some insights into life in Indonesia
Sat 24 Sep 2011 02:37
We met some other travellers, Alex and Glen, who told us about their travels in Java and how confusing it all was. Alex and Glen wanted to do quite a long trip and see lots of places, so they hired a driver. They had a long chat with him and his partner, who had better English, and told him they wanted to see sights and trek, and Vernon said he could drive them, organise a trekking guide, and help them to negotiate good prices for hotels along the way. They would need 2 driving days to get to their destination. A detailed breakdown of the costs was written down, including an allowance for Vernons food and accommodation, and next morning they set off.
The first day was a surprise. Their “10 hour drive” turned into 12 and when it was very dark and the driving conditions were even scarier than in the daytime, Alex and Glen said they wanted to stop. Vernon had a friend with a hotel nearby so he arranged them a “really good deal”. This involved two suites, one for Alex and Glen, one for Vernon, in a palatial but crumbling 1970’s hotel which was hugely expensive. But everyone was tired so they just got on with it and had a word with Vernon next morning, explaining this was not their idea of a good deal at all.
Next night, Glen said “we just want clean and simple with a bathroom”. They drove for another 10 hours and arrived in pitch dark and fog, nowhere near their destination, and Vernon found a much cheaper place, but again, somehow, Alex and Glen paid for his room. Same again the next night. But they had finally (after 3 days rather than 2) arrived at their trekking destination and a guide, Harman, was duly arranged.
Vernon appeared intimidated by Harman and they seemed to misunderstand eachother right from the start, about prices, timing, and the fact that Glen and Alex wanted to go walking, not sit in the back of a car. They actually thought that Harman misled Vernon intentionally because he was an easy target for bullying. They felt pretty sorry for Vernon, who kept the car scrupulously clean, ran around after them, carried the luggage and bowed and scraped quite unnecessarily. But they were also really annoyed with Vernon who said yes he could organise everything, but had no idea what trekking was, and was a manipulative little so and so into the bargain.
So after the trekking fiasco Glen and Alex started organising their own hotels and just using Vernon as a driver. This really upset Vernon, he was desperate for them to stay in “his” hotels, which were always more expensive and less nice. The crunch came when Vernon asked them to lend him some money for his accommodation ”because his boss was angry with him and had not paid him”, and ambled off with the money, looking really dejected, throwing Glen and Alex into a paroxysm of guilt.
Then another really bad thing happened. They drove past an accident on the opposite side of the road. Someone was lying in the road, people were standing looking but nobody was attending to her, so Alex asked Vernon to turn round. They pulled up just beyond the accident, Glen and Alex jumped out and ran back, Vernon stayed in the car. The victim was a young lady, knocked off a bike. She looked like a dead animal with a pool of blood under her head, and her little girl, with a bleeding cut over her eye, was standing by, crying. Alex got down and started to check her, and thank goodness, she moved, and was breathing. But they were worried that she could have a spinal injury and/or skull fracture and it wasnt clear where all the blood was coming from. So they ran back to the car to tell Vernon to call an ambulance, he was sitting in the car texting like mad, and wouldnt get out. They ran back again, by which time the onlookers had picked up the lady and dragged her to the side of the road. They let go of her and she just flopped back. Alex just caught her before her head hit the floor and got her hands and forearms covered in blood. Still no Vernon, no ambulance. Then a policeman arrived and started directing traffic, and the people around decided to pick the injured lady up and put her in a car, and that was the last they saw of them.
Alex cleaned herself up with screen wash and hand gel (they had no water left). They asked Vernon what he thought would happen to that lady, would she be taken to hospital? Would she get treated? He said he didnt know, “my country is different to yours”. He said he could not get out of the car because, 5 years ago, he had stopped to help at an accident, and was accused of causing it. He had to go to court to avoid paying for the person’s treatment, and people do not get treated unless someone pays.
Vernon was really quiet after this, and tearful. But later on, he opened up a lot. He told Glen and Alex he hoped to start his own travel business, selling tours to Europeans, Chinese and Japanese. They told him his efforts to pull the wool over their eyes with hotel prices was a really big mistake, tourists are not stupid. It had been obvious from the start what he was doing. He told them he worked for a company that had to pay 40 percent to the hotel he works from, and he miscalculated the price for this trip so his boss would not pay him. Vernon had slept in the car one night. Glen and Alex knew the trip was overpriced, but they were short of time and decided to go with it. But the one who was really ripped off was Vernon, at the bottom of the pecking order.
Alex and Glen had a really great trip, full of surprises. As so often happens with travel, they said, you plan one thing but get another, and those insights you get are the best and most memorable experiences. They got to like Vernon in a paternal sort of way, and really hoped he would do well in his travel business, but he was so clueless, they didnt hold out much hope.