Saturday, March 9, 2013

From Bali to Java

Getting to Java proved to be a larger challenge than anticipated. Travelling around SEA has been relatively easy, and most guesthouses also operate as travel agents (of sorts) who can get tickets for you (with such a small surcharge that it’s hardly worth finding a cheaper option yourself, plus, the guesthouse expects you to buy tickets from them; it can lead to some very awkward situations when you don’t). So for the most part, we’re used to being able to just tell the hotel where you want to go next, and they hook you up. Easy peasy.

When we told people in both Ubud and Legian that we didn’t want to take a private tour, but wanted to take the local bus to Probolinggo in Java (connection point to get to Mount Bromo), we were told “no bus, fly.” Though it doesn’t seem like it from the amount we’ve been flying lately and with the amount of flights coming up in our trip, I have a hard time taking short-haul flights. Flying is the absolute worst thing for the environment and I would love to be able to avoid it altogether. And most of the time there’s a reasonably viable overland alternative. I’m willing to suffer through long bus or train rides to save some bucks, see the scenery, and have a slightly lower impact on the earth. But other times, flying’s unavoidable. But we knew there was a cheap overland option to Java and no one seemed to be able to tell us where to catch the bus.

In the end, we had to take a moto (pretty much on the way to Tanah Lot anyway) to the bus terminal at Ubung, to try to get some answers about when and where to catch the bus. We were stuck in scorching, diesel-choked traffic most of the way there, and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we were chased and then surrounded by the omnipresent entrepreneurs who magically appear at every turn. “Where you go? Where you go?!” We tried to politely dismiss the helpful hoard as we looked for the ticket office, but it became clear after a while that these men were the ticket office. One persistent guy won out over the others and ushered us to one of the many shady “offices” where with very few words, we bought tickets to Probolinggo. Easy peasy? Using the aid of a map on the wall, I asked a few questions and got some affirmative nods, so, I guess we’re good then. Great! See you tomorrow. 8:30 am? Nod. Ok, see you tomorrow!

In hindsight now, the whole thing was pretty easy—I was fully expecting to have to change buses at the ferry, and then again when we got to Java, but we had the same bus the entire way (unlike the craziness of going from Siem Reap to Bangkok). And there was a bathroom on board. The door wouldn’t latch, but it was there. And when you got hungry, they would stop and let a vendor on board who would walk the aisle selling drinks and snacks. Not unlike in-flight beverage service. Though I do appreciate the No Smoking rule on planes—the man directly in front of me chain-smoked the entire time which was pretty terrible. Also, I’ll glaze over the fact that on a relatively short stretch of Javanese road we saw an overturned cargo truck and then a short while later an overturned passenger bus in a ravine, not unlike the very bus we were on…

We overshot our 4pm arrival time by a good three hours, in part from the numerous Nyepi processions blocking the streets of Bali (neat to see!), the ferry waiting on the Java side for docking space, and just general traffic slowness. And then as night was falling, the bus broke down. But, judging from a few signs we had seen, we appeared to be in Probolinggo, and we were ready to just grab our bags and start walking. Our few shared words—good morning, tasty, thank you—were not helpful in helping to confirm our location, and we wanted to avoid ending up at the terminal if it was outside of town, only to have to come back to where we were… And as it turns out, we broke down directly beside the one (of two) hotels in town that our guidebook lists as being passable. Awesome! I’ll take passable!

Settled into our passable accommodation, we hit the town in search of some eats, and were instant celebrities. Strangers and storekeepers stop us to say hello and shake our hands. Parents stopped their children so they could wave and point. It sent them into fits of giggles when we said hello and waved back. Despite being a key connection point for trips to Bromo, it doesn’t seem as though many tourists pass through here unless they’re on a tour. We’re famous!

Anyway, to sleep, and then tomorrow: Cemoro Lewang on the rim of the crater!

You can also see the beautiful formal wear -- long-sleeved tops
(white for procession) over colourful sarongs, tied with a sash.

Drums and flutes, singing and chanting.

How the locals are transported to the ceremony.

Either by dump truck or moto.

A finished Ogoh-Ogoh sculpture, ready for parading, and then burning on Nyepi.

Overturned cargo truck on Java.

1 comment:

  1. So, is there a parade or festival pretty much every where you go? Seems like it! How awesome!