Are we there yet?: Tales of Travel

Between all the temple visits, the Soekarno memorial (Indo’s 1st pres), Bromo sites, burrito stuffing, Indian food num-numing, and organic veghead cuisining (Zula: worth a trip to Bali for just an amazing meal), we were more than satisfied with our chosen ‘check it off the list’ destinations. But how did we get there?

First Stop, that took one too many…BLITAR (Erin and Meb travel to Brianna’s site)

In short:
Bus 1: scheduled time of departure 4.30, it left at 6 on this particular Thursday. We received unsure instructions when told that we must transfer buses in a certain location. We were helped off the bus and instructed on where to go. Unfortunately this was in the most random stop in middle of a road.
Bus 2: we met an Asian witch doctor, who turned out to be quite helpful and what appeared to be an intoxicated woman, who was just annoying. The Asian man, who claimed to cure cancer, asked us to watch his duct taped briefcase while he tried to coordinate the cheapest route of transportation, while almost missing his own bus.
Terminal: left in an empty bus terminal 1 hour from our destination, we were left with two options. We could make friends with the many individuals who were just passing the time at the coffee stands and hope a bus might come within the next 3-5 hours, or take an expensive taxi straight to our destination (Brianna’s site). We chose the latter. Knowing that the former could and most likely would enrich our story, we considered that its outrageousness might churn out something that seemed fictional or too unbelievable for even ourselves to believe that late in the evening.
Taxi: A normal taxi service would provide its customer with the location they request. Apparently in Indonesia they have a different system. Once we arrived in the Blitar terminal (which was our originally requested destination-mistake of many that unforgettable evening), the taxi parked and tried to move us onto the service of the ‘becak’ (bike with a cart in front). Perhaps we hadn’t done enough small talk along the ride or the fake confidence as we stammered with directions and fumbled on street names really showed because the taxi driver had made it clear that he would take us no farther when he removed our bags from the trunk.
Becak: quick visual- man of maybe 60 years plus on a bike with a cart attached in the front designed to seat Indonesian-petite individuals followed us as we refused to pay for his asking price. At this point we were content with walking. We started to feel guilty when we realized this man had zero intentions of letting up. We piled on with an extra 20lbs of luggage that accompanied us. It had been the most peaceful we had ever experienced and probably will ever know Indonesia. When we just about started to feel accountable for the increased rate of inhales by our bike driver, the down hill approached and we braced ourselves for one last leg of the trip in rollercoaster fashion.

I know I’ve made this point before, but it’s worth restating, I heart my Batu host family. It might be the cooler breeze or the chilling waters or it could just be the general distance that makes this family’s kookiness that use to drive me up a wall now lovable, but whatever it may be I embrace ever second. I knew this place would present itself with differences the minute a man approached me for some water from my water bottle while we sat on the side of the road to wait for our ride from Malang to Batu. Startled with excitement when I willingly offered my entire bottle, he left and quickly returned with a glass refusing the whole bottle. An hour into my visit the street was blocked off for a parade that lasted 2 hours. It was quite a display of performers. From males dressed in feminine make-up and female apparel participating in traditional dancing, to those who chewed on glass or incense sticks, falling into states of delirium. One of these characters snatched at a coconut tree until he finally decided to climb it and pick off a coconut and break it open with his mouth and hands. When I had just about exhausted my eyes from all the rubbing to make sure I wasn’t having one of those delightfully-trippy malaria dreams, I went out to explore the rest of what I had clearly been missing. I had walked to Ora Ora Omba, which was another training village, and met up with Brianna to stalk out fresh corn and mendol (spicy tofu fried into nugget shape). Along the walk three different individuals offered to give me a ride on their motorbikes, which I had to refuse and I received two apples from a delivery truck that had tried to give me a box of them for free!

Surabaya train–>Banyuwangi ferry–>Bali bus–>BEACH!


hot spring blessing

The very day we arrived in Bali we were eager to rest from the long travels but more eager to shed some layers and get our fannies in that sand! We ended up not only catching some waves but attempting to find Tanah Lot, a huge tourist attraction because of its historical capability. We walked close to 5 miles when we realized that the locals weren’t exaggerating when they said “jauh sekali dari sini” (very far from this place). Right as we started to question if it was worth a continued journey, the rain came. This was a for sure sign. Then, right as we were about to collectively veto the trip and regroup as to how to get back to the hostel, a magical angkot (mini bus) rolled up out of no where and offered to help us get to where we were going. We loaded in, and as we shut the doors it started to pour.

As soon as we arrived to Tanah Lot, the rain subsided and the sun started to set, which is apparently the ideal time to visit. We made it in time to receive a holy blessing from the hot spring and viewed the beauty of Tanah Lot on the beach as the sun went down.

Monkey Forest
While in Bali, we took a day trip to Ubud. This touristy area is rich with Balinese culture, loaded with yoga studios, and complete with tons of shops and restaurants. The first stop we made was to the Monkey Forest. The habitat completely owned by monkeys big and small is used to playing host to humans. These monkeys are not shy. I had my hand clutched holding my wallet when a monkey stood in front of me and challenged my every move. He appeared to be challenging me to a dance off. He lounged right and then left with both arms out to his sides with his eyes pinned on me. Eventually I realized he had no interest in my dance moves but wanted to uncover what I held in my hand. I had to put both my arms in the air to surrender, stilted, he had clearly been disappointed and bored with me. He moved on to find someone else to assault. He was a feisty fellow, but PCV Allyson’s encounter had been way more aggressive.

at the Elephant Cave in Ubud, Bali

A few days prior she had received some intense rays from the sun that turned into nice bubbly blisters on her shins. She was a champ throughout our day trip despite the discomfort. The one blister had grown quite gigantic—none of us could get over the continuous growth. Little did any of us know that this would be a target of interest for a certain monkey. I had been on my way out when Allyson rushed passed me telling me it was time to get out because a monkey had been attracted to her blisters, popped one, licked its paws and tried to go after another. In the mist of laughter there held the fear of the aftermath between disease and infection. Sure there aren’t too many cases of something like this happening so precautious were necessary to take. Unfortunately the next day she was off to our main office. Luckily, rabbis shots were in store and she had an incredible story to share.


Brianna, Oma Colleen, Nicole, and I took a night bus on the way to Jember and off the island of Bali to meet up with PCV Whitney. We figured it would be easiest to sleep with an evening travel, plus it was the cheapest option that took no pre-planning. Which was something we time and time again congratulated ourselves on—how could should a great trip unravel?—easy, we had no plan and we continued to roll with that concept…until now. When we boarded the bus, our bags, along with our bellies a few pounds heavier, we filed in the remaining seats on the bus. We got situated and settled for our 7-hour ride to begin. Prior to boarding this bus, we had spent our last day on Bali in paradise (with PCV Erin and her bros amazing resort and pool). The joy on our faces made it obvious that we were all still running on that pleasant experience. To our surprise the bus seemed to be stalling. Moments later, it started to shuffle more people on to the already penuh, or full bus. Then plastic stools lined the aisle as 20+ people were piled in until the bus was completely stuffed! People even stood along the entrance stairs before the bus finally set off. I was happy to be in between two fellow PCVs, but our 3rd person row gradually turned into a 4-seater, as the guy sitting on the aisle stool next to our row slow snuck his way closer and closer to our seating area. I felt most pity for Brianna who, like a champ, bit her lip as our 4-seater guy uncomfortably inched his way to share her side of the seat. The bus moved quickly along the windy route, but by hour 3, we were still stuck on the island, bus still at overcapacity, and we had STILL gotten little to no sleep. I was in a state of hysteria because I couldn’t keep my laughter (about the situation in its entirety) to myself or under control. But what really broke me was when Colleen who was sitting at the back of the bus, was leaned over her backpack, which was positioned on top of her lap peacefully asleep, as the person who sat to her right wedged himself between her seat and her back, completely passed out! I lost it.
And luckily that’s when the bus boarded the ferry, enabling us to get off that god forsaken bus and take a breather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too fresh and the groups of characters were lurking about, and they weren’t the fellow cheapskate backpackers I was hoping for. Once I finished my abdominal laughing workout, bend over as if the air might be fresher, it was time to board the bus again and embark on East Java soil. From that point, we still had another 2 to 3 hours. Even when people started to get off the bus, we still couldn’t lose our 4-seater guy on the stool next to our row. When we somehow calculated that we were 30ish minutes away from our destination we re-situated in the ‘ready to escape’ position. A strange feeling of stiffness swept over me while collecting my things in the 2-inches of space I tried to maneuver in. This worried feeling that I’d forgotten someone’s birthday or didn’t have pants on. But I had still been lost in a stateless mind and as soon as I had thought to check for all my belongings, the bus came to a slow stop. Shouts came from outside, “America! America!,” as if on cue the bus attendees grabbed our bags to shuffle us off the bus like one bundle. I had quickly snapped to. Those 7-hour extraneous hours abruptly came to a speedy halt as if they never existed. It was all just a blur. I stood there and squinted my eyes as I watched my bag being moved to another vehicle by another young gentleman. I don’t even remember the bus stopping. When did that happen? I had been wobbly from getting out of the 90 degree angle my body was positioned in for so long, and tried to feel out my standing legs. Unsure if this was even the right stop we didn’t have much time to reconsider it once our bags and then ourselves were off the bus. As the continued, “America! Ayo America! Whitney, AMERICA!” was shouted we followed the young man whose hands held our bags headed to a faded yellow angkot (mini bus) that Whitney described as our vehicle of transportation from the bus to her house, it had been finally conformed that we made it to the right destination.
We were left in the debris, legs unhurried to be put in motion, minds slow to come to, and eyes clouded working hard to readjust to the sun rays. When my state of blurred apprehension and the overwhelmed fear of forgetfulness was soon confirmed…I had lost my glasses.


this horse has an awesome poncho, as do I

Nicole and I completed a few yoga sun salutations, as Brianna captured photos, and Colleen and Whitney sipped on their teas at the sunrise at Bromo. It had been a vacation from vacation. This had been my second venture to Bromo. When I went in October it was covered in ash and quite difficult to hike and fight off the debris from entering your eyes, ears, and mouth. With the most recent trip, Bromo’s surroundings revealed some green. The climb was more manageable and there weren’t as many people. There was a chill in the air and breathing was crisp and clean.

4 thoughts on “Are we there yet?: Tales of Travel

  1. Wow, you girls are very brave!! I love your descriptions. We visited Ubud and enjoyed the monkeys too! I’m so glad you got back home safely!! Love you lots!

  2. Wow!! What amazing stories! It sounds like a movie!! I would love to go to Bali one day.

    I’m glad you had a fun (interesting) adventure. I love the pics. Keep them coming!

    Miss u.

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