Thursday, February 14, 2013

It’s only scary when you open your eyes

We were warned about the bus ride.

The trip from Rumbai to Duri is around 75 miles – so on an interstate in the States it might take one a smidge over an hour to travel – on the autobahn in Germany – 45 minutes or so. In Sumatra – as the saying goes, pack a lunch. The trip is three and a half hours on a good day.

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The students at the Rumbai campus warned us of what was ahead – bumpy roads anaconda winding up and down hills – oncoming traffic of palm oil and lumber trucks swerving at the very last moment before we become that single line in the New York Times, “Two Americans die in Sumatran bus crash…”

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The pack your lunch bit would have been good advice as well. We were also warned by the students not to eat the food at the rest stop half way there (a place called Kandis which the kids called Kansas) they promised us our digestive system would unfriend us if we did.

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This proved to be a bit of a problem as we had lunch at school at noon and then climbed on the bus at four with no provisions before or for the journey. In the end, considering the excitement of the ride – it might have been a good thing we were traveling on empty stomachs.

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So, after all the bad press given our journey before we embarked one might wonder what could possibly make it seem more harrowing. How about an extended cloudburst version of a torrential downpour from the heavens? Check – delivered exactly five minutes before we had to drag our bags across the parking lot to the bus terminal.

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Well our travel advisors may have exaggerated a little. The ride was somewhat exhilarating – but I think maybe they overplayed the whole terror aspect of it. In fact there was only one time when the whole bus collectively gasped as an looming logging truck cleared us by the width of a gecko’s eyelid (you know you’ve experienced something good when even the locals get pie eyed).What was scarier than the ride was the miles upon miles of jungle that had been shaven from the countryside in order to be replaced by row after row of palm oil plantations.

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In the end, obviously, we survived and on the trip back we knew enough to pack snacks. Live and learn to ride another day.

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