As we approached Bima, the view from the ferry showed a dirty, gray, flat, rather horrible looking town. We set foot in a crowded port, with people behind a fence pushing to get past it and into the ferry with haste. We let them go, as we were not in a hurry at all. Our friend on the boat had told us the taxi should not charge us more than 10k to get to our hotel, as Bima was a rather small place. However we got into the taxi stand-by area and they wanted to charge us 100k! So we started negotiating by showing them bills following their example (as their English level is 0) but no one seemed to want to take us for a fair price.. Until we saw a flimsy looking cart pulled by a healthy looking horse, and decided to ask its driver. He was happy to take us for 20k, so we stroke a deal and hop on. Our ethical/vegetarian side felt a bit sorry for the horse, but he did not seem to mind too much, and happily trotted around the street, among the bikes and cars. There were quite a few of these traditional forms of transport around the place, and locals seem to put a lot more weight than us on them. (check FB for video) The streets of Bima are full of goats of all sizes wandering about. Who they belong to will continue to be a great mystery to me, as they roam around freely.
No more than 10 minutes later we got to the hotel and checked in. The hotel itself was nice.. but of course we chose the cheapest room available that was… cheap and nasty. You get what you pay for! At least it had a fan, a western type toilet and a shower, which was more than we had had for the last 24 hours. so we were pleased with our accomplishment!
After a nice cold shower we decided to go check out the bus station, as we had to get there by 5 am the next morning. We got directions from the hotel lobby and started our walk. The first thing that stroke us were the traffic lights. As with most other traffic rules, they were largely decorative. We waited for them to go red so we could cross, but no one seemed to care and they kept crossing regardless… So as usual, we just paused for a gap, leaped and hoped for the best. The street split into two at some point, which our directions had not included, so we asked in the local police station and easily found the way.
Neither of us was particularly hungry yet, so we decided to explore the area a bit. Without a map, we chose a small street and started walking along a quiet neighbourhood. Very clearly these people were not used to seeing white people walking here. Almost all of them said “Hello Mister” and smiled at us. A lot of them asked for us to take their photo, expecting nothing in return. The children wanted high fives and to walk along with us. No one tried to strike a conversation – I imagine they can’t really speak any English. But they did make us feel welcomed on their street, with big grins and happy faces. Here again lots of goats, kids and roosters shared the street with pedestrians and slow moving bikes. We walked around with a vague idea of what direction we were heading towards, but mostly just letting loose and trying to get lost in this amazing, welcoming place we had found. By the time we had reached a swinging bridge, we had about 20 kids keeping us accompanied… I normally love jumping and playing in these sort of swing bridges, but I did not dare do that in this old rusted looking one…
We headed back towards the “town centre”, now looking for a bite to eat. They did not seem to have any typical Warungs, but something like street carts with pre-cooked food and some tables at the back. We went around for about half an hour evaluating our possibilities, and finally settled on the least dodgy looking place and ordered some food. It was very yummy as usual, hygiene and health concerns aside. After that we got a chocolate, coconut and condensed milk pancake that was also delicious… once you got over the fact the guy making them was smoking a cigarette at the same time he was handling the food.
The next morning we woke up before the sun came up and walked to the bus station. We were not the only ones up so early, as people were already coming out of the mosque in their white suits after the morning prayer session. On our way, a bus stopped, the driver yelled “Sape” at us, so we nodded and got on. Our packs went at the top, and luckily there were still some seats left for us to take. I really wanted to stay awake and look out of the window, but my body was not so sure about that and I kept dozing off into a deep sleep. One time I woke up to see a family of monkeys casually hanging out on the road.. The other I saw rice fields, and a bunch of people wearing colourful Chinese type hats working them. The mountains were very pretty and so was the jungle around. An hour and a half later we arrived in Sape. We did not see much more than the port, which had lots of goats, a few shops and friendly looking locals.
The ferry was VERY different to Pelni. It was clean, not crowded, and even had sun chairs. The inside was an air conditioned room with long distance bus type seats. I found a pair by a window and made camp – I had learned my lesson; this time I did not want to end up with the worse spots on the boat. The only complaint I have would be that, at some point, they started playing some HORRIBLE Indonesian pop VERY loud, but Tim had some ear plugs and it only went on for about 30 minutes… I can’t believe anyone in there wanted the music to be SO loud… I spent most of the trip in Japan with Murakami, or looking overboard at the islands we were passing by. We also saw some pretty cool looking flying fish and some dolphins playing around. All in all it was a very enjoyable trip that only lasted about 7 hours…