1 November, Kuanton


I wait a while and finally Yappy and Francis show up - much against my expectations - then they pick up another friend so there is Yappy, Francis, Steve and me. It seems they are making a sort of two-day holiday out of the job - we must put up boards in two garages - half an hour work each. There is shade and protection in the back of the van so I tell them I don't mind staying in the back. For breakfast, we eat glutinous rice with pork which is very heavy. I sleep until our first stop where putting up the boards is indeed a short simple job for four men. This new space age oil is very expensive but is supposed to give super protection to the engine - keeping its viscosity etc. The garage is quite a way off the main route to Kuanton, so, in fact, it takes us until evening to reach the east coast. They are very generous with cigarettes - Yappy even buys a pack for me but I refuse. For lunch, at about 3:30, we eat Indian, off palm leaves with our hands - rice mutton, curry, crackers and two types of vegetable curry, very tasty. They appreciate that I can eat with my hands and eat with chopsticks - but I can't eat the chilli.

There's a vast amount of wood being transported to many saw mills - they are kilns for charring the wood. One area we pass through is full of Communist sympathisers, Francis says In Kuanton the van breaks down - Yappy fiddles but doesn't know how to mend it. After a drink and buying food for the night, they go to find a mechanic - he doesn't take long to find the points had moved (something I had already suggested). We proceed to put the next sign up, which is a little more difficult because of the position. Then we go quite a few miles north to a really deserted spot on the beach. On this ride, I see one of the most beautiful sights in my life - in the darkness there is nothing to see but the palm trees close by and blackness - mostly the road travels away from the beach - but, for a few minutes, the road goes right by the beach, and it was here that, suddenly, distant forks of lightning light up the whole scene like magic - the still sea, the islands, the palm trees, the black sky - just for a second the blackness becomes a thing of incredible beauty.

First we set up the gas light (I say 'we' but Yappy is the one doing everything - he is the live wire - it's all his stuff, his ideas, his weekend.) We get the water on to boil for the rice - we are all a little hungry - in the meantime a plastic sheet is secured over a guide rope just as protection from the threatening rain - the mosquitoes are a bit of a hassle (big juicy and brave) and I got bitten while standing around - Steve is not much help but Francis is cutting up the right sort of sticks and generally knows what to do. The meal is really fine - chinese sausages and sardines and prawn paste eaten cold - there is enough rice to fill everybody - coffee (Nescafe, no less). These jokers smoke too much when they get together and I do too. We camp at a really nice spot under some trees next to some still water cutting us off from the beach - the sound of the surf, the misty moon, the mosquitoes buzzing despite Yappy's efforts with mosquito coils (I even put mosquito stuff on my hands and face) - I try to sleep in my sleeping bag for protection, because they bite through clothes, but, after a few hours, it becomes quite unbearable. It rains most of the night.

2 November, Kuala Lumpur


I get up to watch the sun rise but it isn't so good - but the moon is fullish and misty and I am moved to write a poem - bread and jam, egg and roti and coffee all for breakfast - Francis tries unsuccessfully to fish - there was a big jellyfish on the beach which deters me from swimming - I watch some fishermen bring in a haul of tiny glass fish, transfer them to a van which races away to market, and then the fishermen disappear back to their boats and out of sight. The sun gets higher and hotter - when all the plastic is dry and we've packed up we drive towards Kuanton and stop by some pools of rusty looking water - Francis tries to fish again but we all ended up lounging about in the cool peat water - I earn the name chicken here because, for a long time, I refuse to go in - but it is fine. Yappy takes us on a short-seeing tour - a fishing village with all the small fish laid out to dry and hundreds of tiny crabs searching for pieces of food under the wooden trestles and then scurrying back into their holes as someone approaches. We go to a famous beach with lots of hotels - I chat to Roger and Rex who are just returning from the beach - lots of people swimming here, but the beach where we camped was better - we drive around town - Kuanton has a good looking new sports stadium but otherwise is pretty boring.

The monsoons are nearly upon the east coast. We take a short launch trip across a wide river to a dirty fishing village and back again - we eat a different kind of Chinese food, this time with spoons and forks - rice with chicken and vegetable soup, and a different type of ice-cream and flavouring (sweet corn for me) for pudding. We hit the road for an hour or so. Steve is always in the back with me now - I insist on being back at the Youth Hostel by 10 and so I am happy that we are heading back. But then Yappy turns off the main road to a large river for Francis to do some more fishing - we all end up swimming from a nice sandy beach - it's a fast flowing river - I panic when I first get in the water because I can't swim against the current - it is quite deep - I am holding on desperately to the concrete support of a bridge - I try to fight back against the current and find myself nearer the middle of the river - at least it is shallower here and I can wade with difficulty up the stream - the others, of course, are all laughing - I really do panic, it's a little stupid, but Yappy shouts across to me to swim diagonally across the current and not against it. Afterwards, Yappy tells me there are crocodiles in this river further along. We dry and drive a little further - this time I am getting more anxious about the time but Yappy insists on taking me for a walk in the jungle at a place where Francis can fish yet again. The walk in the jungle is interesting - monkeys - sounds of tree frogs and birds and squirrels - enormous straight trees entwined with creepers - thick dense foliage - clearings for cultivation and electricity pylons. I sleep on the journey home except for a short period when I realise Yappy is really racing - Steve is very cold, I am too a little - they get me back just after 10.

3 November, Penang


I pack all my bags - oh the full weight again - and am on the road really early - roti for breakfast at a friendly roadside - in under an hour I have a lift right through to Penang from a deaf (when concentrating on driving) young medical rep who isn't very interesting - I sleep some of the way and am in the hostel by 3:00. I eat a very nice meal in the stalls near the bus station - tasty fish and vegetables. I wander around town eating biscuits - I find an Indian selling hot fresh milk for 30 cents - I meet an interesting Canadian (originally born in Romania and a Jew) who I talk to for a while in the afternoon. I sleep from about five.

4 November - Penang


Roti for breakfast - it is still early so I wander around the market - it reminds a little of Luan Prabang with men and women sitting around outside the main covered fish stalls selling their home produce - generally in larger quantities than in L.P. but tomatoes, carrots, spring onions - fruit sellers and sweet sellers - very popular here are those who have semi-stalls on their tri-shaws and sell all kinds of peeled fruit - I can buy a good lot of pineapple and other various tropical fruits for 10 cts. At the shipping company I buy a ticket for $M42.60, really expensive - I feel a little satisfied thinking the boat is due to sale tomorrow evening. I go to the public library where I write letters to Phil and Gwenda and read a few magazines. Fried bamboo shoots and noodles with five prawns for lunch - you get what you pay for. I meet the Canadian again and we spend the rest of the day eating and talking - he about his experiences in Thailand (He blindly followed a monk for a while, staying in wats in Bangkok - meditating in the mountains for a week where nuns brought him food - but gradually he lost confidence in the teacher - his camera and watch were stolen). He still reckons there is a pool of knowledge above and that he can reach it and become famous - as a Jew his national bent is towards business but he hopes to reach Nirvana and then he become a writer. He's a good guy, always smiling about his dreams. I am cynical - I tell him of my rejection of God - he has plenty of money but travels well i.e. visits the university and tries to meet people - hopes to take some Jewish teaching in Israel. I go to see Bobby, a famous Hindi film - good by Indian standards.

5 November, Penang


I sit in the British Council all morning - I write a letter to Richard Yau of all people and send a couple of postcards (expensive at 40 cts each) to Dave and Jo and Mark - I read some old Times and Observers and magazines - all sorts of good books here - I could read for weeks. The Post Office is inefficient - I dwindle time away. At 3:00, the lady in Soo Hup Seng shipping office says to come back tomorrow at 10:00!. I buy a tin of sardines which goes down fine with a whole loaf of bread and biscuits to follow. I show an American around town - a small guy, long time traveller - he is determined to dine on Masala Dosai but doesn't succeed. I've taken to buying 20 cents of biscuits these days, for which I get 6 to 8, which is better value than cake, some are tasty, some are pretty stale. I've also been asking the price of towels and underpants - but all the stuff is pretty shitty and not so cheap. I buy a pair of trousers - local made jeans for M$12.

6 November, Penang


I rang the shipping company and am told to ring back at 3:30 - I'm getting angry about the boat now. I go to the British Council - write Deepavali cards to Julian and Melanie and send them the stamps from Singapore - ridiculous - an envelope unsealed air mail costs 30 cents cheaper than a postcard - I send another three postcards to Johnnie, Hilary and Mum/Dad. I read New Scientist and Physics Education with lots of detailed maths. But I'm a little restless, I hate this waiting around. Indians rip me off giving me one tiny lump of mutton for 25 cents. I buy more sardines, go to my hostel to shower, and to the Merlin Hotel to post the letters and phone the shipping office - the boat is leaving at 10:00 and I am to go to the docks at 8:00 - at last. I go to the cold store on the corner, buy a tomato, some cheese and granary bread - decide to have one final walk around. The museum is good for the seeing what a rich chinese drawing room is like. I buy a Singapore tranny for $1.

Both Rex and the Aussie couple and brother turn up at the hostel. Also there's an American here who'se very interested in Leh - somebody told him I'd been there so he sought me out. I give him the gen. The hostel is a little crowded now. At 7:45, I dutifully hump my getting-heavier-all-the-time pack and stroll down to the quay - four other travellers there but we aren't allowed onto the quay because the boat hasn't docked - half an hour hour later a phone call informs the authorities the boat won't leave until the following day. The other four tale the news with smiles, but I am annoyed. This is supposed to be a regular ferry. They can't freak passengers around like the dhows on the Persian Gulf did. I traipse back to the hostel - others who are planning to take a later ferry begin to think they might fly. We play a round of Hearts (Black Maria) but much more seriously than I'm used to playing - with dead fast rules (swap left, then right, then across and hold - hearts broken by the queen). Then we play O-Hell (20 rounds from 1 card to 10 - have to bid how many tricks you will make, left of the dealer calls trumps always - 10 points for making a contract and one for each trick - minus one for each trick not made) - a cool game. The American says he is one of America's finest Hearts players. He is good but he's very afraid of losing.

7 November, Straits of Malacca


For the third time in a row I forget my Malaria tablet. I get up at 9ish, take some breakfast then doze until noon. When I regain consciousness I try to phone the shipping company but there is no reply so I hump it down to Swetlenham Pier again. I have a little trouble finding the boat but it is there - a small cargo boat with 22 passengers and maybe 10 crew - I undertake some passport formalities with the young captain who's not very likeable at first sight, and then joined the others on the fore of the ship. Half the passengers are travellers. The oldish English guy from K.L. youth hostel is here - he only bought his ticket this morning (lucky guy). There is a lot of talk about O dens (apparently there are a lot in Penang) and grass. A couple of Aussies talk about surfing for three hours. There is a very musty atmosphere on board. The boat leaves at 4:00. There are some lovely strips of yellow below the dark green forested islands - we pass quite a few islands - not so beautiful - it is cloudy and there is some industry on a few of them. A meal of rice, chillied egg, cucumber and pumpkin - we play Hearts until a beautiful sunset.

8 November, Parapat


For breakfast we get black coffee and what I can only describe as an Indonesian version of gruel - sweet bean porridge - ugh. There is a little honey and peanut butter going around but it doesn't last long - the sunrise is non-existent. At about 7:00 we anchor outside a port for a couple of hours until called in by immigration - the officials are very authoritative - they stamp our passports with varying degrees of stay from 21 days to 30. Twice I try to leave the boat but get brought back. At 9ish we are off. I change $3 at a bad rate - a one hour bus ride to Medan.

When we arrive there is the kind of confusion among us I remember from Rangoon - most want to go straight to Toba, while others want to stay here. Fnally some left in a taxi- an Italian guy Arcad and I get dropped off in centre - here we find some minibuses going to Parapat for 700 rupiah - but I don't trust the driver - he's too smooth and I don't believe he can get us to Parapat in three hours as he says. We think about going to the bus station, but a taxi-cum-scooter driver messes us around with his prices to get us there, so we end up going with the minibus driver. Arcad is a pretty weird guy, he can speak both Malay and Mandarin since he's been going to Taiwan and Malaya during his holidays for some years. He's quite trusting but not naive. He hasn't been to India. On the bus ride, he keeps seeing things that amaze him, and every time he grabs my arm and points his finger out the window. He likes the attention of the local the people but I really dislike it. We stop for lunch and taste the prices - 50 for rice, 50 for egg it seems as expensive as Penang. At the next big town, the minibus stops. Another driver takes us across town, puts us on a ramshackle bus, and pays the driver - it is a rip off. The villages are dirty and poor - women carry loads on their heads and there are lots of rickety smoky vehicles. Some good-looking mountains - rubber and oil palms - lots of small churches and tin rooves. There is a beautiful view through the mountains towards the lake - it's really enormous with an island stuck in the middle. We finally get to Parapat and walk down towards the lake and market. At the Pago Pago Inn a bed costs 250 rp. Lots of kids and people staring and shouting 'hello mister'. We meet others from the boat who paid 350, 450 and 550 for the journey - well I can't get it right every time - I am pretty fucked so I go to sleep early.

9 November, Tomok


It's market day in Parapat - the ferries are cheaper and there are lots of little canoes rowing across the lake - many people are setting up stalls, opening shops, drinking tea and eating strange things. I walk around the market which gets busier - change some more money in a big hotel (pseudo Batak houses with plush insides). The market grows and grows until it's bursting at the seems - a crazy, crazy market - old women with fish, onions, tomatoes chillis - goldfish, pots and pans, linen, bananas, pineapples peanuts - jostling, bargaining, boat after boat, bus after bus arriving. People come from all around to this market to buy supplies for the week. After a while it gets a little heavy and busy for me. I drank some lemon tea and eat a huge pineapple and banana salad. At about 2:00 I catch the first of the return boats to Tomok - it's loaded with people's purchases - six of us on the boat join up again for pineapples and bananas and bread and peanuts - an hour or so and we are on the isle of Samosir. Several people press us to go their house, but we decide to go to Mongoloys - there are quite a few there already. We talk and eat and nobody can be bothered to move at all.

The Batak are the local tribal people who live around the lake, they have their own language and weird-shaped houses which really only exist on the island. Batak houses are built on wooden supports, plenty of bamboo and bamboo weaving, and branch-thatch roofs (although many have tin roofs now). Batak men are darkish with small moustaches and spindly beards. They live in groups of families - five or ten houses together in a clearing. Mongoloy does a big meal in the evening for 200 rp - 11 of us to eat - it's a super meal with vegetable stew, crabs, fried fish, soya bean curd, buffalo milk curd, aubergine, tomatoes and cucumber rice. We sit around reading and talking.

10 November, Tomok


Breakfast is a treat - rice pudding with bananas, hot milk, omelettes etc. It takes a while for everyone to get together but by 9:30 we are off on our hike across the island to the hot springs - a really steep ascent, 4km of rocks with steps - up and up - muddy dense undergrowth - raining. It's quite a relief to make it to the top - misty rolling hills of shrubs. I am barefooted and bare-chested and dirty and wet - I don't wait for the others but press on to get tea at the first village - everyone is staring and the kids are screaming - I go to one house (tin-roofed) where they make me tea - they also take all my cigarettes - I don't like them. The others go to another house - I join them but then leave without paying, and the guy has a horrified look on his face - money, money - but they are very very poor. It is 7km to the next village through 5km of pure forests mixed with jungle - very fine walking. Towards the edge of the forest there is a clearing with 10 or 20 houses - it looks very strange - it takes longer to reach the houses than we think, and then it takes a long time for our hosts to cook rice and a tiny omelette - it is good to get anything to eat, but all the locals crowd round so much - it is claustrophobic. There is a road of sorts from this village which we follow for a bit, then we veer away and head west through small villages and fields - very mild weather and people and life. A really nice walk. We come to a teashop but don't stay long for we are trying to make the hot springs by dusk. We think we've taken a lot of good short cuts but in fact we haven't. Somehow, we manage a 5km lift to Pengururam, which is a pretty big town - capital of Samosir - walking on through the town we see a sign saying 'Hot Spring 1km' which brought joy to our hearts - the road, though, seems interminable as we stumble over rocks in the dark without even a light in the distance to cheer us. Eventually we begin to smell sulphur started - by 7:30 we arrive at this small coffee shop with a front door two steps from the hot spring pool. We eat and drink what little they have - I bathe in the pool - really hot water moving down the rocks and forming pools - just lazing in the pool - far out. We sleep on the floor of cafe upstairs.

11 November, Tomok


In the cool quiet minutes between dark and light I stealthily arise trying not to waken the mere mortals around, I unbolt the door and catch the hot water spring by surprise - I lie in the water for minutes with my eyes closed and when I open them it is twice as light - I wash with soap and could stay here for a long time. The emergence of dawn and the stirring of others means I must get out and put my clothes on - there is only teh for breakfast. The two Australians are heading straight back to Tomok, I am going to go with them but Wayne shows his face and says he and Gus are going too. I leave with Gus still in the hot spring. We are told the boat will leave at 8:00 and I really don't want to hang around another day. But everyone does it make and, as a group we barter and bargain, with the boat owner - we end up paying 400 each for him to take us round the island back to Samosir (it was only 250 across from Parapat). On the way he stops at all the villages.

I indulge in breakfast cum lunch - milk, fruit salads. I swim. The two Aussies say there is a good Smorgasbord at another house so I go there and wangle a night's sleep for 25 rp - and ordered dinner. I walk around the village a little - there are some old graves and supposedly neolithic site statue gravestones - busts sticking out of the ground, with a cane fence around. The dinner is small - papaya pancakes and curd of the house - but the atmosphere is different from that at Mongoloys - everybody is grabbing and greedy.

12 November, Parapat/Bukkintingi bus


A lot of fuss this morning - there is a children's festival in Parapat and, consequently, there are supposed to be a cheap boat going from Samosir, but no-one will tell us when it is going. Some 15 Westerners are standing around the jetty, all hoping to have to pay only 50 rp for the crossing. Finally, a boat does go, but it's not the one for the children, and all those who go in it have to pay the full price (the pied piper's boat doesn't look like leaving at all). The boat then goes to Tak Tak and back before heading for Parapat. I have to pick up my bag and change money and post somebody's letter - I think about borrowing money from Gus and Paul for a while, but then I decide to go straight to Padang with an Aussie in a Mercedes bus - I change my Singapore dollars for a bad rate - then I find the Mercedes is full, even the Aussie with a three-day old ticket doesn't get on - which really shows up the boy ticket seller for the rip-off agent he was. A second Chevrolet arrives (while we are playing Hearts) and the agent talks with the driver - they want 2,000, so we just carrying on playing cards - eventually the price comes down to 1,800 - five of us are squeeze onto the back row - it is a bouncy bouncy ride - we play word games to pass the time.

13 November, Bukkitingi


The bus stops every three hours so we can stretch our legs or drink or eat or somebody can get off - I probably sleep a couple of hours only - there's a lot of smoking of cigarettes and a lot of cursing with the lurches. We arrive at Bukkitingi by 11:00 - near the station is a hotel for 350 rp - no bargaining - nice people and the rooms are OK. I eat an ace nasi goreng for 150 - Gus crashes straight out. The market is lively, stretching up the hill and sprawling out near the bus station - lots of crisp-like things - plenty of fish, tangerines, mangos, tomatoes - lots of peddlers of medicines with microphones and speakers and various crowd attractions (a snake, a bleeding arm) - it's a busy place, and quite dirty. There is a small zoo here, lots of batik shops, but no peanut butter. I catch a bus 15km to see the largest flower in the world - I sit in a teashop waiting for the rain to stop - it doesn't so I take off my shoes and shirt and run and run and walk - quite a way up a hill there is a fenced-off forest - I climb over the fence. There is a chart showing the position of the flowers but I can't find any - I get angry but also frightened. Finally, there, sitting on the wet jungly earth, is a pink jellyfish - it is 25 inches in diameter - with a closer inspection I make sure it is a flower - a solid flower with its petals tightly packed - it's the only one I can find, so I hit the muddy path to return - but I'm still frightened - of leeches - very prickly palm leaves catch me, and I must tear myself away - I slip on the sloping surfaces - and there is the incessant dripping of leaves, movement and sounds of dark misery. I hitch back to Bukkitingi on a wood lorry. I crash out until 7ish. We all go to eat (an even better nasi goreng, and finished a game of Hearts: Gus is on 90, Wayne on 86, Paul on 99, and I on 93. Paul goes over the top, Wayne has quite a few so Gus thinks he's won, then I tell him he has 4 points which means that I've won - in fact I have 1 point which means that we have drawn. Wayne counts his points and finds that he has exactly a hundred so he wins. I talk to Wayne for hours.

14 November, Padang


At 7:30, I take the bus to Padang. The others insist on going by bus to Pedemborg. At Padang, I change $30 - I draw a boat on my hand and hitch out to a small port. I ask at every office, but there are no boats to Djakarta. I am told to go to Teluk Bayu, the main port - so I do - it is about 7km and I get a lift right there. Again I ask at every office, but it seems only one boat, the 'Diny' is going to Djakarta in the near future. The boy in the Kalimartan office says it will go tomorrow sometime. I eat dinner with a man who says it will go on Saturday morning and that it will takes 56 hours. I work it out - it is the same as going on the bus only cheaper - 7,600 rp all the way. After lunch I pester the boy in the office again - can I sleep on the boat? no - can I leave my luggage?, no, there's no night watchman. I'm told to try the police station. The police station is just fine - I can sleep here and leave my luggage. It's a sort of compound with 25 families of policemen who live here in cubic boxes. I hitch into Padang where I find a really good market - a large covered part with grocery stores through to tobacco and towel and soap stores through to jewellers - in the food market there are muddy coconut shell paths - avocados are in. I buy a towel for 750 rp, some bread, jam and marg. Walking around the market, two out of three stall-holders say 'hello friend, hello mister, heh you', several times because I completely ignore them - children and women stare in wonder at me - groups giggle and laugh at me - everybody wants to talk to me. A vast crowd gathers as I have my watch mended (for 350 rp and 100 for the chain) with intelligent-looking sensible people - all the children shout at me insistently, getting louder as I ignore them - total aggravation. It is hot and and sweaty. I sit in 'The In' cafe in the centre, eat an awful tasting ice mixture of avocado, papaya and some soft white fruit, with different coloured sauces and chocolate. Later I sit in a teashop talking to an old guy who looks French but says he is Chinese. I play chess with the police and sleep well - right through until 6:30.

15 November, Padang


In the office they tell me the earliest the boat will leave is tonight - I buy my ticket for 7,600 rp which is OK - it's cheaper than the bus, cheaper than Pelni, and cheaper than Penang to Medon. I hitch to Padang with a Dino washing powder van, and out to the university. I'm in one of my tit-bit moods again, eating biscuits, sweets etc. There is nothing at he university - long huts with puddles in the classrooms - two tiny dingy teahouses. I hitch back to town - nasi goreng and ice papaya for lunch. I try to find a library, but no-one seems to know where it is or they say it is closed. I get so angry with these people - every bike that passes slows down and follows me until I tell them to piss off - at one point I am almost screaming. I hitch back to Teluk Bayu - more playing chess on the street with a huge crowd around - they cheer nearly every move. I play cards with an Aussie couple in the police station.

16 November, Padang/Djarkata boat


I eat some bread for breakfast in the music cafe with David and Trish - half an hour later who should come walking along the road but Wayne in his slouching fashion. Apparently they had bought tickets for Pedemborg and been promised the whole back seat, but something went wrong and they cashed in their tickets and came to Padang the day before yesterday. They arrived here yesterday and the ship's chief officer put them up but not their luggage which is on the wharf .

The rain is hammering down - it makes for a claustrophobic atmosphere - I can't abide the waiting around. The cargo (of clothes and wax) cannot be loaded when it's raining - two hours of clear weather is needed before the boat can sail. We play Hearts on the wharf till the rain drives us right up against the wall - we are just sitting and waiting - I go for a run and get really soaked - Dave and Trish are still in the music cafe. Back at the police station I spend some time writing. At last I find out what it is the locals eat for 75 - nasi campur - rice, sauce and a piece of fish, pluse a second helping of rice and sauce for 25. Wayne is getting thoroughly pissed off with rice - I think it's good stuff but hot. I take Wayne to the police station so he can have a shit. I talk to the policeman who tells me he earns 10,000 rp and is going on the boat Diny too. While Wayne is still shitting, David returns panting to tell us the boat is leaving now - now. I pack my stuff and race down to the quay. It is true, the boat is preparing to leave, but it doesn't actually go just yet. At 6:00 we check with the crew - they say the boat won't leave before 8:00. Wayne and I go in search for food but we find a ginormous ship from Liverpool berthed (it berthed while we were playing cards). Stealthily, we creep up the ladder and look around the boat - at first we only see Chinese crew. Then we find a bar, where five or six young English officers in white shirts and shorts are drinking beer - they give us two cans of ice cold Harp each. Wayne hints that we'd like to eat something, but the sailors reply that we can't be that desperate. We have a good natter for two hours. The ship carries a mix of cargos - steel out and rubber, palm oil etc. back. They ask us if there are any air-conditioned bars in Padang! They invite us to a movie but, as we expect our boat to leave at 8:00, we decline and leave. We don't actually leave until 10:00. For some reason we play cards till really late in the officers' mess. I sleep where I am.

17 November, Padang/Djarkata boat


At 5:00 in the morning I get booted out and, meekly, I move to under some canvas in the corner where the other three are sleeping - however, there's a fierce storm in progress - the rain is driving into every hole and waking and drenching most everyone. By light the worst is over - 8:30 we get a lousy breakfast of a very old hard boiled egg, rice and dirty vegetables. The crew all seem very sullen. Sugar is not on the menu though we manage to nick some, and we wangle a coffee. The crew and captain eat much better than we do. I complain during the day about the food, but it isn't that bad - the four of us travellers get little perks. We read, play cards, and smoke a little dope in the evening - the rocking of the boat sends me to sleep.

The Indonesians are cramped under the canvas, they spew and spit and throw all their rubbish on the floor - it is disgusting, enough to make me vomit as I try to thread my way through with bare feet. My policeman friend has changed character completely - he's become one of these humble cowardly creatures - he begged some bread from us for his child. The crew each have a long rope with a double hook trailing from the back of the boat to catch fish. The toilets are filthy. The best times are sitting on the deck when it's cloudy but not raining, or at night, or in the captain's quarters where it is comfy and cool and the Indonesians stay away.

18 November, Padang/Djarkata boat


The drumming of the engine, the Indonesian sleeping on my seat, the game of chess next door, my throbbing feet - estimated time of arrival in Djakarta 9:00 tomorrow morning - I hope I can find a good doctor in a hospital quickly. I stand around the cooking area reading a book 'Hellstrom's Drive' but it's nothing special. Breakfast is better this morning - a fresher egg and tastier, cleaner vegetables. The rain is slashing down - I see a fish being pulled in, it takes two men - it's 3-4ft long with a head 6-7in wide, silvery yellow and blue - they let it flip around madly on deck then they slam it against the side by the tail and head - then it's in a pan in the oven - the cook also kills four or five small chickens by slitting their throats. I lie on deck half sweating, half sleeping. In the late afternoon, the boat goes around the southern tip of Sumatra and heads east - I see a beautiful beach and forested island. Supper is OK - everybody is apathetic - I play chess and cards with captain and crew - and we drink coffee in the captain's room.

19 November, Djarkata


We don't get any breakfast but Wayne cooks up the rest of the eggs so we have a tasty omelette - I scrounge some rice and eat it with the rest of Wayne's mackerel. The sandals I bought it Amman have finally gone to the place for sandals in the sky. A pilot comes out to the boat very quickly and we dock before eight. I limp and bus to the nearest hospital, losing the others. 100 rp to register which is OK - I am seen straight away even though there are 10s of Indonesians waiting - five or six doctors prod at my dirty swollen foot. They asked me if I have a fever or if I have any history of diabetes in my family. When they are satisfied they give me a prescription and take 500 rp off me which is not OK - I wash my feet, put my boots on and take a bus to town. I walk very slowly. At the post office there is a letter from Mum and one from Melanie with very little news. I limp and limp and take a taxi to the visitors information service - I pick up a map and they tell me how to find the youth hostel and other offices - but the youth hostels are too expensive - I'm getting very weary - I decide just to dump my stuff in the station and sleep there - I'm getting desperate to get my pills but I don't have enough money to buy them all and the price varies at each chemist.

I bump into Wayne who tells me how to get to his hotel, very near the station. On my way out to Merpati I decide to go into this luxury hotel thinking there might be a bank and a chemist. I change money and meet Wayne again who decides to eat here - for 1,200 rp he has a cheeseburger and milk - looks really delicious - I just drink ice water and rip off some sugar. I bus to the Merpati office which knows nothing about my tickets, they tell me everything must be confirmed in Bali. Wayne has a request ticket but I have a confirmed one. We are just walking down the road when an Aussie guy pulls up and takes us to the station. I buy a ticket for tomorrow then go with Wayne to his Losmen which is actually near the big railway station, half an hour away. Finally, I get my pills 2,200 rp - this is not OK either (plus I only get 10 of the expensive ones although I paid for 12). Gus and Paul are busy reading the letters Wayne has brought for them from the post office. I buy bread and we eat peanut butter sandwiches before going out to eat. It's a dingy Losmen, 500 each, but I'll not have to pay, and then I'll give the others 100 each. Wayne doesn't come so the three of us walk round town - rip off prices - 300 for nasi goreng - 50 for teh manis - but very cheap booze in a semi-supermarket. I ate a nasi campur for 200, really good rice with all different meats. We play a general knowledge quiz before going to sleep.

20 November, Yogyakarta


Although I set Paul's alarm I don't wake until 5:30 thanks to Wayne shaking me - boy, do I move fast - there are very few buses and they don't stop, but I manage to hitch a van which takes me right to the station so I manage to catch the 6:00 to Yogyakarta. The seats are made of a woven fabric, but some are broken, like mine, making them uncomfortable. All the seats are taken and a few people stand - the cafeteria is a primus stove at one end of a carriage with prices for teh manis at 50. I eat bread and jam and sandwiches all day - I drank plain tea at the rip off price of 25. The train doesn't stop at many stations but when it does lots of traders offer bananas, red spiky fruit and sweet bread - when the train slows down workers from paddy fields rush over and try to beg things from the passengers. The train gets less crowded as we get nearer Yogya. We arrive late. The nearest hotel to the station is a dingy room for 250. I go for a stroll - there are lots of fine things in the shops and plenty of varied food - I'm going to enjoy my stay here - I light a mosquito coil and sleep well without sheets or clothes.

21 November, Yogyakarta


I am up by 7 - peanut butter and jam sandwiches for breakfast - I'm in Yogyakarta the cultural centre of Indonesia - immediately it reminds me of Kabul - at least the area of Kabul where the travellers stay - cheap hotels and restaurants, lots of souvenir shops, printed English signs, good food at good prices and lots of Westerners. I stroll down the main shopping road - it's ful of shops selling batik, leather, silverwork, basketwork, wood, souvenirs, as well as chemists, food shops, restaurants and ice juice sellers - I wait for the Ntour office to open which gives me a useful map. I go first to an art gallery - Ami Yahaha - where there are some beautiful batik pieces - prices start at $75!. The Academy of Art has little to offer. I hitch across town to the batik research centre where there are rooms with people working at all the different stages of making batik - waxing, painting, dying, removing wax - it's very interesting. I head down towards Kotageda, and walk into a powder milk processing plant - it is modern and clean - someone shows me around quickly. At Kotageda, there are four or five very touristy silver shops selling 80% and 90% silver ring bracelets, candlesticks, bowls, plates, everything - some very finely worked stuff. One bracelet really interests me, so I search and search looking down all the backstreets where there are plenty of workshops. I find a woman making bracelets - she has quite a collection - I buy one for 1,050 and discuss the possibility of buying 20 or 50. She is quite business-like and is planning to open her own shop. I'm well satisfied and excited about the possibility of my little commercial enterprise - surely I can sell them for five times as much. On the way back, I pop into a house and play a game of monopoly. Back at the hotel I eat jam and peanut butter sandwiches. I use the toilet in a modern hotel - at the bottom of the high street they sell Indian roti with a mixture of egg, onion, greens inside - really tasty - there is hot milk for sale and a public telly in one corner too. My foot is much better today.

22 November, Yogyakarta


I hire a bicycle for 100 rp a day. I go first to the bank where I change $20. All the houses here are tiled whereas in Sumatra they were tin - tiles are so much more attractive. I cycle around the sultanate area and water castle which is partially walled off - there are segments of three metre walls - houses, paths, markets, coconut trees it's a pleasant area. I decide to go to the university for lunch - a long cycle to the north of the town - nothing special, library closed - very hot - I sit in the politics faculty reading room, writing - but it is too hot - and I'm too sweaty - there's no special eating place - it's a bit of a waste of time - I talk for a few minutes tp a politics student who tells me that communits are put in prison. The thought of sate for lunch drives me back to the hotel area - I buy 10 sticks of small bits of roasted meat with a peanut gravy and cabbage and rice - very good.

I am a lonely boy here in Yogya - I sit around in the hotel talking to an Aussie - women come round to the hotel selling batik - I get ripped off - I buy one for 1,500, but then I race down to the market and find I could have bought it for 1,000 - and later I realise I could have got it for 700-800. I am angry for a long time. I have a chat in the tourist office - I buy some old women's chewing tobacco in the market by mistake - it's pouring with rain - I am soaked by the time I find the place where a shadow puppet play is supposed to take place. I wait for the rain to slow and swim with my bike back. I decide to go back to the water castle area where there's a bird market (pigeons, chickens, hens, canaries) and lots of batik artists - every house is a small gallery -there is some good stuff, relatively cheap - a young artist shows me round. I eat another sate this evening with the Aussie - he worked at Mount Eisa, in the furnace room, for five months and saved $3,000. This is such an easy going town - there are hundreds and thousands of non-motorised wheels - nobody seriously hassles you (and you can even walk into most shops without being followed) - bread is expensive.

23 November, Yogyakarta


A long walk out of town hitching towards Borobudur - lorries and motorbikes. It is an impressive place - a huge stepped structure with ten levels rising to a stone pagoda - the top three levels are occupied by smaller stone pagodas with holes in and stone buddhas - all the walls are carved with the stories of Buddha - small blocks of grey stone put together like building blocks - crumbling, mildewy, falling over. There is a lot restoration work under way at present. The souvenir shops have some good wood carvings from Bali. I hitch back OK. I buy some flip-flops for 150 and find they flip dirt up behind onto the back of my shirt and trousers. I eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches, take a shower and contemplate the rain. I really can't sit around all night, so I take a betchek to the Yogya theatre for 50 - it's a strange feeling sitting behind a sheet of plastic and moving slowly down the road. 'A case of murder' is a 10th rate TV movie for which I paid 325 rp - but it was an air-conditioned cinema and I did have a comfortable seat. I'm buying a lot biscuits - I'm sure to get fat.

24 November, Yogyakarta


Another long walk out of town to hitch to Prambanan. I stop at a painter's house, and at a big hotel which seems pretty empty - most of the shopkeepers in the hotel were sleeping. After having walked nearly half the way, a van eventually takes me to Prambanan. Here is temple similar to Borobudur with the same stones and style of stone carving but in the nature of a Hindu temple - there are quite extensive ruins but the central pyramid is in better condition than Borobudur - four large rooms with four gods - lots of little cushions around. I have no trouble hitching back. I hired a bike with a wonky pedal for 50 and cycle to Katageda - I am really determined to buy $80 worth of silver, but when I get there, the woman wants me to come back tomorrow - she says she is busy. I leave but regrett it immediately thinking I should have insisted on making the trade. I eat a nasi goreng in the village - it's meaty, with an egg for 100 - good. I cycle back hoping maybe to contact the supplier of the shop in the high street but everything is closed. I go back to the hotel and then to the Winter Castle determined to buy a couple of original batiks. I walked around all the mini-galleries. I buy a traditional brown and white ox and cart for 1,000 - there's only one modern batik I like but the artis won't go below 3,000. The Sultan Palace is closed up. I meat Dave and Trish again.

25 November, Potollingo


I go out with the intention of buying t-shirts, kaftan material etc but all I buy is a taffeta wallet to send to Julian - I'm disappointed with myself - it's the end of Yogya. About 11, I set off to hitch to Surabaya - it's quite easy - a van for 30km and then a lorry to well past Solo. A good man buys me some lunch - rice and sate with veg, very good. The people, though, are freaking me out - within 10 minutes of sitting on my bag half way out of a village, little groups of people form - they just stare. I hitch by the Pertamina station - a lorry going to Malong picks me up, so I miss out Surabaya - it drops me on the road to the eastern tip of Java. I see rice fields, women bathing in rivers, children staring, public television in vilages with crowds around. I get to Potollingo around 1:00 am - it's very much alive - girls in lighted betcheks - cool see breeze - people carrying goods - peanut sellers - lots of people shouting 'where are you going'. I walk walk on out of town and eat a rice and meat stew in a betchek riders' hang-out - also a sweet tea all for 30 rp - excellent value. A little bit further out of town some boys hassle me - I get angry. When nobody is looking I climb a wall and bed down for the night - within one hour, though, kids are shining torches and throwing stones at me. One of the boys carries a whipe. They continue to pester me until I pack up and start on the road again.

26 November, Singaradja


Before too long I have a lift in a lorry delivering popsicles - kids and men rendezvous with the van and fill their large vacuum holders (which they then carry around all day until sold). It seems to me we go a very short distance in a very long time but then I am half sleeping. It is dawn when he drops me off. Another lorry picks me up - this one stops twice - once to bathe in the canal and once to eat - a good breakfast of rice with plenty of meat - but he doesn't take me too far either. After several lifts and several waits I eat a lousy nasi campur in a lousy town. I travel through grey mountains (rising to 3,000 metres) shrouded with cloud. The forests look proud and frightening. In the back of one truck, I am given a taste of durian. One short ride eventually brings me to a ferry place. The official ferry is not going for a couple of hours so I hump my rucksack around to the little unofficial ferries, weird looking thing that can carry one car and about 30 passengers - they motor right up on the sand and simply lower their ramp on to the beach. The wind is getting up and the crossing is really up and down - this boat has no weight without a vehicle and is bouncing around all over the place like a buoy - it is pretty frightening but I read one of Hemingway's short stories to pass the time - within an hour we arrive at Bali.

For some reason the first thing I do on Bali is play a game of chess - and lose. I hitch for a long time - all the drivers keep pointing left to indicate they will be turning off the road soon, so I start pointing left too. Eventually, one driver stops and sure enough he isn't going to Denpassar, so I go with him to Singaradja. It's fine riding, lying on the top of a loaded truck - riding on a thin road through villages of thatched houses, forests, small fields of rice, looming mountains to one side, sea stretching for thousands of miles on the other - the setting sun and beautiful birds. At one point I see a temple by the side of the road with thousands of monkeys clambering all over it. When the sun goes down, I sleep awhile with the bright moon watching. In a small town the lorry driver buys me a meal. Looking at the moon straight up through palm trees is just fine. In Singaradja, the driver takes me to a cheap hotel where I take a room for 250 rp. I wander around, eating biscuits - there is free tea at the hotel.

27 November, Denpassar


Early in the morning I wander around town and down to the harbour - there is very little to see or do here - the market is boring - it is very hot - I drink a beer. The hotel owner takes me to a cockfight - we are there an hour before the start but already there is an atmosphere with three or four different gambling games going on at once (dice, betting on cards, betting on numbered balls) - boys selling oranges and ices - an old man selling palm wine and beadie-like roll-ups. There are 20 or more men arranging which cocks are going to fight and when - I can hear the sounds of dozens of cocks. Before a fight, the owners carry their cocks around the crownd and they also approach one another, and ruffle the cocks' plumages (feathers and crowns) to make them angry. The cocks have a three inch razor secured to one claw. After five minutes of parading, the crowd reaches a pitch of excitement - the men are shouting out, louder and louder, as to what they are prepared to bet on which cock or what odds they are prepared to offer. At the pitch of this betting fever, the cocks are set loose in a marked out square. The fight lasts less than minute before one cock just lays down and dies. If the birds don't fight a gong is rung, and they are picked up and placed closer to each other - if they won't fight at all, they are placed in a small pen until one of them dies. The cocks fight with their mouths, jumping on each other and chewing at the neck. When the fight finishes, the loser sulk and the winner smile, but they soon all get back to gambling games. It's quite a scene - goes on all day. Later I meet a guy who says there is a connection between the cock fighting and keeping evil spirits away.

I check out of town - a jeep takes me to Denpassar through the hills. I see a lot of open temple complexes with fancy stonework and thatched rooves. We stop for a while in a cool village by a pleasant lake. I book into Hotel Yidi Yasa in Nekula street for 300 rp a night. Everything seems to be closed in the afternoon (post office, museums). I find nothing interesting around Denpassar - I eat a sate at rip off prices. There is a snazzy bar in the hotel with reasonable prices for tea and omelette and beer etc. I sit there most of the evening listening to two aged tourists and their mumblings. I also meet an English guy who is booked on the plane to Darwin on the 5th. He left England in early June and is fed up of travelling - he's been here for 10 days already - like a 1,000 others he's trying to get down south before the rains and Christmas.

28 November, Batur


A heavy breakfast, weird overcooked omelette and peanut butter sandwiches for a change! I race down town past a mini-wood carving market to a bank changed to change yet another US$20 (which leaves A$200 and US$100 remaining from £485) - then to PO, what a joy - 11 letters - Mum, J, M, Clare, Hilary, Gwenda, Dave, Maja, Chris - all good interesting letters. Maja is back at college and seems very happy - Chris has fallen in love, though he's finding London a bit dull after Kingston - Clare is happy with a new boyfriend - Hilary is giving flute lessons, sounds happy - Gwenda has moved up to Scotland - Frederic is coming to London! Julian boasts about his lack of work, his one night stands and his beer drinking efforts! - Melanie is a little under the weather. All the letters make me miserable.

I packed up some necessities in my rucksack and deposit the rest with the management for the extortionate fee of 25 rp a day. Apparently this hotel used to be the centre of things until Kuta beach grew to its present proportion and took much of the trade. I walk a long way out of town pausing only to buy airmail letters and post cards to home, Yappy and Sue. I am in the hot sun hitching a long time - eventually I take a van for 75 rp to Giunjar, from where I manage to ride in trucks to Penloken - going up and up and up - the drivers ask for payment but they don't get any - it seems everybody does pay in the empty gravel lorries but I didn't know this at first! In Penloken there is a youngish fair-haired Aussie with a broken down motorbike - some local lads are repairing it - two of the Aussie's friends arrive and start slagging off the repairers - an argument ensues, with each side laughing at their own jokes - the Balinese are demanding 1,000 rp - I sort of join in and argue on the side of the Aussies - eventually, when the Aussies threaten to pay nothing the Balinese agree and sign for 500. The Aussies are about to leave and find the bike doesn't start - I leave at this point wanting to make the hot springs before dark.

From Penloken there is a marvellous view of Mt Batur and black lava spreading over acres down the volcano - it's a long descent down to Lake Batur - a quiet lake stretching round the volcano's base - the crater remains covered in mist. Near the bottom and the small village by the lake, I start meeting farmers and boys who say 'want to cross' or 'cross mister'. They all quote me 2,000 rp for the journey. I ask for the path to the Air Panas - but none of the people help me - I am just sitting on the black sand lake beach wondering what to do when some girls show me the way - they say it is only 2km. I set off at a fast pace following a track and asking everybody I meet which way to go - I am walking on black gravel and across enormous rocks with coke gullies a few feet wide hidden by shrubs. I reach a small kampang after about 20 minutes and a village headman refuses to help me, he wants 2,000 rp - I smoke a cigarette - the sun is going down and the light is going so I press on but begin to lose hope. I reach a seemingly deserted village (no barking dogs, returning fishermen or lights) - there is a temple area which looks OK for shelter. I think about carrying on but when I see thin crusts across big black holes in the lava dust, I decide to stop for the night at the temple. I think I'm a real coward.

I read some letters over again and write some poems by moonlight - I'm feeling pretty sad. I move under the shelter of an open temple which has a roof but no sides, and tuck into my sleeping bag - I watch the clouds dance with the moon. The moon is quite high in the sky when suddenly I see several men walk into the temple area on the other side - the two leaders are all in white - immediately I think of witches and sacrifices (I'm so glad I'm not smoking any Afghani hash) - the men have a lamp and torches - they stop and start unpacking a few bits and pieces - I remain scared that they will find me - but soon one of them does notice me. They are friendly, and we talk a little around the fire. I sleep for maybe two hours while they perform some rituals - later I eat rice and boiled eggs with them around the wood fire - they are all wearing scalfs around their heads - tomorrow they go to Air Panas - they say I can go with them for 50 rp!

29 November, Ubud


Up at 5:00 with the rest of them - we march down to a landing point at the lake side - a boat man is waiting for them - but, guess what, he won't take me - I don't offer any resistance as I begin to be afraid that, even if I do wangle my way to Air Panas for less then 2,000, I won't be able to get back for less than 5,000 or whatever. This is the most closed-shop tourist rip-off I've ever encountered: 50 rp for the locals, and 2,000 rp for me. Never before have I not been able to get round the tourist rip-off one way or another. I feel very depressed about not getting to the hot springs.

Wearily, I make my way back to Penloken past more cries of 'hello' and 'cross mista'. A hard pull up the long hill to the top - quite a few people wandering down the hill with baskets on their heads - they are wearing slightly ceremonial gear (scalfs around their head and sashes around their waists). I eat some nice cookies, a trifle expensive. Eventually, after hitching for a long time, a lorry takes me to Klungkung for 50 - it's a long ride in the back with driving rain - I am totally soaked when I get off - I stay two hours in the shelter of a cockfight pavilion - I watch a soup seller and the children and the people sheltering from the rain with highly coloured umbrellas or banana leaves or baskets on their heads. Everything is carried on the head - even tables and pots and jars. In the centre of town there are some old law courts - straw-covered shelters with fine murals underneath, of battles and birds - pretty. I eat another poor sate and take a bus to Mas where I walk in and out of tourist wood-carving shops. The first one is run by a wise man - he doesn't follow me round - but he does quote me prices one quarter of those on the labels which, he explain, is for American tourists. He pays commission to the drivers etc. Just pick any out one you like, he says to me, I will price it for you. I pick out a $6 carving which he prices at 600 rp. The of the sellers were stupid by comparion, full of false smiles and offering me special discount.

I take a Binno to the centre of Ubud - where I decide to lodge at Tjenderi's Home Stay for 300 rp - I eat a vegetable omelette and rice - ace. The woman who runs this place has two fat books of complimentary comments from people who've stayed with her - there is also a big book of photos of Bali. She has quite a reputation I discover. I walk around the many art shops nearby - many complex paintings of people, animals, gods, forests - they feel massed produced like the wood carvings and batik. I write a letter to Howard. Right opposite is a practising gamelan orchestra - xylophones and gongs, lovely music - there are dancers practising too - the dancing of the RaMajana - I'd like to see it fully rehearsed and in dress, must be good.

30 November, Ubud


I eat rice pudding for breakfast. There is an American girl here who keeps complaining about her foot, an oldish Australian painter, a New Zealander, a Dutch car thief and a pleasant Australian girl who hires a bike. I try to find a bike to hire too, but without success - I hike one kilometre down to the monkey forest, but there are no monkeys that I can see. At the temple there, there is much activity - men making palm leaf temples and shades - yellowish cloth is hung around - women are bring foodstuffs on their heads - I walk in and around before heading back to Ubud high street. I hitch towards the elephant cave and meet up with the Aussie from Yogya and the couple, all on motorbikes, so I ride with them towards Bedulo but, when we're nearly there, they decide to turn back. I get another bike ride right to the caves. Here are some old stone carvings with water coming out of their belly buttons and a small passage into the rock - not so interesting. I hitch a ride back to Ubud where I eat two magnificent gados for 50 each - tomato, cucumber, beanshoot and rice cake in peanut butter sauce.

In the afternoon, I check out the little museum and then sit around in Home Stay nattering. I go for another walk in the monkey forest, and this time I do see some monkeys, lots of them swishing down through the trees to the island in the dirt-track cross-roads. A man comes to feed them and the monkeys fight over the food. I watch as a mother stretches out her long arm and pulls a tiny baby monkey under her where it clings on with four legs underneath. On the way back I stop a while in a rice field where there is a small temple with cobwebs and baby rats being eaten by ants - the sunset is uncomplicated and fine. I eat an ordinary vegetable soup (with celery) and rice for tea. Later in the evening we are wanting to watch the gamelan orchestra but they leave in a truck without us and there's no binno prepared to take us - instead we sit around by the live cinema, drinking tea and eating cakes - a fair old atmosphere with kids peeping through the woven cane walls and crowds around just listening to the story of Rama Superman.

December 1974

Paul K Lyons


Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG

1974 1975

1976 1977

1978 1979

1980 1981

1982 1983

1984 1985

1986 1987

1988 1989

1990 1991

1992 1993

1994 1995

1996 1997

1998 1999

2000 2001

2002 2003

2004 2005

INTRO to diaries