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Bali to Remote East Java - A road trip

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From the start we had decided that we must leave Kuta early morning so that we could reach Jember (East Java) before dark. We had been advised it was about 8 hours. OK, but's it's Monday morning and we need to exchange money, sorry Bank opens for exchange at 10.30 am. Battle along the narrow road through Seminyak to Tabanan, just reach by-pass and get flat tyre. No problem, true Brit style decide to change myself (stupid, already forgot that in Indonesia there is always someone to do it for cheap!) but in a hurry. What! the wheel wrench does not fit (how unusual), go to the tyre repair (no wrench available) OK, decide to drive on the flat, 500 yards to the next one (takes 15 mins) after 1 hour of arguing at the other depot.

Now we are really pushing it, the road is full of pot holes, dips and winds, a nightmare full of scooters, diesel belching trucks and buses, single lane all the way, but the scenery is magnificent with beaches, palm trees and mountains. Finally make the Ferry at Gilimanuk about 3 pm. (By the way, if you rent a car in Bali, you must get a proper permit to exit to Java). Roll on ferry pretty average, old and dilapidated but you get across in about an hour. We ate some form of soup based dumplings which were excellent.

In Banyuwangi the road eases a little with the traffic but you are faced with more bikes and scooters, plus horse drawn traps. Un-eventful road to Jember, about 2 hours, except for one section where you climb up over a pass with many hair-pin bends, through a lush tropical jungle. Of course being armed with a MAP I was truly confident that we could find the obscure village of Jenggawah, what's the problem, it's on the map?

Reach Jember and it's pitch black, that's the problem! We ended up in the centre and finally along a by-pass, far from our intended route and with no clue. Suddenly one of the passengers says stop the car and runs after a scooter. They hire him to escort us all the way to the village (50,000 Rp). (Ever tried to follow a scooter with no lights in the middle of the night through a major city and then down winding lanes? Talk about nightmares?) Anyway, we finally reach to within 10 kilometers of the village and they say another 1 hour, how can that be? Oh, I see, the road ran out, now we are traveling at about 5-10 km, the road is bone rattling with loose dirt, fully rutted, full of tree roots, potholes and gullies.

Eventually arrive at our destination, completely exhausted, hands bruised from gripping the wheel and sore back from the road. In the morning the view showed various tobacco and rubber tree plantations, a winding river, volcanoes and lush greenery. What more could you want!

The village contained flimsy bamboo huts, a local well served for the cleaning/washing area (took some getting used to showering with everyone watching), where they filled a large bamboo pole with water. Toilet, oh I forgot, there wasn't one, you used the local ditch behind the houses. Food consisted of fried eggs, more fried eggs, fried eggs, boiled eggs, hot tea, a scrawny chicken, some noodles and rice. The people were fabulous, soft and friendly and of course inquisitive since a white man had not visited before.

Would not have missed it for the world, but did have the return trip to Bali to face!

© Paul N

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