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Pictures and report of our Indonesia trip 2010
(Southern Sumatra)
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148  On the day we leave
Bukittinggi, school children making
music are parading past “our”
Benteng-Hotel – a lovely good-bye
149  On our way out of Bukittinggi,
we drive past the impressive
“Pesawat” monument. It is about a
mysterious plane (Anson 1 ?) of
the Indonesian Air Force – RI-003
that is said to have been shot down
at end of the 1940’s in Malaysia
150  Friendliness is what we
encounter everywhere in Sumatra.
People are waving and smiling at us,
making us feel welcome as tourists
The tension is growing! Will our Papua New Guinea project ever work out? Despite this still existing uncertainty, we close our camp in Bukittinggi and continue South to the third and last part of our journey through the island of Sumatra, towards the shipping port of Jakarta on Java. It is June 12th, 2010, when we take the Western coastal road, completed only since the end of the nineties. Before only the completely overloaded Trans Sumatra Highway with its horror traffic existed. This highway is pretty narrow and curvy with a badly broken-up road surface and hardly any possibility to overtake. The diesel-powered slow trucks eject thick black clouds of smoke, so much that nobody has to be surprised to catch a poisoning while driving behind them. For our first stage to Padang, a one-million-city and the capital of West Sumatra, we choose the quieter, though 31 miles longer road along the picturesque Singkarak Lake, leading through some areas of still untouched jungle. It is a lovely drive through a windy and hilly landscape, with a spectacular climb to 3’300 ft. and a not less spectacular descent to the scorching heat of the lowland.
151  The bazaar of Padang –
West Sumatra’s capital – is packed
beneath the sun protecting umbrellas
152  A minaret and a traditional,
stylized Minangkabau roof in the
city center of Padang. The Minang-
kabau culture of West Sumatra
is closely connected to Islam
153  Shoppers and cars struggle
simultaneously to find a gap through
the overcrowded bazaar in Padang.
The view from the top of the adjoining
parking garage over the roofs of
colorful umbrellas is just stunning
After our comfortable time in the cool climate of Bukittinggi, we have to readapt to the heat. We are not in the slightest mood for stewing in our own sweat and are therefore looking for an air conditioned room. The hotel choice in Padang however is very limited since in September 2009 the majority of the high rising buildings, mainly hotels and banks, were destroyed by a devastating earthquake. Still today damages and cracks are visible everywhere. A lot lies still either in debris, is dilapidated or uninhabitable, or has already been torn town and flattened. 5’000 people lost their lives that day, 100 alone in a hotel. Therefore we are looking for a one story place and check in at the Padang Hotel. Should it shake again, at least not too much concrete will fall on our heads.
On September 30th, 2009, Padang was hit by a disastrous earthquake (7.6) that caused the death of fare more than 1‘000 people.
Still today, cracks and damages are visible at buildings, hotels and churches. However many ruins have been already torn down and leveled
It smells of sea, fish and of grilled meat when we mingle in the evening with the locals at the seashore. Being a Sunday, the many restaurants are well visited by families admiring like us the red ball of the sun disappearing into the Indian Ocean. The view over the endless sea revives the sensation of vastness, which on this island got a bit lost due to the little open land, the never ending villages and the overpopulation. The feeling of overcrowding is here again particularly next morning when we fight our way under the roof of colorful umbrellas through the busy street bazaar. Emil’s sense for good views leads us once more to the right place: To the top of the adjoining parking garage. From this vantage we fully enjoy point the overwhelming market life spreading below us in all its diversity: Not only shoppers are wandering between the stalls with its clutter of goods; also motorbikes and cars struggle to find some space to pass. Luckily we intuitively turned back just in time. With the height of our LandCruiser, undoubtedly we would have got stuck at some point somewhere between all the umbrellas.
157  The many colorfully adorned
and low lying minibuses in Padang
are an eye-catching sight
158  Who cares how high the
load is! At least nobody worries
in the city of Padang
159  A palm fringed fishing village
South of Padang, scarcely halfway to
Painan, has a touch of the South Pacific
After three days we leave Padang before noon and follow further on the coastal road – still without positive news from PNG. There are only three weeks left to the shipment. The road condition changes constantly: From highs to lows, from broken asphalt to deep potholes, interrupted only now and then by a smooth stretch. The many small tank trucks that crawl on the narrow, windy road are a pain in the neck, making it difficult to almost impossible to pass. On the other side this section offers many charming views over bays and the many lagoons along the coast.
160  Every once in a while bridges
cross brown jungle rivers with their
densely overgrown tropical banks
161  One of the many mighty
rivers that flow into the sea
162  View from Langkisau lookout
over the perfectly shaped bay of Painan,
situated about 48 miles South of Padang
The highlight arrives at the village of Painan, around 48 miles from Padang. When we climb the steeply road to the view point, we find a wonderful panorama: To the North the lagoon with its white sandbank is glowing in the soft evening light. To the South the roofs of Painan and the perfectly formed bay are spreading below us – really very impressing! Until late in the evening young motor bikers come and go. They question us nonstop in their typical Indonesian curiosity until we dismiss our plan to camp here for the night. Luckily we still find a small hotel room. Hotel guests greet us with „congratulations, congratulations“ when they realize that we are Swiss. We didn’t know why until we learnt that Switzerland won 1:0 against Spain at the World Cup. What a surprise and what a joy!
From Langkisau Hill in Painan, we enjoy beautiful views:
163  To the Northwest:
Over the glittering lagoon
and its white sandbank
164  To the South:
Over Painan City with some
towering Minangkabau roofs
165  To the Northeast:
Over lush rice paddies, sandwiched
between the city and the forest
At 8am – after a simple breakfast in our hotel room – we are on the road again. The skies are clear; we seem to drive into a promising but hot day. Our today’s target is Bengkulu, lying 168 miles to the South, around 7-8 hours driving time away. On our map the road follows the coast; we soon realize that it doesn’t mean that we also get to see it. Mostly we catch sporadically just a glimpse of the ocean and some white sandy beach, and mostly only when we cross one of the many bridges that span over mighty brown jungle rivers flowing to the sea. To 90% we drive somewhere inland, between a hundred yards to a few miles away from the sea. That distance is covered mostly by dense bush, followed further south by endless palm oil plantations. It’s not much to see so that we hardly take a picture. At least we have some entertainment by the many animals that wander around at the side of the road with their offspring: From brown cows with cute calves that haven’t seen the daylight for long, to goats, chickens, dogs and ducks. Then there are also the geese, which calmly cross the road in a single file and make us each time fear for their lives.
166  Fishermen return with their
catch – South of Painan
167  A frequent sight: Mosques
surrounded by lush rice fields
168  Also water buffaloes feel the
tropical heat. From the sandbank
it is easy to jump into the water
Somewhere halfway, we leave the province of West Sumatra, which along with Aceh and South Kalimantan belongs to Indonesia’s most fundamentalist provinces, and enter the province of Bengkulu. We reach its same named capital shortly before twilight. It counts around 400’000 people. Strolling around next day, there are many things we like about this city where former President Soekarno was exiled by the Dutch from 1938-1941: The nicely restored Marlborough Fort – a former British fortress facing the Indian Ocean, opened to the public in 1984 – with its shady courtyard where children love to seat on the cannons and where surprisingly we had to pay only the same entry fee as the locals: Rp: 2’500 (= 30 US Cents).
169  Red sandstone cliffs, shaped by
wind and waves, appear halfway between
Mukomuko and Bengkulu …..
170  ….. a particularly remarkable
rock, where vegetation already
has taken roots again
171  Impressive jungle rivers – here
before an approaching thunderstorm –
with densely overgrown banks are
quite common along the West coast
Then we enjoy the white sandy Pajang beach stretching for miles where extended families play around on Sundays. Stalls offer all kind of snacks and drinks and we hardly believe our eyes when we see two Sumatra elephants trotting towards our car. They are the excitement of the day and children love to go for a ride along the beach on their back. They are old boys earning their living that way as do many working elephants in all kind of jobs. They are trained in the Kandangsaru Center in "Way Kambas National Park'. Apparently, they even learnt to play football! Elephants that still live in the wild in Indonesia are said to be only a few. Of course, we are also thrilled to find two big supermarkets – Giant and Hypermarket – where since a long time we can buy “delicacies” like beef salami and smoked beef (there are no pork products on sale). We also appreciated the luxury Horison Hotel with its swimming pool and sea view and can take also advantage of the WiFi in the parking lot. And last but not least we like our spacious air-conditioned and reasonably priced room in the Rega Hotel in the city center. It is quiet, which is a special bonus in Sumatra.
172  The court yard of the restored
Marlborough Fort in Bengkulu – a former
British fortification – is well visited. It is
also the place where the first President of
Indonesia, President Sukarno, was sent
into exile from 1938-1941 by the Dutch
173  In front of the entrance of
Fort Marlborough in Bengkulu,
an elderly lady is selling her
home cooked food
174  From Fort Marlborough we
spot this strange construction in
Bengkulu – one part of the house
is built on top of the other.
Obviously it is a hotel
“How many hours do we need to drive to Krui?” we ask at the hotel reception when we check out after three days. “Seven to eight” is the answer. We guess that the distance is 140 miles, because none of our three road maps or the internet shows an accurate indication. From experience we know however that we manage to drive an average of 17 to 20 miles per hour, depending on the road condition. Therefore we are well off when we leave at 8am after stocking up some fuel. In Mann, a bigger coastal village, we make a relaxed lunch break at the sea shore and realize only afterwards with the help of a few faintly readable milestones that Krui is much further away than we anticipated. The total distance is 197 miles, not only 140! That means up to four hours more driving time. As a precaution, we want to bunker more fuel at the next and only gasoline station on the way. Much to our surprise, it is empty what never happened before.
175  At Bengkulu with its 400‘000
people, one fishing boat besides the
other lines the beach. It’s also the
capital of the same named province
176  Panjang beach in Bengkulu is
stretching for miles. During the week
it is most of the time deserted
177  In the quiet Bengkulu lagoon,
fishermen are fishing from
bamboo rafts
The drive is monotonous. It only becomes more interesting after two-thirds of the distance, just after changing from the Bengkulu- to the Lampung-Province, right after the police station. From one instant to the other we find ourselves surrounded by deep jungle with all its impenetrable foliage. And from one instant to the other the road, brutally damaged by the heavy trucks, climbs steeply up to 2’000ft. altitude to descend in the same spectacular manner. Then palm fringed bays appear, one lovelier than the other. And when simultaneously the sun dives into the sea and the sky gets red, the atmosphere could not be more stunning. The following half hour we drive in the dark until we reach the poorly lit sea resort of Krui.
178  A nostalgic horse carriage
rolls leisurely along the Pajang
beach in Bengkulu …..
179  ….. an elephant is greeting our
LandCruiser. On Sundays it is the main
attraction at Panjang Beach. It carries
children for a ride along the beach, thus
adds to his living. There are around 300
working elephants in Sumatra, but the
wild ones are more than rare …..
180  ….. the elephant seems to
express its joy that it is able to
catch the cool sea breeze
Passing at the gasoline station, we wonder that it looks deserted. Instead cars are lined up all around it. It seems that they are expecting a new supply shortly. After a more than 10 hours drive – the eighth longest since the start of our journey on October 18th, 1984 – we both are exhausted and overheated having no air-conditioning in the car. What we most need now is a shower and a bed in a cool room. We are not anymore picky, but are unlucky to end up at a place where also Australian surfers are lodging. Nothing against surfers at all! And nothing against Australians! But against those who are just on a booze and every third word is “fucking” and who keep us awake with their noise and behavior until far after midnight, we certainly do object.
181  It is easy to spend some hours
at the pool with ocean view at the
luxury Horison Hotel in Bengkulu …..
182  ..... occasionally we take
advantage of Wi-Fi in the
hotel’s parking lot
183  Five on a motorbike is quite
common. We have spotted also six
Very early next morning, Emil drives to the gasoline station, because we urgently need now to stock up on fuel. Shortly after, he is back without having achieved anything. Not too happy he tells me that there is again no fuel available and that the lined up cars are gone! What is happening? It is not too difficult to guess. Along the coastal road a mafia has established. As soon as the supply tanker arrives – what mostly happens in the middle of the night – the locals immediately buy off all the fuel to sell it afterwards in plastic bottles along the road for Rp. 1’500 (=US$ 0.17) more expensive than at the filling pump. It suddenly dawned on us why yesterday we found the only station along the road empty too. We do not bother so much about the price difference, but the risk to get watered stuff. But having no other choice, we fill at least one of our 20-lt. jerrycans. Then we say good-bye to the surfer paradise, where we actually intended to relax for a few days at the beach. But it is definitely not our place!
184  An idyllic quiet scenery South of
Bengkulu: Fishing boats mooring at
the bank of a meandering river …..
185  ..... no catch! The
fisherman will throw out
his net elsewhere again
186  A settlement squeezed between
the ocean and rice fields in the evening
light near the coastal village of Krui
For some time, we still follow the West coast. After around 12 miles from Krui, we branch off to the East and towards the mountains. Driving through a village, the sound of music reaches our ears and then we spot the dancing on a schoolyard. Until we get out of the car and reach the crowded place the group already retreats. A young mother carrying a child encourages us to come closer and beckons us to wait. She hurries away and seconds after, the dancers, specially dressed and painted, reappear and perform once more just for the two of us. We are really touched how people here let us unconditionally take part in their lives. At the end, the whole spectators gather at the roadside to wave us good-bye.
187  In the South of Sumatra’s
West coast, near the coastal village
of Krui, the sandy beaches start –
one more beautiful than the other
188  The ball of the setting sun
shines through palm trees, when
we approach the surfer paradise
of Krui in the South
189  A deserted coast North of Krui
Shortly afterwards, the road climbs once more steadily and right on the top our gasoline runs out. The space to pull aside is very limited what means that we have to pour in the 20 lt. of our jerrycan fast into the tank, because the heavy trucks passing by show no mercy. They drive past us very closely and that without reducing their speed. Is it not often the case that exactly then something goes wrong when you are under extreme time pressure? In any case, when Emil wants to start with the procedure, he sees that the fuel filler neck which we did not use for a long time is rusted through. This means that we have to make an improvisation. We do it the African way by pulling over a sleeve cut from a plastic bottle we find on the roadside and wrap the whole thing thickly with tape.
190  A band plays to a performance
of boys at a school ground in a
small country village .....
191  ….. the face of
a dancer shows the
special make-up …..
192  ….. the dancers in their
traditional costumes show their skills
And, what a relief, it works and the fuel is gargling slowly into our tank, only in stages though, as Emil has to hurry aside to save his life each time a truck thunders past. Such a simple action as filling spare fuel into a vehicle tank can suddenly become a war of nerves. Now we can only hope that it is true that in the next bigger village of Wonosobo there are four gasoline stations and that there not everything will be sold out again. Until we reach it though, it will take some time because we hardly start driving again when three trucks are blocking the road. One of them, carrying a high load on the roof, got off the pavement and lies aside in a frightening inclined position. The two others try simultaneously to lift it back to the road with steel cables. We really think that it will tip over, but surprisingly it does not. It is again like in Africa: Everybody helps everybody, and we are always astonished how such delicate situations mostly find a good end. In this respect they are true masters in third world countries. Improvising has to be learnt!
193  Typically for a Muslim country:
Women and girls are watching the
performances from one side …..
194  ….. and men and boys
from the another side
195  At the Southwest coast, we pass
some homes with attached Hindu
temples as found on the island of Bali
We probably seldom were happier to encounter a gasoline station, particularly one with fuel! We bunker 100 lt. and then head straight to Bandar Lampung, the fourth biggest and most Southerly town in Sumatra. It is the place, where in 2007 – coming from Java – our first Sumatra journey found an abrupt end when a differential fracture made us return to Jakarta. This time there is a surprise of a different kind waiting for us. Due to the article “Die Uneinholbaren” – “the Uncatchables” – published in the German ”Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” not only enthusiastic fans contacted us but also TV stations. Therefore it happens that on June 25th, 2010, a 3-men-crew of Germany’s ARD TV station flies in from Singapore for an interview in their section “Nachtmagazin” (night magazine). They are accompanied by Nina, a co-worker from Jakarta, and three local guys familiar with the city of Bandar Lampung. What a delegation! With three cars we cross the busy town mid-afternoon to a lovely beach with picturesque fishing boats and a small offshore island where the interview is shot and broadcasted on July 20th, 2010 under the title “Weltenbummler” (globetrotters). B.t.w.: The broadcast has taken about 1 minute!
196  Three trucks block the road at a
mountain pass – not unusual in Sumatra.
Two try to rescue their “colleague” that
went off the road with steel cables,
what they manage surprisingly fast
197  On a mountain pass, we run
out of fuel. Emil is pouring our last
5 gallons from a jerry can into the tank
198  In the rainforest, we
always discover new
tropical flowers
Next day our LandCruiser suddenly goes on strike. On our drive through the busy city center the engine dies without any forewarning, but revives again after continuously trying to start it. And it happens not only once. What’s the reason? “May be it is the distributor”, Emil guesses. We have not changed the contacts for quite some time, to be precise since Hong Kong. According to Emil’s statistics the replacement took place exactly 14’708 miles ago. He seems right with his diagnose because after we replaced it and at the same time also the condenser, the problem seems to be solved. As there is a Toyota distributor close-by, we decide to stock up on these parts again. We pull the No. 58 at the customers’ service. No. 57 is already being served, thus it will not take long until it will be our turn, we think. Completely wrong! Despite that four consultants are sitting behind their desks, no one pushes the button anymore. No. 57 remains. In secret we smile because we exactly know the reason. Nobody wants to serve us because they hardly speak any English. They prefer to shuffle around papers from one side to the other on their desk or occupy themselves with unimportant things. Finally, a girl takes pity on us and she then attends us competently. From this very moment the numbers change without delay. When we close the door behind us, No. 65 is already flashing.
NB: It was neither the contacts of the distributor nor its condenser, because the problem restarted the first day in Papua New Guinea again. A loose cable was found eventually after a long search in the cable tangle below the dashboard!
199  Colorful fishing boats and a tiny
offshore island in Bandar Lampung, the
southernmost town in Sumatra, is the
backdrop for the ARD interview that
has been broadcasted in Germany in
their“Nachtmagazin” during the news
on July 20th, 2010 …..
200  ..... the German 3-men-crew
who flew in from Singapore, is
shooting how Liliana improvises a
meal with corned beef and peas …..
201  ..... a picture to remember the
ARD crew on the parking of our
Hotel in Bandar Lampung
Eleven days to go before our planned shipment to PNG and we still are not one step further. At least, after many more emails, we are a bit wiser: Apparently, the Ministry of Tourism got only verbal assurances from the different authorities, but no written permits – no wonder that we never received any copies! What does that concretely mean for us? Shall we stick our heads in the sand, overcome our skepticism and just venture it? We are on the fence what to do and decide to continue for now our journey towards Jakarta, hitting our last 50 miles on Sumatra’s roads. In Kalianda, about 20 miles before the ferry terminal of Bakauheni-Merak, we check in at the same hotel we did three years ago, and surprisingly there is still somebody there who remembers us. Elections for new governors will shortly take place and the propaganda campaign is running full speed. Scores of motorbikes, decorated with little flags are thundering up and down the village streets, hooting and shouting.
202  A cyclist rolls unhurriedly along
Kalianda’s beach, the last village
before the ferry terminal of Bakauheni,
where the ferries sail to Java
203  We park between piles
of rubbish at the otherwise
lovely beach of Kalianda
204  Locals drive back from
the beach to their settlement
Apart from that, the place is still as quiet as we remember it. There is just one thing that changed: The sandy beach is definitely covered with more rubbish. That doesn’t seem to bother the locals at all: Family fathers are fishing with their boys at the quiet lagoon or lead their children by motorbike to the beach to play; a woman collects tirelessly wood, which was washed ashore; a cyclist enjoys his ride along the sea shore; screaming youngsters amuse themselves with the breaking waves and young couples look for a quiet spot offside. Such is island life today, such it was yesterday and such it will be tomorrow!
205  A cluster of peaceful fishermen
houses along Kalianda’s coast
206  A mobile kitchen in the village of
Kalianda. With a connected gas con-
tainer, food is prepared freshly on the spot
207  Emil relaxes beside our car
on the ferry from Bakauheni
in Sumatra to Merak in Java
The hills are shrouded in mist, rice and grain fields are spreading on both sides of the road for the last 20 miles on Sumatra’s road to the ferry terminal of Bakauheni. It is July 1st, 2010. There is little activity, thus we are able to board immediately the next leaving ferry to Merak on Java. A quarter of an hour later, we are already sailing. When the mountainous backdrop of Sumatra slowly disappears, we experience this strange feeling we mostly sense when another episode of our epic journey ends. There are a few things though we did not like in Sumatra, e.g. the handling of the environment, the incredible piles of rubbish laying around, the nerve-racking noise level and last but not least the mostly potholed roads that need the drivers attention 100%.
208  Like already three years ago, a
dealer is selling also this time a liquid for
healing or stimulating in small bottles. Is it
obtained from alive mantas displayed here?
209  Cheerfully passengers pose
for a picture to remember on the
ferry from Sumatra to Java
210  We are back on the congested
streets of Jakarta. Since 2007,
it did not get any better
However, there are also many things we did like and which enriched our lives: We think especially at Danau Toba Crater Lake, where we spent a relaxed time, at the lush rice fields that accompanied us for many miles, at the Highland People of North and West Sumatra with their traditional culture and architecture and their spontaneous invitations to weddings. The deepest memory, however, will be the broad smiles of the people. In some remote places it could happen that they looked at us as if we would come from another planet, like UFO’s – “unidentified foreign objects”. In general, the Indonesians are a lovable nation – it is just a pity that the language barrier is mostly too big to get to know each other more closely.
211  Our LandCruiser sits in a „beauty
parlor“ in Jakarta. In the efficient Sinar Jaya
workshop, it gets a set of new tires (for the
first time a Chinese brand named Boto!), a
new battery and a new tarp for the roof …..
212  ..... and we are presented each
with a T-shirt of the „International
Offroad Challenge“ and a jacket
of the “Rainforest Challenge”
213  On July 7th, 2010, our LandCruiser is
waiting in the container yard of our shipping
agent in Jakarta for its 19th container, which
will bring it on the freighter “Pacific Resolution”
of the Swire Shipping Line “Tasman Orient” to
Lae in Papua New Guinea – the 167th country
P.S.: The following week we spend in Jakarta. It is a hectic rush. It is only here that it becomes evident – after the exchange of 170 (!) emails - that we can take the chance and the risk to ship to PNG, i.e. that the car permits from Port Moresby should be ready. As this is fixed, the undertaking nearly fails the last moment due to a container shortage, though we ordered it as a precaution already weeks ago. Only the day before our departure to Malaysia, on July 7th, at 2.30pm, it is delivered – after a lot of pushing from our side. Then finally we can relax and Emil can drive our LandCruiser, equipped with a new set of Chinese tires, a new battery and a new tarp into its 19th box and lash it. It will sail on July 22nd, with the freighter "Pacific Resolution" of the “Swire Shipping Line” back to the Pacific, exactly to the port of Lae in Papua New Guinea. We will make a two week stopover in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to continue with our teeth treatment, and on July 26th, 2010, we will follow our travel buddy via Singapore to the land of adventure.

To the previous website: Pictures from our 2010-Indonesian trip in West Sumatra in May and June 2010


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