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Author: Maria Zehentner
Beitrag vom: 05.07.2018

The alternative, which didn`t sound bad!


We had prepared the course for our future travel as far as possible. What that might look like, I'll report, if we ourselves knew more, until then I do not want to bore you with our speculation, because there were too many of them. At the moment we only had to keep our fingers crossed.

Since we did not expect any answers to our emails in the next few days, we set off eastwards. If we are already on Sumbawa, then we wanted to see more than only west Sumbawa. On Sumbawa there is generally only one "good" road leading from west to east. We chugged one curve after the other on the track and struggled with widening fatigue, when suddenly a welcome change shook us out of our monotony. A water buffalo race right on the roadside, how awesome!
Daring young men fought in a race on simple wooden sledges pulled by two bulls in a mud field. Driven by the "Jockey", the animals galloped on a snort and were cheered on by the shrieking audience. Not infrequently, a team got out of control and thundered unchecked on the crowd. Barricades or security measures did not exist. Everyone was responsible for his own safety. The prize money? The price was the reputation of the village community, and a damp handshake by the mayor. On the commercial islands water buffalo races are usually held only for tourists.
The inhabitants of Sumbawa were smarter, instead of laboriously plowing the ground with a plow, they made a folk festival out of it and chased the buffaloes over the field, afterwards they planted rice in the fields. We were the only White Spectators, and Leander was thinking about the invitation of the locals to join in the game. He declined with thanks, because a few days earlier he surfed a wave too hard and bruised his back.

Before we moved on to the harbor to get to Flores,the next Island, we stopped in Lakey Peak, which is in the south. A pure surfer point, but besides that nothing special. At least for us. Long sandy beaches lined with garbage, with rough waves coming into the bay. We felt obliged to do something useful and grabed like so often a bag and started cleaning the beach. It was full with plastic, nappies, leftovers, single shoes, toothbrushes, cans.... We placed the full bag in front of an overflowing dustbin, being observed by the skeptical-looking locals. We were kind of crazy in their mind, but that did not bother us.

From Lakey Peak we went half across the island to the port of Desa Bugis, from where the ferry to Flores left. We needed a whole day for 150 km and unfortunately came too late. The ticket counter had already closed. We met two German couples, who suffered the same fate. We were all hungry and stumbled into a nearby warung. For about 3 € we served three of us from the buffet, drank several water and plastered muffins for dessert. We were used to cheap prices in Indonesia, but this bill beat everything, and the food was delicious.

In the pich-black night we walked back to the truck two by two. I walked on the outside and did not really care about that, as soon as a scooter rider drove straight towards me and tried to grab my wallet, which I carried loose in the hand. Instinctively, I clenched my fingers tighter, why he could not tear it away from me, from where I picked it up very quickly. I was pretty lucky, because my whole life was in this wallet, cash, creditcards...! After two years, this was the first time someone tried to rob us and to be honest, I was a bit guilty too, because I should not have carried it loose in my hand.

We were among the first, when the ticket office opened in the morning and were still standing in front of it, when the ship was about to leave. The unexpectedly high ticket price of nearly 700 € (return ticket) prevented us, from driving into the hull of the ship. Again and again we tried to convince the employee, that he calculated the the wrong category and that we paid less on the other ferry routes. But he did not care. Do it or not! We could not decide that fast, it was a lot of money.

To find some tome to think about the offer, we drove a few kilometers north of the coast and hoped for a parking lot, where we could find some rest. We drove by far through the dirtiest track we had ever driven. Garbage piled up for miles on the left and right of the street like we had never seen before. The usual plastic was joined by dead animals, refrigerators, car tires and other indefinable stuff. It stank like hell, it was even too much for the flies, because they fled into the truck and took the advantage of a free ride out of here. It was incomprehensible to me how people could live here. In addition to sheep, goats and dogs, we saw as well people digging in the garbage, in the hope to find something useful.

After the village stopped, the garbage gradually stopped too, and we stopped directly at the road. We did not find a better pitch, which did not bother us much. A decision, what to do with the high price for the ferry was at least taken relatively quickly. We saved the money for the ferry and did not go to Flores. If we would regret this decision was difficult to say. It was fact, that Flores was not less curvy and hilly than the the other islands we already traveled through, we were tired of tumbling around in the cab like marbles. According to the map, forests and residential areas came very close to the beaches, which promised "communicative" pitches. The roads, or rather the one road that led through the island, was totally comparable to those we already knew from the other islands. As a result, we naturally had to drive the route back, because the ship from Timor to Australia was no longer an alternative for us. There were no connections from Flores to Australia, nor from Sumbawa or Lombok. Which meant, that we would have to drive back many, many miles, if we did not want to get stuck in Indonesia. We decided not going to Flores.

In order not to stumble back exactly the same route from which we had come, we turned off at the major intersection of the island and kept to the north. The area was still completely unknown to us. Maybe we were in the mood to climb the 2.722 m high volcano Tambora? It was in the direction we were driving, who knows? If we were in the mood?

We rattled thoughtlessly along the street with the windows open, when we saw a small truck in the side mirror, going to overtake us. There were about a dozen people in the back of the truck, nothing out of the ordinary in Indonesia. As he rode with us at the same height, I glanced out the window and had to look twice. Is there a little boy demonstratively holding out his stinky finger? A questioning look at Leander confirmed my guess. Grinning triumphantly, the boy held our gaze and disappeared in a cloud of dust with the truck. Leander shoutet: "I`m gonna teach this boy a lesson!“ and squeezing the gas pedal. However, the slope of the road worked against us, and the missing horsepower under the hood let us fall far behind. The truck disappeared out of our view. It was not to be overseen, that Leander tried to get the most out of Akela`s engine to get forward. He did not give up, I could see it in his face. I do not know what bothered him more, the stinky finger, or the ever-growing distance between us and the other vehicle. But what was that? A few turns later, the truck appeared at the roadside. You always meet twice in your life!

The boy felt safety in the group and did not expect, that Leander would stop the truck. That`s why he showed us again his stinky finger. "You foolish boy," shot through my brain. I was curious what would happen now. Leander jumped out of the cab, sprinting to the little truck, and stopped in front of the boy. His mischievous grin turned into a fear-distorted look. As fast as he could, he tried to climb on the back of the truck. Leander followed with lightning speed. Of course, he did not grab him at his collar, but he gave him clearly to understand, that he was a naughty, cowardly, little lout who deserved a juicy slap !! To make it even more dramatic, he pulled out his right and slammed it into his left. The boy started to cry and pinched his legs suspiciously. He had learned his lesson! Leander, trying to look angry, although he could barely handle the laugh, jumped off the back of the truck. Very politely he said good buy to the other passengers, came back to Akela and continued driving. He understood no mercy with meaningless stupidities, no matter if it is a human or child like in this case. Grinning with satisfaction, we continued our journey.

We sat eternally silent in the driver's cab and looked at the landscape, as suddenly the same thoughts slipped across our lips. "It looks like in Mongolia here!" The environment had changed abruptly from bushy forests into an empty, gently rolling landscape. It was only a small strip, because a few miles further, the landscape started being the same as we knew it from Indonesia. We stopped, turned and drove into the area. A warm feeling started to come up in our hearts. Should we find on this place peace and silence, which we were chasing after for months? There was nothing, no houses, no people, no rubbish, only a few cows looked at us with bored eyes. We got out, left Akela and explored the last few meters on foot. We walked down a slope, behind which the sea was hidden. A tiny, small and clean beach opened to us. It was beautiful and almost unreal. Luckily we had filled up the water tanks and food in the last village. Freedom here we are!

The next days we did exactly what we wanted, and nothing else. The bathing suits stayed in the wardrobe. We loved jumping naked into the ocean, splashing and squeaking like little kids and then drying ourselves in the warm sun. We ate dinner in the open air, where the stars were beaming at a later hour, while we warmed ourselves at the crackling campfire. We missed this carefree and boundless feeling, which we experienced while crossing Central Asia, so much, because it is almost impossible to find such places in Indonesia. We had it the last time in Siberia! In Indonesia it is nearly impossible to set up your camping gear outside and enjoy dinner peacefully. In no time we would have been surrounded by heaps of people, who found it interesting just watching us.

Early in the morning, we climbed a nearby hill and watched the sun moving inch by inch across the horizon, while we ate pancakes, prepared on our outdoor cooker. Lennox had to do some school work too, but not while bending over a boring school book, no! Is there a better teacher than nature? Leander prepared an exciting scavenger hunt for him? He was always on fire, when working on such tasks. He would have loved it, if someone would have done a scavenger hunt with him when he was little. He really did not make it easy for Lennox. Equipped with clues, compass and treasure map, our little one set off to find the hidden treasure.

We enjoyed the last days immensely, but were realistic enough to know, that we had to concretise the further travel plans. Hopefully in the had arrived some answers to our written emails. Now we needed internet. We knew a place with good internet signal and also a good infrastructure around, Kencana Beach.

We were not superstitious but nevertheless, we had a bad feeling to return to the place, where we had experienced many negative impressions. At least the beach security guys welcomed us friendly, when we arrived unexpectedly in the parking lot. Already from a distance they waved and smiled at us. While parking was free on our first visit, the receptionist at the nearby resort approached us this time and wanted to charge us IRR 50,000, the equivalent of € 3 per night. She argued with the reason, that a German group with 15 vehicles like ours would arrive, and they had to pay too. The spit stuck in our throat, when we heard that. How many guided German camping groups would be traveling with us in Indonesia at the same time? It could only be the group, that had just given us a cancellation for shipping with them to Australia, and they did it in a rather uncharacteristic way. OMG, that could be funny. Leander got a bit nervous, before the group was even here.
Lennox and I went swimming. We have not been for long into the water, when the first German-speaking tourists showed up. The convoy had arrived, doubtless. We walked back to Akela, who was surrounded by foreign vehicles. I felt like being on a campsite somewhere on the upper Adriatic. Clotheslines were stretched, camping chairs and tables were set up and people running around everywhere. Goodbye peace!
When we arrived at the truck, I found the group leader and Leander in a discussion. They argued and discussed loudly, but why? The ongoing discussion was lost time for me. Their decision was made, they didn`t take us with them. The arguments, that led to this decision were flimsy and anyways and the appearance of the organizer was very unsympathetic. The longer we thought about this case, the quieter we became. Who knows what the decision was good for.
By now, a lot had happened and the glass was no longer half empty, but half full. This approach made a big difference and could move mountains.

We had found an agency, which could ship our beast to Australia. Instead of Dilli we had to go back to Jakarta, but we had already expected that, and the ship would not arrive in Darwin, the north of Australia, but in Melbourne, the opposite end on the red continent. We had to reschedule the entire route and adjust the weather seasons. When we had a closer look on the map we even thought, that Melbourne was much more suitable for our personal route planning than Darwin.

Time was no longer a permanent constant in our minds. In mid-September we wanted to be back in Bali. We had the possibility to accomodate Akela carefree at the Villa Latitude for one month, while we flew back to Austria.

Bali was also a good base to clean Akela, when we came back from Austria, that he meets the Australian entry requirements. We already had good contacts in Bali, and appreciated the infrastructure, which was beneficial for our project.

Even for the initially unsolvable asbestos problem we found a solution. A post in an overlander forum helped. Leander tracked an Australian asbestos expert, who worked together with the Australian government. He agreed to fly to Bali and checking Akela for possible asbestos parts. Almost for free, he just charged us the flights and his accomodation. Based on the results, we could organize new parts back in Austria, which needed to be changed in order to enter Australia asbestos-free. But, we still needed to find a good mechanic who was able, to do the replacement work. Since we are on the road we experienced, that Indonesia was the first country where we could not find any reasonable mechanics. But we did not despair now, we had time to look around and who knows what else is gonna happen. A lesson we learned during our trip was being patient, even Leander. Good things take time and or simply put it to the universe.
At least, we could breathe halfway relaxed and were back on track.
For a non-traveler it's hard to imagine, that the past few weeks have caused multiple heart attacks, burnouts and marital crises, and in addition we have spent months of planning and went through lots of bureaucracy to get here. Not mentioned the financial burden of shipments, of which we had four since Vladivostok, not counting island hopping in Indonesia. And, the really big one, from Jakarta to Melbourne was just getting started. We did not save all the money or owe it to a sponsor, who gave us the money. Every penny was hard earned during the trip.

But enough complained. Such sections are "part of the game", we learned this lesson well during our trip. We planned to stay the rest of the time on Sumbawa, where we felt at home.

After a night in Thomas`Alam Dita, we packed up and drove south to the beach of Sekonkan. A small rocky bay with sand as fine as powdered sugar, emerald green water and no human soul. The view out of our terrace did not have to hide behind any postcard motive. It was stunning!

But Neptune seemed to have worry wrinkles on his forehead and seemed to get rid of his anger by sending seven to eight-meter-high waves to the beach, combined with a staggering rumble of thunder. The roaring white water of the waves washed true treasures to the beach. Many of them were crushed by the force of the water, others remained safe, just waiting to be found by us. Sekonkan Beach was not the best place for Lennox and me, to get our shell collection passion under control. But honestly, nobody can resist a Nautilus!

Not only the water was restless. There was a general change in the weather, which was expressed by strong winds and falling temperatures. We needed to wear jackets in the evening or had to throw a blanket over, if we wanted to sit outside. Doesn`t it sound funny, when I write about winter is coming in Indonesia? But Indonesia has different weather seasons too, and one of them is winter.

The weekend was just around the corner and we really wanted to make our way back to Lombok. But laziness won and we stayed for another couple of days.

It was a sunday, I knew it because I read it in my handwritten notes. Fact is, that I will never forget what happened on this day.

Leander woke up early in the morning and hissed at Lennox, if it was really necessary to wake us up so early with his romp. Lennox replied annoyed, that he was still asleep, turned back around, put his thumb in his mouth and continued grunting.

Leander turned to me and asked: "Did I just imagine it, or did the truck just shake around heavily?” But, I felt it too. We could not figure out the reason why, and in the end we did not care much about it. We did it like Lennox, and fell back asleep.

There was no Internet signal directly on the beach, so Leander drove with our bike occasionally to the main road where he had reception, and loaded our messages on the phone. He came back very excitedly and explained, that Akela's morning wiggle came from an earthquake on the neighboring island of Lombok. I asked him, how he did know that. He showed me internet articles and messages from friends who were asking, if we were ok.

The Indonesian Islands are located on a ring of fire. Different earth plates meet there and are in constant motion. The geologists among us are certainly up to date, the others may have a look at Google to inform themselves, if they are interested in. An earthquake with the magnitude of 7.1 was measured around the area of ​​the volcano Mount Rinjani on Lombok, which was really heavy, because even we felt it on the neighboring island.
Leander stared at me inquiringly and asked "Did you get it?" I looked at him annoyed and asked him, if he thinks that I am stupid. Of course I knew what an earthquake was. He continued looking at me! It took me a few seconds to get the enlightenment. Hallelujah, there was something else. Less than a week ago we were thinking about of going back to Lombok and wanted to climb Mount Rinjani on exactly that mentioned Sunday, I mentioned before.
But we were to lazy. Nobody wanted to drive the truck and to hop on the ferry, neither climb up on Mount Rinjani due to the weather conditions. So we stayed on Sumbawa, lucky we. If we had driven as planned, we would now be incarcerated with over 300 tourists in the region around the volcano, or worse. We did not know anything exactly but we got so much information to know, that the north of Lombok was hit very hard by the earthquake.

Our friend Jim was also worried about us and made sure with a text message, if we had noticed the quake and if we were ok. We hesitated long enough, but at some point we had to go back to Lombok. For the next few days, we were watching the sea, the waves, the weather in general and the earthquake app, which we had downloaded. There weren't many options left for us. The forecasters didn`t sound well for the following days, but there was a very small time frame for the coming Sunday, and we decided to risk it.

Our friend came to visit us the Saturday before we planed to leave the Island. He grabbed Lewis, his nick name for Lennox, named after the famous boxer Lennox Lewis, and went to the beach with him. When Leander and I returned from a walk, we saw them sitting on a rock being immersed in a conversation.

We joined them. While Leander had already climbed up the rock, I was still hanging in the wall. I reached for a safe grip and tried to climb up, as suddenly the rock I was clutching on became loose. I couldn't claw an alternative fast enough. My first thoughts, I`m falling. Boom, boom, crash, boom - ooh! Dazed, I ended up on the floor. At a first glance, I could not see any serious injuries, except burning abrasions on my arms and legs. I gave the boys a sign, that everything was ok and jumped up in the affect. My knees trembled like wild, but everything else was good.

Jim said goodbye after dinner and we started packing for tomorrow's departure. I felt it more and more clearly, that I could barely step on my right foot. Pain-distorted, I hobbled through the truck trying to clean up, but left finally everything lying around and hid myself under tears in our bed. Leander was worried, because he had never seen me crying cause of pain before. Even when I gave birth to my kids, I hardly made any noises. Even after two heavy pain killers I bent in pain in the bed. At some point I must have fallen asleep, and So did Leander. I felt really sorry, because I was moaning the half night. I tried to step on my foot the next morning, but there was no chance. The pain had subsided a bit, but the ankle was still hellishly insulted and heavily swollen.

Anyways, we decided to go to the port and take the ferry to Lombok, knowing that I would not be able to help Leander the next few days. But it was the last reasonably weather window for the next time. Sitting in the cab was a single ordeal. The hits of the bumps and potholes of the road were transferred one by one to my leg. Lennox and I did a shift change. As I crouched down in bed, Lennox climbed to his dad into the driving cabin and helped him. Loud laughter and resounding music pushed back to me. I was happy about it, because I didn't like it when Leander was alone behind the wheel. Gradually I fell into a sleep due to the rumbling and woke up just before the harbour.

There were only a few vehicles waiting on a ferry to Lombok, which was unusual because normally the ships were bang full. Leander asked the staff and the passengers who had just arrived on the last ship from Lombok what the swell was like. The employees of the shipping company tried to reassure him, while the tourists who just came from the other side disagreed.

He came to me in the truck, where we discussed what to do now. There was no hope for a weather change the next few days, it even should get worse. On the other hand we were thinking, that the responsible persons would not be so stupid and send out a ship if it was too dangerous. Or would they? We were in Indonesia, did anyone even think about it?

We bought a ticket and sent a prayer to the universe. We rattled up the ramp and drove into the hull of the ship. The last crossing to Lombok, not only for us.

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