Big. Hot. Smoggy. Standard issue loony traffic. All these things I've seen before, but how quickly you forget....
After half a day of stop/start driving with heavy emphasis on the stop, my clutch hand was cramping painfully and I imagined that I could smell my legs broiling on the red hot engine. Another two hours of wrestling through the approach run to a major city was not going to be fun.
The Tenere clutch has always been a heavy sod, and I have noticed that on later model XT's the linkage has been moved to the other side of the engine, presumably to give a straighter pull and alleviate this problem. My own particular clutch seems to be a particularly obdurate piece of bastardry, despite my attempts at lubrication.
After many months of struggling manfully with the thing I imagine my left hand will resemble a bunch of bananas, and I will be able to open easily all those tightly-closed pickled onion jars that have been laughing up their sleeves at me all these years. Truly, every cloud has a silver lining, (even if pickled onion jars cannot realistically be said to have sleeves).
Back, as I said, to the traffic in Jakarta, and being hot and sweaty and by this time thoroughly fed up, I was glad to reach a little piece of tourist heaven called Jalan Jaksa. This is real heartland Lonely Planet territory, and most of the folks here have 'guide book' written all over them. But what the hell, I'm not above a little R&R myself in an environment where you can visit the internet café, restaurant and supermarket without straying more than 100 metres from the guest house, and still have enough change for a half of Whatney's Red Barrel and a plate of egg & chips on the way home (I exaggerate, but not by much).
I also had a couple of tasks to accomplish. Hearing of Ken and Carol's high priced flight from Denpasar to OZ, I had decided to try to find an agent to fly the bike from Jakarta, even if this meant missing out on Eastern Java, and Bali. In order that the nice Australian customs men would let me enter their first rate country, I also had to procure a new carnet, as the current one was due to expire shortly.
Pam Brown, carnet chick, problem solver, and all-round paperwork goddess at the AA in Britain had dispatched a new carnet to a post Restante address in Jakarta. And so it was that I went to the Post Office on Thursday, without much hope of success. I mean, there were countless things that could go wrong with a plan like this.
I reported to the information desk, and was sent off to another desk. This is par for the course in Asia, and I expected to be shuttled through five or six different locations, before returning in the end to the one I'd started at. That's just how things are done, it's a game that we all enjoy and it passes the time.
No such luck. Not only was desk No. 2 the correct one, but Nice Lady seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, and disappeared into the catacombs out back. This, too, is standard procedure, and I looked around for a chair in which to begin my mandatory three hour wait. Again, I was out of luck, for Nice Lady was back within thirty seconds. With a package.
The wrong one, surely, I thought, becoming desperate.
Nope. The right one. With a carnet inside. All the bike details correct. Expiry date correct. Country validity correct.
I frantically checked the top left hand corner of the document, in the vain hope that they might have made it out to Mickey Mouse. Out of luck again.
And that was it. I was dumbfounded. Outraged.
Look, I wanted to say to Nice Lady, what sort of operation are you running here? This is supposed to be Asia!
How is it possible that I can just walk in off the street and get what I want in less time than it takes to boil an egg?
Where are the huge queues? The pointless paperwork? The Long Hot Tedious Wait for No Apparent Reason? I'm not even vaguely uncomfortable, I wanted to rage. The damn place is air-conditioned! Haven't you people been trained?
I left, a broken man, and went for a wander around the sights of Jakarta before taking on my next assignment, the search for a shipping agent.
The Monas monument stands ostentatiously in Merdeka Square in central Jakarta, a 140 metre tall pillar topped with a gold plated flaming beacon. It was erected (and I use the word advisedly given the fairly obvious symbolism here) in 1961 by Soekarno, as a monument to the Republic's independence from its former colonial masters (17th August
1945). It is one of a family of monuments around the city, all in the Soviet-style 'heroes of the revolution' theme, all sorts of muscular bronze blokes breaking free of the yoke of tyranny and proud doughty soldiers with big guns protecting consumptive fawning women in shawls (WHY always shawls?).
The Monas itself represents a masterpiece of what the guidebook fittingly terms 'inspired tastelessness'.
Monas Monument, Jakarta, Indonesia
Personally I thought it was great.
I paid my 50 cents US and went inside, because from the pinnacle of the monument you get a great view of the city, albeit through clouds of smog. Piped music blared tinnily from speakers throughout the monument. It was some sort of digitized militaristic march which sounded like it had been knocked up by Rolf Harris on his stylophone, or a twelve year old kid on one of the more basic Casio keyboards. Undoubtedly a very hungover and below par Rolf, clearly a few too many VB's the previous evening, his hands were shaking badly and the notes were kind of wavery and off key. Fantastic stuff! I whistled along as far as was possible with the tinkly tootling and the rapita-rapita-rap of Mr. Casio's drum kit, trying and failing to keep a straight face.
The uniformed gent controlling the lift to the top of the monument bent over his work in quiet concentration. I leaned over to fully appreciate the complexity of his task.
There appeared to be three buttons. Labelled: 1, 2 and
1 was the ground floor. 2 was the lower observation deck.
3 was the top of the monument.
I kept quiet, worried that I might upset his train of thought and precipitate some ghastly disaster, like perhaps being fired clean out the top of the monument, like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But this ice cool ace had the measure of it, and brought us up safe and sound.
I drank my fill of the views of the surrounding urban sprawl, tiled roofs contrasting with super modern tower blocks. The grass of the surrounding park was kept alive by a network of sprinkler systems, but the red earth poked through in bare patches. Some of the more enterprising local vandals had turned a number of the sprinklers around, and I watched them as they industriously irrigated several acres of asphalt. No one seemed minded to do anything to rectify this situation, and I found this strangely comforting. On the way back down, the lift jockey studied his control panel minutely, alert for signs of trouble, and hit the controls to take us home. He can be my wingman any day.
Back on the ground floor, the fun was not yet over. I was ushered into the 'Hall of Independence', a cool marble-floored grotto, adorned with flags and a big gold plated map of Indonesia. My guide seated me on a marble bench along with a giggly school party, facing a huge pair of marvellously overdone gold plated doors, all chunky bits and sweeping bas-relief curves and spirals.
He motioned for silence, and hit a concealed button. Instantly, a choir of (slightly crackly) angels gave voice to a tumultuous heavenly chorus, which bore us aloft on wings of rapture, as the doors rumbled ponderously aside. I perked up instantly. My eyebrows climbed up my forehead, as I half expected one of those huge animated Monty Python ladies with an enormous chest to fly out through the doors and start playing a trumpet.
Behind the first pair of doors was another smaller door, and as the angels carolled ever higher, this door juddered slightly and began to jerk hesitantly upwards to reveal what was beyond. Fantastic stuff! For a delicious second, it appeared that this second door might get stuck half way, but it completed its journey safely, to reveal the treasure beyond the portal, which was a rather disappointing bit of paper in a glass case. The voice of Soekarno replaced the heavenly chorus, explaining (my guide told me as Soekarno blatted on in Indonesian) the significance of this declaration of Independence. The cherubs trilled again as the guardian portals swung shut, and I fought the impulse to applaud and cheer thunderously.
Truly the finest entertainment I have ever witnessed.
Dashing the tears (of emotion) from my eyes, I left the monument to search for a shipping agent.
Mr Hery Koestanto of AeroCargo in Jakarta gave me an acceptable rate for air freight from Jakarta to Darwin, and we fixed a mutually acceptable date - this left me 2 weeks to travel eastwards as far as Yogyakarta before I was obliged to return to Jakarta.Posted by Connor Carson at August 22, 2001 12:00 AM GMT
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