20. Kota Batu, Ranau Sumatra. It was a couple of days before we realized how sick Chunee our gibbon was. We thought he was dying. He hardly ate for more than a week and finally would do nothing but sleep. We were able to see a local animal health official, who said Chunee had dysentery. His medication for him was half the human dosage, but it seemed to be what the gibbon needed because in a coupled of days he began eating and playing again. But he stayed skinny, and we knew he had worms. So we saw a vet in Djarkarta. We had to wait two hours to see him (something like four dogs were ahead of us). The vet said Chanee had no dysentery, and he gave us pills for worms. After he finished his medication, we kept hoping he’d soon be fat again. Apparently, though, Chanee was a runt and would never be as big and strong as others of his kind.
After Palembang, we took a side trip to Lake Ranau, where we stayed with a Dutch family. Renee, the man of the house, built generators for motor vehicles. Lake Ranau was a beautiful place in southern Sumatra, but because we didn’t have an accurate map we didn’t realize that by going to Lake Renau we made almost a full circle and added at least six days to our trip. The roads were almost non-existent. We were faced with mud and rocks, so we ended up staying in Kota Batu three days, resting and waiting for a truck that could carry us over the rest of the bad roads. On the fourth day we gave up and took out by bicycle (which actually meant mostly on foot). After two days of rocky roads and a half-day on pavement, we reached Kota Bumi. By then we were tired of bad roads, and we were looking forward to Java, where we hoped roads would be much better. Some days on Sumatra we were lucky to make 10 kilometers.
21. Djakarta. We finally made it to Djakarta and thought we’d be on our way within a few days but found ourselves still there after a week. One thing after another kept us there. After Djakarta we planned to first head to Bogor, where there was supposed to be the largest botanical gardens in the world. After that our itinerary was vague again. We knew only that we planned to work our way across Java, see Bali, then head back across Java to Djakarta. How long that would take or where we would stop we didn’t know.
We still toyed then with the idea of going to Australia: that was until we went to the Australian Embassy. There we were discouraged when they told us that before we could get visas we’d have to get police clearance from every country we’d been in. To overcome that huddle we’d have had to get police clearance from The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia. We told the Australians to forget it.
We arrived in Djakarta about the middle of the morning. Since we were told that we’d probably have to pay at least $2-$3 U.S. for a room, we were pleased to find one for 350 rupiah a day ($1=375 rupiah). But it was a really ratty hotel … we would never have stayed in any place like this in Malaysia or Thailand. Sumatra conditioned us for almost anything! We were sure when we returned to Djakarta, however, we’d look for some place else.
About noon we set out for the U.S. embassy, where we found mail from our families. We learned that my sister Barbara had gotten married while we were in Sumatra. The other big news from that quarter was that my baby sister Peggy was expecting again … but we didn’t know her due-date.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday everything came to a halt, as Indonesians prepared for and celebrated the 25th anniversary of their independence. We spent Saturday going from one closed office and store to another. Sunday we visited a museum and spent the afternoon reading two issues of Newsweek … our only purchase of the preceding day. Monday morning we watched part of a very long parade, then wandered through a carnival. There Peggy gambled Rp 20 and won herself a package of Chiclets (expensive there) and Chanee a plastic animal. Interspersed in our activities was always laundry. Nothing could be worn two days and sometimes Peggy went through three outfits in two days.
The next few days were busy days, though we couldn’t count for all of the time. Djakarta was big and so it sometimes took a while to get places. We did get cholera shots and smallpox vaccinations. The latter really took on both of us, but we were thankful that we didn’t have such sores all over our faces. We saw a lot of children in Sumatra who had horribly scared faces … smallpox had been there within the last five or six years. We also had lab tests made. I showed up clear of amoebic dysentery, but Peggy came out positive. We asked the lab technician what doctor he would advise Peggy to go to get a prescription, and he said any would be fine. So we went to one we had notice earlier; close to where we had eaten several times. It was a small office, and Peggy was hesitant about going in. But she went ahead. She only needed a prescription, not a real decision. It turned out that we probably couldn’t have ended up in a better office. The doctor turned out to be President Suharto’s private doctor.
Indonesia was the poorest country we’d been in … and it was the least developed. Both of which meant that imported products were harder to come by. Tampax was sold in only two places in Djakarta. At the cheapest place it cost Rp 360 for a box of 10! We couldn’t find Peggy’s birth control pills, but a pharmacist said he could get some for us. The cheapest we could find toilet paper was Rp 90 … usually it was Rp 125 or Rp 150.
Peggy and Randy Ford