A smile is all you need…

A smile bridges the language barrier in Indonesia.

Riding across Java, Indonesia the days are long, slow and often unrewarding.  Traffic is congested, chaotic and very dangerous. A menagerie of vehicles criss crosses the roads, seemingly without rules or etiquette. Large buses, laden trucks, rickshaws, bicycles, scooters, go carts and modified versions of all of the above pass within a whisker of each other. To a newcomer, the days become tortuous especially as the clock ticks on your visa days and it seems like no headway is being made.

Where are the rewards for this type of travelling?

To stop and enjoy the sights is a luxury as we plough along towards West Java. Such concentration is needed that one is barely able to see what sights are offered. Distraction by the newly flowing rivers, flooded rice fields and other new sights can in an instant bring two trucks heading towards you or an outward swinging bus door appearing in front of you.

However, as we crawl along in the mass of tentacles within the traffic, we become part of the daily life of the local people. Families of four travel on the one scooter, dropping children to day care and school along the way. Cautious riding of a young father heralds the precious cargo of a new mother and a swaddled baby. An active two year old boy stands on the seat sandwiched between his mother and father.

Our large laden motorbikes and white skin bring constant stares from the locals. Phone cameras appear from pillion passengers and poke out of car and truck windows. As we come to a slow crawl there are always requests to be photographed with our bikes.

Who is photographing who?
Who is photographing who?

A smile in return bridges the language barrier and we make new friends.

Today was becoming particularly arduous as I watched the kilometres click slowly over on my odometer. Having had a lucky break in the traffic and finding myself ahead of Con, I pulled out of the traffic for a welcome momentary rest and cooling down time. Just as I was removing my helmet, Con pulled up in front of me. At the same time a man appeared from a workshop and motioned for us to follow him whilst saying, “Panas”.

Somewhat puzzled and leaving our bikes parked out on the roadside, we  followed him into the shed, walking past and over piles of building rio. Seamlessly, we had been led inside his home, sat down at a coffee table and brought a jug of water. Yes, we must have looked very panas – HOT!

He then left us to go upstairs, reappearing with two unopened and very special looking biscuit tins.

Both tins were opened for us whilst his wife cut up beautiful cool and fresh mangoes and pawpaws!

Fresh pawpaw, mangoes and bikkies!
Fresh pawpaw, mangoes and bikkies!

The kindness of this family was overwhelming, but at this stage of our trip, unsurprising. Indonesians everywhere have invited us into their homes to take refuge from the heavy downpours, to offer a place to stay and now just to rest. The kindness of this man felt different because he wanted nothing from us. He did not feel the need to make conversation or to photograph us with our bikes. Instead he fed us, made us feel comfortable and turned on the TV giving me the remote! He was just giving us the opportunity to rest.

After what we thought was a polite period of time to stay, even though I was dreaming of sleeping in this beautiful house, we made moves to leave. Having only a ‘roostersoverland’ sticker to give him we presented one to him. In return, the man went to a cupboard and promptly brought out a box for Con. Inside the rather smart looking box was a sarong of beautiful quality. It was obviously one for a male and so Con politely put it on with the help of our new friend in tying it properly.

A special gift/
A special gift

Walking outside to farewell us, the man proudly motioned to us that all four workshops in sight were also his businesses.

A busy man who cared enough to provide a place for two strangers to rest. This was enough reward for today’s ride.

We left with a smile.

One thought on “A smile is all you need…

  1. Hi Liz and Con, love hearing from you. I know how it feels not to be making much headway, peddling into a headwind for 2 days! Keep on smiling, feeling annoyed doesn’t change anything really, does it?


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