It took us 40 minutes to fly from Bali to Surbaya and 6 hours of hell to get from Surabaya to Malang. Being in Indonesia and having missed out on Sumatra due to Mount Sinabung blowing it’s top in spectacular fashion and not wishing to endanger the children any more than they had been on the trip we decided to travel through Java and take in some less temperamental volcanoes. On arrival in Surabaya we tried hiring a car, Lisa’s idea, my driving. This proved to be impossible, there was no one just hiring cars, you had to get a driver and car or nothing. We thought it was too expensive with the driver so we decided to get a bus which we would pick up at Bungurasih terminal about 20 minutes from the airport, so into a taxi we all piled with a very chatty driver who kept reminding me to keep my money somewhere safe as the bus station was crawling with pickpockets, very reassuring.
We arrived at Bungarasih, which didn’t look better or worse than any of the bus terminals we had been through before. That was till we got inside. Everyone and there mother must have been going somewhere on this particular date. The place was a heaving mass of shouting, screaming humanity. There were thousands of people, bus employees shouting and gesticulating and pointing in different directions, people laden with bags and animals and box’s. With the help of two porters we were pointed in the direction of the bus to Malang, I asked was this the express bus and was told this was the economy. ‘How long would it take’, 2 hours someone told me. We thought 2 hours would be ok, Lisa asked me to take a look in the bus, I did, there was no way we were going to fit ourselves and our luggage into it, and they still hadn’t stopped taking passengers. We went back to find platform 2 which was for the express bus to Malang, there was no bus there but a lot of people with the same idea and destination as us. We got our bag’s to the platform with the help of two porters, I paid them and we found a spot slightly away from the teeming masses. I looked at Lisa and knew straight away we were both thinking the same thing, lets get a car. I went back outside and started the process of looking for a car and driver, negociating with four or five guys at once is something you get used to, you just have to filter out the ones who are bullshitting you. I’d whittled it down to two and it was down to money, I went with the less passive guy with the more beat up car, a little cheaper too.
His name sounded like a heavy metal magazine, something like Kajang, he was a nice fellah, friendly with the kids and driving an old Toyota jeep, which I knew if it did break down wouldn’t take much to get going again. I told him I’d be back in a minute with the wife and kids and baggage, so I went looking for my porters again. When I found them and told them I needed them to help me with the bags back out of the terminal they all had a good laught at my expense. We went back into the hell terminal to rescue the family, who were still in their island of calm amidst the madness. Just as we were loading up to go the express bus arrived about two hundered people charged the bus to get a place on the 80 seater, we would never have made it. We loaded up again and made our way through the speeding bus’s and dodgy looking character’s back out again into our Toyota and off on our way, finally to Malang. It was adding up at this stage and was now going to cost us more than if we had decided to take a car from the airport, ah well, we did try.
When Axel first saw the pickup I tried to convince him it was an army jeep, he didn’t bite. He only wanted to know why it didn’t have air con. What a pampered existence kids lead these days. He had the bit between his teeth on this one and went on and on about the lack of air conditioning much to my heavy metal friends amuzement. We have natural air con, just open the window, ‘Its not the same’. No it’s not.
After leaving the bus station we drove for about 20 minutes in pretty heavy traffic before we hit the really heavy stuff. I was pretty relieved we hadn’t managed to hire a car at this stage, if we had I know by now I would have been walking back to the bus station with the rest of them in the car by the side of the road sucking their thumbs. The traffic was the motorised equivalent of the human mayhem back at the station. I havn’t seen traffic like this since the M50 heyday’s. They are better humoured but a hell of a lot crazier. It looked to me like a two lane motorway with four lanes of vehicles jostling for position and in between the bus’s and car’s and truck’s thousands of swarming moped’s and motorbike’s. Vehicle’s racing up the hard shoulder and more vehicles racing up outside the hard shoulder on the grass and gravel verge, madmaxian. What should have taken two hours took us the guts of six hours, Kajang was earning his money.
We hadn’t booked any accomodation in Malang and just pulled up to a place we read about in the Lonely Planet, full, we went to another one from the book, full. This wasn’t looking too good. We got a recommendation from the last hotel and made our way to it, Kajang was really earning his money now. The next place we pulled up to was, full. Beside it was a hotel that goes by the name ‘Hotel Splendid’, it was anything but however the rooms were big and clean and available. We went for it. Said our goodbyes to Kajang and settled in to the Splendid.
I later learned from talking to someone at the hotel that the reason for the chronic traffic was due to a local volcanoe on Java erupting a few years ago and sending mudslides down onto one side of the road blocking it for miles.
So much for not endangering the children, out of the Sumatran frying pan into the Javan fire.