26. Sarangan, East Java. We enjoyed the mountains and resting. Our plans weren’t really to stop in Sarangan, but 40 kms. (about 28 miles) further on. But we didn’t realize how difficult the day before was going to be. We spent the night before in a resort town on the side of a volcano, which still gave off steam. We knew that we had to go five miles further up the volcano, down the other side and then on to the city of our destination. We also knew that we wouldn’t have pavement all the way.
But we didn’t know how difficult it was going to be. We had never taken our bikes up anything so steep, and we weren’t sure we had ever walked on such a steep road. It didn’t zigzag, but went straight up. At times we could barely go forward, and we had to rest 15 or 20 times a mile. The whole day we saw only two vehicles, one of which was a small truck hauling cabbage to villages below. In this area people who didn’t want to walk went by horseback.
Other people were working just as hard as we were … most of them women. They carried goods on their backs. We estimated women carrying cabbage had 25 or 30 large heads apiece. They rested much less frequently than we did, plodding steadily up, zigzagging across the road … to cut down on the steepness. It really affected Peggy … almost angered her … to see in that day and age women doing physical labor as hard as that. She thought that not many American women would do the same.
Sometimes the road was only loose stone, making it difficult to get good footing and making obstacles over which the bikes had to be pushed. Muscles we didn’t normally use got quite a workout.
We finally reached the top and got expectantly ready to coast down. But the road was made of stone … these flat and securely in place, but still worrisome, especially since bicycles weren’t ridden in the mountains, and there weren’t any bike shops. In addition, the grade was so steep that our brakes were inadequate to stop us. So we ended up walking a good deal of the three or four miles we went down, stopping now and then to give our hands a rest from gripping the brakes so tight.
Since this was a resort town, we figured all hotels would be too expensive for our budget. We decided to stop anyway, if we could find a place not much more expensive than what we normally paid. We almost gave up, when we found one for the equivalent of $1.00 U.S.. We’d been paying less than that, but we often paid that much or more in Sumatra. And besides having beautiful scenery, this was about the nicest room we had in Indonesia, with a private bath (including a sink with a stopper!), a rug between beds (one of which was big enough for both of us), and a sitting room, from which we could watch all the people who were there enjoying a Sunday outing in the mountains. The angle of the room to the road was such though that few people noticed us.
Most of the time we didn’t stay in hotels as nice as this one. Often even if the room was excellent, we’d have to share our light source (often a light bulb) with the room next to ours, and often walls that separated rooms and rooms from halls didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling. Ceilings were also often very high, which meant we never could control light. The light in the hallway would always be on, and our neighbors didn’t always want to sleep at the same time we did. And Peggy had a hard time sleeping because she needed total darkness to sleep. Mosquitoes were also a problem and didn’t seem to be affected by our coils. And when we were at sea level, we had to contend with the heat.
I was reading IVANHOE and spent a good deal of time using the dictionary. Chanee enjoyed running and jumping about the room. It was a good place for him because there was little he could get into. We still enjoyed him tremendously, but he was getting big. We had a constant argument with him about whether my glasses were for grabbing or not, as he threw them on the floor for the hundredth time. Finally they broke. Luckily we had a spare pair from Peace Corps days. But there weren’t any more spares, so we had to convince him to leave these alone.
Since we traveled away from where most white tourists went and since we had Chanee, we created a lot of comments wherever we went. We understood very little of what was said, partly because of the widespread use of local dialects. One of our recent hosts spoke very good English. We took a long walk with him, and Peggy noticed that he often smiled at villagers’ remarks. That was when she asked him what one lady said. He first pointed out that all Indonesians had black hair except old people. Then he said, “The woman asked, ‘Why do you have that animal, Grandmother and Grandfather?” They assumed Peggy and I were old people! How surprised we were! We were often called “Tuan” and “Ibu”, words of respect which translated literally to mean “Sir” or “Father” and “Mother.” But that was the first time we were aware of being considered to be more than middle-aged.
26. Djember, East Java. Bali was finally near … about 1 ½ days from Djamber by bicycle. We stopped for a day there because I was having trouble throwing off a bad cold, and we figured a day’s rest would help me. But within a day or two we would be on what was supposed to be the most beautiful and interesting of the Indonesian islands. (Assuming that Chanee didn’t keep us out: we heard something about Bali being rabies-free and thus strict about animals coming onto the island.)
We learned a couple days before we reached Surabaya that there was an American consular there, so we planned to circle back to this city after Bali in order to receive mail from home. We still didn’t have an idea when we’d return to Djakarta. We still planned to go to Japan.
Indonesia was … and I suppose it still is … a country of many, many dialects and languages. There was a national language, Bahasa Indonesia, but there were village people who couldn’t speak it, and every region gave it a different accent. These factors made our Bahasa Indonesia (spoken with a Sumatran accent) of little use sometimes. Making the simple request of “hot tea” sometimes took the efforts of three or four people before it was understood. Often those who could speak the national language well used it when they realized that we knew some of it but none of the local dialect.
Almost all conversations carried on between villagers, however, were in regional languages, with only sprinklings of Bahasa Indonesia. Peggy and I could usually tell when we were the topic of conversation, but we didn’t generally know what was being said. Peggy couldn’t help smiling, however, when she picked up the word for “tail” and the word she knew as “haircut” and realized that people thought we cut Chanee’s tail off!
Peggy and Randy Ford