Adventures in Indonesia – Volcanoes, Bikes and Planes – Part 2

8 06 2009

Narrated by Tolik

As we were descending the volcano and approaching Selo, I ran ahead to check on my bike. I think I forgot to mention earlier that 30 minutes into the climb to the top, I noticed that I did not have bike keys in my pocket, so I assumed I must have left them in the bike, which I deemed to be an acceptable risk at the time. Now, coming up to my bike I noticed they weren’t in it. Looking around the bike and asking locals if they have seen them didn’t yield anything. At this point Alex and Borya came down and we were deciding what to do. It was 11:30 and our flight to Jakarta [capital of Indonesia, our through-point to the next destination] was supposed to be at 14:40. Another complicating factor was that we had not actually purchased tickets for it and were intending to buy them in the airport before the flight. Some locals have suggested that they could start the bike, if we could take of the chain locking the front wheel, which has a separate lock.

After trying several keys from the keychain a local brought, I actually found one that unlocked the chain. However, the ignition had a separate, round key, which was impossible for us to pick. The only other option left to us was transporting the bike back to the city. Borya quickly arranged it with the locals, who agreed to provide a truck and a driver. While he was waiting for the truck, Alex and I went back on his bike.

Although it only took about half the time to get to Yogyakarta [where we were staying at a guesthouse] as it took to get to the volcano, the ride seemed to take a long time. Buses passing within inches of the bike were not helping the situation either. By the end of the ride I was passing and cutting people off no worse than any Indonesian. At 13:30 I got to the hostel. Surprisingly, Borya has just arrived right before me – with the bike in the back of a truck.

We decided that if we could get to airport by 14:00, we had a chance of catching the flight – “stranger things have happened” said Borya, rationalizing our decision. We decided to separate to get everything done. In only 10 minutes, Borya managed to deal with owner of the bikes and the lost keys and check us out of the hostel, while I packed all my stuff that was thrown all around the room.

The following is what happened next:

13:45 – we boarded a taxi. Despite being offered a cash incentive to get us there in 15 minutes, the driver wasn’t able to complete the drive in less than 30.

14:15 Approaching LionAir [our airline] office at the airport, we noticed the schedule of flights to Jakarta: 14:45 was crossed out and 14:20 was written on top. Getting to the window I asked about the next flight, even though it was useless to us because we had a connection from Jakarta to Kota Kinabalu shortly thereafter. It didn’t matter anyway – the next flight was full.

14: 19 – Running out of viable options, I went to AirAsia [another airline] to see if we can somehow arrange something in terms of changing existing tickets and maybe getting to Kota entirely through them. The price quoted was exorbitant and I left without saying a word as soon as the guy finished typing it on the calculator. I delivered the bad news to Borya, who was sitting with the luggage, and went on to look for an internet access to decide on the course of action. On my way I passed the departure information screen. I saw 14:20 flight that we technically missed, but there was something curious about it – it was not boarding yet. I decided to ask LionAir agent again. What followed was so incredible that it prompted Borya to later say “I don’t think stranger things have happened.”

14:26 – Approaching a different (than the one I asked previously) agent at the ticket desk, I asked: “What would it take to get 2 tickets on 14:20 flight to Jakarta; it is not boarding yet.” “Today ?” – he asked incredulously. “Yes, right now” – I replied, trying to reassure him with the tone of my voice that I was serious. He made a quick phone call and then wrote down a number on a piece of paper – one million rupiahs (or… $100). I nodded and threw him my credit card. He, in turn, made another quick call and told his assistant to write up the tickets, who proceeded to do so at an incredible speed. As she was doing it, the boarding was announced for the flight.

14:29 – I ran up to Borya shouting that we probably made the flight and then ran back. Picking up the tickets, we ran towards the check-in counter. As I was giving the agent our passports, before I could say anything, Borya gave his enormous backpack into the luggage. He too now realized it wasn’t the best idea, given our limited amount of time for connection in Jakarta to the next flight, but the agent would not give it back and we didn’t have time to argue.

14:37 – We continued through security and came up to the boarding gate just as the last batch of people were boarding the flight. Every seat on the plane was taken, except for the first row of seats. Our seats were 1A and 1B. The seats on the other side (D-F) were used by the flight attendants.

14:50 – The plane departed.

16:00 – We landed in Jakarta, which left us with an hour and 10 minutes for our onward connection to Kota Kinabalu [our next destination]. The problem was that the flight to Kota was at international terminal and we arrived to domestic, which was a good 20 minutes away. It was compounded by the fact that Borya’s bag was checked in.

16:20 – While he was waiting for the bag at the carousel, I researched how to get to the other terminal and how long it takes. Coming back inside the terminal I saw Borya still waiting for the bag.

16:23 We have decided that I should go ahead and check us in and he would come later.

16:45 – As I ran back out of the terminal, I bargained with cabbies for the fare, but noticing I was in a hurry and not wanting to break the default price, they all wanted $5 for a 10-minute ride. Luckily, a shuttle bus was just departing the bus stop, I waved to the driver, who courteously stopped and I got on. Reaching the international terminal and subsequently the AirAsia check-in counter, I was in for another nasty surprise – you need to check in 45 minutes before the flight, and I was there about 30 before. My request for check-in was promptly escalated to a manager, who flat-out refused. I was considering options available but couldn’t find anything better then to continue arguing with him. If we didn’t make this flight, we were better off not leaving Yogyakarta [our previous destination] in the first place, as the next one was only in 2 days. Also, I didn’t know if Borya was successful in getting his bag. I continued to argue with the guy, repeating “the flight is not boarding yet” like a mantra.

Meanwhile, going back 20 minutes [Borya’s narration]: 16:25 – As Murphy’s law states – things that can go wrong, will. The bag got lost in transition and only after running around and having the luggage manager actually come out to the airplane itself, it was recovered.

16:35 – I grabbed the bag and ran out on the street, needing to get to the International terminal pronto. I looked around for taxi driver and, immediately, one popped up. “40 thousand rupiah,” he asked. Although I was in a rush, I knew that it was a rip-off price and by reflex, I declined and made another several steps.

Another driver made an appearance. “International terminal,” he asked. “Yes. Do it for 30 thousand?,” I offered. He hesitated for a second and agreed. We ran into the parking lot when, to my big surprise, his taxi vehicle of choice turned out to be a 2-wheel motorbike. Normally, that would not be a problem – except that I had 2 backpacks on me, which are not really designed for motorbike riding.

Cursing the heavens and the driver for not being upfront, we put one backpack between his legs, I sat behind him and held on, as he made his way out of the airport. But, if Indian drivers can carry 4 to 6 passengers on a bike, Indonesians are just as good at carrying passengers with bags and backpacks.

16:50: We made it safely to the terminal.

16:53: When I caught up to Tolik, he was arguing with the manager about letting us on the flight. We immediately attempted to do a good cop, bad cop routine where I tried to appeal to the good side of the manager, while Tolik kept arguing with him simultaneously.

When we started to lose hope, somebody suddenly radioed in the manager. Through the jumbled voice, we made out that the flight was delayed. The manager looked at us, looked at his assistant, looked at us again and said to the assistant: “print their boarding passes.

17:04 – We boarded the plane.

17:15 – Plane left the gate.


I’ve learned a few valuable lessons about flying that day.

After arriving to Kota Kinabalu late at night, we had no energy to look for a hostel. And since we had a flight in the early morning, we just settled in to spend the night at the airport. It was cozier than it looks :)

After arriving to Kota Kinabalu late at night, we had no energy to look for a hostel. And since we had a flight in the early morning, we just settled in to spend the night at the airport. It was cozier than it looks 🙂




7 responses

9 06 2009

Borya, you should do some PPC, I dont think anyone reads these. 🙂

9 06 2009

I read them! These are great!! Sounds like an incredible adventure!

9 06 2009

Thank you, Anutik!

Vidish tolik 🙂

9 06 2009

I think that everyone is speechless after reading what you been through 🙂

9 06 2009

Talk about the luck of the Irish (or is it Yiddish?) … you realize that there are now hundreds more Indonesians with fuel for their tirades on how crazy Americans are 🙂 I will be looking forward to an update on your trip to wherever it was you wound up in to make sure it was worth the pain and trauma of getting there!

9 06 2009

Typical response from an Indonesian: From America? BARACK OBAMA! He study in Jakarta, you know?

9 06 2009

God bless the greenback

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