Last weekend in Tretes

by Will Sanders on May 13th, 2009

Chapter one
I am sitting at on an open air balcony which wraps around the rear of the hotel Lie mas and over a sheer cliff, valley below. The trees are lush and appear bushy like the dog across the street who never gets love and is left alone all day every day, the trees are matted and gnarled with twisted locks, thick in places and sparce in others. I am a little sad because I want to tell you about my big blue friend but the clouds have rolled in so heavy we can’t see each other, it was clear ten minutes ago. At the foot of my big blue friend is a mosque situated so perfectly I can’t imagine it ever not being where it is now. The Mosque and my blue friend are a good mile or three away across the valley below. I just stopped writing to go have a look over the edge. I was prompted to do so by monkeys screaming at each other. The trees beneath the building are shitty with them. I just watched two of them play all over the branches like frisky squirrels, the alpha locked eyes with me but I didn’t blink so he turned away, the clouds are so close now I can’t even see the Mosque anymore. I came back to the computer to type that last sentence, well, first I put on David Bowie softly so as not to disturb the monkeys, I cracked my knuckles to type, and my beer and lunch showed up. Fried noodles and rice. Damn that’s good.
“Cha cha cha changes”
I am hungry too, I worked up a real appetite swimming under an ice cold water fall a little while ago. First time I have been cold since I got to this country but now I have that swim hunger. Now the valley has disappeared under a white sheet which covers the mountain just on the other side of the ravine maybe 500 or 600 feet away, several miles disappear all in the space of five minutes. Just took another break to marvel at things. Now clouds are rushing at me in great speedy bursts, it looks like the entire world is on fire. Huge puffs hang over the hills, in the hills, some trees peek through the fog but most are gone all together. Just now, sheets and sheets of rain are pouring down without warning or even so much as a slow drizzle, just the sudden explosion of rain bombing down from above. David Bowie has been entirely drowned out by the roar water slamming the concrete roof and, yeah, I can’t see the mountain on the other side of the ravine anymore. So long, mountain on the other side of the ravine, maybe you’ll be out later. The world has been replaced with solid white and the wind is screaming bloody murder. The screams of the monkeys are gone and I am forced to wonder how much of a pain in the ass it must be for an animal to have to jet to shelter under a tree or wherever wet monkeys go when these things happen. Poor wet monkeys. Maybe I should order more noodles, defiantly almost time for another beer. Then a good nap I think.

Chapter two
My plan was to come to Tretes last night, Friday night, after my last class. My last class ends at 9, but I was sure I could do it, although another teacher told me I was mad. Earlier I asked the boss about my passport and ketas which were supposed to be ready this week. The delay is the fault of the people with G jobs at the Indonesian department of immigration, not the school’s I’m sure. But I did need the ketas to travel. If a cop should ask to see it and should you be without I am told it can be trouble. The ketas is my identification here, if a world war two german from an old movie stops me and asks for my papers I am more or less screwed without it. Just before my last class Alan, one of the big cheese guys asked me if I had gotten it, I hadn’t and had totally forgotten. He was in a bad way, here it was Friday night and he is running around trying to find it by retracing the steps of people who were already home, and around here Friday night means beer, a sacred birth right. After the class I got word that it had been sent of for lamination and would be dropped by my place at 10. So I got in taxi on my way home, but damn if that taxi didn’t go right by the bar all the teacher’s hang in on Friday nights. SO he stopped after a block and out I got. And I got drunk with a bunch of nice people from all over the place.
Home at 1, up at 7, six hours of cool dreams I can’t remember. I had a hand written page of instructions how to get from this bus station to that one and then to Tretes. The whole thing was supposed to be like two hours. My taxi driver this morning took me all the way to the bus station way across town which was more expensive but worth not waiting for another bus all things considered. The bus terminal was dozens of men screaming at me to get into their mini vans for Bali. The busses where in the rear, dozens more men were standing in clumps and screaming at people waving their arms, herds of people walking in front of and around moving buses. I asked one of the screaming men for a bus to Tretes with air con, he lead me into a bus which was wall to wall people and no more seats, people standing. I ducked out of that one and got into another bus, this one had no air con and only one seat left. I want to stress that this was a mistake on my part. I thought as long as the bus was moving the open slits along the tops of the window would keep the air moving. The windows themselves don’t open, explain that to me, anyone, I’d love to know why the non aircon busses only have small slit openings of five inches every few feet All along the top of the tin can. My best guess is the same reason you have tiny holes on the tops of backyard barbeque grills, intentional or not I don’t know but certainly the same principle.
At first the bus was medium full, just a few seats along the isle left, I squeezed into the side of one and cradled my bag in my lap. We went out of the bus station and around the corner and stopped. Now the guy taking the money started screaming to the people on the curb
“Medura, Medura, Medura” singsong. Medura is the final stop past Tretes you understand.
Five or six people got on, the seats were now full and people started clogging in the middle walkway. Oh shit, they are letting people clog the middle walkway. Shit, they are stopping again for more people. Shit, every time they stop vendors and beggars get on too and hastle everyone for money. Shit, it is now clear that they are going to keep stopping no matter how many people are crammed in the center, sort of wish I had held out for a window seat. Oh, shit, shit, shit shit! Traffic jam, this tub is stopped and more and more people are pushing their way in. God damn it!
So that’s how it went, the two hour bus ride became something in the neiborhood of three and a half hours of solid traffic jam. The longer it went the hotter it got, it was hard to breath and I was forced to remember that Asian culture doesn’t really do the whole personal space territorial bubble thing. Butts and ass’s rubbing and jamming themselves into my shoulder and ribcage. The little bit of water I had left in the bottled water I had bought at the station went into the brim of my hat which poured over my head. I quickly started fanaticizing about jumping out and walking. I would have been going at the same speed, I reasoned, and maybe I could hire someone to let me ride on the back of their motorcycle. It was the sort of daydream which was becoming more desperate by the minute. I hung my head and closed my eyes tight trying to imagine myself elsewhere.
And then I saw him, my big blue friend for the first time. It was one of the brief periods of movement when a small space appeared and the bus got to go a hundred feet. The trees on the side of the road broke for just a moment and like a mirage a split second image of a monolithic perfect blue triangle sat in the distance. Now my plan was to think outside the bus, beyond the bus, beyond the heat and the claustrophobia, beyond the old man now complaining loudly to everyone that I am holding my elbow out so he can’t plant his ass in my personal bubble, far beyond all of it. I focused all my attention on my new big blue friend, and I figured sooner or later we would both get to Tretes.
Every so often the houses would part and there he was. He shot straight up in angles which were mathematically exact. The top was missing, cut off by clouds, or was it the smoke from an open active volcano. This is volcano country I reasoned, so yeah, it could be a volcano with no top. The ridges worked their way downward vertically, betraying my friend’s old age and causing great shadows and texture, areas of light and dark blue. Where I come from in the states the mountains all roll, a gradual incline to a peek takes the better part of the far off horizon to creep it’s way to the top. Not this thing, man, no way. And he was big, I would estimate that he’d tower a good four feet over Godzilla if it was the set of a Japanese monster flick. So more and more people got on the bus and I just kept craning to see my big blue friend and it really wasn’t all that bad anymore. At one point a young girl pushed her butt into me and the whole thing seemed just a little bit sunnier. My glass is half full.
And finally after a few years the bus pulled into the Pandaann station just outside Tretes. I was out of that bus just as fast as I could jump. I caught a bemo heading up the hill, they put me in the front like a VIP or something, to which I would normally protest but I needed some space. Just before we left an old woman got on and put her small son almost on my lap. Up the hill we went.
I told you about the hotel, it was recommended to me, and a real classy joint. If anyone found this by way of google search for Tretes, let me also recommend the Lie Mas hotel. I was the only guest in the place, a nice three story affair with huge balconies hanging over a cliff like I said earlier. Really nice people, cheap good food, and an excellent view of my big blue friend.
The first paragraph of this thing would have been the highlight of the weekend, just a great moment sitting around enjoying being somewhere, and really what better reason is there to go someplace. I swam in a waterfall when I got there. It was cold and brisk and made my pores tingle. I was all alone and floating at peace. Two guys came along with baskets over their shoulders. They started scooping out muck from the bottom, I guess they were the keepers of the waterfall. They were pleased to see me enjoying myself and wanted to know what country I came from. I told them America and they gave me approving thumbs up, “Obama, very good. Obama, very good.”
The next day I got up early to go hike in the woods, the hiking area turned out to be a paved walkway with everything clear cut into lawns on both sides. Not really what I was picturing when I was thinking Tretes. The end of the walkway was a bigger waterfall than the first, this one was filled with happy people splashing and laughing. A group of people in some sort of non official tree fort kind of uniform asked me to pose in a picture. That is always strange, it never happens when I am walking down a street, they only seem brave enough to ask when at some sort of tourist spot. I then become part of the ride and they feel embolden. My first thought is usually that they are asking me to take their picture, but no, I am a rock star.
waterfall awesome
That water fall had a rowdy bunch of teenage boys billy goating around the outside of the falls. I noticed that they were all swimming in their shirts so I did the same thing. Muslim modesty and all that. I took off my shoes and the guys in the tree fort uniforms offered to watch my shoes, which was nice of them. I think they were some kind of grown up boyscouts, kiwanus or elk lodge or some such. All the teens were away from the actual falls, sort of wading nearby. I made my way to the falls and stuck my body in. The pressure slammed the top of me, almost pushing me to my feet. It was mighty, I almost lost my footing all together. For a time I stayed in, the whole world was replaced by screaming water from above. All I could see or hear. When I emerged a crowd had formed. Everyone had stopped what they were doing to marvel at the foreigner with the gumption to get in first. I made my way for the shore and when I did I turned around, a full on wresting match had erupted of teenage boys throwing each other under the falls. One splashed me and I splashed back and the whole pool was in on it, all out splash war.
I paid way too much money to get a minivan home, an air conditioned minivan. The driver asked me if I liked music, I said I did and he started grooving to house dance music just a little too loud. I almost asked him to turn it off but he seemed to be having a good time and all things considered this was not such a bad way to travel after all. I reclined the seat back a little and felt like the king of Komush.

Once again thanks for reading, keep the comments coming and I will try to respond. If anyone has skype let me know and we can figure a time to talk for free. Cool, take care, far away friends.
my big blue friend


Godzilla slightly Taller

Godzilla slightly taller still

7 Responses to “Last weekend in Tretes”

  1. Amy Bugg Burke says:

    I’m already jealous! Beautiful pictures and it looks like a great time!

    It was good talking to you the other night…soon we’ll get our Skype up and running again. =)

    • Will Sanders says:

      Yeah, I really liked talking to you guys too. I miss you guys a whole bunch but not as bad as China because I still get to hang out with nice people a lot here. But talking to you guys the other night made me pine for late nights over beers at your house, conversations about Stan Lee at 4 AM, and all that. Thanks for being blog believer #1

  2. Will Sanders IS Indonesian BBQ.

  3. Will Sanders says:

    Thank you to who ever put up that photo, I must have been sleeping at the wheel to not see Godzilla when I first took the picture. That is the funny thing about Indonesia, we see Godzilla so often that we don’t even really notice anymore. That’s just how cool we are.

  4. Auntie Phyllis says:

    I am so jealous, I would love to be u. Keep up the blog, it is almost like being there. I know the country must be really beatiful. We miss u but live vicariously through ur blogs. Love from me and kimmie

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