Geko Operative

Perfection is not about always succeeding; it is about being aware of your failures and successes, weaknesses and strengths and about you neutralising the former and growing the latter



I flew into Melbourne at dusk but it was only till I picked up my luggage, found a shuttle bus to Victoria Cross Station, found a taxi and arrived at my Grandma's house that it was the late evening. I was very excited about seeing my Grandma but I felt a bit bad for arriving at such a late hour.

Nonetheless there she was on the porch as the taxi pulled in with that cheerful sneaky grin of hers.

'Babcia, I've arrived'.

So that's the story from Paphos, Cyprus to Melbourne, Australia. It took less than 3 months and about 40,000km by trains, boats and the odd sneaky flight. I remember before I left on the trip I was happily told, 'Terry, you're on a journey of a lifetime'. Now, from the comfort of a bright red swivel chair, I can sigh and say that it really was. You really learn a lot about your own character and about other people but there were things that I didn't like and things that I did.

Right about now would be fitting for a last few wise words to share with you. I don't know, something about one-eye-far-one-eye-near, or about parrallels between the Odyssey and the Odyssey that each and everyone of us travels every day, but the wise words are not forthcoming. The Odyssey just was.


Bali Airport

I arrived at Bali airport in good time despite the slowness of the traffic. That didn't help much because JetStar, the flight carrier, had cancelled the flight - not because of the weather but because the scheduled proved too troublesome.

That was a hindrance but I have to say that the carrier paid ample compensation - a night at a 5 star luxury resort with a plush meal, all paid for. Nice.

Luxury aside the morning after when the flight was re-scheduled for I had a poor impression of Bali Airport. It's the first time that I had ever heard of an airport tax which you came, in cash, to the airport directly. Besides that a few months later I found that my credit cards details were stolen at the airport. Not nice.

The money grab airport to the side I was looking forward to get to Melbourne, my final destination of the 3 month Asian Odyssey



Denpasar proved to be a very nice and relaxing place to stroll about. What pleased me most, however, was the Hindi shrines to the side of the road. Stepping past the opened gate and into the shrine the first thing you notice is the dimming down of the traffic you had just left behind. The dark red brick of the shrine, coupled with old grey stone, seem to fit nicely with the lush green foliage growing not too far away.

The centre piece of the shrine is a tower like building with a small door passing through and usually you would find two ugly-mugged warriors gaurding its way. When I was there these doors were padlocked but I assume that during the festivities their secrets are temporarily unlocked. As to what lay behind them I can not say but it would be interesting to find out.

Apart from soaking up the shrines I also went to visit the Denpasar Mansion, (if memory serves correctly...) a former household of the last king of Bali. Its interiors were again loked away but if the exterior was anything to go by the mansion is a beautifully crafted house.

On another day I ventured even further to see the Denpasar Museum which held all sorts of wonderful things - most notably the traditional Bali wear. On entering there was this Indonesian fellow who came up to me and started to introduce the Museum. Having become accustomed to this I immediately told him that I do not want to pay for a guide to which he protested that he 'wasn't doing it for the money... but at the end if you would like to give me a tip of whatever amount then that's ok'. No ,no, no, no.

On the last day of my very relaxing time in Denpasar the heavens had opened. I had noticed that with almost every country that I had left, on the last day it has rained (I'm thinking of Russia, China, Malaysia, Singapore and then Indonesia). The difference, on this occasion, is that the heavens really did open.

In Denpasar there is a bridge spanninng a river. The river would, at a guess, be 1.5 meters deep while the bridge was easily be 7 meters from the water level. When it rained, from midday to the late evening, the river was just flowing over the bridge...

Around midday, after lunch, I went back to my room. It was raining. I quickly became soaked. When it came to catch a taxi back the streets were overflowing with cars stranded in the middle of the road. Walking on the sidewalk would have been perilious as there are littered with great big potholes. Potholes so big that if you fell in, with all the rain, then you don't expect to come back out. I have never, ever, seen rain like I did at Denpasar. I took a few photoes but they are either too dark or they just don't convey the awesomeness of the swell.


Welcome to Denpasar

As I was exhausted to the point of collapse I was pretty slow in motion and in thought. This made it easy for the swarm of minibus drivers to heckle me for a trip to some unknown place far away. Though their repetive heckling was enticing I had no idea where I was let alone where I wanted to go but my nose and eyes told me that I was not downtown in the tourist district. I thought about asking the drivers for a hotel, or hostel, but that would have been a worthless excercise because they will always reply in the affirmative and they will always take you to the other side of town.

I must have been really tired because the heckling was really getting to me and I was prepared for a fight but somehow I kept my cool. I think I just marched on as quick and casual-looking as possible. Something that I was in a need of, though, was a bank, money changer or an atm. It didn't take long to come across an opportunistic money changer (he was selling drinks before he made the sudden change of occupation) but we didn't quite see eye to eye on the exchange rate. Waving him away along with one or two dwaddling minibus drivers I made for the main road. Do I turn right or left? The coach that I had taken went from left to right so I decided to follow suit. Right it was.

Searching for a respectable room with a shower and fan I had hit the jackpot unexpectedly soon. But I had learnt my lesson and decided to walk on in search of other places. The one I decided to go for had a nice clean room, flat and straightened linen, uniformed staff, a shower and a fan. As for price it was in the middle bracket but I think worth it. The plan was to stay in Denpasar for 3 nights before I took a flight to Melbourne on the evening of the 4th day. My marathon journey from Jakarta to Denpasar had lasted 3 days but I think the rush was worth it as it meant that I could really put my feet up and take a rest from all the travelling. The coach ride from port to town proved to excite my interest of the island and so I was looking forward to spend the time exploring the area.

Before I took a shower I had the grand idea that I would take a rest on the welcoming bed but despite my real fatigue and exhaustion I found that rest was not at all forthcoming. With the liberating feeling of a clean body, wet hair and a fresh change of clothes I took my leave to see what lay in waiting by way of food.

I took to the streets as a new man with a new pair of eyes. Denpasar. I'm there.


A short hop to Bali?

It was in the morning that we arrived at this nondescript village on the far Eastern shores of Java. As ever I was never really sure which station to hop off at but after 2 and a bit months on the road you develop an instinct that says that if asking around fails then you follow the crowd. Crowd was surely followed and I was a bit taken back by how small the village train stop was. If there wasn't a set of rail tracks you could be forgiven for thinking that the train conductor's hut was the outhouse of the village idiot. People being entrepreneurial in nature there was a mass of cyclos waiting to nab us. As I was the only foreigner in sight I obviously drew their keen attention but in response I gave a stern 'no'.

The vast majority of the Indonesian brothers and sisters were ignoring their please and I so I followed suite even though more than a few quirped that the port was a bit far. It turned out to be just around the corner. Before coming across the port (which looked like the same size as the village) I crosssed a bridge that spanned a river. Its sight was depressing as it was the opposite of transparent and clear of rubbish. My gut reaction was to say to myself, 'how can people do that to their environment?!' but another voice cropped up to say 'if you've got 4 mouths to feed and an aching back from hard labour then the environment isn't going to be on the monthly debit account'.

River and the environment to the side everything was so far going smoothly as I had bought a ferry crossing ticket to Bali. Sweet. Hopped on the ferry. Sweet. Only foreigner in sight. OK. Is the ferry doing a 360? No idea. Bali? Yes.

It was here that the smirk on my mug was beginning to fall away. I needed to catch a bus from the port to Denpasar. Previously I thought that the ferry would go to South Bali which is farily developed and buses would be a plenty. That proved to be stupid because the ferry made for West Bali which geometry suggests to be the quickest route. I remembered looking at a map of Bali and there were only a few dots of nameless village on West Bali. Nameless villages means that transport is few, far between and therefore expensive. This was all summed up with me breaking into sweat.

I was asking fellow passengers for any ideas which they had none. I see this coach with people getting on and I asked the guy who looked like he knew what was going on and he returned with a price. 'What?? A bit expensive...' Driver returned a blank face. I again asked around for comraderie assistance... 'It's a fair price you know, I paid that much'. Either I had become really tight with money or the coach had a team of masseuses on hand. I paid the cash and jumped on only to see, at an elevated height, a sea of minibuses...

You can imagine my sigh of disgust at my own ridiculousness. I refused to pay extra, at what now seemed to be a really good price, for a single ticket from Surabaya to Denpasar. I shrugged off cyclos and decided to walk the small distance from the East Javan station to the port to save myself the few pennies it would cost. But there is me handing over good money to the first person I had met that was travelling the same way only to realise that if I had been more patient and cool headed I could have at least looked at other options and quite likely saved myself the dosh. Well at least the seat on the coach reclined...

The journey from the port to Denpasar was surprisingly long and winded which turned out to be an opportunity to see villages, that would not have been visited very often by the foreign eye, in passing. I knew that Indonesia, on the whole, is a Muslim nation but I also knew that in Bali things swing a different way. I thought it was Buddhism that they practiced there but the more I saw of the multi layered temples, the shrines on the side of the road, the natural garb of the village folk the more I came to understand that it was Hinduism that was practiced there and not Buddhism. I don't know much about Hinduism but I know it originated in India which seemed to be a fair distance from Bali. I've no idea how that happened but it would be interesting to learn more about it.

As time ticked on the inevitable question of, which stop do I hop off at, arosed. This time there was not much of a crowd to follow and asking around proved useless because I myself had no idea of where I wanted to end up at. I only had a name and that was Denpasar which I threw around a few times with little result. It was a bit of a hit and miss but when I saw the buildings rising up around me, and the encroaching minibus terminal I quickly followed one other off the bus. I had arrived in Denpasar about 10 in the morning. I was dogged tired with little rest since departing Jakarta 3 days before and in desperate need of a hot shower and clean linen. Before I could lay down there was one thing that I needed to do - find a place to sleep.


Surabaya - the joys and pleasures

I arrived at the connecting city, which I think was Surabaya (Eastern Java), instantly being glad that I have escaped that wretched matchbox train. The air was a little humid, but not stiffling, with a gentle breeze which began somewhat to sooth my cramp body. As with many connecting cities the plan is to catch a ride out and so it was my plan to get a train onto Bali.

Not many people know much about Indonesian geography but I think more than a few people know that Bali is an island. I was a bit perplexed, therefore, when I was told that there is actually a connection from Surabaya to Denpasar, Bali (Denpasar being the capital town of Bali). It all seemed a bit overly complicated for there to be a single ticket that would enable to ticket holder to catch a train from Surabaya to a far East Javan port village, to hop onto a ferry from the village to another Bali port village and to catch a bus from the port to Denpasar. I thought it was all a bit of a con for my hard earnt money as I thought that it would be cheaper to arrange the connections myself. One ticket from Surabaya to Denpasar? Not on my watch! I think I arrived during the late evening and not having much to eat (a few bitefuls of tucker sold by entrepreneurial hawkers on the train) I set off to find some grub of myy own. As you might expect there were a few sidewalk stalls outside of the station and so I parked myself down thankful for the rest and respite from a knawing stomach. I was a bit annoyed however when I found out the price for the rice and 2 chicken drumsticks (one extra drumstick being equal to another portion of 'drumstick and rice' dish) which made little logic to me but plenty to the seller. I ask around for comraderie assistance but to no available, one person said that 'yeah the price is ok you know...', and so I inevitably, but no less reluctantly, surrendered the extra dosh.

With the feeling of atleast being satiated I returned to the station. The gig was to queue for 1.5 hours for the ticket stall which would open (I think...) about 20:00. 'Why queue for that long?' you may ask and rightly so but essentially my timing for travelling in Java was not well timed as it came towards the end of a week long vacation that celebrated a Muslim holiday. The logic of the aged English speaking taxi driver, who came over to exchange some English banter, was that available tickets would be few and far between as most of them would have been reserved well in advance. So there is me waiting for one and a half hours in a queue, that only turned out to be 20 people long, and I finally got my ticket. Being a prize idiot I still maintained that the advertised single ticket was all a con and so I bought a ticket that would get me to the East Javan port village. From there I would take it as it comes. Idiot.

Oblivious to my blunder, and - to my chargrin - a bit proud of myself that I hadn't fallen for [i]that[/i] con, I went back into the station to pass the time till the 'sleeper' train came. Then this young looking fellow came to the place where I was having a bit of a rest and started to talk to me in English. If the guy on the train was annoying this guy was even more so. Apparently he's a genius at microchips and works for a security company installing this and that.

'Any work you can give me,' he asks.
'Ha, sorry no. I'm in transit at the moment.'
'In the future you call me ok.'
Business card is given to me.
'Can you give me the number of your girly friends?'
'Come on man, I'm desperate, I just want their numbers and so I can give them a ring.'
'I don't think they would take kindly to you ringing.'
'Why?! I'm a good looking guy'
'Umm.. yeah, it's just that is not the best way to introduce yourself - by cold calling'
'So how about their numbers man?'
'Umm.. sorry, I can't give you their numbers.'
Genuine shock.
'So how about their numbers?'

The fruitful banter continues for sometime in a similar vein until I managed to escape. There I kept to myself and promptly shut my eyes so as to give to false pretenses to any opportunistic banter-exchangers. My train finally did arrive, I did find my seat (window seat thankfully), I did make sure that my bag was properly stowed away and I did close my eyes for a bit of of a rest. It had so far been a long and tiring journey from Jakarta to Jogjakarta to Surabaya and from there onto Bali and I was genuinely thankful for some rest though it turned out it was light and intermittent.


The Fruitful Tree of Terry's Asian Odyssey

The Odyssey, having now long finished, still proves to be a fund raiser for St. Michael's Hospice, Paphos CY.

This is in the guise of 'The Fruitful Tree of Terry's Asian Odyssey' as the Church was pleasantly surprised that people, within the congregation and without, still wanted to donate money to the Hospice in the name of the Odyssey even though it had finished. The whispers in the wind tell me that EUR 465 have been raised via the Tree and I am truly amazed at the continued generosity of people.

If I am allowed to speak for the Hospice on this occasion - thank you ever so much!

The wind again tells me that the Odyssey and its mouthpiece (the blog!) has attracted more young people back into the Church. This, to my mind, far exceeds the total amount of funds raised for the Hospice!


A plank for a pillow

Exhausted after such a mad stint he battled the icy gales to overcome the last hill before the next village came into view. There were only a handful of houses but he was glad to see the finish line. His legs were feeling numb and tiredness was settling so he put all his energies into the search of a place to stay. All doors he tried were locked and the howling wind that teared through the roads drowned his cries and knocks. With the night fallen he had to search elsewhere if he was to survive the icey night. In such desperate states he chanced upon an old warehouse with a gate straining against the elements. Warrigal tried the door and though locked he could pry enough of a gap to slide through. As he sensed snow in the wind he delved in its hollow darkness.

The wind no longer biting his skin and howling in his ear he sighed with relief. He could not be so reckless next time otherwise he may not be so lucky as he is now. He put these woes to the back of his mind, however, as he scanned the hollowness within. With what little light that there was it was with touch and scent that we believed to be in a warehouse of farming contraptions. The smell of crisp frozen wood was strong in the air but the earthly smell was inviting. It wasn't long till he found a place to sleep amongst a bale of hay with a board of wood as a pillow.

As sleep was enfolding him he heard a heave at the gate and with such a sound Warrigal stood up in a flash. He knew that he was trespassing and that he could rightly be turfed out to the mercies of the gales but who could have such a sense of justice and brave the bitter night? Not willing to forsake his new found bed so easily he took his swag and hid behind a pillar.

With an eye on the gate he saw that somebody heaved again and, without unlocking the door, a shadow passed through the small crack.


Matchbox train

If I remember correctly the ticket was 30'000 Ringit which amounts to a few Euros I think. The train is meant to come at 0930 and it was meant to be a 3 hour journey to a connecting city (from there catch another one to Bali).

On the platform there were many people waiting for the train and as the tracks were on the same level as the platform it was not a problem to walk over them. This made it very noisy when a train was trying to get through as the train was always sounding of its horn to warn people that yes, you may be killed if you have lunch on the track.

At that point I had little water and thought that it would be a good idea to replenish my stocks. The problem was that I was on the platform already and any water around would be had at a higher price. Nevertheless I went ahead paid the few extra pennies and stocked up - a decision that most probably saved my life.

That's when this boy, I would say around the age of 16, came over and started talking in English. I was a bit weary at first but then his 14 year old girlfriend rocked up along with his family. He was a real talkative person and at times I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. He, nevertheless, insisted that I should join him and his family on the train so that we can continue the monologue.

That's when the train pulled in and it was a real effort to get on. The pushing and shoving of the ferry, to get to Jakarta, was slow and genial in comparison. Everybody was already quite packed on the train and it didn't help matters that families were bringing giant bags of luggage with them. I remember, whilst still pushing to get through the cabin door, somebody must have seen me (the only foreigner in sight and most probably on the train) said to me 'Welcome to Indonesia!!' I don't think many foreigners would jump on such a cheap and crowded train so I think I surprised them a bit, especially when I joined in the pushing and shoving.

Clearly if the train is crowded there are no seats available and so I was left at the mercy of this overwhelming natterer I had come across on the platform. He was having lewd and dirty conversations with his girlfriend in English which was a bit embarrasing to hear. He turns out, according to him, to be 28 and not 16 which I was a bit shocked at because I would never have guessed but I didn't dare ask about the girlfriend.

At times when this person was not talking to me and talking dirty with this girlfriend I took the opportunity to look around the train. It was very crowded, with 4 people to every 3 seats and with people standing and sitting on luggage in the aisle. The exception was the seats held by a band of military men, all with shaven hair and all with crisp uniforms. Nobody dared asked them to budge up - perhaps out of fear or perhaps out of respect.

The day outside was hot (don't forget at the time it was Summer) and so the train was hotter. People had opened the windows to as far as they could but the breeze that they caught was not enough to give much respite against the heat. I was thanking the heavens that I overcame my stubborness and bought an extra bottle of water otherwise I most probably would have fainted. The heavens, it seems, did not forget me as a seat came up right next to the window, and so I rushed to get my things together. Sitting down, with the train chugging along, and with a breeze in my hair, was pure bliss. It was about an hour and a half from entering the train till I had found a seat.

The natter box had never been far behind and so he sat next to me to continue his onslaught. I was quite tired and a bit uncomfortable so I did not make much conversation. Things were not made easier by squeezing up to make space for an extra person on the seat but I took solace from the wind. The trouble was when the train stops as that is when the breeze halts. It is then that you really feel the heat on the train and start drinking water. If it wasn't for that extra bottle...

The train eventually arrived at the connecting town with nightfall with a 3 hour journey turned out to be 10 for whatever reason. 'Welcome to Indonesia!!' I heard someone say when I had got on the train.


Jogjakarta Blues

After leaving the tour guide behind (he said "any further and you'll have to pay me" to which I replied "OK, bye!") I found the railway station easily.

I wanted to get to Jogjakarta but I didn't know which ticket stand to buy the ticket from. After around proved to be pointless because I was directed to all sorts. Eventually, though, I bought a ticket and if I remember rightly it was economy.

From then till the time I on the train I didn't really do much - just bum around a few shops and writing a few notes in my books. When the train did set off I lumbered on and found my window seat. It wasn't great and definitely not the most comfortable ride I had but considering the circumstances it was ok. I remember this old man in the opposite isle smoking cigarettes almost constantly. They must make cigarettes down in Indonesia differently because the smoke smelt of thick acidic tar. Two rows behind him was an elderly couple looking after, what must have been, their grandchild. I don't know how she did it but the grandmother found enough space on the floor infront of the seats for her nap. In her vacant seat slept the grandchild.

After catching what little sleep the train arrived in Jogjakarta. It was about 0700 in the morrning and I gave the family that I had met on the ferry a ring; a few times; with no answer. In a sense I was a bit glad that the family did not pick up (or that they gave me the wrong number in the first place) because it meant that I would have one more day in Bali (my destination point) taking it easy.

With that resolve I went on to get a ticket to Bali. That proved to be a bit more difficult than I had at first imagined because I needed to yet again go to another train station in Jogjakarta. Feeling very tired after the rough night I was a bit knackered when I found the right station. I took some respite from getting a cheap ticket (by that point cash was wearing a bit thin) and proceeded to wait for my train. Nothing could have prepared me for how hard that journey would be.