I haven’t been sleeping very well so decided to go to bed really early, which of course meant I was awake really early too. I had breakfast of a really horrible pancake with chocolate spread in the middle and a dragon fruit. They are such an awesome colour, the best colour you can get in a fruit, but they are completely tasteless.
I packed up all my stuff and cycled the 1km to the train station. It was disgustingly hot already. It started off straightforward. I spoke to the cargo people and although their English was limited we established that it would be possible to get my bike on the train to Surabaya. So I went and bought my passenger ticket (esekutif 170,000INR / first class £10). When I came back to the cargo area I was then told that I would end up at one station – Syrabaya Gubeng and my bike would end up in another station – Surabaya Kota. Not good.
So I would either have to get off the train and then find a way to get the 5km between the stations and I really didn’t want to do that if I could help it, so we decided that I could talk to the train man and ask if I could continue on with the train to the cargo station so I could collect my bike. The man assured me it wouldn’t be a problem so I said goodbye to Priscilla without being totally confident that we would be reunited. It cost about £7.50 for Priscilla to be transported which included ‘packaging’. In this case, that packaging was a sticker.
I hung around for an hour and then finally got on the train. It was reasonably comfortable, a reclining seat, a foot rest and sockets. It was air-conditioned so it was nice and cool which was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat outside, but after a while it was really cold and I had to cover myself up with my sarong. I thought the journey was 5 hours but it ended up being 6.5, because I didn’t do my calculations properly.
The train was completely empty to begin with and it only ever got about half full. I started by looking out of the window at the passing scenery. Mostly rice paddies and palm trees, but I soon became despondent because of the piles of rubbish I could see all along the way, and then when I saw the burning piles of plastic I stopped looking for a while.
Aside from all the rubbish, I was pleased to see lots of wide open space and not too many people. If I had chosen to cycle, Banyuwangi to Surabaya following the train route it would have probably been fairly easy as it was flat, but you would have to follow the main roads which would be really busy.
The journey was uneventful, it was just long. I spoke to the train man about carrying on to the next station and he said it wouldn’t be possible. Here we go. I basically told him I would be staying on the train and he was going to have to help me! He seemed very young and he was really sweet, he went off and came back with his phone and a translation on it. From what I could gather he was worried I wouldn’t be able to get off the train because there was a big drop to the ground and a long walk to the station. I figured if they could get off the train then so could I, and it definitely wouldn’t be a long walk! Indonesians don’t do walking. He somewhat reluctantly agreed to let me stay on.
So all the passengers got off the the train at Surabaya Gubeng and I stay on for another 10 minutes while the staff cleared up the train with the music blasting out! I easily jumped down off the train and we walked over the tracks. I asked him to take me to the right place to get my bike., he didn’t have to do that, so he went above and beyond with his customer service. He asked me if I was happy with the journey and if I thought the facilities were good, he takes his job very seriously! The poor guy was all dressed up in a suit and sweat was rolling down his face. We tried to have a basic conversation as we walked along, he couldn’t understand why I was travelling alone. I have learnt to tell people I am from Southampton, because the only places they know are related to the Premier League. Maybe I should just tell them I am from Manchester, that seems to be the most popular team.
The nice train man left me with some more men and said they would escort me to my bicycle. One of the men went away and came back on a scooter which I jumped on the back of and we rode around to the back workers area of the station where all the cargo was being unloaded. It was all very random and I find myself having to put a lot of faith in these random people, who don’t speak English, to get me where I want to go.
Thankfully Priscilla came off the train in one piece and I got stared at a lot as I packed my stuff away. I cycled down the dirt track to the road and used maps.me to find my way to the hostel I booked. maps.me is great generally, but it’s not very good at knowing which streets are one way streets, and when I came to one with the traffic all heading towards me I thought bugger this, I’m just going to go against the flow. I cycle past people every day riding on the wrong side of the street, besides, who is going to stop me?! So I (carefully) went against the flow and it was fine, then I had to get to the other side of a very busy 4 lane road. I just pushed my way out and hoped for the best. The only way to get across a street in Indonesia is to walk out into the traffic with your hand out and hope that they stop!
The traffic was brutal and I was glad I only had 5km to go to get to the hostel I booked. I managed to go the wrong way a couple of times, not because I was going in the wrong direction but because I couldn’t get out of the flow of traffic!
At about 5pm I found my hostel and they let me bring my bike inside which was nice. It is a huge room with about 20 beds in, but they all have a roller blind, a light, a rail to hang up your towel which is a first, and a universal socket. It is a bit if a weird hostel, no one speaks to each other, although I am probably the only English speaking person here.
I decided to stay here for 2 nights because I didn’t want to get on another long train ride straight away, and I wasn’t looking forward to going through the whole train booking process again, but I thought I would get it out of the way. I chose this hostel because it is only about 300m away from the station, the passenger station. I enquired first about the ticket which was fine, and then I had to go through the cargo process again. Of course no-one in the cargo area spoke English, but they were all really sweet and really helpful. We managed to get by with a few words, some pictures, writing stuff down and gesticulating. I wrote down the date, time and destination of the train I wanted to travel on. That was understood. I showed them a photo of my bike. Ok. Then I had to try to ask if the bike would end up in the same station as me which was a little trickier. I decided to phone Ayu, the Indonesian lady who I stayed with a couple of days ago, she tried to help me but her English is also limited so we didn’t get anywhere with that.
I don’t know why but I felt really emotional and I felt like I was on the verge of tears, well I do know why, probably because it was 5:30pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, but also because they were being so nice to me and trying so hard to communicate with me in a few English words, and I felt so inadequate not being able to speak any Indonesian with them. It is so frustrating being here and not being able to communicate.
Eventually I think we came to an understanding and hopefully I will be able to get me and the bike on a train to Yogyakarta tomorrow.
I needed to find something to eat and the thought of noodles or rice was not appealing. This is a big city, with skyscrapers and huge buildings and a local warung isn’t easy to find. So when I saw the golden arches I saw familiarity and headed there. Yeah it was gross, as it always is, but I was past caring. I was better than rice or noodles. I went for a chicken burger over a ‘McSpicey’ but was disappointed when the tomato sauce turned out to be chilli sauce!
I haven’t yet seen another westerner. I get stared at a lot here, more than anywhere else I have been. I get called at and cat called a lot. I don’t feel unsafe but I do feel really uncomfortable.
The reason I stayed a day in Surabaya was because I couldn’t face another whole day on the train, not because there was anything here to do.
The number one attraction – a cigarette factory. Zero interest to me, even if you can see people hand rolling cigarettes. Number two attraction – an old submarine. Considering it was 35 degrees and 100% humidity outside, and I have read it is even hotter in the big metal box, I decided against the submarine too.
Surabaya is the capital of East Java. Sura (shark) Baya (crocodile) is represented by a statue which is the third most popular tourist attraction in the city, and I did manage to go and see that…
I don’t really like it here. I feel like a tourist attraction for the locals and I get stared at, or shouted at every moment I am walking down the road. It makes you not want to go outside.
The hostel I am staying in is pretty awful. I’m in a 30 bed capsule dormitory, and I am the only westerner. Despite there being big signs up everywhere saying not to eat or drink in the room, and to keep your phone on silent, no one gave a shit about this. Especially the man opposite me who was slapping his mouth up and down while he was eating, watching something on his smart phone, while he tapped out a message – with keyboard clicks – on a second phone. My misophonia was in overdrive!
For the 30 people there is one toilet and shower, and I don’t know what they do in there but the whole bathroom is wet all over when they have finished, the toilet, the walls the floor. everywhere. I didn’t get a good nights sleep. They have the most ridiculous key card system for the lockers under the beds, which make a high pitched digital tune every time they are opened, and some of them take several tries to open, so all through the night people were going in and out of their lockers. Also the roller blinds on the bed are loud and people are constantly rolling them up and down. And then there was the man snoring right next to me which not even my headphones drowned out. And to top it off an alarm was going off at 4am waking everyone but the owner it seemed!
I couldn’t stay in the hostel all day without going mad so I headed out only to be hit by a wall of heat. It felt like someone was blowing a hairdryer on me. So I went to McDonalds again, because it was air-conditioned and big enough for me to be able to hide in the corner away from people. And yeah, I had another McDonalds. I spent most of the day doing admin stuff and updating the blog.
In the afternoon I decided to go to the train station and book my ticket. It was a total pain in the arse again.
Are you ready for this? Try and keep up…
The first man I saw sent me to see the woman in the next cubicle – he was only booking tickets for today apparently. The ticket I wanted had sold out and there was only economy left. I didn’t want to spend 5 hours in economy, so she offered me a different train at 9:15am. I explained to her about the bike and the cargo options. I knew the cargo was fine for the 7:30am train but was it ok for the 9:15am train? It was a different company so she couldn’t answer my questions. She told me to go and speak to the cargo people but they closed at 4pm and it was after 4pm. If I booked my ticket now I wouldn’t be able to change it and if I waited I ran the risk of it selling out like the other one had. Previously when I had been told the cargo people had closed they had always been open, so I went back outside and spoke to the cargo people again and I told the lady I would come back in 5 minutes to book the ticket. Ok, she said.
I spoke to the cargo people and used google translate this time to get all my questions across and they are much more helpful than they are in the train station. We established that I would be able to get the 9:15am train and Priscilla would be sent on the cargo train which would arrive at the same station as me and at the same time. Back at the ticket office and the lady I was speaking to wasn’t there. So the other lady said no I can’t book a ticket because it is after 4pm and the system is closed. Oh for gods sake! But the other lady was about to book me a ticket only 5 minutes ago. I asked to speak to her but she was busy… praying. So I waited 10 minutes for her to finish and when she came back I was able to book my ticket with her. Jheez.
I made another trip to the cargo people to show them my ticket, just so everything is clear, and I am taking the bike to them at 7am tomorrow morning.
Part of me thinks that it would just be easier to cycle, certainly less stressful than buying a train ticket. But then I go outside into the traffic and the heat and I think I would just spend half the day trying not to pass out!
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