49 - Kalinda’s Other Plans (Sumatra, Indonesia)


So, what does happen when you’re making other plans? Shit. Life. Tons of stuff. Jakarta in my rear, the wind in my ear. Take a breath. Take a ride. Let it slide. Let it slide. Flashbacks, side tracks… a little farther for me.

by Nos T. O’maniac




JAKARTA WAS WORTH THE TROUBLE, but I’d had enough. A few more days and I’d have gone mad, mad I say! So, I left. See ya. Ain’t so easy to escape. I drove/floated from Jakarta to Kalinda in Sumatra. Trip duration should’ve been four hours or less. It took me over eight. I drove in circles. And not the good kind. Follow the signs? Sure. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy… if you have a four-wheeler. All signs point to toll roads. Toll roads ain’t for two-wheelers. The ugly face of discrimination… ugh. For the better, I presume. If you allowed motorcycles on the expressways, it’d be pure carnage (as opposed to the adulterated carnage you have elsewhere). 

God forbid they create separate signs for motorcycle friendly roadways. Then again, what’s the fun in that, right Kemosabe? We all need a sense of accomplishment. Wanna get to Kalinda? Earn it, fucker. So, I did. I drove in circles screaming F-bombs into my helmet until the path revealed itself. I’d played this game before with similar results. And, like before, I took my quest to the people. A string of inquiries led me to the port town of Merak where I was to catch the ferry to Sumatra. Score.

Anxiety dissipated on the float. An uncrowded deck and a cool breeze did the trick, a perfect decompressant. The vibe followed me to the seaside village on Sumatra’s southwest coast. Dreamy, sleepy, made me weepy. John Lennon once wrote (or did he?), “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” Sure. I found suitable lodging and decided to explore, a quick ride to check out the nearby beach. I left my camera behind. (A quick ride so why bother, right?… Duh.) Not surprisingly, I went the wrong way… again. Maybe, it’s because I didn’t care if I got anywhere. Maybe, it’s because I’m stupid.

There’s something to be said about just being. No camera. No packs strapped to the bike. No real destination. No need for an enhanced state of hypervigilance. Just ride. And smile. Feel the breeze on my knees. Take a breath before death. Chill without a pill before you’re over the hill.

The coastal road led me through a series of small villages, one picture postcard after another. Quaint and tidy with a touch of drowsy. Perfect place to dodder as the day winds down. The sun retreated, casting its orange glimmer across the rocky beaches, old stone houses, and rickety wooden harbors in one final act of rebellion. Beautiful. But, of course, I didn’t have my camera, did I? I wonder… Were the moments more beautiful, more intense because I forgot my camera, because I knew I had to turn around before darkness fell, because I went the wrong way, and because, well… Life happens when you are making other plans. 

(Author’s Note: The dusky pictures in this post were from the following evening. They pale in comparison to the yesterday view…)

Daylight faded but I kept telling myself, “Just a little farther.” The road was smooth, the s-curves gentle and inviting. And it struck me, I’m driving for the sheer fargin pleasure of it… Nice. How long had it been? Couldn’t tell ya. I liked Indonesia, but the roads don’t exactly beckon thee forward. More like a semi-violent tug ahead. The main road in Sumbawa was pleasant at times, and the winding mountain roads in Flores were engaging. Still, neither was anything like the short, simple drive I made that afternoon, the afternoon I went the wrong way… Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

Tranquilized. That was me. I doubt locals see many lanky white folks on Honda Phantoms cruising their village. Some bore expressions of surprise, others appeared wary, but most were smiling and inquisitive. A young man invited me to fish with him. Another gestured to pull over and sit a spell. A pretty young girl smiled as I passed. I responded in kind and added just enough mischievousness to my grin to elicit an outburst of giggles. I went the wrong way… Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans. 



The sheer pleasure of it. The sheer pleasure of driving. The experience reminded me of another. Madagascar. Off the northeast coast. The Isle of St. Marie (Nosy Boraha). My first time on a motorcycle… with a scar to prove it. Fear and frustration characterized the first hour of my baptism by fire complemented perfectly by an unremitting wish to kill my friend Andy. He made me do it… fucker. Soon, however, I gained enough confidence to relish the ride. That fucker made me do it… and I was grateful.

People smiled. Children sprinted from their homes to wave and scream as we drove past. Steering was a concentrational nuisance opposite breathtaking tropical aesthetics. Only thought drifting through our sun-soaked brains? Keep going and going. A derelict lighthouse tempted us into the darkness but receding daylight thwarted are aims, forcing us to capitulate. We turned back. Never did reach that lighthouse (though there were others). Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. “Life” included a blue whale safari, mademoiselle tracking, a near drawing experience, and more exploration on our beach “hogs” (motorbikes). As far as flashbacks go, that one’s aces.