Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ferry to Bali

Those of us continuing on to Bali had assumed that, as we'd already gone two days without an air-conditioned vehicle, and wasted a lot (okay, two) extremely early mornings looking at the inside of clouds instead of volcanic views, surely this last leg of the trip would at least maintain the same standard of mediocrity, not get worse...

As usual, we were wrong.  In the little town on the coast near Ijen where our group split to go our different ways, the six of us (me, the Swiss couple, a Chinese couple from Beijing, and the Japanese guy) continuing to Bali were crammed onto an already overflowing public bus, with two seats on one side of the aisle and three on the other.  Small windows up near the roof were open, which was only helpful when going a certain speed.  Other than that, it was again meltingly hot, sticky, and so crowded that we had to complain to the conductor that we'd paid way too much money for tickets not to get a seat, at which point he managed to shuffle around a few bags and make his buddy move to stand on the steps so that we could all cram in.  

I expected this to be absolute misery, as I knew we had to cross the ferry, and then it was three or four hours, I wasn't really sure, on to Denpasar.  However, we were closer to the ferry than I thought, and the fuss over seats turned out to be rather a waste of time.  We moved five minutes down the road before pulling onto the dock and directly onto the ferry.  At that point, inside a ferry, the temperature inside the bus became unbearable, so most of us decamped to the upper decks, where at least there was fresh air, if you could manage not to sit by anyone smoking.  A few locals, used to the heat, did stay on the bus to nap on the empty seats.  
I went up to the top deck and found a shady seat next to the Chinese couple.  While still hot, at least there was the occasional breeze as the shore of Java grew smaller and smaller behind us.  The crossing didn't take too long; maybe forty-five minutes if that; you could see Bali hazy in the distance from the port.  Just before arriving we all filed back down the stairs and reinserted ourselves to sweat on the bus.  Fortunately, not everyone returned--apparently for the locals, a place on the bus is just the way onto the ferry, and they weren't continuing on to Denpasar.  It was still fairly full, but not maddeningly so.  I managed a window seat this time (not that it helped much), with a mother and little girl next to me. 

And on we went.  The scenery along the way was beautiful--maybe Bali really would be the wonderland and paradise everyone had made it out to be: on the left, brilliantly green rice fields dotted with thatched-roof huts stretched across the field to the feet of distant volcanic mountains.  On the right, there were frequent glimpses of beaches and blue water reflected the nearly cloudless sky; I was excited to see that some of the beaches were even volcanic black (okay, really dark gray) sand.  Alongside the road, locals gathered at wooden stands selling piles of durian and coconuts.  Surely now that I was out of Java, I would feel better and my energy would return; who could be apathetic in paradise? 


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