It’s always good to get out into the countryside, in any country, and Java is more scenic than many places. The trip was pretty slow to Malang. Driving through Porong hammers home the ineptitude of officialdom in this country – as well as all the unfortunate people who have lost their homes and communities from the mud flow, with no compensation in sight, the quality of life of the surrounding communities has been destroyed as well. Because not one finger seems to have been lifted to find alternative roads, the good folk of Porong have thousands of trucks and buses crawling down their streets. The dust, noise and fumes are unbelievable.

After having a snack at Toko Oen, in Malang (because Martinie had never been), we were into the countryside and heading up the slopes to Martinie’s village, called Resopombo. We stopped at a relative’s place and were surprised to see Ani, our former pembantu (in Bali). – We had intended to see her boys, Moses and Meilke,  because their father, Martin, is gravely ill, and the kids had been sent to live with Ani’s sister. Ani had made the trip to Blitar because (thanks to wonderful Indonesian bureaucracy) she had to take Moses back to Bali because he had to be there on one specific day (and, one only) to collect his Grade 6 certificate!!!

Ani’s brother-in-law has retired from Pertamina, the state oil company, and now runs a music hire business. The house was filled to the rafters with band and sound equipment. He can’t play a note, which puts him on a par with almost every other Indonesian “sound man” whom I’ve encountered.

After a coffee and pisang goreng (banana fritters), we drove around the corner to Martinie’s family home. We had more snacks, and chatted about farming with her parents.

We headed down an alternate route to Blitar, and arrived at the Tugu Hotel. It is just as charming as the original, in Malang. The only negative was that, except for the expensive rooms, and one other (already booked), the rooms only have single beds. In all other aspects, the room was very nice.


We went for a wander, to take in the sights of Blitar, and returned to check our email – the hotel has a hot spot, but there is a cost. So, to be helpful, the staff run a spare cable from their modem, for guests, for free. We checked out the suites, including the one used by Soekarno. For some reason, there is a set of gamelan gongs at the foot of the bed.

In the evening, we dined at the hotel restaurant. They actually had a wine list, but we settled for beer (me) and a whiskey and coke. Helen’s marinated chicken and rice was nice, but my nasi goreng was too greasy. The service was excellent.

After a very good night’s sleep, we went for a short wander. We were very surprised to find that, unlike everywhere else in Indonesia, there was not a lot of activity out in the streets and markets. We had a fairly basic breakfast, and Helen had her photo taken with an old bloke who had been a cleaner in the hotel for 50 years. He thought he might be around 90 years old – no pension plans here!

We had a look at Soekarno’s tomb, which was very impressive, and has a library. The mandatory scams include the parking area being a becak ride away, and women selling flower petals to sprinkle on his grave. It looks like a compulsory school excursion.

Back up the “hill”, at Martinie’s village, we stopped in to check out Latte’s and Jahe’s new home, and said goodbye to everyone. We went further up the mountain for a brief look at a lovely little village, and then turned towards home.

All was well. We got through Malang, and stopped for a late nasi goreng. Then, a long way from Porong, we came to a dead stop. The next ten, or so, kilometres, took us two hours, centimetre by centimetre, with a constant stream of morons going down the left hand side of the road. As I wrote in the first paragraph, not one thing has been done. People cannot even walk on the “footpath” outside their hovels for fear of being run over by a car, minibus or motorbike trying to illegally get a few metres’ advantage. Then, there must be thousands of people who have had hours added to their daily commute to and from work. No-one seems willing or able to solve the problem. There is a plan to finish a new freeway within two years, but it will be a very long two years for all affected.

Despite the finale, the trip was a relaxing, interesting experience, and brought home that, although we got out and about in Surabaya’s environs, we could have made more time to see more.


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