Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Travel Log: Indonesia Day 4

This week back at work, people are sharing their travel stories. I love hearing about amazing places and potential "nexts" and have also received a couple compliments on my photos from Indonesia. "It looks like you had a great time," I hear, and yeah I enjoyed my trip, but there were also days that sucked. This reminded me how social media is often used for the good. We post to bolster ourselves up, nurturing the FOMO culture. So here's a bit of a downer from my travel log to help keep things more honest.

Dec 20th, 2018

Rainy season is not a misnomer. I was lucky with 3 days of no rain for my first week in Malang on Java and I was beginning to think the rest of my trip would follow suit. Unfortunately nope. Today it poured all day. If I could go back in time, I think I would have hidden the day away inside with a book, but nope. I was trying to make the most of it...

The morning started off okay as I switched from Nuu's place to Wandi's via GoJek motorbike. Once I arrived at Wandi's and put my things away, his friend came to take me around the area on his motorbike while Wandi went to work. It was cloudy, but I wasn't really concerned, yet. We made it to the first temple all right, but a few minutes on the road afterward, it started spitting.

Walking around a temple area
before the rain.
Then the watefall unleashed. There I was on the back of a motorcycle, unprotected from these watery pellets, mentally kicking myself because my rain protection was attached to the outside of my backpack. My guide, while he couldn't speak English, didn't like the rain much either and pulled over to a random and slightly run-down porch (the only other occupants a chicken and her chicks). I hopped off, eager to put on my rain gear while he used a translator to tell me he was going to get a jacket from a friend.

It struck me a moment after he sped away that I probably should have been mildly concerned that he left me in the middle of nowhere in the rain. What if he doesn't come back, I thought for a moment, and then again as the minutes dragged on. I think it was nearly 20 minutes before he returned and we continued on our way. Sadly, there was no change in the weather.

Waiting for my guide
to come back.
We zipped up higher into the mountains and clouds and I wondered what gems were hidden by the rain and gloom. When we arrived at our next destination, we passed through manicured fields of green. Living on Jeju island, I quickly recognized the bushes for a variety of green tea, but had never seen so many rows weaving off in all directions. As we turned to head up higher, the road went from smooth asphalt to mini-bolders. Looking back now, I don't know how I managed to stay on the motorbike. It was like I was the ping-pong ball and the bike was the paddle. As the wheel moved forward, I was constantly jolted from my seat and I struggled to remain on the bike. When we finally made it to the flat trail and I dismounted, I was pretty sure I had done some permanent damage to my knees and dreaded the idea of returning back the way we came.

In case you forgot, it was still pouring and at this point, the clouds were so low that you could hardly see 100m in the distance. We took shelter with a group of teenagers and some older men beneath a bamboo hut. A small fire was going and I was grateful for a place by the warmth. If any photos of dripping, navy blue-clad nuns on the side of a foggy mountain appear on the interwebs, that's me. The boys weren't very discreet in snapping photos, but oh well. We didn't really have much else to do. One of the men spoke a little English and he eagerly tried to small talk while the others just listened or talked amongst themselves. For an hour. I'm not very good at small talk. Especially when I'm cold, wet, and trying to cross language barriers. But I want the record to know that he was nice and trying. When the rain finally let up enough for us to try the path, the man asked for a picture and even told me I was beautiful, although I really have to question his eyesight at that point...
Looking my finest in the weather.

Working in the rain.
I slipped down the trail (literally. I misjudged a step and ended up covered in mud and water), but at this point, it didn't really make a difference to my wetness level or mood. In the fields, I could see all of these women bundled in vibrant tarp-blue harvesting tea leaves. With the weather as it was, I was surprised they were still working away. Respect.

At last I arrived at an elevated lookout. Just look at my spectacular view (after everything that morning, of course I took a picture to document the experience):

Green tea fields in the rain.
I'm sure it's great on a sunny day, but it was just eerie in the rain and fog. I feel like this is where a horror film would start or end. After snapping that picture, I returned back toward the bike, my guide on my heels.

As we rode back down the mountain, the rain returned in force. At one point, it looked like we were trying to take the bike through a river. Considering the wetness, I assumed we were going back to Wandi's house, but nope. Instead he was taking me to another temple (because that's what Wandi had originally planned). All I wanted was to get somewhere dry and change my clothes. I was wearing a rain jacket, but it wasn't designed for this much water (more water resistant than repellant), and I could feel wet fingers running down my back and stomach. I couldn't see anything out of my glasses because they were fogged up and covered in raindrops, my shoes felt like mini pools that squelched with each step, and since water was underneath my shirt, I was certain it had managed to ooze through my bag as well. I was most definitely not in the mood to walk around another temple area.

If my guide had been there before, he probably thought it was the shortest visit of his life. I walked around in 5 minutes and then rushed back to the motorbike, visions of warm, dry clothes dancing behind my eyelids.

My guide contacted Wandi who came back to the house since his job was around the corner. It was not even lunchtime yet and I felt like the day was done. Wandi asked if I wanted some hot water to wash myself and I realized that there was no water heater aside from the plug-in element. My vision of warmth and dry clothes faded as I didn't want to keep Wandi from his work. I assured him I was fine, waved him off and then washed quickly clean in cool water instead. Definitely not the day I had envisioned.

I'm sure I could talk more about what I learned from this experience and how it was still valuable--and I'm sure it was--but it also sucked. Despite the warmer climate, I spent the next couple hours huddled under a blanket, chilled from the inside, my only company my book and the roaring sound of the wedding music blasting from the speaker on the street.

Love and Hugs

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