My intrepid journey to Pangkalan Kerinci, Sumatra

During the drive to Kerinci, I felt like I was starring in my own version of ‘Dangerous Roads’ or ‘Intrepid Journeys’. What an adventure! Heaps of scooters, trucks, and decent looking SUV’s…in fact, most of the cars looked brand new (Toyotas and other Japanese imports). Astounding, given their driving habits. But, as my friend said, if you can afford a car in Indonesia…you can afford a car. If you crash the car, you can probably just buy another one! The majority of people probably get around on scooters.

All along the roadside there are stalls (like our roadside fruit & vege stalls throughout NZ) selling bottles of petrol. I thought it was fruit juice or cordial, until I asked. 2 – 4 litre bottles of orange or yellow looking liquid. All illegal. Blatantly illegal! These stalls are right beside (legal) petrol and police stations. But that’s Indonesia for you, not shy of corruption. It’s a given, a culturally accepted practice.

The first bit of the drive is on brand new looking highway. Double lanes each way. You’d be thinking “sweet as!”, until you discover that ordinary (or what you think of as ordinary) road rules don’t apply here. I thought KL driving practices had inured me to all else, but Indonesians take the cake. Driving down the middle of the double lanes…that’s over the dotted lines, middle…only pulling over into a lane if someone is passing you (yeah, not ‘about to’, ‘is’). That’s alright, plenty of space on the highway.

Then comes a double laned road, one each way…your average NZ road. Only this road has deep ditches on either side. Which, in NZ, would be fine. In Indonesia (perhaps I should be saying Sumatra, given I haven’t been anywhere else in Indonesia yet!), everyone passes each other, at the same time…so, this road is constrained and suddenly doesn’t seem all that wide. Granted, I didn’t witness a truck passing a truck with another truck coming the other way…but other combinations of trucks/cars/scooters, yes. Hair raising, to say the least!

On that drive we witnessed one accident. As we were going over a bridge, passing a scooter (which was on our left)…said scooter runs headlong into the bridge railings, bounces off, spilling driver and passenger…helmets flying off. Miracle we, or followers, didn’t hit them. My friend and I were gasping in disbelief, as it all happened right beside us. Thankfully both people were unhurt, or alright enough to get up and pass us again a few minutes later!

All along the road, there are mosques every few minutes. Colourful domes and minarets. There are people burning little piles of coconut husks and rubbish. Kids running around. Chooks. There’s a few little concrete block rows of businesses, painted in primary colours, mostly ordinary looking houses or brick/wood shacks painted in pastel colours. Quite a few satellite dishes. Some of the houses had beautifully carved wooden front doors. As well as the palm plantation all around us, there were crops such as coconut, bananas, what I think might have been pineapple, and probably mango, papaya, dragon fruit…

I wish I had taken a video camera, to capture all this for you guys. I managed to take a few seconds of poorly shot footage with my camera…if someone can suggest a way to convert this into stills, I could see if there’s anything salvageable? Otherwise, your imagination will have to suffice…or better yet, go check it out for yourself!

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