Blonde can barely remember what’s the idea behind Christmas, so this holiday had her newly befuddled. Turns out it marks the end of Ramadan. To celebrate it Muslims travel to visit their families. Apparently no one’s family lives in the same town they do in Indonesia. Also, remember that these are people who have just come off a month of fasting and think about how great you’d be feeling after that.
As we were using a travel agent for the Indonesia part of this trip we asked her about the Eid al-Fitr traffic warnings. She repeatedly said it wouldn’t be any issue at all. She was basically right, it wasn’t an issue for her as she was in Italy. But it caused us to spend a day of our vacation in an 11 hour traffic jam.
A private driver picked B&B up at the shocking hour of 7:00 a.m. at the Yogyakarta airport . We were going to visit Borobodura (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592/) and Prambanan (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/) on the way to where we would be staying for two nights, the Losari Coffee Plantation Resort and Spa (now MesaStila http://www.mesahotelsandresorts.com/mesastila/). The drive was going to be a couple of hours, plus the sightseeing stops, so we were anxious to get on the road. Our driver had his own agenda and kept insisting that we take some time to “relax” at the airport before setting off. Who the fuck relaxes at an airport? In Indonesia? We were anti-relaxation and pro getting our asses on the road.
We finally got his ass on the road and he began extolling the merits of a fascinating silver jewelry workshop where, as a special treat for us, we were headed. Despite our repeated statements that we had no interest in going there, especially if it took us an inch out of our way, you can probably guess that he drove us to the silversmith. (The “relaxation” suggestion had been to delay us until they were open.) We spent about 2 minutes looking around, 3 peeing and then got in the car and demanded that we get going.
What we didn’t know at the time (but definitely suspected) was that the trip to the silversmith was waaaaaay out of our way. Golly, what could have motivated the driver to do such a thing? (If you really don’t know, then you’re lucky. The answer is that drivers take you to those places then get a percentage of what you spend. In our case a satisfying zero.)
By the time we were headed in the right direction it was late morning and we were screwed. We could see a major storm brewing in the direction we were headed and there were now forty-seven bazillion (estimate) Indonesians on the roads. And they were on the roads in ways we never imagined; motorcycles with four people on them, horses and buggies (WTF there are Amish Muslims?) cars, vans, small over-crowded buses and trucks. Not only was there transportational variety but the various options occasionally traveled against traffic which greatly facilitated complete gridlock.
There are very few advantages to gridlock but there is one: gawking at people in other vehicles. Normally you don’t see most of the other people but when they’re going against traffic and are inches from you, you can get an alarmingly good look. Many were startled and seemingly delighted to see Blonde. We got quite a few thumbs up, waves and shout-outs. Blonde is a total attention whore who thrived on the friendly acknowledgments of her blondicity. (There aren’t a lot of blondes in Indonesia, actually there never seemed to be another one anywhere.)
But gridlock, especially when the temperature is 130 degrees outside and 139 degrees in the van, and you’re seething with anger at the driver, sucks. Normally Brunette is the patient half of the B&B duo. But not this time. She was pissed beyond her massive limits (please refer to previous blog posts re her husband whom she has endured for the better part of, well, many years). It takes a lot to push her buttons but the van driver ‘s actions were pushing those suckers big time. As the storm continued to head our way and the traffic didn’t, the situation reached its tipping point.
Allegedly we were very close to a restaurant where we would be stopping for lunch (if you eat lunch at 4:00 p.m). Feasting on the views of fellow travelers, while intriguing, does little to fill empty stomachs. And, surprisingly, the normally mild-mannered Brunette turns into a crabby high maintenance pain in the ass when she needs her calories. And she needed them NOW.
Suddenly Brunette opened the door of the van, jumped out and began to walk, with unusual levels of speed and determination, to the restaurant. Blonde decided that this was a good time to follow her sister’s example so she also exited the van (to the protests of the driver). With Brunette leading the way we hoofed it through traffic to the restaurant. Fortunately, it was nearby.
After lunch, which was excellent, even to the discerning palates of two massively pissed off Americans, the driver came slinking back. He had been the target of many toots and derisive laughter when his female infidel passengers had exited the van in the midst of traffic. Although he was unlikely to be invited to join MENSA any time soon he had finally realized that it was time to quit screwing with us, at least with Brunette, the female Forrest Gump of traffic-walking.
He drove us to Prambanan and we enjoyed it thoroughly by giving it the full two minutes it deserved after we’d traveled halfway across the world to see it. We speed-viewed it because the storm was becoming more aggressive. The next stop was Borobodura, another UNESCO site we had wanted to see for years. As we reached the temple the storm struck us with a full-fledged weather bitch-slap. The entire place is ancient smooth stones and everyone who was already there was now descending the narrow steps in a monsoon. It was amazing that the always clumsy and now dripping wet Blonde managed to get to the top without medical intervention. After making it back down we ran to the van and headed to our resort.
In another several hours we were there, in the late evening and having missed one of our two (expensive) days.
(We did get some limited satisfaction by ratting out the driver to the hotel management as he was from a service they contracted with and they told us he wouldn’t be used again.)
Ever heard the joke about Irish Alzheimer’s? Here it is: They forget everything but their grudges. Suffice it to say that we have a lot of Irish in our genetic slop pots.
So, if that driver ever shows up in Boston asking Blonde for advice on how to see Maine and Montreal she’ll be happy to tell him the best way to go is via Cape Cod on a Friday afternoon in summer. Suffice it to say that that would be wrong and horrible and result in a large withdrawal from Blonde’s Karma bank, but it would be very satisfying. Oh, and she’ll tell him to put the travel agent in the car with him.