“I’m not getting back on that bus ever. I’ll live here” I said as we got to Flores to see the Komodo Dragons.
We were visiting Indonesia, going from Bali to the island of Flores. The second island of our trip was Lombok, a beautiful spot of earth. My husband Ted, fell off a snorkeling boat and cracked his upper arm from the shoulder to the elbow, a fact we didn’t find out until we returned home. It turned a deep purple from the top to the elbow as we traveled.
Since this was to be our only chance to see the dragons we went on, armed with nothing more than aspirin for him. In Lombok we saw signs advertising a “New Bus’ trip across two islands, ferries and drinking water included, for only twenty-five U.S. dollars. The pictures showed a lovely bus and we eagerly signed up for the trip.
We boarded early the next morning and soon discovered the bus wasn’t new. It did, however, have a new paint job. The toilets hadn’t been cleaned, EVER. The advertised air-conditioning must have been from a small car and didn’t begin to work. Over our seat was an inch wide hole which blew a tiny jet of warm air on us. The temperature was in the high nineties, but we did sit in the front seat and had a view of the magnificent landscapes.
The bus quickly filled up, and supplies were stacked in the aisles and in front of the doors.
As we drove through the day, the heat was relentless and the smells of forty some people soon filled our nostrils. Ted’s arm was bothering him. Every so often we would stop for a few minutes and everyone would grab a cool bottle of water and use the toilets at the stop. Along the way we saw buses stopped by the side of the road and flat tires being changed. We figured our bus must have good tires.
That night we were already exhausted when our bus developed the required flat. The driver pulled off the road and opened the door. The rush off the bus took maybe a minute as people raced to the jungle to use a bush or tree to relieve themselves. We returned to watch the tire removal. There was only one spare and it was in worse shape than the flat one.
We were on our way again until the driver spotted a tire repair place. It was a small shack about the size of my bathroom. Again, people dove off the bus and into the jungle. A group of men took the large bus tire and set the rim on a rock. Several men climbed on the tire and began to jump up and down, eventually freeing it from the hub. They set to work repairing it and now it had to go back on the hub. More men were needed to jump up and down before it was ready for air. The repair job had taken two hours and now the driver had to put on speed to reach the first ferry on time.
Indonesian islands are the tops of volcanoes and the landscape is incredibly beautiful, but the roads are narrow and winding. With ever increasing speed, and our hearts in our throats, we reached the ferry in time and everyone embarked.
After the first ferry crossing, we continued across the island of Sumbawa, stopping for snacks along the way. By the time we reached the ferry to Flores, we were hungry, tired and more than a bit grumpy. The driver dropped us and our luggage at one end of a very long parking lot and pointed to the other end where our ferry was. Someone, in broken English, told us to wait.
By then, we didn’t trust anything anyone said so Ted, holding his arm as close to his chest as he could, sprinted the block or so to the ferry. I saw him return at a gallop, yelling to me that it was to leave immediately. I grabbed both small suitcases and ran to meet him. Together, we ran and boarded the ferry, just in time to wait for forty five minutes.
Landing on Flores, we spotted an airline office. We found out we could fly back to Bali in an hour and we bought tickets. There was no way that we would ever get back on the “Bus from Hell.”