIP seats on the top deck of the ferry, where all the seats were leather with heaps of leg room. There was even a massive screen at the front ready to play movies back to back for the whole seven hours. Jackpot!

In all honestly even the seats that were located downstairs were good. We were just relieved that we had a seat and weren't fighting for floor space outside on the deck like we had heard from other people.

The only beef we had was with the name of the company, it was called The Dumai Express which is a slight exaggeration as we made stops on the hour at every town along the way to Dumai. However the crew were awesome and kept offering us food & drink not to mention the endless amount of movies starring my guilty pleasure actor Dwayne Johnson (the ferry company must have known I was onboard!)

We finally got to Dumai at 3pm and were herded off the boat like cattle. The locals looked pretty shocked to see two young whities getting off the ferry and were a little leery, particularly at me, but they were friendly enough.

One guy frantically waved us down and showed us to his mini bus where we waited for several minutes to see if anyone else was making the three hour trip too. No one else showed up so as we left we were content with having a slightly battered mini bus all to ourselves.

Hot, sweat and not impressed!

We were dropped off at the bus depot in the centre of Du Mai and told that the bus would be leaving in an hour. So with time to kill we did what we do best and found a local restaurant and dug into some delicious food.

Finally the bus arrived, well I say bus, but what we got was an old Suzuki people carrier covered in BMW symbols. As we sat in our seats a wave of panic came over me as two policemen jumped into the seats behind us carrying their assault rifles.

We didn't know if they were going to drive us down a dark alley and rob us, or whether they were our protection, and if they were protection, what did we need protecting from that required rifles!!

Our fears of being robbed disappeared as more people arrived, including a pregnant lady, and soon the people carrier was full to the brim. However, google maps had suggested that the trip could be done in 3 hours so it was ok being lumbered in for that long.

True to form as soon as we set off the heavens opened. We didn't even have time to ask ourselves why it always rained whenever we got a bus when the thunder and lightening began.

Being driven in South East Asia is always a little hair-raising but it is especially uncomfortable when you're sandwiched in the middle of Mike's fat arse and another person on a Suzuki people carrier. In the dark. Driving through a storm.

To make matters worse there were no seat belts, and I was in the middle. One false move or slip in concentration and I would be directed head first through the windscreen in the middle of nowhere Indonesia. The drive seemed to me more interested in singing to the radio than concentration which didn't help ease our fears.

At one point, as we only just cut back into the left lane narrowly avoiding a head on collision with a dump truck I was so scared, that I actually started to mentally prepare myself with the fact that I might actually die in a car crash tonight.

Six hours later of winding pot holed roads, rain, no room to move our legs, numb bums and extreme exhaustion we had finally made it to the city of Pekanbaru.

Our hotel Tune Hotel was located on the outskirts of the city and we finally we arrived bang on 11pm, 6 hours after we set off from Dumai and 16 hours from Batam. I pretty much had to tuck and roll out of the car as my bum and legs were so seized up. We checked in and made our way up to our room feeling like zombies.

Mike went and asked the reception how easy it is to get a bus from Pekanbaru down to Jakarta and arrived 15 minutes later with a bottles of beer and some bad news.

He was told that for us to get a bus from Pekanbaru down to Jakarta would take up to three days.
Three days! That would mean that if we left tomorrow we would arrive in Jakarta on the 28th. We would then have to get a bus from Jakarta to Bali which is an even longer distance which would take us straight up to the 31st. We were gobsmacked and downhearted.

After lots of talking, debating, planning different routes we decided that we were going to need to fly down to Jakarta if we were going to be sure we could make our flight to Darwin. It would be our first flight in the whole of our trip. Indonesia had defeated us and we are pretty gutted by it.

The only thing consoling Mike at the moment is that the flight is a domestic flight, we had still made it from England to Indonesia without flying, and this short 1hr 30 min trip will now be putting us a day ahead of schedule which can only be a positive thing. Something we needed after such a difficult day of travelling on our long drive home.

-- Jess

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