It’s been a few days that have felt like an assault course at times.
You can feel the pull of the capital from a long way off. A metropolitan area with nearly 30 million inhabitants (10m in the city itself) is hard to ignore.
The traffic gets heavier (and slightly more aggressive), the air gets dirtier, and the noises get louder. The lack of decent sign-posting becomes a major issue instead of a minor irritation. And the smells get noticeably stronger (and generally less pleasant).
But before all that, there were the hills.
The ride to Bandung on Tuesday looked tough on paper. And it was in practice. Two major climbs, topping out at nearly 900m, and an awful lot of little ups and downs in between.
It’s hard to get a sense of steepness across on a photo, but you can hopefully see the gradient near the top of the second climb here (the road follows the line with the rock face behind it). It was a brutal day, and I was pretty well knackered by the time I rolled into Bandung. To the extent that I didn’t really notice the increasing traffic until I got back on the road yesterday (Wednesday) morning.
It was mayhem. And this was on the ring-road, rather than the city centre. The traffic lights here are on incredibly long delays, resulting in hundreds of scooters, minibuses (‘Bemos’), vans and cars building up at every red light. When the lights go green, everyone charges across the junction, and then screeches to a halt again as the Bemos pull up in the middle of the road on the other side to disgorge their passengers. Once you’ve squeezed past them, it’s all clear for a few hundred yards to the next set of lights, where the whole process repeats.
Jakarta, I can now say with some authority, is worse.
As I crossed the last of the hills, it was a steep, twisty and poorly-surfaced interlude between the traffic madness. It was fun. There was a constant stream of trucks, scooters and cars going the other way, draped in blue flags. It turns out that football is just as big in Indonesia as it is at home, and that Bandung had just won the league, with stacks of fans heading into town to celebrate. At least I finally got my own back on the photo-muggers, and got a shot of some of them (all, oddly, Manchester United fans too, and not even from Surrey).
So, having got as far as Jakarta, I’ve got some logistics to sort out. I’ve got six days left on my 30-day visa, which is not really enough to get to a port or airport in Sumatra. With a bit of luck, I’ll be able to get a ferry up close to Singapore from here before my time expires. Trouble is, it’s pretty much impossible to work out when and if the ferries are running without going to the office and asking. If there’s one in time, I’ll get it (hopefully with a couple of days to poke around Jakarta). If not, it’s either a visa renewal or a flight.
Should all be much clearer by next update…