KABOOM! “What the heck was that?”

“Think the engine’s blown up and it’s on fire.”

“When’s our flight leave?”

“In 9 hours.”

And so our journey from the small peninsular of Toba, Sumatra to Ubud, Bali had begun with a bang; literally. The boat had picked us up from our hostel at 11am. We had a 1 hour boat ride across Lake Toba to Parapat, where we would take a van to Medan Airport. We would then fly to Bali via a connection in Jakarta; simple!

Unfortunately for us, the Captain wasn’t in as much as a rush as we were and decided to trawl the peninsular at about 2mph trying to find other passengers who wanted to cross the lake. The ‘Kaboom’ thing occurred about 30 minutes into the journey leaving us stranded on the lake for an hour whilst the Captain, Engineer and Crew (all one person) tried to fix the boat. He eventually got it going but then continued to look for more business; obviously! We were overjoyed to return to our hostel at about 1pm, just to check if there was anyone else that wanted to cross. There wasn’t. We eventually arrived in Parapat at 2pm, 2 hours later than scheduled. With 6 hours to get our flight the clock was ticking!

After 20 minutes of bargaining we persuaded the van driver that 6 fully grown adults plus backpacks was quite sufficient for a 5 seater vehicle, travelling a 5 hours journey in 35 degrees heat, with no aircon. The journey was quite eventful to say the least with more than a handful of decidedly deadly overtakings. This, combined with the atrocious condition of the roads, almost convinced us that we’d never make it to the airport alive let alone on time. Whilst sat at traffic lights adjacent to some roadworks, the driver sparked up his tenth cigarette of the trip, turned to me and put my fears to rest, “My friend. The rule of Indonesian driving is this. If I want, I can.” He then floored it and drove through the red light at about 60mph straight through said roadworks. Looking on the bright side ‘Evil Kanevil’ shaved 30 minutes off the 5 hour trip and we arrived safely although a little shaken into Medan Airport, just over one hour ahead of the flight. We said our goodbyes and ran to the ticket office, hearing the van’s wheels screech off into the distance.

Thankfully they had spare seats on the 8pm flight, but there was a glitch. The connecting flight had sold out and we would have to spend the night in Jakarta airport, until the next available flight to Bali at 7am the following day. We’d come this far so what was a night in an airport? I was actually quite looking forward to it.

After rushing through departures we got our flight on time and it went pretty well: no crashes, head on collisions or anything. We even got some food; happy days! We arrived into Jakarta airport before midnight, collected our bags and followed the signs to the departure lounge, which strangely took us outside into the hot sticky Jakarta night air. There were people everywhere: laid out on benches, on pavements, shops were open selling food and drinks; it was buzzing.

We confidently strolled towards to the departures lounge only to be told we weren’t allowed in until 2 hours before we departed i.e. 5am the next day. So instead of getting a hotel for a few hours (cos I’m a tight Yorkshireman) we decided to sleep in what was a sort of staff canteen/ smoking room/ skiving area/ hell hole. It was lovely. I will never bad mouth Manchester Airport Terminal 2 ever again. After about an hours sleep between us we headed, like the walking dead, for our flight to Bali.

When we landed, there were absolutely no bones about it, we were getting an air-conditioned official airport taxi direct to our hostel in Ubud: no dodgy buses, no changes, no complications. The budget would just have to stretch to it. We finally arrived into Ubud, 24 hours after leaving Toba. We were greeted by our beautiful hosts who showed us to our room where we had a pot of tea awaiting us on our balcony. “Enjoying your honeymoon love?” I said to the wife.

“Absolutely magic”, she replied.

Written about our trip to Indonesia, April 2012.

S Abbott

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