Tag Archives: Peggy Ford

What does MAPLESS mean to me?

What does MAPLESS mean to me?

by Randy Ford

Mapless to Randy means living without planning and means he gets to live.  It has  led him to the DALLAS THEATER CENTER, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, TRINITY UNIVERSITY, THE PEACE CORPS, and to the idea of a trip around the world by bicycle.  It has led him and his wife to many different places, to many different experiences, and to the many different places they have lived.  It continues to be how Randy lives.  He knows he does not have a choice about it.  Sometimes he has been the engine and sometimes Peggy, his wife, has been the engine.  They have traded  places.  Sometimes it has worked for him and sometimes not.  Randy has always sought attention and fame.  Sometimes it has worked for him, sometimes not.  This could go on and on.  And it has in Randy’s mind.  Therefore if anyone tries to write a book about him a suggested title would be MAPLESS.

This site is an attempt to tell this story.  It has been MAPLESS.


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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 56th Installment

31. Djakarta. We still didn’t have definite plans but we sent home for additional funds so that no country could use “lack of funds” as an excuse for denying us visas. And having sufficient money to cover anything that might arise gave us piece of mind.

Checking on ships in Djakarta wasn’t an easy matter. There was no central clearing office, and we couldn’t find a printed schedule of arrivals and departures. On a cargo ship, it was the captain who took on passengers, or didn’t, as he liked. Thus, an individual shipping company knew approximately when its own ships were coming in, but they could do no booking of passage. That had to be arranged with the captain himself … after the ship was in port.

We went to several shipping companies but found nothing going directly from Djakarta to India. It looked as if we would have to go to Singapore and get another ship from there or Penang, Malaysia. Our Indonesian visas were due to expire in five days when we learned that a ship was sailing the next day for Singapore, but we couldn’t possibly be ready by then. We still had to sell our bicycles, get health papers for Chanee, consolidate our luggage, etc. We thought if things didn’t work out in time, we’d just have to ask for a few days extension on our visas.

The bureaucracy in India was supposed to be the biggest and most complicated in the world. We had already gotten a taste of it. In the Indian Embassy, a woman at the reception desk couldn’t give us visa information, as they did in other embassies. We first had to fill out a form requesting an interview and then wait about 10 minutes to ask very simple questions. When we returned a week later with our filled out applications, we had to wait again to pay a fee in a certain office. We then wanted to ask one simple question, but everyone kept telling us to fill out a request to talk to the man we saw the week before. So we let the question go.

This stay in Djakarta was eased very much because we were staying in a home. Not only did it greatly reduce our expenses, it also meant that we had a real home to go to instead of an unfriendly hotel room. Our hosts were unbelievably generous! Besides giving up a room for us, they gave us “for remember” a dress length piece of batik, a shirt, and a small family antique. They also had a big picture taking session, and we were presented with 8 nice photos, an expensive gift in Indonesia. And their cook was wonderful … the eating was really tops.

Our host, Saleh, was 47 and 20 years older than his wife, Roos. He demanded constant attention, often to the point of becoming quite annoying. Saleh was so demanding and overbearing that the middle boy (age 5) could only whisper and stammer when Saleh asked him a question. Both he and his 8 year-old brother stood at unbelievable attention when their father lectured them. The youngest, a really cute two year-old, didn’t talk at all. He could have had a physical disability, but Peggy didn’t think that was it. Seeing the poor fellow burst into tears almost every time Saleh spoke to him convinced her that the trouble was psychological. Roos was generally very gentle, and the boys were different people when only she was around.

Most of our free time went into writing Christmas cards. We finally gave up on finding local cards and bought UNICEF cards. While we were in Indonesia, we never received a number of our families’ letters. They were sent back to sender, and for periods of time we didn’t have an address to give people.

After two frustrating weeks of running here and there, following false leads and sitting and waiting and waiting, we were leaving Djakarta and Indonesia. We were not, however, going by ship as we planned, but we were flying directly to Bombay, India. It seemed that Djakarta, like Manila, was a poor city to leave by ship. We quickly gave up the idea of getting a ship directly from Djakarta to India and began looking for one to Singapore where there should’ve been some to India. Several ships were going from Djakarta to Singapore, but they weren’t licensed to carry passengers. (It was funny how law-abiding some people suddenly became in a country where breaking the law was the norm!) It appeared to us that the Indonesian government-run line had a monopoly on carrying passengers between Djakarta and Singapore, and we would have to wait another month or so to go with them.

It wasn’t until a day or so before our visas expired (when a fellow from the American Embassy spent an hour on the phone for us) that we began to piece everything together and to turn our thinking toward flying. Air India’s one flight a week from Djakarta (and from Singapore) was full with people going home for December holidays. The Czechoslovakian Airline, however, ran its weekly flight to Bombay so empty that travel agents gave a 25% under the table discount in order to get passengers. We figured that if we flew to Singapore, spent several days there looking for a ship, then sailed to Madras or Calcutta, we’d end up spending almost as much as the discount tickets would cost us. And besides having to get extra papers for Chanee, Singapore might turn out to be as big a run-around as Djakarta. So although we hated the psychological shock that the speed of the jet age caused us, we decided to go by air.

Chanee was causing Peggy the most worries. Getting the four papers we had to have for him to leave Indonesia required going to a vet and to two offices concerned and showing other papers. And we were concerned that they might spring something else on us at the airport. Arrangements for the flight itself, however, worked out smoothly. We were able to convince the airline that Chanee couldn’t be stored in his basket 24 hours prior to flight time. No matter what arrangements we worked out, however, he was going to be panicky in his basket where he couldn’t get to Peggy. I said he’d fall asleep right away and not wake until Peggy opened the basket in Bombay.

We thought our itinerary in India would become better formed when we got there. We heard the former Portuguese territory of Goa was a good place to rent cheap cottages. We wanted to stop for a couple of months to get a rest from always being on the go and to let some of the coldest weather in Europe go by. We also thought we could travel some in India, in the south, assuming that we liked that part of the country.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 55th Installment

29. Surabaja, East Java. We spent several hours in an excellent zoo here. From Surabaja we were heading for Kediri (for dental work) and Djakarta. Because of the limited time we had left on our visas, we were going by bus and truck. Our search for Christmas cards was unsuccessful.

We shared my mother’s feelings about “home” … although maybe not as strongly. Both Peggy and I wanted a “home” (but not necessary a house of our own). I wanted one so that I had a place to write regularly; Peggy so that she had something familiar to come to every day instead of always meeting new people, then leaving them behind. For that reason we wanted to stop soon, as we did in Bangkok.

And both of us missed our families. Christmas was fast approaching, and we wished that we could spend Christmas with them. But the thing was that if we went home, we’d have no money to get back to Asia. And there was so much more that we wanted to see and learn about. News and history were much more meaningful after having been to the places we read about. So we tried to say that we were not just having a good time … we were learning and gaining experiences that would be valuable the rest of our lives.

And as for our safety … from what we read in NEWSWEEK, we thought we were safer in Asia than in a big city in the U.S. We wrote our parents that we should worry more about them than they should worry about us. We thought then that we would be leaving Indonesia within a month.
30. Djakarta. We missed mail in Surabaja, which was forwarded to Djakarta. We were glad to get family news and learn that two of Peggy’s brothers weren’t sent to Vietnam. One escaped the draft for another year, and the other was fighting to retain his CO status.

Our hotel in Surabaja (although expensive and full of mosquitoes) had a couple of windfalls: a friendly couple from Katire (where a Southern Baptist missionary dentist was) and one from Djakarta. We stayed with the Katire couple a day and a half and had good conversations with neighbors of theirs who spoke good English. We both got our teeth checked and cleaned: Peggy had no cavities … maintaining her record … and I had only one small one.

Having a home to stay in in Djakarta was really wonderful. (We stayed with the couple we met in Surabaja.) Not only was it nicer to “go home” to a home than to a hotel, but the least expensive hotels in Djakarta were really dumps and a halfway clean one was prohibitively expensive. Our host was really warm. He knew only a little English. Our conversations were half English- half Indonesian, with frequent references to the dictionary, but he was insistent that we stay with him and his family as long as we wanted. His wife was very quiet (they were like the couple who licked the platter clean), but she too was friendly. We were treated quite royally: (Indonesians generally were much more considerate and sensitive hosts than Americans, letting us down only when it came to cultural differences, such as our need for privacy.) Meals were excellent, and snacks were frequent. And they were so insistent about having our laundry done for us that Peggy yielded a few pieces.

This was a major decision time for us. (Our letter to the Philippine was never answered.) There were still 3 or 4 Indonesian islands we really wanted to visit, but Indonesian immigration wouldn’t give us any more time. Besides, six months of slow, difficult travel was enough for one stretch. Likely, we could get more time in Indonesia if we had teaching jobs, but we didn’t really want to stay in Djakarta, and the pay scale there was very low. Japan would be too cold for several months. Also, language in Japan would be a major problem, and the Japanese were supposedly about the least friendly … outwardly at least … of Asians. Maybe later, but for this trip we thought Japan was off.

One of our main ideas upon leaving the Philippines was that traveling in Asia would give me a chance to work with various drama groups, thus increasing my knowledge and experience. But bicycle touring became more of an obsession than drama. Our idea now was to sell our bicycles in Djakarta and travel by ship and other transportation to Europe, that leg being rather rapid. Once in Europe we thought we could pick countries where we wanted to spend more time. I called this a “survey course,” in which we could see what was around for which we would like to return at a later date. If we found a good place to stop on this trip, we could do so … or we could keep going. (Probably we would buy bikes again in Europe.)

So now we had to figure out a tentative route from Djakarta to Europe and find appropriate and cheap transportation. We also needed to find out about weather conditions and which countries were liable to give us a hard time about Chanee. We were still looking for local Christmas cards, and Peggy had a fair amount of correspondence to catch up on. We knew that we would stay busy until time for our visas to expire with the exact date of our departure dictated by shipping schedules. We wanted to get a ship; direct from Djakarta to Pakistan or India, but more likely we would have to go through Singapore and make further arrangements from there. In the meantime we puddled about our various errands (the rainy season had just started) and tried not to get too totally spoiled by our hosts.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 54th Installment

27. Tabanan, Bali. As touted Bali was very beautiful. It was also different because of the influence of Hinduism and very colorful. We arrived when rice terraces were green, but the two days to Tabanan were long and hard because of hills. Both days we didn’t reach our destination until after dark, which made for very late meals. There were more volcanoes and a rocky gorge. The island was lush, and there were temples everywhere. And as we rode along, the ocean was almost always close enough to hear it.

In front of almost every house we saw family shrines. There were also shrines (plain and elaborately carved) in rice fields, cemeteries, markets, and on beaches, in caves, and on hilltops. We ran into people with offerings of flowers and fruits at temples and on the road. Some walked in-groups with offerings, and they wore colorful sorongs (worn by both men and woman).

Some women went topless. Some women wrapped a towel around their tops. Others had just a square of cloth that hung very loosely. 90% of the women had something on the top, though it was often only halter-like. Of those who were topless, most of the older women didn’t seem self-conscious when we rode by, but many of the younger women either turned to the other way or strategically placed their arms over their breasts. It was exciting to finally be on Bali. And since it had been a destination of ours, we were happy to be there.

28. Den Pasar, Bali. We mostly enjoyed our visit to Bali. We stayed on the island a little over three weeks, 2 ½ of them in the capital city of Den Pasar. There we had a very nice, big room with a picture window and an almost private porch. The hotel was well landscaped, and right outside our room was a perfect tree (called a Cambodian tree) for Chanee (perfect, that is until the day before we left when he broke four good-size branches and had to be kept on the ground). We spent a good deal of our time on Bali sitting on this porch buried in books. We were tired of being on our bicycles and still had colds. Tropical colds seemed harder to kick than winter ones. But the weather was wonderful … not too hot.

We spent one day on a beautiful beach and another riding up to the largest temple on the island. The ride back was mostly down and unforgettable. We arrived back at the hotel two hours after dark, having spent some time at a festival with Borong masks and figures ten feet tall.

Where we stayed was the only hotel we stayed in Indonesia in which there were mostly other white people. We hadn’t talked to other Americans or Europeans in so long that at first we were somewhat nervous, but we soon began to enjoy conversing with others who shared the same cultural values as ours. (No matter how well educated an Asian was or how fluent his or her English, there was no way of getting around the fact that he or she was raised in a society with many of cultural emphases different from ours.) We were quite surprised at the number of European and Australian young people (the U.S. was further away) traveling like us … not on bicycles, but at least overland, many hitchhiking when possible and with little money. A few spoke some of the Indonesian languages, but none liked paying more than local people (like we hated tourist who dealt in dollars!); and some of them were rougher bargainers than most Indonesians. We were especially taken by one British man, a national (maybe international) bicycle racing champ, whose wife and son were waiting in England while he went to Australia to see if he thought they would like to emigrate there.

Bali was indeed a beautiful place with some of the most breath-taking views we saw on our trip and some really impressive Hindu temples. Watching the practice of some of the religious customs was also fascinating. But we were very disappointed in what tourism had done to the island. We did come in contact with some genuinely friendly sincere people, but too large a percent seemed interested only in trying to get as much money as possible from TOURIST. We were sick of having that word hollered at us everywhere we went. And venders often quoted their prices in U.S. dollars. We were used to Chanee attracting a lot of attention, but Bali was the only place where children’s first question was, “How much did he cost?” Since being in Asia, many people told us to be sure to get to Bali on this trip, before it was taken over by tourists. As far as we were concern, the take-over had already occurred.

Balinese artwork … carving etc. … catered to tourists, with little of the traditional standard work evident except in the museum. But we were pleased enough of what we found to do all of our Christmas shopping there, and we shipped our gifts from there. Den Pasar handled enough packages that we figured that it would be the safest post office in the country.

28. Surabaja, East Java Again. All morning we rode like the wind, getting our strength from the letters we thought we would get in Surabaja. But we were disappointed. Peggy didn’t receive anything from her family, and there was no reply about a drama job for me in the Philippines (we mailed three copies of that letter to make sure the inquiry got through). Two letters from my mother kept it from being a wasted trip. We didn’t know what the problem was. Maybe our letters weren’t getting through. And maybe something would be waiting for Peggy in Djakarta.

So our first errand in Djakarta would be to go to the American Embassy for mail and see if we had a letter from the Philippines. If not, we’d have to get on the stick and see what else we could come up with right away. We had two ideas then. Since we thought it would be too cold for Chunee in Japan, we could teach for a few months in Djakarta (in an institution similar to the language center at which we taught in Bangkok); or head overland to Europe until we found a place where we wanted to (and could) work. Either plan would involve a lot of running around in Djakarta, the former to find places for work and a place to stay and the latter to get visa information and learn which countries would be liable to give us trouble about Chanee.

Randy and Peggy Ford

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 53rd Installment

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

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 52nd Installment

25. Joggakarta Java. Jogga, as this city is usually called, is the cultural center of Java. We had mostly pleasant, leisurely days of one or two activities while we were there. It made for an enjoyable week, but it started out frustratingly because we had more trouble than usual finding an acceptable but cheap hotel. And there was apparently only one bank around that cashed traveler’s’ checks, but we finally got some money. After a hotel and money were taken care of, things seemed to go smoother. (One exception was the morning we gave a 50 rupiah “donation” to go into a royal cemetery, where we saw little more than beggars and public toilets. The same morning we were kicked out of a zoo because of Chanee … although no one said anything as we bought our tickets.)

We got into a habit of sleeping late, and most afternoons we spent some time in the room, often with me reading to Peggy. I became quite involved in Schlesinger’s A THOUSAND DAYS, which didn’t increase our respect for Nixon. Chanee definitely approved of these periods in the room because he was free to play. His favorite game (besides dragging clothes around the room) was to climb up his rope, stretched across the room from which he could make various attacks on me.

Our best experience in Jogga was an introduction to Indonesian classical dance … particularly ballet troops that performed (in four nights) the ancient Hindu epic of RAMAYANA. (A good deal of Indonesia was Hindu in the 9th and 10th centuries. Islam later became the national religion … except on Bali …but the RAMAYANA survived.) Classical dance as performed in Jogga is very different from western ballet, and we found it very fascinating. The second night we were in Jogga we went to the first of a four-night performance of the ballet. The RAMAYANA is an epic tale from India, one which much of Hinduism is based. Seeing the RAMAYANA in Jogga was extra special. It is performed on a huge outdoor stage (I thought it was 75 yds. long, and Peggy thought it was 50.) and in the background could be seen an ancient Hindu temple, the tallest one of a complex. Spotlights during the performance on the temple reminded the audience of the relationship of the temples and story. The main temple was almost restored and was awesome!

These Hindu temples were some of most interesting we visited anywhere. All of the walls were stone and were beautifully carved, some with mythical figures, some with Hindu gods, and some in panes told the RAMAYANA. The detail and beauty of these carvings made us visit the temples twice.

We also went two nights to the RAMAYANA and to one night of a festival in which shortened versions of the same story were presented from different parts of the country. The dances were held 12 miles from town. Since we didn’t like to ride our bicycles after dark, we went out by bus and hitchhiked back on trucks, there being no more buses at that hour. One of the nights the truck driver spoke very good English. We got acquainted with him, visited his home and visited a class he ran on Javanese classical dance. From the class we learned a little bit about hand movements, dance steps and about the instruments in their equivalent of an orchestra.

Early in the week we also visited a silver work factory, where we saw in process all the steps from an ugly, dull sheet of metal to beautiful shiny dishes, forks, or pins … all done by hand. We then went to a batik research center, where we saw not only the stamp process that we saw in Malaysia, but also a process in which the wax was drawn on with a special pen. The hand-drawn method took two or three weeks to complete on a piece of clothe about 3 yds. long. The whole process took about three months. Naturally, the hand drawn ones were quite expensive but were not as perfect as those by stamp.

We also visited a couple of museums, one of which made us realize all the “confrontations” and “clashes” Indonesia had been through in the past 30 years; and a bird market, which had all sorts of birds we had never seen before. Peggy’s favorite was a turquoise blue one, about the size of a robin and with a bright orange beak and a similarly colored strip across the back of his neck. That was the only specimen like it she ever saw. It was like seeing the hornbill we saw in the jungle of Sumatra. Peggy and I argued then over whether it was a greater or a lessor hornbill. She thought it was a lessor. I thought it was a greater.

By then we were both well. Peggy’s amebic dysentery seemed to have left her after she took medicine prescribed in Djakarta, and we had just cleared up the last of the infections on our feet. Our biggest disturbance then was concerns about where we could settle down for a while … until it was spring in Japan. Because of our visa situation, we knew we couldn’t stay in Indonesia. We still hadn’t given up the idea of going to Japan. I was itching to do some writing and theater work. We were thinking seriously of returning to the Philippines if a drama person I knew well could use me for a few months. We were racking our brains, trying to find a way we could get an answer back before we returned to Djakarta by which time we hoped we knew where we were heading next. Our other concern was that we were out of touch with our families. It was rather out of the way then to go back to Djakarta, but we didn’t know of any place else to receive mail. So we decided to keep wandering, heading further eastward toward Bali. That was all we could tell our families because our short-range plans were barely more definite than our long range ones.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 51st Installment

22. Djakarta. When traveling in country, Indonesians were required to carry “road letters” with them. Our “road letters” were our passports, which we were asked to show everywhere we stayed. Often our passports were examined, passed around and examined page by page by huge groups of people, sometimes officials and police (military police and police of a town) and sometimes not. Often these people couldn’t read our passports, but they examined them carefully anyway. Our passports consequently took a beating. We therefore asked the American Embassy in Djakarta to do something, and they wrote “road letters” (and with copies in English and Bahasa Indonesian) for us. Here is an example.

Djakarta, Indonesia
August 14, 1970
This will certify that Kenneth R. Ford is an American citizen and bearer of U.S. Passport xxxxxxxx issued on April 23, 1969 at Manila, the Philippines. Mr. Ford and his wife Margaret Ford are on a bicycle tour across Indonesia. They intend to travel through Java to Bali and return to Djakarta.

Name: Mr. Kenneth R. Ford
Born: Texas, U.S.A. March 4, 1943
Address: Irving, Texas
Richard R. La Roche
Vice Consul of the United States of America

The letters were never questioned, and they saved our passports.

23. Bandung, Java. We spent 9 days in Djakarta, but afterward I couldn’t say that we did anything but go to embassies, renewed our visas, see a doctor and search for items we thought we needed. We spent most of our time riding our bicycles from place to place … which wouldn’t have been possible (or possibly safely) in either Bangkok or Manila.

In Java roads were good, but we weren’t going very far very fast. We spent four days in Bogor, because the director of a local war museum took us in and treated us like royalty. He gave us a diner party, and we spent our time in this beautiful city going through the botanical gardens (the largest in the world), a huge palace built by the Dutch and used by Sukano, and a zoo, the best we’d seen in Asia. We also participated in Indonesia’s independence celebration and witnessed traditional dances and drama.

From Bogor we took a bus to the top of Puatkat Pass (4,500 feet) and rode our bicycles down the other side to Bandung. On the way down, we raced past many cottages (including one that belong to the president), filled with people because of the holidays. Many people from Djakarta own cottages along there because it was cool and beautiful and because of its proximity to the city.

We then spent seven days in Bandung. At 2,500 feet Bandung was also cool. Like days we spent in other “change of air stations,” we didn’t do much. We read, finished books, and I started a second one about President Kennedy. The few excursions we took were short. None took longer than half a day. We located a zoo (we were always on the lookout for zoos) and climbed an active volcano that looked like a boat from a distance. We pushed our bikes up it, so that we could coast down. Inside the volcano was a beautiful cultivated valley where people grew vegetables. Yet the crater, which was nearby, gave off smoke and steam and the smell of sulfur. It was the fifth active volcano we saw, and each one was different.

24. Megalang, Java. We spent almost all of the next week on the road. The scenery was spectacular. The first day out of Bandung we went across a high plateau, and the going was tough because of a strong head wind. We fought a strong head wind most of the week, but the scenery and people made up for it. We went through one of the most beautiful valleys we’d seen, with rice terraces like the ones we saw in the Philippines. When we ended up in a town without a hotel, people were generous as usual and took us in. (Indonesians seemed like the most generous people we met so far.) Then after pushing our bicycles five kilometers out of a valley, we had a rather easy day and stopped early in the afternoon to see a performance of the Royal Circus of India. The circus was excellent. We spent that night with a Chinese Christian minister and were convinced to spend an extra day to enjoy a local lake. The next three days on the road were generally hard because of strong head winds, the strongest were when we crossed huge open rice fields, some over a kilometer long. We detoured in order to see Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in world. And we ran out of stream before we could take all of it in … all 1460 relief panels and 504 Buddha effigies.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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