Journal 28: Day 8: Jakarta to Bogor to Cibodas
Bogor was supposed to be another town away from Jakarta, but because the train never passed an area of countryside or farmland, it seems more like a suburb. Jakarta is huge and sprawling. It’s really something. It’s probably even as big as Bangkok proper. But looking at it from what I have seen, I don’t think it would be the same size if you included Bangkok’s outskirts.
Nevertheless, Bogor was pretty cool. I got off the train and immediately got lost in this huge market abutting the train station. It was really great. Live animals hung helplessly, soon-to-be-cooked fish of all shapes, colors and sizes squirmed around in little plastic bins gulping at what little oxygen was in the water. And the buzz of people swimming through the bird shops, meat houses and covered clothing depots really came together to form an energy that I can’t quite describe here.
One of the best things about Indonesia, as a photographer, is that you can wander down any street, allyway or corridor and find interesting things to shoot without the worry of getting lost. With so many bike taxis and becaks, there’s always someone who’s happy to give you a ride back to the main drag. So there’s really no reason to ever dive into a map. In fact, getting lost in the back neighborhoods, mile-long markets and slums gave me some of the most interesting subjects and the warmest smiles.
The men would come up to me and want me to take their photo and they would want to take a photo with me. In fact, on one occasion, two friends came to me with their camera phone while one shot and the other posed, another man tried to walk into the photo and be a part of the action and the two men almost beat his ass right there in the street. It was pretty comical and it spoke to their interest in my foreign presence.
There has been a constant familiar smell that I have not been able to place. But as I walked through this market, I finally figured out what it was: clove cigarettes. And now that I notice them, I see them everywhere. Almost every single man that I have encountered smokes cloves. Perhaps it is a national point of pride since they are grown all throughout the islands here. But whatever the case, it’s really staggering once you notice it.
Now, when I talk to people, I look down at their hands and their classic sixth, white-paper finger is never absent. It’s like an extension of the people here. It seems to be less of a custom and more of an expression or a unifying cultural item. It’s hard to believe that everyone does it so consistently, but that’s the way it is.
Once I left the market, I headed through this scary looking road into a ghetto and got a few photos of some pretty derelict places and faces and caught a bike taxi to the gardens. And then lesson number one came crashing upon me: Name your price before getting into the taxi.
Now, to say it like I am just now learning the lesson doesn’t quite ring true. I have been taking taxis in dubious places for the last six years of international travel. And I have known full well that if you take a ride with someone before settling on a price, it’s up to the cabbie to come up with the price when the ride is over. And, oddly enough, that price seems always to be just a little high.
On this particular occasion, I simply slipped up. I tried to speak to him about a price before I got in, but he didn’t speak any English at all and didn’t seem to understand when I drew out what I thought was a reasonable price on my palm. He stared blankly. And instead of choosing another becak, I just hopped into the seat and hoped for the best. I snapped away at the passing items on the street as the man pedaled me into town. It was about three to four kliks, so I didn’t figure it would be that expensive. But when we arrived, his level of English comprehension jumped to a staggering level. He informed me that I owed him 50,000Rp for his efforts. This is about US$7. Even in New York, to drive 10 blocks wouldn’t cost that much. So of course I told the man that I would not pay that and within seconds a crowd developed.
The man became very irate, inviting others to join his cause. But after he told the surrounding people the fare he wanted to collect, they seemed to lose interest in supporting him. A few of them leaned over to me and said, “Just pay him 20,000Rp to be finished with his pestering. He’s just an old drunk!” I did so and his argument seemed to follow his pride (and his money) as it sunk (into his pocket). Mildly perturbed but knowingly being called out on his public display of dishonesty, he pushed his squeaky becak back down the road.
The gardens were gorgeous. But I wouldn’t want to do it again. Essentially, once you have taken any of the hikes in the area, the gardens pale in comparison. Their grandiosity (and strangeness) is something I am glad to have seen once. But the strange displays of old relics with the backdrop of jungle seemed more to be thrown together in order to charge foreigners money to come and take a look. The skeleton of a blue whale is on display and there are tons of foot-sized beetles to make up for the sweaty hike through more than 870 hectares of park reserve.
After the park tour, I headed back into the urban maze by way of another sprawling market. Naked people and tourist shops lined the roadsides as I made my way around. The scents were still bold and sometimes overpowering. But I came away with quite a few nice shots.
[add gallery here]
The people in the market were quizzical at first. But the second that I started smiling and waving “hello” at people, they became quite engaging. They ran up to me to practice whatever English they knew. One teenager ran up and said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Please allow me to introduce myself,” and then ran back to laugh about his boldness to his friends. Older men came up to ask where I was from, how long I had been in Java, where I was going, what was my name and on and on.
Beyond the market lay another slum that I walked through. School children ran alongside me in their little, brown uniforms. Girls squealed and boys struck poses when my camera came out and all of them waved “Goodbye, Mistah,” when I walked on. On down the road a little way, a mostly naked man seemed oblivious to my camera as I snapped him walking up a main drag leading into the ghetto. I ran in to get the shot and then went back into the slums. I needed to find some good shots of local things. I had enough of what was on the tourist drags.
I came upon a couple of guys seated above a drainage pipe filled with feces and trash. They just sat and ate in the hot stink that rose from the ditch. As I shot them sitting there unaware of my presence, I wondered how it was possible to eat within any proximity of that stench. But it’s a different place with different mores.
Coming out from the edge of the ghetto to a main road, I found a motorbike taxi that I paid to bring me to a hotel. We agreed on a price of 15,000Rp and he set off. We stopped by one hotel that was overpriced and then moved on to another one which was more my speed. Once there, the driver argued that I owed him more money for multiple stops. I indicated, through the hotel owner who spoke English, that we had not agreed on that price and another hassle broke out.
The driver lowered his additional price so that I would be more inclined to pay, but I stood my ground and went about my business talking to the hotel manager. But the manager suggested that I pay the man. I asked the manager if they were friends and he said that they weren’t. So I asked why it would matter to him what I paid the driver. And he simply replied that I should pay him. The driver was bickering on and I assumed if I did not say something that the charade would go on for hours. I finally told the manager to tell the driver that he would not get any money from me in addition to our agreed price.
A few words were exchanged and the hotel manager reached in his drawer and paid the man 5,000Rp. The driver looked at me holding up the bill and laughed. I then laughed back louder than him and stopped suddenly, staring him in the eye with my sunglasses pulled down so that he could see that I would not be intimidated by him and he nearly stumbled backward over his bike.
I had, by that time, found out that every price is negotiable, apparently even after settling on one. So I have made a special note in my negotiations to stand my ground even if the price difference as it translates to US dollars amounts to very little. I am sure that I would not be doing the next fare any favors by giving into every US$1-2 every time someone complained that I am not giving them enough money.
The hotel was okay. I needed to dry my clothes off since I had been sweating in them for a few hours. But when I went into the bathroom to use the faucet, I found no faucet. In fact, looking around, I found no showerhead. There was also no toilet and no evidence that any of these items ever actually existed there. So I promptly checked back out and caught a “van-cab” back to the terminal where I hopped on the first bus to Cibodas where I might be able to chart a course up the mountain.
Leaving Bogor, I saw the last thing that will probably stay with me for a while. There was this statue of a man stabbing a tiger in the back with a huge sword. The man was valiant and daring and his muscles stretched the fabric of his uniform. The tiger had massive testicles and was positioned as though outstretched and ready to pounce with its mouth was open showing its huge, sharp teeth as if to scream out some silent, perpetual shriek of having been dominated by this unstoppable man. The whole thing just glowed with some misplaced sense of masculinity. It was pretty bad.
Driving through the mountains here was amazing. The terraced fields and tea plantations lining all the mountains in view were really impressive. It must take a lot of work to supply the world with Javan spices. And this must be where it all takes place. They stretched out for miles. They were amazingly long and amazingly green. Quite a sight. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get but a few photos because of the poor light, the speed of the bus and the seedy-looking characters on it.
Nevertheless, we arrived in Cibodas (Chee-BO-dahs) and I hopped off and headed up the first mountain I could find. It wasn’t long before I found a motorbike taxi willing to bring me to the gates of the mountain park of Gede Pangrango.
Inside the park office, there is a model of the mountain. It’s quite nice and must have taken a lot of care in creating. And looking at it, I could see that I was completely out of shape to be attempting to summit it. But, that is what I was here to do and that was my goal.
Around the model are photos of all the wild animals that inhabit its jungles. Yellow tigers the size of the trunk of a Cadillac, huge rat-like evolutions, hoards of monkeys, squirrels, mongoose (mongeese?) and a good variety of birds.
In trying to secure a ticket into the park and up the mountain, the permit officer told me that I was not allowed passed the waterfall without a guide. This would cost me a lot of money (per my budget), so I had to really want to do this and be dedicated. So I managed to push myself through the decision and purchased the ticket. The guide would be a little harder to track down, though.
That’s where Freddy comes in.
Freddy has to be 80-years-old but has the energy of a howler monkey. When he talks, it looks like he is being electrocuted. The wrinkles in his face stretch as his big mouth moves forward in what looks like an exhausting effort to produce words. And he kind of sounds like eldest Klopek, the pathologist’s older brother, on the 1980s movie The Burbs, with Tom hanks.
This is the man that the park sends all its visitors to in order to arrange a homestay, connect with a guide and set up transportation arrangements for the surrounding area. And he is an interesting choice in the public service sector.
Upon my first encounter with him, he gloated about his losmen as if it was the best guesthouse in Java. It had the nicest beds, world class cuisine and a shower made for a king. What I found out, though, was that was a third rate, condemnable structure that had sectioned off upstairs rooms with disassembled bunk beds, the food was made by his wife and the leaky bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a decade. I wouldn’t want to wash a dead rat in it. Well, I wouldn’t want to wash a dead rat at all. But I wound up having to bathe in its icy dribble after the hike. So I guess you do what you gotta do.
I don’t mean to knock the cooking either. The old lady does a hell of a thing with not a whole hellofa lot. She has this magic trick where she turns chicken into crack. It was actually pretty tasty and left me wanting more.
At any rate, I was connected to the guide and we spoke about how and when I wanted to make the trip. I indicated that I would like some morning sun because I had noticed that a mist rolls in around 10 a.m. and doesn’t fade away until after the afternoon showers had dispatched all the moisture from the sky. He responded that we would have to leave around 1 a.m. so that we could get to the top by sun-up.
Amazed, the idea of that kind of hike hadn’t occurred to me. I didn’t know that it would take that long to reach the top. He told me that it was a 10 Km hike from start to finish and that it would take five to seven hours. And because that didn’t sound too bad, I decided that would be an okay time to start.
Knowing that I had to be up in six hours to start the trek, I grabbed some food and water from in town to bring along the hike and headed for bed.
My watch woke me up at 12:50 a.m. and I began throwing things on for the trip. My new shoes would pay their dues and I would be rewarded with a wonderful view of the entire area in just a few short hours. So I thought.
[Notes from immediately after the returning home and eating, and just before I crashed on the bed after 13 hours of hiking, follow]
Okay, so it was the most ridiculous, prettiest, most annoying, most entertaining and longest hike that I have ever done to date. Among the highlights are: My muscles are numb, my stomach empty, my skin burned and my head pounding, I am finally home. I paid too much money. I saw three volcanoes, two hot springs and a waterfall. I think I am going to die and there was a penis-shaped root sticking up from the ground at some point. My guide lied about how long this trip was. We hiked through some huge plantation to reach the other side of town. And just when I thought it was all over, we took a one-hour van ride on a rusty bucket of duct tape and bolts through a monsoon that turned the roadways into flooded canals to get home.
Okay, I am going to sleep now.
I wrote all that as soon as I got back to the hostel because I knew that I wouldn’t remember it when I woke up. And I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been able to recall any of it if I hadn’t written it down. I knew that I would have to go over all the highlights in greater detail later. So when I finally woke up, I ordered some strange dish from my electric host, Freddy, and took my freezing shower. The food was really interesting. I think that the lady fried it with a pan full of garlic and oil. Very interesting and the most different tasting chicken I have ever eaten. Then, of course, I was overcharged for it. But that’s how things seem to be going here in Indonesia.
Well, the sights were great in the forest. I didn’t really see any large animals. But there were plenty of birds, monkeys, bugs and a couple small poisonous snakes – vipers or maybe asps, I think. The foliage was all gnarly and grown-in with everything else. Just like the rainforests in Central America, everything was growing off something else. It was a huge real estate competition and it looked like everyone was winning.
At the beginning of the hike, we left the hostel and headed up the road to the gate. On the way, we passed many of the area youth still awake, smoking cloves and laughing at the big white man as we walked by. There was also what looked like a huge area where many buses had just pulled in to drop off about a thousand praying Muslims. That was a little unexpected. But we reached the gate, passed over a bridge and met up with the “park ranger” who checked our permits and bid us a good morn.
Then it was onto the millions and millions of stones that would lead us up the mountain, over to a waterfall and stop just before the tough climb.
It took us about three or four hours to finish this part of the trek and we saw the waterfall on the way through this part. Well, we kind of saw it. We mostly heard it and squinted at it through the silvery light of the moon perched in a watery mist overhead.
Along the way, there were several concrete erections created to house passersby from any untimely rain that surprised them. But those weren’t the only erections. As we were walking up to the two hot springs, I tripped over something that almost made me fall. When I turned around I had to look much closer to realize what I was looking at.
My eyes saw it. They sent the message back to my brain. My brain received it and it was pretty clear what it was. But the hard part was accepting it. Was it a penis? Was there some poor bastard buried just below this earthen cover who’d died with a hard-on the size of my forearm? I crouched down to look at it – but mostly to prove myself wrong about what it was. But there was no explaining the realities that my consciousness was forced to toggle between a million times in those few seconds. I went from disbelief to denial and back to acceptance. Finally I kicked it.
Sure enough, it was just an amazingly sculpted root sticking up from the ground. My brain settled as the cylindrical stump reverberated back into its original position. Finally appeased, my mind was able to ponder just how this knotted phallic protrusion could possibly have come to be shaped so perfectly. First, I thought of some bored, stoned, hippy hiker who stopped here to spend hours carving this upshot root into the veiny, triumphant thing that it is. But it was smooth – weathered. I think you could actually saw this thing off and walk it into the nearest sex shop and walk out with a handsome profit. Then I thought that maybe it was part of some symbolic thing left over from the ruins of ancient Javan tribes-people and I was the lucky happener who discovered it. Half of me wanted to find the rest of this statue by digging at it right then and there.
Eventually, though, I figured it was just a coincidence and stood to find my guide staring at me as I dazzled over this stiff, timber organ. I can only imagine what he thought as I kicked at it and spent so much time being amazed over it. Hopefully I was seeing it for what it was and he was too far away to notice. It would at least come with a good chance of him just understanding me as another nutty westerner amazed at trivial, Asian nothingness.
Just after the next switchback, we came upon two gushing hot springs. One was piping hot and the other was simply warm. Either of them would me a fine bath, though. I imagined climbing back down this way and jumping in for a quick warm up and refresher as we smelled the salty, sulfur mist. It made everything white all around us and as we passed open areas, I could tell just how big the mountain really was. We were not even a fourth of the way there.
Nevertheless, my guide, the slowest mountaineer I have ever met, turned and told me that at the next covering, we’d be taking a rest. Once there, I figured I would hydrate, eat come of the bread/jam conglomeration that I had prepared and then get back to it. But by the time I finished my snack I looked over to find him asleep on the concrete bench. I tried to rouse him, but he indicated in his broken English that we’d be fine here for one hour and to wake him then. There was no moving him.
Just a minute before, I had seen him puffing down a clove cigarette and now he was asleep. Very strange. But I thought about it a little bit and figured it might do my feet (which were already starting to throb a little bit) could use a rest. So I set my watch and leaned over against the cold, earthen wall and closed my eyes.
Waking up to the sound of my watch, I stretched myself back into consciousness and went over to nudge the guide. He wouldn’t come to. Finally I shined a flashlight in his eyes and he stirred. It took him a little while, but we were finally back at it. It was a long, slow haul up the mountain. I was quite annoyed at what I had bought for my money.
The day dragged on and the five-hour stretch that I was promised turned into six. Then seven. Then, finally, eight and we were at the top. And from early this morning, I had to go to the bathroom. Of course, I urinated along the way. But I wasn’t talking about that kind of bathroom break. And the further up we climbed, the more my leg and gluteus muscles massaged my colon. Eventually it was like a challenge to take each step and squeeze with all my might to keep colonic pressures at bay.
We passed lots of really scenic foliage and every so often we’d come to a clearing that would remind us how far we’d come and we’d get a small reward for our hard clambering upward as we could look out over the early light from the morning sun and see across the expanse of the plantations and jungled mountaintops.
There were two volcanoes that we passed getting to the top. But we weren’t really able to see them. We just smelled their sulfuric smog leaking into the air around us. At one point I noticed that there were no mosquitoes attacking us as there were in all other rainy, tropical areas that I had been in. But then I thought about the sulfuric smell that had hugged the mountainside for the length of our ascent and figured that must be the culprit.
There were plenty of little freshwater buckets chiseled into the ground where mosquitoes could lay their eggs. And, presumably, there were plenty of animals from which to get their supply of protein. So really, that’s the only reason I could think of that would keep them from completely making us miserable the whole time. But, as it stands, I don’t think I remember being bitten once on the hike.
The downside, of course, was that we’d gone what had to have been eight or nine Kliks already and we were only peaking the last passes of the highest part of the mountain before you could see it bow into itself and no longer see it rise from the side. Then it opened up and gave us a quick peek at what we’d climbed up.
There were two big boulders sitting their implanted on the side of the mountain that I climbed up on for a few shots. It was really nice. And we could see the steam from the hot springs and the rise of sulfur from the volcanoes. Not long after that, we were at the summit and it was amazing. So, naturally, I had a shit. It was the movement my innards were awaiting for 10 Kliks, now. And finally I could concentrate on something other than my stinging cheeks.
The volcano had clearly been full of activity for what looked like millions of years, growing up and then erupting back down; and then filling back up only to respire its built up, ashen contents. This was evident because of the layers of rock that were exposed in steppes alongside the western-pointing face of the inside of what was originally the cusp of the volcano. It was definitely an interesting view from a geological standpoint. I stole a few volcanic rocks from the top and put them in my pocket, appreciating the climb even more now that I have a prize only found at the site of the reward.
I snapped a few shots, reveled in the victory and decided to go down the other side of the mountain to the town below. But before we descended, I asked my guide, Chadu, the actual distance that we’d be traveling this time. He told me three hours. I asked him if he was sure. He ensured me that he was positive and that we’d be at the bottom before 11 a.m., being around 8 a.m. currently. I inhaled the last of my crisp, mountain breaths and turned to follow him down.
While easier, the climb down the mountain was knotted, rooty, uneven and treacherously damp with silty, shifty soils underfoot. So not only were my knees wrecked from all the unexpected forceful movements on my joints and muscles, my back got rocked from those jolts that occurred when unexpected sturdy ground met my hard steps down. It was not pleasant. But I had to keep reminding myself of the fact that, with all its challenges, this was still preferable to the uphill scramble that took me longer than expected.
And speaking of longer than expected; by the time 11 a.m. came around and no clear shot at flat ground was anywhere in sight, I began to wonder when we might get to such a place where we might be able to rest up and eat a little bit – maybe hydrate and give the knees a rest. But it wasn’t until an hour later that I finally started asking about it. My silent guide had probably noticed my questioning demeanor and had probably thought it best to maintain a good distance buffer between him and myself as I probably began looking more and more frustrated the further we got.
Then it happened.
The rain came down from the sky in big, sweeping waves as if the switch had been turned and the heavens could no longer hold back their soggy clouds. But it wasn’t the rain that I had a problem with. I had planned for rain. I was wearing good gear. I knew that my camera was nestled tightly in its four-liter Ziploc bag which was tucked under my arm. And I even welcomed the cooling effect of the water.
What I had a problem with was the fact that it came just as we made our way to a clearing where Chadu had told us we’d be on flat ground. But it wasn’t flat, and it wasn’t ground. It was a sodden, mushy plantation that we had to slog through in order to get to the other side – just five short kliks away.
I am not going to lie, this walk was the most beautiful I have ever taken. It was really amazing and I am glad that I took that route back instead of back down the mountain where we’d come up. It was astonishing being able to walk through these fields that were painstakingly plowed and farmed and nurtured every day. They expanded for miles in every direction and some of them simply stopped at a muddy cliff face and fell into the abyss while others overran with foliage and bursting with color, simply tiered their way down in staggered stages bursting with vegetables, spices, teas and fruit.
The smells matched the magic of the views, full of life and splendid strangeness. The herbal essence that drifted around me as I walked felt as if it was cleansing me and washing through me. It surrounded even my senses as I was overtaken by the moment I was in. And then I remembered how pissed off I was at this fibbing forecaster for leading me astray – not in direction, but in time.
Ultimately, I didn’t have a problem hiking for 12 hours – mostly. But I just would have liked to know about it beforehand. I don’t think that I would have gone on the trip if I knew that the guides were like this. And if it was just Chadu that was slow and unsure of this trek, that’s fine, too. But I would liked to have been more prepared, better warned and have brought more food.
But then again, it’s all about the experience. And I can’t say as it has been a bad one. And then, as we were leaving this lush carpet of tea fields and farming estates, we came to a little town. The rain had slowly subsided and we found a rickety van that would transport us into town. Well, it would transport us to another van that would transport us to another van that would transport us to town… where we’d have to take another van back to Freddy’s.
But that’s not the important part. The important part was that, just as soon as we jumped aboard this van, the rain started pummeling the rooftop. Water started coming out of everywhere – every hole in the pavement, every pipe on the street, every gutter at the foot of the road, every drain and trench and groove and tube designed to channel this historically predictable, afternoon cloudburst downward. And it all wound up in the road that we’d have to navigate in order to get back down into town.
Of course this made the already horrible roads even worse. And as we bounced around the mangled thoroughfare, the van would toss us left and right as it hydroplaned over massive deluges from incoming smelly sewer troughs and muddy grooves beside the sidewalks. If it weren’t for the disgusting nature of what you knew was floating around in the water, you might be inclined to kayak your way down into town. It would certainly be faster. Of course, you’d have to dodge all the trash that people thoughtlessly toss onto their beautiful land.
The maniacal driver of this yellow rickshaw would honk and shout at locals as they’d pass, offering them rides. Then he would return to wiping the fog from the wiperless window and peer between the streaming rainwater as it made its way down the windshield. His constant clove-puffing and laughing wiggled his cigarette, sending ashes all over the front of his shirt and pants. And he’d just look at me and smile; his three teeth pointing at me.
Among the passengers stuffed and cramped into the back, there was also a strange array of what looked like farm equipment that the driver was transporting for someone into town. The pieces of heavy metal would drop and crash around the back as people would try to protect their babies and their own heads from the metal members flying around.
By the third bus I was so weak and irritated that I could have slept right there until the driver dragged me to the curb. But I pushed through. I finally made it to Freddy’s. And as I stepped out of the bus and dragged my bag out with me, Chadu came up to say goodbye. Our conversation went something like this:
Chadu: Well, my friend, we made it.
Me: My muscles hurt.
Chadu: Which ones?
Me: All of them.
Me: Actually all but my legs and feet. I can’t feel them anymore.
Chadu: [chuckles] Well, goodbye, my friend.
It was coming up on 2 p.m. – 13 hours since the start of the hike in the wee hours of the morning. And I was ready for some sleep. I was also caked in a sort of saturated funk that I have a hard time describing. Freddy stopped me at the entryway and wanted to talk about my trip and if I wanted any overpriced food from his wife. He seemed to be going on and on and I just wasn’t capable of computing anything anymore.
I finally let out a very unexpected and unapologetic fart and he stopped talking. He stared at me for some sign of a response or acknowledgment of the foul fragrance I had brought into his house. But when nothing came, he simply said, “Well, I guess you need to go shower, then.” I nodded and walked past him, dreading the climb up the stairs to the room. Once there, I stripped down, contemplated a quick freshen-up and sat down on the bed exhausted. My head found its own way to the pillow and I woke up the next morning about as hungry as I had ever been.
In the morning, I sat up and stretched and it took me a few, groggy moments to realize that I had something on. I thought that I remembered taking off my shirt before I went to bed. I looked down and saw my bare chest, but I could feel fabric on my skin. So as I reached around to my back, I realized that I had the sheets completely stuck onto me. Trying to pull it off felt as if the tiny particles of grit and oil had found nice accommodations in the niches of the fabric’s linen cross sections and was unwilling to part with the bond it had found. It peeled off me reluctantly and as if trying to get back at me for the unwelcomed disturbance, it let out a waft of rancid aeration that I didn’t think was possible for one human to produce in just a few hours.
Freddy had just come back from the mosque when he came upstairs, knocked on the door and started to ask me if I’d like his wife to overcharge me for some delicious breakfast. And by the time I accepted, that same fetid fog had come over and introduced itself to his olfactory senses. His head wrenched uncontrollably sideways and his face crinkled up and the only words he could manage as he closed the door were, “No problem.” He tried to smile, but knew that it was a mixture of a forced grin and trying not to breathe in any more of my polluted haze.
Freddy always says ‘no problem.’ He says it upon greetings and goodbyes. He says it after finding your rotten, hippy stains on his “high quality” linen. He even says it after any requests. But something about him indicates that no matter what your request is, you’re upsetting the natural order of his established efforts of making money by doing very little.
I stood up and stretched. My legs were on fire, but at least I didn’t have to worry about using them much over the next few days. After my 10-kilometer midnight hike turned to afternoon torture through the thickest, tiger-infested jungle in the heart of the Javan rainy season in the shadow of the Puncak Pass and added an additional seven kliks through vertiginous hillsides on the other side of Gunung Gede in the Pangrango National Park by way of the Cibodas gardens, I would be heading for the first beach I could find and do absolutely nothing for a little while.