South East Asia on a Hamstring – 2000

Pagandaran – January 25, 2000

An early morning bus took us to the 1pm “ferry” at Cilacap. We were accompanied by six other travelers – three Dutch and three Americans. The Americans were all 30-some-ish men from Los Angeles and the Dutch were two women and one man.

The “ferry” turned out to be a puttering old longboat. We staked out a claim in the sun at the front of the boat. The two Dutch women followed us and immediately stripped down to their sports bras. “Guess they didn’t get that speech on modesty in Moslem countries,” whispered Pratima, as she doled out motion-sickness pills to our group.

The trip took four hours. We should have realized that we had done something wrong when all the locals got seats under the overhang, leaving us foolish tourists to the wide-open space at the front.

The rain kicked in about 40 minutes after we left Cilicap. It rained buckets – massive pouring buckets. The boat rocked from the waves. The crew yelled for our bags and everyone started passing luggage down into the small hold below deck.

Everyone – tourists and locals – cowered and shivered under the overhang. The crew valiantly but ineffectually stretched tarps around the outside of the boat. The rain sprayed in sideways, drenching us all anyway. Lorraine faced the rain, using her umbrella to protect and old, frail Javanese woman.

Dreading three more hours of cold, wet hell, I started up the food game with Joanne. It’s a dumb game – one person names a food, such as “apple.” The next person must name a food using the last letter of the food. So the next food would start with “e.” “Eggplant,” says the next person. “Tiramisu!” says the next. “Urchin!” And so on.

We occupied ourselves for ages with our stupid game, and whenever we got stuck, the Dutch man would kick in a word. Finally, the rain cleared and we headed to the front. The rain had broken down barriers and made us all comrades, so we got friendly with the American guys. Two of them joined in the food game and the third watched briefly before saying, “this is so stupid that I have to get involved.”

We stopped at a small village in the middle of nowhere and an Indonesian man brought his bicycle onto the boat. Another man brought on an enormous bucket of live eels. I was tired of the food game and had run out of small talk to discuss with the L.A. guys so I struck up a conversation with the eel man, with Andy translating.

I got to touch the eels and the eel-man offered to let me put an eel in my waterbottle as a souvenir. Then he started to get really palsy-walsy and I made some excuses to both the eel-man and the Americans and headed for the back of the boat, where Pratima and Jitu were reading.

It was a relief when we finally landed at Pagandaran. The L.A. guys asked both Joanne and I where we were staying and we both said we didn’t know, but Andy happily volunteered the information. We caught a minivan to the Sunrise Hotel.

The Sunrise was a real step up for us. The rooms were enormous, clean, air-conditioned, well-lit and came with cable and mini-bars. Joanne and I immediately emptied our mini-bar of Coca-cola and then our group headed to No.1 restaurant for dinner.

Another Intrepid leader’s small group joined us and a really annoying woman on that trip drove us all away. The woman relentlessly bragged about her travels and put down anyone who differed with her on any opinions about the politics of any country. One by one, we all stole away back to our hotel. We laughed loudly when we discovered that every member of our group except for Joanne had done this. We re-congregated in the Sunrise Hotel restaurant for dessert.

I went back to the room and put on my pajamas and got ready for bed. I put a Biore strip on my nose, hoping to peel off the flaking skin leftover from my Bali sunburn.

There was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” I yelled, stalling for time as I tore the Biore strip off my nose.

“Andy,” was the answer.

He must’ve wondered what took me so long and why I was answering with a wet nose, but what he said immediately distracted me from my vanity.

“There’s a guy at reception asking for Mah-ry.”

Andy always said my name Mah-ry. It’s an Australian thing, apparently.

“What?? Who is asking for me?”

“One guy, I don’t know.”

“The American guys? Are they asking for me and Joanne? I can’t go down there in my pajamas! Tell them you can’t find me!”

Andy agreed and went down to figure out what was going on.

When he returned, he explained to me that it had been one of the Los Angeles guys and the guy had said, “I know this is a bit odd, but is Marie around?”

Andy had vaguely said he wasn’t sure, or something like that. The guy had said to be sure to tell me he came by.

I was confused by this. I hadn’t spoken to one of the men any more than the others, or any more than Joanne. I wasn’t too sure what he wanted but Andy teased me relentlessly after that.

The sea crashed loudly and rudely outside our beachside hotel all night, periodically waking me up.

Visiting with the wildlife

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