Sunday, 14 November 2010

Angkot What?

Due to a series of mis-communications (as in the Geolog driver filled my car's petrol tank up and then left the key in a locked building while everyone went for lunch) I was stranded at the office today.

Weighing up my options I opted to jump on an angkot. "A what?" you say. In Indonesian angkot means 'lift' and these scrappy little Toyota minibuses run up and down the main roads providing a shuttle bus service for anyone brave enough to get on. There are no stops or fares; you simply flag one down, jump on and stick some battered rupiah notes in the driver's hand when you disembark.

So there I was, standing at the kerbside looking like an albino lemon for 2 or 3 minutes, all-the-while observing to myself that whenever I'm driving on the same road, or walking to the shops, there are a hundred angkots buzzing around like flies. So I hit upon a remedy that always works in Britain - light up a cigarette. Within two drags one pulled up next to me and off I went.

We zipped along the main strip, working up and down the gears, into town with the breeze doing the job of an air conditioner and 15 minutes later I was at the central junction and ready to get off. Not knowing how to stop the roller coaster I tapped the guy in front on the shoulder and he obligingly shouted "stop" to the driver. Yes, 'stop' in Indonesian is stop. Go figure.

I jumped out, deposited 3000 rupiah in the driver's hand (the price for a local is 2000 but expats get a premium service!), crossed the street and grabbed my second angkot which was heading up the road we live off. Unlike the first leg of my journey this driver only used second gear so the lack of refreshing breeze meant the interior was stifling. Add to that the heavier traffic in town that builds up next to the bridge works, the effect of getting stuck next to an open air garbage truck in 35C heat was not nice. (I know, I was a bin man for 6 years but never was I subjected to that kind of stench.)

By the time I was ready to get off I was experienced enough to be the one to shout "stop" and the driver obligingly pulled over opposite the turning to BDI. When I presented my fare (a 2000 rupiah note) it was not enough so I pulled out a 100,000 bill. The driver's mate/ticket conductor was happy to accept my original offering of 2000 rupiah but the driver was not. After much pocket shuffling he produced my change, stuffed it in my hand, said "OK?" and made to pull off. I kept my hand on the side of the bus while I counted it but by the time I realised he'd short changed me (by 5000 rupiah or 35 pence/55 cents) I couldn't keep up with him. It must have been a funny sight.

For the trip home I was able to cadge a lift with Rae and Oscar in a taxi for part of the way. The leg out to the office was trouble free and I even got to sit right up front with the driver. I think he was rather proud to have a bula (Indonesian for pale-skinned foreigner, which actually means 'blonde') in his angkot. It must have been unusual to have an expat on board because one passenger who got on remarked to the driver (in Indonesian) that she'd never seen a bula on an angkot before. She was even more surprised when she discovered I understood her.

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