Traveling in the Tropics

Part of being an international teacher is traveling: a lot of us keep lists of the countries that we’ve visited (link to Jeff’s blog) as one signpost of our lives overseas; others keep track of the number of schools that they’ve worked in (and some teachers move around a lot); others write travel blogs and articles; others develop websites with information that they’ve found useful and feel that others might also be able to use. Whatever we do to mark and memorialize our lives as international teachers, travel and learning about other cultures are two of the main attractions for us.

So, I’m back in Sumbawa again after a month in Bali on vacation. My traveling these days is pretty much confined to the internal migrations that I make between Bali and Sumbawa. This return trip set my record for the longest time taken traveling between the two islands.

As I’ve written before, I can make the trip on the private seaplane that employees here can use and get to Bali within an hour if I have a direct connection. It’s an easy trip of getting on the plane in Sumbawa and exiting the plane in Bali, usually with a short stop in Lombok to drop passengers off and pick up other ones. It’s quick, but bland. It’s hard to talk on a small plane like the seaplane so the flight is generally one of chilling until we arrive at our destination. But, rather than take the seaplane, I chose to drive over with my friend, Stephen, and his son, Oliver. The trip over was really quick, but we hit almost every problem possible on the way back.

We left Kuta at 6 am with plans to take the shortcut to Padangbai. We missed the turn and ended up taking the old (and long) route. We arrived at Padangbai at 8, just in time to miss the ferry. It took another 90 minutes before we were loaded onto the ferry and out on the sea. We made good time over to Lombok, but one of the large buses that carry passengers from island to island couldn’t make it off the ramp from the ferry to the dock. We waited an hour while the bus was unloaded after many failed attempts to exit.

Stephen received a message that one of the bridges that we needed to cross in Jereweh in Sumbawa was washed out which meant that we wouldn’t be able to make it home, and as there are no hotels in the area, we would have been forced to sleep in the car until the bridge was passable. We decided to spend the night in Mataram and see if the bridge was clear the next morning. So we headed off the McDonalds in the Mataram Mall for lunch while we decided where to spend the night. After a few phone calls to my wife, some neighbors in Sumbawa, and our boss, we decided to try to get through by hoping for the best.

We drove through Lombok and arrived at the harbor in Kayangan by 6. We figured on making it to Sekongkang, our final destination, by 10 if we could cross the bridge. But, our luck continued to run against us. We were the next car to get loaded onto the ferry when they decided that they had their full quota of cars. We eventually made it onto a ferry after another 90-minute wait. By the time we offloaded in Poto Tano, it was almost 10 o’clock. Stephen drove carefully and cautiously in hazardous conditions. A few buses from Maluk passed us on their way to Mataram so we guessed that the bridge was open – a good sign. All of us were exhausted by this time, and we were relieved that we weren’t going to be stuck in the jungle.

When we reached the bridge, there was a heavy layer of mud covering the front of the bridge. I felt a sudden wave of anxiety as I could envision us getting stuck in the mud if we tried to cross. I got out of the car and went to check the firmness of the mud. As I was trying to decide if we could make it through the thick mud rutted with deep tire tracks, a car came by from the opposite direction. Indonesian drivers will attempt most anything, and this driver fearlessly drove straight through with just a little slipping and sliding. That made the decision for us, and we drove on through.

We made it back to town by midnight: 18 hours of traveling and a new record.

Have to love living in the tropics.

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~ by drbrucepk on January 12, 2009.

2 Responses to “Traveling in the Tropics”

  1. Yeah what a trip but it was interesting eh? I can’t believe how positive I feel about things. Hope this continues hehehehehe. Can I copy and paste your description of the trip for my blog? Only joking….

  2. Yes, an adventure. I’m going to save this positive thing to remind you about it in the future. Keep smiling!

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