Day 652: You Don’t Know Jakarta

14.10.10:

Thursday took a while to get going.  While my fellow travellers (in another cabin and arguably less full of Johnnie Walker) were rudely awoken at the crack of dawn by the call to prayer (which – don’t tell Osama – the vast majority ignored) I happily slept right through it – I also slept through the screaming babies, the over-amped cellphone jingles and the locals chatting at a volume that can only be described as ‘11’.

Hooray for whisky.

Incidentally, if I made an independently intelligent robot butler out of paperclips and Bovril I would not require him to worship me at 4am for two reasons.  One is that it would wake me up.  The other is that I’M NOT A TOTAL WEIRDO.

Just saying…

Anyway, a day mostly spent at sea.  There were some games of le tete merde and maybe I did some card tricks (but alas, no beer was available to win) and some good old fashioned banter and self-righteous putting the world to rights.  It was a bit of a surprise that given our very timely departure that by late afternoon we still weren’t in port in Jakarta.  It came as more of a surprise at 8pm when Rangga texted me from his vantage point somewhere on board and told me that the port was full(!) and the anchor had gone down.

Luckily, we didn’t have to stay a second night on the ferry and before too long Chiefy and I were heading through Jakarta in a taxi on our way to Jaksa Road – the backpacker hub.  Chiefy was happy to stay in the usual cheapo hostel, and usually I would have been too, but I decided after this delightfully successful week of Odysseying I deserved a hot shower and a colour TV, so I checked into the more expensive place next door.  I think it cost about a tenner – really pushing the boat out, eh?

I did find out some exciting news, though: in the Lonely Planet it tells of a Pelni ship heading over to Borneo one a week (or even a fortnight).  Bad timing could have me stuck in Jakarta until the end of the month.  But wonderfully enough there was now a ferry run by another company that went to Pontianak in Borneo FIVE TIMES a week, and the odds were good that there would be one leaving tomorrow.

Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast…

Day 653: As The Miller Told His Tale

15.10.10:

First things first, I called the ferry company and found out when the next ship to Borneo was departing – not today but tomorrow, but that’s better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper.

After ‘moving out’ of my hotel to the fleapit next door (come on – it had an en suite shower – it was totally out of my league!) I set out with John from the UK-Oz overland expedition to do two things: 1. buy a ferry ticket to Pontianak – which would get me to the island of Borneo and 2. find out what date the next Pelni ship left Bali for West Timor (East Timor will be country number 183).

After we walked for a good half an hour we eventually found where the office for the ferry company used to be, back in 2008 when my Lonely Planet was written.

Jakarta is a truly unfortunate city: dirty, grimy, polluted, dull, filled with monumentally ugly buildings, gridlocked, over-populated – it’s a very difficult place to love.  It took John and I a good hour just to get to the new ferry ticket office near the port.  I got my ticket for tomorrow’s ferry then we headed over to the port proper to find out about the ship from Bali to Timor (same horse, different jockey), but to our despair the port seemed to be closed.  Grumbling, we took a taxi to the other side of the city (a good hour and a half) to the main Pelni offices.  Which had closed at 3pm.  By now it was 4pm.  All we wanted were the damn sailing dates.

We had tried to get them from the numerous Pelni agents scattered around the city, but they would only tell us the date of the next ship from Jakarta to Timor.  It was a bit like going into a travel agent in London and trying to book a flight out of Manchester and have them say ‘sorry, we can only book flights that depart from London’.  And the Pelni website?  Not updated since 2006.  Gr-r-r-r-reat!

(I’ve since found the ‘real’ Pelni website – the next ship leaves Bali on November 5th – thanks Alex Z.)

So after that hot, sweaty, dispiriting trek around glumtown we were none the wiser and I was ready to kill, kill and kill again.  Luckily for the surrounding population and innocent bystanders, I tempered my murderous desire with mankind’s second greatest invention, beer.

Chiefy was out on the razz and in high spirits and before long I fell into conversation with a wonderfully mad girl from Sweden called Lisa and a top British bloke from Leicester called Shane.  As closing time wheeled around (as it invariably does), Lisa, Shane and I decided to break onto the roof of a nearby hotel to use the swimming pool, which (sadly) didn’t exist.  Then it all becomes a bit of a blur.  You know I mentioned the other day that if I’m going to be recognised by my backpacking peers I should possibly not drink so much?  Well yeah, what can I say?

Recognised.

Intoxicated.

Karaoke.

Whiter Shade of Pale.

Bad David Bowie impression.

Oh. Dear.

As the day broke, Lisa and I (we had mislaid Shane somewhere) were still drinking, talking nonsense with a big scary guy from Cameroon, a crazy woman from Malaysia and making fun of the local guy fast asleep on the chair next to us.