It was all going so well. A cheap flight came our way at 5am to Balikpapan on the east coast of Borneo. We jumped on board with minutes to spare and headed to the jungle. On arrival we saw that we had shared a flight with an Indonesian boy band called Hitz. Lots of screaming girls had their photos took with them so it only made sense that two more joined them, see the pics. Their tour manager seemed keen for us to pose with the band and took more pics than the local DJ did with our camera. All eyes on Hitz website for a couple of old groupies hehe.
That wasn't the end of the celebrity frenzy, on local girls turned their attentions to us. The line "I've never met backpackers before" should have been a clue to the cul de sac we were about to run up, however blinded by flattery we obliged with a idle traveling chit chat.
Then it was off in a cab. What followed was a walkabout of the worst accommodation we have seen only matched by the outrageous prices attached to them. With humidity running at 90+% and a 35 degree heat we were soon wearing down. Add this to experiencing the absolute non-existence of the understanding of the most simplest English and some very dodgy taxi fare quotes and we were in hell!
After a short spat with one another Petrina took a gamble and we headed to a pricy looking hotel in search of English speakers to direct us to the bus station. She hit that jackpot as the staff there took pity on us and gave us a one hour free ride to the bus station. When I tried to pay the guys the chap forced the money back in my hand despite my insistence and made sure I understood the price for the bus so we didn;t get ripped off. In times of crisis it's rare to meet such nice people. The saved us....for an couple of hours.
After a 2.5 hour smoke filled bus ride through some beautiful countryside and accompanied by buskers that jump on and off the bus, we arrived in Samarinda. It was exactly the same as Balikpapan but without the pop groups. Eventually we settled for a garish looking hotel called J.B's if only it was my mate's J.B he'd run a better hotel than this!. This place was a time warp to the 1970's and filled with smoke, hmm maybe John was running it!...Anyway, one of the first culture shocks about Indonesia is the smoking, not just indoors but everywhere. It's like the national pastime or something. As a reformed smoker I may sound like a hypocrite but I assure you, if you want to give up smoking come here for inspiration.
So we retired to our room and settled into the Shining 2012 hotel. After eating our way through the minibar snacks which were far more appetizing than the food on the street we watched a couple of movies and fell asleep hoping to wake up somewhere else. Oh, and somewhere after checking in Petrina found out that a bridge had collapsed up-river making journey to the jungle impossible. DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!
The next day we plotted our escape. The local; airport couldn't help so a bus journey back to Balikpapan was all we could do. Heartbroken, ill, exhausted and ruing the wasted money we arrived at Balikpapan. We knew Yogja on Java was a good place to go so that was our plan. "No flights until tomorrow" was our greeting. Loses were cut, health both physical and mental needed caring for so the hotel airport was a much needed treat and refueled us and comforted us well.
The next day we were off and flying back to Java with hope back in our hearts.
Much love C & P xx