Friday, October 21, 2011

Implementing Plan B

We are still in Jambi after several long hard days on the road. Each day we have to make a certain distance to even reach civilization as between cities there is really no option of stopping because there are no hotels, restaurants or even rest stops … just miles and miles of jungle interspersed with poor, poor villages. We have taken to stopping on our way out of town each morning at a market and buying crackers, Pringles potato chips (all well past their expiration date) and bottles of water and we eat and drink those as we go along. Plus when we stop – even for gas –we are treated like minor-celebrities / aliens who have dropped from another planet. We are immediately mobbed with people who want to touch us or take our photo. This young woman insisted that Rainey give her his phone number and pose for over a dozen photos with her and every one of her friends. The fascination with us is a little disconcerting!!
Arriving here was to hard (to say the least). After nine hours of driving – and with still an hour to go - it started raining and then pouring (with lots of thunder and lightning)…. And we learned that our Tuk Tuk canvas top leaks like a sieve. I piled our back packs into black plastic bags that I had bought with me - and put on a rain jacket - but we were both drenched and our Tuk Tuk kept filling up with water like a leaking boat. We pulled into the Andari hotel (“the nicest hotel in town” according to a passing policeman) looking like drowned rats.We soon
learned that “nicest hotel in town” has a variety of meanings and none of them – in this context – means ‘luxury.’ The room did have beds with clean sheets and air conditioning so that’s a plus. For dinner that night at the hotel restaurant we both ordered spaghetti bolagnaise (because it seemed harmless) and got served boiled spaghetti with a generous helping of spiky Bar-B-Q sauce on top. Yuck!!!
The next morning we did the math and figured out that we could not make the boat in Medan if we carried on. Our Tuk-Tuk (we call her “Katie” in honor of the Blues Brother’s song, or at least what Rainey remembers of the song ….‘She caught the Katy and left me a mule to ride’) is steady but VERY slow.
Seems like Katy’s gear ratio is wrong because we can literally start her in 4th gear and go up a hill in 5th and she tops out at about 25-30 Km per hour (whereas other Tuk Tuks are doing 50).
We calculated that we just cannot go fast enough to catch the boat and, since Katy’s lights are wired wrong, if you turn them on - within an hour – they go very dim and then kill the battery. Traveling any distance at night is thus dangerous. We had to drive after dark to get into Pelambang the other night and destroyed the battery which caused us to have to push-start Katy for most of the next day with Rainey running behind and me popping the clutch (we were quite a sight!!!)
This morning, we went to Plan B and started asking around about
shipping our Tuk Tuk to Medan on a truck. 5 million rupees later, seven men literally picked up our Tuk Tuk (no-one had thought to bring a ramp of any kind), strapped Katy to the back of a truck and took off. The trucker came with his very elderly father who was so enamored with Katy that he sat in the back inside the Tuk Tuk – moving the wheel from side to side – like a kid in a toy car as they drove away. I have wondered all day if he pretend-drove her all the way to Medan (a 23 hour trip by truck). Rainey had to spend an eventful morning at the police station getting official letters (with lots of embossing and signatures) that give the trucker permission to carry our vehicle. And then was returned to the hotel on the back of motorcycle – weaving in and out of the awful traffic!!!
The pressing question is whether we will ever see Katy again. We insisted on only paying half down in Jambi and the other half at delivery in Medan, which we are hoping ups the odds of a “Yes.” The Rickshaw Run is not really a race for time since every team has to be at the crossing in Medan at the same time and put the rickshaws on the same boat. It is more a test of nerves, adventurous spirit and ability to navigate your way through a part of the world that has seen very few Westerners in a piece of machinery that is guaranteed to break down at every turn. We have heard that other teams will be trucking their Tuk Tuks to Medan as well and several teams have already given up because their Tuk Tuks are no longer operational. So while we bitch about our Katy’s speed (which is not much above a fast jog), we cannot complain about her stamina. She has cranked out 10-13 hour days – day after day – without even getting hot or giving trouble (other than the full battery shut down).
After waving goodbye to Katy, we turned to the second puzzle: how to get ourselves to Medan. Again, not an easy feat. Jambi has an airport but there are no dire
ct flights to Medan and there were no flights available out of Jambi - at all - that whole day. We finally tracked down a travel agent who got us tickets for tomorrow morning where we can fly from Jambi back to Jakarta - and then literally fly over Jambi again on our way to Medan.
We spent the afternoon wandering around in the nearest market where the most popular item – by far - is various types, colors and kinds of head-dress.

also bought a pair of knock-off Converse High Tops which – with no real attempt to be as similar as possible to the original – actually zip up the side.


Derek Maingot said...

Go go Zo.

Hope you and Rainey make it all the way.

Heidi said...

Enjoy your celeberaty status as long as it lasts. Hope all goes well and you actualy find Katy back as expected.
Love reading the blogs so keep writing.
Love Heids


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