Gentle reader when last we spoke the first flagrant disregard for traffic signals had been observed with some delight on my part.
Ferry, not Corsten, but Ferry my driver is originally from Sumatra and navigates deftly from serious practice at the seemingly chaotic dance of both four and two wheels. It’s beautifully cool ensconced in his spacious vehicle, I sit up front (who sits in the back when solo?) and observe the shadowy figures emerging from the darkness, the roads are now quiet and it’s late as we embark on the SIM acquisition process. In short time we arrive at a neon lit local seller, definitely not a “chain” store, more a purveyor of componentry and seemingly often frequented by my driver who greets the seller by name. 4GB or 7GB? I decide on four, after all I’m only here for a week and my lodgings have Wi-Fi. Notably there are no prices on anything. I smile; it’s been a long time since I was last in Asia and the negotiation begins with Ferry assisting and ensuring a price almost half the initial offering. Thank you Theodore (again) for not only recommending him but booking him to greet me at the arrival terminal. In short order I enquire about cigarettes, having diligently asked pre departure ascertaining that my driver has a penchant for Marlboro Reds, again I alight slightly further up the road and acquire two packs of ‘horse riding cowboy country’ taste plus some Camel Black, two litres of “Pucari Sweat” (seriously, it’s actually called that – an “ion” drink) and a six pack of probiotics (got to look after the health!).
We embark again. It is dark, really dark. Neon lights outline purveyors of god only knows what who sit outside their establishments, their faces also framed by our headlights as we wend our way northwards into the centre of the island. It must be close to the western witching hour and strangely it is quiet on our route, no kaleidoscopic neon visages, no garish lights of the local distractions, dark, really dark. Faces are lit fleetingly and disappear back into the inky darkness. There is a lot of sitting around going on. We pass a local haunt, made obvious by the cluster of two wheels outside, glowing in green tinged neon light. We talk, we chat, and we exchange the superficiality of a first encounter as we move through the night. Within time the barely lit establishments encroaching on our road give way to open land and seconds later something of serious girth very, very long, greenish or yellowish and fashionably resplendent with black stripes is slithering across our lane, lit for a brief second by our headlights as Ferry takes avoiding action and notes calmly that these are rice paddy fields adjacent to our trajectory. I laugh, I think, with the comfort of one with no control, no piloting for me tonight, a passenger relaxed and absorbing the newness and difference of my new found environment.
Time passes and my guide enquires of the telephone number of my lodgings, I retrieve it from my device and a short exchange takes place and a seemingly invisible turning is made off the “main” road, down a dark narrow track between equally dark buildings we emerge into another dark passageway and Ferry remarks “Ah, staying with locals” a sign appears for my dwelling and we descend along a narrow parcel of roadway festooned with lights and tropical growth, he double takes, his initial summation evaporates as the lights in the distance emerge from the jungle, we hesitate at the entrance fathoming the one way system of barely perceptible signage and we have arrived. I alight and perform the perfunctory ceremony having previously noted that they like to take a copy of your documents, my plastic wafer is exchanged as I attempt an autograph (who writes by hand these days?) and my luggage is labelled. As the meagre plastic bag of locally procured necessities is off loaded I hand my new found friend his “tip”, he looks incredulously at me and smiles, we complete the transaction and he lights one, taking time out to discourse with the staff.
I say my goodbyes, having secured his calling card and follow my new guide through the festooned undergrowth. In short time we arrive at large dark wooden double doors which open to a walled recess in turn opening out to a new found paradise. I am here. An oasis of beauty. Green fronds lit by yellow lights, a body of water (my very own swimming pool!), an imposing yet most excellent covering of native thatch, no walls, open to the rainforest gardens, wooden seats, lounges, tables and a couch which I know will be my “home”. I am given an introduction to the immediate amenities, the open air rock clad shower, multi person sized bath, adjoining open air bathroom and dressing room, my enclosed bedroom in an adjacent dwelling and the various electronic controls. The bed is draped in beautiful translucent curtains to help keep the local winged wildlife at bay. I sit down. It has been a long journey. I retrieve some local currency and note to my guide that I will need two wheeled transport, he looks at me with that look, the one father’s often reserve for their charge, and I remark that I ride in Australia, he enquires what my weapon of choice is, I proclaim a Kawasaki, he remarks that they are most excellent for the jungle, I reply that mine is a “racing” bike. Inquisitive eyes. How many CCs? One thousand. The look of incredulous surprise (and delight!), I will have two wheels awaiting me in the morning.
And again, to be continued.