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Advertise on the Tentacle

March 4, 2009

The Adventure Continues

Tom McLaughlin

Sengigi, Lomock Island, Indonesia – Our trip to Lombok was an example where the Internet, advance planning and advice from fellow trekkers exploded into a rusty hulk. Air Asia from Kuching to Singapore and Bali and then by ferry to Lombok, sounds simple.


Everything went well until we exited the airport in Denespar, Bali, and sought transport to the ferry. We had changed money, (US$1.00=Rp10,000) paid US$25 each for our Visas and found the Blue Bird cab company, supposedly the most reliable and honest taxi company in the archipelago. So far, so good.


Told the ferry was two hours from the airport and not the 15 minutes I had been informed, I considered this a minor askew. My daughter Christine had her two suitcases and a hand grip, while I shouldered a backpack. She would be flying back to the states, after this journey, hence the heavy load.


My backpack was a new experience. Christine had talked me into buying one, persuading that my journeys would be much easier. No more airport check-ins, as I could bring it into the cabin. I would skip waiting for luggage at the carousels. My hands would be free for other tasks. I could proceed straight to the gate with my preprinted boarding pass.


I packed it tightly with my daughter’s assistance. Spare shoes went on the bottom followed by the shaving kit and then upwards until I reached the top. I zippered, strapped pulled and tugged until the bag closed into a nice solid bundle.


Then, I tried to put it on. I slid my left arm into the strap, lifted, and immediately teetered into that direction, yelling, trying to get my balance. I managed to right myself after dancing wildly on one foot while waving my free arm in a horizontal circle. With my left arm in one sling, I stuck my other arm through the right one. The straps were now at my elbow joints, the muscles and joints straining, pulling me backwards.


Christine lifted the back for me and I worked my way into the rest of it until the straps were over my shoulders. I managed to gain my balance and hesitantly walked around the room. This would work, I thought. This scenario went on for a good part of the trip with my daughter holding the pack up, me wiggling in and then off on our next journey.


After Christine and I separated, the thing got carried around in my arms. I made futile attempts to back pack it and finally got the hang of it through the help of the fellowship of other young backpackers, about 35 years my junior. They took pity on me as I tried to wrestle it on, careening and loosing my balance. They lent a hand in airports, taxi stands and hotels. “We better help that old fool before he kills himself,” I imagined them muttering in German, Chinese, Arabic or whatever language they spoke.


The taxi driver deposited our luggage into the trunk and tried to talk us into a home stay. A home stay is where a local family takes you in, beds and feeds you either overnight or a few days. They charge you rent. All of this is negotiated in advance and most are quite reputable. In Malaysia, nearly all are licensed, but here in Indonesia, I was not so sure.


I declined, but he did not give up. He extolled the virtues of his house, the food, his family and by the time he got done with his sales pitch, I swear he threw in his daughter as well. (I speak Malay and Indonesian is very close to that language, but I must have misunderstood the last part).


We finally arrived at the ferry and were surrounded by seven or eight locals who immediately unloaded the car. They set everything down and wanted to find out where I was going. I told them Lombok by the hour ferry. They discussed this in great detail and decided to call the BOSS! who would further negotiate.


On a very small motorcycle, BOSS!, who spoke English, arrived and told me the next ferry took five hours (it was now 10 P.M.). Of course, he had a home stay if I wanted to stay the night. Christine and I decided to make the overnight trip, not having a clue what this involved.


BOSS! took our money and threw in a place for us to stay on the ferry. We could sleep until we arrived, he informed us. The ferry appeared and the eight or so carried our luggage to our bunks. Visions of a peaceful cabin danced in my head and then awaking to a sun rise over a tropical island.


The “cabin” was located in the bowels of the rusty hulk of a ferry. Diesel fumes filled the place. Apparently, one of the crew members was paid to give up his lodgings for us. To be fair, the sheets, light blanket and pillow cases were clean, but we were in his sleeping slot. His personal stuff, clothes, pictures and posters of sports figures decorated the cabin.


The guys deposited our baggage; two carried my backpack, and with the most pitiful of faces held out their hands. I said to get money from BOSS! They told me BOSS! didn’t pay them. Then the faces got really scrunched up. One said “baby,” another, I swear welled up in tears and another gestured from his hand to his mouth indicating food.


They had been laughing and joking before, specimens of lean muscled young men. To get rid of them, I handed over about US$5.00 and told them to split it up. This wasn’t enough they informed. I didn’t want them on the boat or sleeping with me so I forked over US$10. This was enough and they all skipped merrily away.


The journey was sheer torture. We had not eaten and found the place where food was sold. Not trusting any of the prepared stuff or the water, we managed to purchase some cookies and Pringles. How tubes of potato chips managed to find their way aboard a dilapidated ferry is beyond me. Must be the global economy.


We went on deck and tried to rest under the stars, then attempted to sleep in the diesel fumed room. Somewhere close to arrival time, I asked one of crew members when we would arrive. He said another hour. At the time we had docked.


A van met us and took us to our hotel, thankfully without incident. As travelers and trekkers know, even the best plans can end up in rusting hulk with a backpack.


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