Day 129 – Gridlock

Heat, pain and frustration is what I will remember of this day.

Before setting out for the last 110 km on Java, we had one more thing to do here. A package with Christmas presents and minor bits of kit needed to find its way to Germany. After two missed offices, we ended up in the central post office. We found someone to neatly wrap our things up as a package and got a waiting number assigned. 40 numbers ahead of us, we thought this could take a while, but then we got called out and ushered to a desk half way through the wait.

I wish my Bahasa Indonesia were better or I’d have done some research. I could not ask for slower and cheaper shipping options and resigned to pay the $85 shipping in the end. We left for the road and towards the ferry in Merak by 10 am.

Thus followed six hours of the worst traffic I have experienced in my life. The entire 110 km between Jakarta and the west coast is one long filthy clogged agglomeration. The roads are full, in disrepair and dangerous. Add to the mix temperatures of up to 40°C, smog and clouds of dusty dirt. We tried our luck twice trying to get on the toll motorway. Both times we were turned away by overzealous road authority worker. My highlight was when he tried to explain why two wheelers cannot go on the motorway: “It is too dangerous”. Instead, he turned us back to the death trap disguised as a road. I guess dying is ok as long as it is not within your jurisdiction.

We arrived at the ferry at 4 pm and seemed to have once again caught the slowest ferry on offer. On board, I was chatted up by a bunch of friendly but boisterous men. Nina did not like them very much, and given their views on extramarital affairs I cannot blame her. One observation struck me though: It was the one guy who has seen the world on container ships that set the others straight more than once. Isolation breeds conservativism and nothing works better for melting away those quirky ideas and stereotypes than seeing the world.

The ferry arrived after sunset. To break our “no riding in the dark”-rule we checked into the first hotel we could find about 10km out of the harbour. It was $10 more expensive than we would have liked, but by now … we just stopped to care. Sleeeeeeeep!