Voila! Le Bucket Shower
and le squatter toilette!
... "Uh, No. That would be Cuba," came our reply!
We have survived 7 of the most miserable days known to Team Canada (or to mankind in general)!
After Singapore, our plan was to take a ferry to Sumatra (an island of Indonesia), and spend a few weeks up north checking out beaches and Banda Aceh (the area most affected by the tsunami), and do a few jungle treks to see orang utans. Plans did not go quite as we had hoped!
The ferry from Singapore to the island of Batam was all peaches, and the ferry from Batam to mainland Sumatra (Dumai) was a little less peachy, but doable. From Dumai to Pekanbaru (about 200Km inland), not peachy, or doable or anything even remotely okay with us! The 200Km ride should have taken about 2 hours, instead, it took about six! We could have walked faster!!! Our minibus driver (pretty much the only mode of transportation outside of the touristy centres) must moonlight as a sardine can packer because he pulled over every 30 minutes to pick people up. That translates to a van meant for 12, stuffed to 20, and Trevor and Kristena's seats meant for
2, filled with 5. Everyone was smoking and we were treated to ear splitting kareoke (a special treat anywhere in SE Asia it seems) ... it was a miserable 6 hours! Topping it off, the moonlighting sardine can packer stopped in the middle of nowhere and said "Ok! Bus station! Get out!". It was not a bus station. It was not anything. We refused to get out, it was another miniature standoff. The gods of backpacker land are throwing poo filled mud paddies at us.
Call us spoiled rotten, or maybe just fed up, but the thought of doing it again wasn't even an option. We were only in the middle of Sumatra. Our plan was to head to the northern tip. After the 6 hour/ 200 Km bus ride, that means DAYS more in crowded, 4 wheeled, smoke filled chambers. Not only would we rather die (and our lungs surely would!), but we just didn't have enough time. We gave ourselves about 12 days to do what we wanted to do and then head to Bali (overland). So, we headed to the airport to book a flight instead (we'd heard that domestic flights are cheap cheap in Indonesia).
Haha, another none possibility. All flights - to anywhere - were fully booked. The next available one was on until July 7th, to Bali; we took it. That was on July 1st. Do you know how long that is in "Bored out of our freaking mind time??"
That leaves two very stranded, very frustrated Canadians, in the middle of nowhere. Pekanbaru is not a tourist town. There was nothing to do, no one speaks English and we were the only white people for miles. (We point that out because it earned us somewhat of a celebrity status). There are no museums or parks or cultural things or anything! It's the Alberta equivalent of ... Ponoka? (Haha, sorry Maria!). We didn't have any books (we finished them on the 57 000 hour bus ride!), and hunted for something, ANYTHING in English, but came up with nada (not that we're blaming them, why would they have something in English? That would be like Chapters having a Swahili and Russian and Japanese section, "just in case"). We stayed in a $5/night hotel, and five dollars in this part of the world gets you a whole lot of nothing. No TV, no toilet
First Class Transportation
... at about $0.10 per person, can't really complain!
(we've become ancient pros at the squatter thing), and a bucket shower (as in, dump a bucket of water over the head and voila! spiffy clean!). Nicer places do exist, but we are trying to save money to make up for all the unexpected smackeroos we've spent or that have fallen into black holes (Ahem! CHINA!). The shining star of the town is that they have power cuts. Rotating power cuts. We couldn't figure out which neighborhoods have power at which times. We did find an internet cafe, and a play station cafe, but with the power cuts, that was pretty useless information.
Sooo ... we stooped to buying Tamagotchi's (remember those? From uh, 1995???). Haha, you know your life is a little off track when the most stimulating part of your day is whether to feed your Tamagotchi an ice cream cone or sushi. We found a movie theatre, but there was only one English movie (Hancock) and we saved it until we were boreder than bored and thought we might be close to dying. Our days became a rationing of stimulating activity. We tried to span things throughout the day so that we didn't end up doing
all the fun things (ie: feeding the Tamagotchi's, a riveting round of snakes and ladders, bucket showering) at once. Any activity that took up time was added to the list. Eating, repacking our bags, making the bed, looking for rocks, counting license plates, deodorant shopping .... it was boredom at an all time high, and our travels at an all time low.
Side note on Pekanbaru, and possibly the only positive thing we have to say, is that the people were wonderful! We were a bit like freaks in town, everything we did became a spectacle; heads turned as though we were playing banjos while naked and picking our noses. We couldn't communicate (even with the Indonesian-English dictionary we bought out of boredom), but were always greeted kindly! Trevor got a "Hello Mister!" and people consistently pointed at his hair. The girls especially took to him ... old ladies, married women, little girls ... everyone was giggly giggly no matter what he did. Kristena got a "Hello Madame! Where is your husband??" (as well as good sturdy boob stare). Indonesia is mostly Muslim, so it's kinda like being back in Egypt, but the men aren't as creepy. They're just
more ... shall we say "intrigued"? We're thinking they don't see many white girls.
Anyways, we have survived (we should get a medal!) and are now in Bali. Plans have changed a little bit and we're a little bummed about that, but we're realizing we can't do it all! There are no power cuts in Bali, Hallelujah, we love it already!!!
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I applaud you guys so much for dealing with all the crap along the way. It seems like good fun, but I'd be so frustrated by now. Glad the Tamagotchi's kept you entertained haha didn't even know those things were still available. but SE asia looks like an experience. good luck with the rest. ps I just spent about an hour at work reading your last blogs cuz I'm bored doing all this office work ha
hohoho, pekanbaru is not a travel town. it is a worker town. you cannot find any tourist spot but you can find any white people in rumbai (in the north of pekanbaru) which is the main office of Chevron Pasific Indonesia Ltd. Actually at lates time, the pekanbaru's government had make several new attractive spot like a giant library and a lot of shopping centre. hope you'll be back in my hometown, dude.. cheers