The last four words we wanted to hear from a police chief
We were squashed together on a small green sofa in the police chief’s office; he was sat opposite us wearing an open collar shirt with tufts of chest hair poking out. His broad salt and pepper moustache hung over a cigarette stained smile and his long hair was slicked back over his head suggesting an early morning raid of the canteen chip pan.
He took a deep drag of his cigarette and then uttered those dreaded four words: “I’ll get the guitar”.
His guitar was remarkably close at hand giving us no chance to run. Once retrieved he gently rested it on his knee, looked up at us and paused to make sure the moment wasn’t rushed.
We were treated to a slow rendition of I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. Unsure quite what to do with ourselves, we gently swayed, Matt occasionally murmuring along and both of us trying desperately to avoid any sort of eye contact with him as he sang “fall-ling in love… with… youuuuuuu”. Matt glanced up at the large clock on the wall wondering how many hours had passed since he started playing; it had only been 25 seconds.
It’s easy for us to make fun of these odd situations (once we are 50km down the road of course), but this perfectly represents the Indonesians we have met as happy, confident and generous people. We had approached the police station for somewhere to sleep for the night and the police chief not only gave us a place to rest our legs, but his uneaten lunch and a modern take on some classics hits.
Given the population density on the island of Java our camping has been an eclectic mix of an eco-farm, local council offices and police stations. They’ve all been surprised and delighted to welcome us and have shared their food, water and even advice to Harriet that she should consider having a bath.
We’ve been treated to green, expansive views of layered rice paddies set against jagged volcanoes, if not a little perturbed by the short, steep hills.
After Java, we sailed to the islands of Lombok and then to Bali. Secondary to the excitement of cycling across a border is the excitement of wheeling a bicycle onto a ferry and then rolling off into a new landscape on the other side. In this case, the landscape was beautiful beaches, hammocks and laidback island life.
We only managed to visit 3 of Indonesia’s 17,500 islands and the heavy bicycles deterred us from the spectacular volcanos which Indonesia hosts. If, and when, we return, it will be with a boat and hiking shoes.
This week’s highlights:
Arriving in the capital Jakarta, we were met by an old flatmate of Matt’s and his girlfriend who were visiting family. They introduced us to exotic fruits, local cuisine (including cow’s brain, skin and lungs) and the best cycling routes through Java. For anyone who is interested, cow’s brain is an acquired taste and we’re still waiting to see if it’ll make us think more smart.
“Hello Mister!” became the soundtrack of Indonesian cycling as locals of all ages eagerly waved us through their villages. Even on her own, Harriet would hear “Hello Mister!” and be surprised to see that it was directed at her!
Meeting a young university lecturer of international relations in Bali where we discussed the development of emerging economies in regards to democracy, politics, religion, culture and technology. After travelling through so many countries it was very engaging to analyse the trends we’d seen and debate what the future might hold.
Sitting on the beach in Bali drinking a fresh coconut while watching the sun sink into the sea; it felt like a wonderful way to end our chapter in Asia.
This week’s lowlights:
We’ve occasionally used the expression ‘like wailing cats’ without appreciating what wailing cats actually sound like. We had an education into this while trying to sleep in a tent with two wailing cats approximately four feet from our heads.
The value of the pound falling - the Australian coffee just got a little bit more expensive (still worth it though!).
Our next stop is Brisbane, Australia where we will cycle south to Sydney; our last country before the finish line in New Zealand.
It’s been a very long time since we cycled in a native English speaking country so we can retire our usual elaborate hand gestures and expect to natter away in English to any poor soul that will listen.