TRAVEL GUIDE FROM THE UNDERBELLY------4
Five weeks is a long time for two men
sharing close quarters, 24 hours a day.
I forget what set us off,
but I remember a mutual rant
on the high seas one day amidst paradise islands.
Our time together, had run it's course.
My host knew of a small,
fast-boat from Senkep island
(in the south) en route to Tanjung Pinang.
He got on the marine radio
and was able to contact them,
charting a location which would dissect theirs.
We sailed on for an hour or two
before dropping anchor.
Eventually a spot on the horizon appeared.
It slowly grew into the spray
from two powerful diesels engines,
which hovered slightly above the horizon,
rapidly approaching our point of anchorage.
In short time, a great, sleek,
overpowering fibergalss Leviathon,
quivering slightly from recessed power,
slithered gracefully to a stop
beside our own timid craft.
A door broke the the seal of the hull.
With the help of a slick rack and pinion mechanism
it was ejected outwards several inches
before levitating upwards.
It remeinded me spacecraft in the movies.
We parted on good terms
and I boarded the beast and bought a ticket
for passage back to Tanjung Pinang.
Upon returning to Tanjung Pinang
I decided to buy a mountain bike.
The Indonesians made cheap knock-off copy’s
of western mountain bikes.
They might not finish first in the tour de France,
but they were more than adequate for my purposes.
I bought one the following day
and began my first trip around the island.
I had to get back in shape
after many sedentary weeks on the boat.
My first week on land found me huffing and puffing
as I slowly ground my excess belly ripples
into sweaty steam vapors.
When I felt ready to tackle
the next leg of the journey,
I purchased a boat ticket for a port
along the eastern coast of Sumatra.
The boat left in the early afternoon.
It was a stiletto slim bullet-boat.
Long and mean little fiber glass things
with a motor made for speed.
They had one problem though,
they’d crack open
like a roasted chestnut after a few years.
The motor would then be pulled out
and slapped into a new shell.
The one that I boarded
had long striated cracks running though the roof.
They never really got the hang
of fiberglass lamination.
They were in too much of a hurry,
did’nt let the layers properly cure.
They didn’t care though
so everything was good to go.
As always the trip sprang forth
like from a romance novel.
Blue sky’s and billowing clouds
were all snuggled up
under a hot and hopeful sky.
Just another tropical dream
with lush islands drifting by with a grin.
Sumatra loomed large on the horizon
and was growing ever closer.
We disembarked from the bullet-boat
and boarded an old wooden ferry.
I walked my bike up the ramp
and leaned it against the side rails.
I tied it up so it wouldn't flop around
and hung my gear from the seats and handle bar.
People were sprawled out along the deck,
on top of sacks, on boxes,
and between chickens and goats.
We traveled through the night,
up a long and windy river.
Our boat was not so unlike
that in the movie “African Queen”,
although I was not Bogart
and the women next to me,
was certainly not Catherine Hepburn.
I ate food I had brought in my backpack.
I had stopped at a farmers market
near the ferry port in Tanjung Pinang.
I shared what I had with the people around me
and was soon engaged in lively conversation with my shipmates.
At some point I went to sleep
with the smell of diesel in my dreams.
I awoke early and peed over the side of the boat,
as the other men were doing.
I don’t know where the women peed.
They did seem a bit swollen.
In the afternoon we came to a small city called Palembang where we disembarked.
I had no particular destination.
Someone told me about a small city call Bukitingi.
It was a few hours bus ride away
and it sounded good,
so I went into the woods,
did my ablutions and came back to board the bus.
I know that every one
who travels in the developing nations
has a story to tell of long days in bus's
and trains all cramped between a big mama
and 20 kids and 40 chickens, for days on end.
My journey was not of this stature.
It was a bit crowded
but without the 20 kids and 40 chickens.
They were tied to the roof
along with my mountain bike.
I was invited to sit in the front of the bus
with the driver and his mates.
They could speak a bit of English
and I was pretty good at waving my hands around.
Our lively conversation passed the time.
Their point of interest
was centered around the question of
what are European women like in bed.
I told a tale of debauchery
which made them sweat and drool,
and brought them to the edge of their seats.
They all had an erection.
Quite frankly most of what I told them
was not even anatomically possible.
You can’t stick it in a German women's ear
screaming like a banshee by the full moon,
If you try they will call the police.
I just told them the first thing
that popped into my head.
We arrived in Bukitingi
and I departed the bus with a good conscience.
I had done more for those boys
than a year of therapy.
I had to figure out where to go next
so I spun a bottle on the ground.