Making the journey from hell to arrive at Hell on Earth
19.11.2012 - 21.11.2012
Our onward destination from the temples was the metropolis that is Jakarta which would mark the parting of ways for our triumverate as Sarka and Jana had to return to Czechland whilst I would then head off into mainland SE Asia. First things first however, we had to get to the city and this turned into probably the most harrowing journey this Fool has ever taken - and it was nothing to do with the bus, the driving or indeed the roads.
The Bus Journey From Hell
Boarding the night bus from Yogyakarta, I sat behind the girls and opted for the aisle seat as experience has told me that my random seating partner will be larger than his seat and being squashed against a cold window for 14 hours just didnt appeal. As expected my bench buddy was the biggest (and I don't mean tallest) person on the whole coach and he looked a little disappointed that I made him squeeze past me into the window seat.
Anyway we eventually sorted ourselves out and the bus headed into the night. After a short while, my neighbour and I struck up a conversation of sorts as he knew a little broken english and had the usual international hand gestures. Having established that he had twin boys of around 5 years old he pulled out his mobile and showed me a video he had made of his boys playing happily with a bucket of water. It was about 3 years old (the boys looked very young) and he was obviously very proud of his family.
He then offered to show me another video which, naturally, I readily agreed to watch, thinking it was a more recent film of his boys, when they were a little older. The clip was again filmed on his phone in black and white, it was very shakey and dark, and opened with a close up of a guy lying on his front on the ground, obviously being restrained by several people. Then his head was pulled back by his hair and a knife blade came into view and was held against his neck before being withdrawn again. At this stage I was not sure what I was watching but I thought it might be some sort of play similar to the exorcism show we had seen at Borobudur so I was not too concerned. Well, back on screen, the scene was repeated with the guy's head being pulled up and back and the knife again pressed against his neck. This time however the knife was used to slice his neck wide open and suddenly a whole torrent of black blood spurted out at tremendous pressure. I involuntarily cried out and looked away trying to work out what the hell I was watching. Appalled, I was ashen faced, I gave him his phone back and told him it was insane to give this to a stranger to watch. He was disappointed that I didnt want to watch the whole thing as, at the end, they hacked the guys head off completely, something he showed me by mimicing the cutting action and then holding up an imaginary head by it's hair! Somewhat traumatised I then asked him what had happened and he explained that the guy had had a gun, had gone crazy and shot 5 people in their village. The villagers had then chased and caught him and then dealt out summary execution which he had filmed from no more than a couple of feet away.
At this point I retreated into my shell a little until, a little later, he offered to show me some more pictures which, he assured me, were not like the video. Thinking I would see more recent photos of his twin boys or his wife I agreed to have a look so he searched around, loaded a picture and gave me the phone again. The scene was not very clear so it took a moment or two to work it out. It was not one of domestic or familial bliss but the scene of a fatal road accident, with a crashed and broken motorbike lying on a pedestrian zebra crossing and two dead bodies laying in the road. Again revolted by the images I was seeing I shoved his phone back at him at which point he went to load another photo for me to look at!! It turns out that he works for a hospital in Jakarta and his job is to go out to collect the dead bodies at fatal traffic accidents so he took the photos as a personal momento! Needless to say the remaining 13+ hours of the bus journey were fraught and I dont think I actually managed to relax at all whilst my two lady companions slept line babies in the seats in front of me. Even now I still shudder when I recall those bizarre moments, thankful that the video was in monochrome and not very clear.
After our 14 hour (non)sleeper we transferred to another coach for a 2 hour jaunt up the Transjakarta Express Busway and then, there we were, in the Indonesian capital.
Having booked a hotel room for me and after we had all freshened up we set off to explore the city in the searing midday heat. We managed to find our way on foot to and up the Nacional Monument (hard to miss given its height), then negotiated the crazy streets absolutely teeming with tuktuks and taxis, to find a place that served a decent coffee and to have what was our big "farewell meal".
Bye bye ladies.
Wilting somewhat, we returned to the hotel and, all to soon, my one week adventure with my two wonderful new friends was over as they headed off into the traffic to fly home to Prague. Although we had only travelled together for seven days much of our time was spent either laughing or eating - two of lifes simplest but rewarding pleasures. One day I will get to traverse Europe and, if either Sarka or Jana are at home, I hope that we will have a great reunion in their beautiful city.
As a backpacking destination Jakarta was hot, dusty, noisy and not very welcoming. The Lonely Planet had nothing good to say about either the city itself or the whole surrounding area of north west Java so, once the girls had gone, I went online and booked the first flight out to Singapore, luckily it was departing the next morning. The trip to the airport was simplified by the express shuttle buses that run from central Jakarta and, soon afterwards, I was bidding farewell to Indonesia - for now!!