"Oh my!" OR A bus full of shallots

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
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Trip End Oct 08, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Assured that there would, indeed be a bus going to Bajawa today, we set
our alarms for 5:10, told the friendly hotel lady that we'd like
breakfast at 5:20, and then we would be all set to wait for the bus,
which was supposed to arrive at 5:30.  It didn't.  I guess
it's lucky that we spent the extra few rupiah to book the ticket with
our friendly agent, because the bus arrived at 5:20 and honked at us to
come, so we didn't get breakfast at all.  Poor hotel lady woke up
so early and we'd asked her to give us breakfast before 5:30 twice and
she never actually got to give it to us.  Had we just waited by
the side of the road, we probably would have missed the bus, because it
wouldn't have known we wanted to get on it. 

Confusedly
Travis and I ambled up to first one door of the bus, then another, then
back to the first.  We had no idea where to sit or to put our
stuff.  You see, the bus was chock full of huge bags of
shallots.  The entire back of the bus, the aisles up to and
sometimes above the level of the seats, and the roof.  Thousands
and thousands of tiny onions.  Lovely.  It started with me,
and then everyone else who climbed on the bus stopped and said the same
thing, "Oh my!"  Luckily Travis and I were first on the bus
(except for the shallot man), so we had the pick of seats.  This
meant that we chose to sit before the door and take advantage of what
scanty leg room there was.  Then we proceeded to drive all around
Labuanbajo until the bus was full to what I am sure was double its
capacity.  And so the day began. 

There were four
Westerners on the bus.  We were all alright, except that we're all
a little oversized for the seats.  The rest of the bus was full of
Indonesians going from somewhere to somewhere else.  Full. 
Every seat was taken, sometimes double, because babies always sit on
laps, until they're 8 or so.  The aisle full of shallots was a
perch for several more people, and of course there were the requisite
men hanging out the door.  For the first few hours everyone
settled in.  My one annoyance was that Indonesian men feel like
smoking whenever the fancy takes them, including confined buses. 
So, in addition to shallots I was choked with the foul stench of
cigarettes in my face.  Travis decided I was unreasonable. 
"So some foreigner comes in and they should change everything for
you?"  It was a point, and that's why I never asked anyone to stop
smoking (besides which it would have been pointless because EVERY
Indonesian man smokes, so I would have had to ask most of the bus to
please stop).  But most Europeans smoke and they manage to be
polite about it.  You never realize how little Americans smoke
until you leave the US.  I kid you not.  Compared to the rest
of the world we seem to be a country of non-smokers. 

Other
than the fact that the bus was stiflingly hot on the inside bits, we
meandered down the winding roads of Flores for a couple hours and
seemed to be making good progress.  Then something on the bus
broke down.  Fortunately the way transporation seems to work on
these islands precludes the possibility of hurrying, so everyone just
sat back.  I was actually happy it finally stopped, as I had to
scurry into the bushes.  Then the bus continued.  Then the
Indonesians started vomiting. 

In China we met a couple
who had started in Indonesia and they mentioned that Indonesians are
not the greatest bus travellers and plastic bags are always provided on
buses.  We had a first-hand experience when a little girl sitting
diagonally behind Travis spewed the contents of her stomach all over
his head, neck, and back.  As I was not personally affected I
found this quite humorous, but Travis did not.  He wiped it all
off and then I lent a hand.  Luckily it was all rice and banana
chunks, so there wasn't any residual slime - at least not that
time.  After this she managed to aim for the bag her mother was
holding.  The mother appologized to Travis profusely. 

Eventually
we stopped for lunch at a way shady establishment.  Definitely not
FDA approved.  We opted for some instant noodles from a shop down
the street.  Then everyone climbed back on the bus and we started
again.  I offered to sit on the onion side of the seat so Travis
could get some more air at the window.  This was a bad idea. 
At first I realized that I was now directly in line to be puked on and
the little girl had just eaten lunch.  She didn't actually get
sick again, but it was a slight concern.  Then as we trundled
along I got more and more nauseated.  The combination of onion
odor, residual vomit, and sweaty bodies crushed together was just too
much for my stomach.  I think I ended up spending nearly four
hours bent double trying not to breathe with a bag in my hand. 
And I've never gotten sick in a car before.  It was
horrendous.  Travis wasn't bothered.  Figures. 

At
long last, after more than 12 hours in our cramped seats, we finally
arrived - 3 km from Bajawa.  We foreigners looked for our
bags.  They'd been moved to the roof, and one of our foreign
number decided he was glad he didn't know it was moved, because at one
point some stuff fell off the bus.  Then we all climbed into the
waiting bemo (that be Indonesian for minibus taxi thing) and journeyed
into town.  The Austrian stayed at hotel Eidelweiss, which I
thought was fitting, and the rest of us journeyed onward to a cheap
place with a restaurant. 

This is how we met Will. 
He's probably no older than 60 or 65, has three grown children, and his
wife died suddenly two years ago.  So he decided to make his way
around the world in an easterly direction and see what he always wanted
to see while he still had his health.  At dinner he told us piles
of stories, and I thought yet again how I like to meet kindred spirits
on the travel trail.  Poor guy started in India, though.  I
wouldn't recommend that to anyone, and he told us he almost quit. 
But he didn't, so we continued a little part of our journeys
together.  It was quite an adventure. 

Erin
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