Danny and Helen's Journey Home 2006 travel blog

Arriving in any transport hub seems to be difficult, while there is particular difficulty with arriving by Train, the problems are less arriving by plane but signficantly multiplied when arriving by Boat or Bus. The issue is not the arrival itself or even the collection of luggage which is normally at least as efficient as arriving in any western transport hub. The issue is the number of people who want to offer you: "transport mister, yes" or "Carry bags mister, what your name" or "You want drink mister, no problem" or "Hotel mister, where you from?". While these situations present an entertaining interlude from the long journeys they also provide an adreniline rush and oportunity for costly errors either through mis direction or some part of your personal belongings going missing...

Medan was no different, make a plan, check you know what your going to do, get yourself comfortable, "have we got everything", "yes, you have already asked 10 times", calm down before major row erupts and then leg it into the chaos of the airport... This time the plan was to:

1. pick up the knife stupidly left in hand luggage

2. Get the bags

3. Pick someone out from the throng of "transport mister, where you go?" and head for the bus station to Bukit Lawang

Medan, is aptly described in the guidebook as a "bustling, over-crowded, polluted city", Helen & Danny headed straight for the bus station to attempt the onward journey to Bukit Lewang (86km north west of Medan), by bus. Having been handed off by our taxi driver to a local deal maker, who offered the pair (who stood out as the obviously the only tourists anywhere in sight!) a price at least 10 times what it should have cost, to get to the Bukit. When a rickety-old mini-bus with no doors and the springs showing through the seats pulled up, the pair quickly made their excuses and left the scrawny bare chested deal maker to look for more official-looking help. The following hour was then spent coming up with plan A (the "big bus" all the way), then changing to plan B (a small bus all the way), and then back to plan A, Helen and Danny finally ended up on a small bus to Bukit. Now let me paint the picture of this process. This is no ordinary bus. Indeed, in Indonesia, it is normal to fit at least 2, if not 3 people, plus a few chickens, onto every seat. Then, additional passengers climb onto the roof and hold on for dear-life (and the ruck-sacks which were also up there, along with a few other suspect avian-flu carriers). Indonesians also have the advantage of significantly shorter legs than westeners, which Danny soon discovered was to become his primary source of discomfort for the 4 hour journey. So, sat on the back seat of an 11 seater mini-bus, Danny and Helen, accompanied by 43 other passengers inside the mini-bus (who all chain smoke), a driver, 4 people on the roof and a road that is more like some rubble pushed together to form a reasonable line that can squeeze 3 cars, a bus and 27 motorbikes into a space westeners usually keep only for one car, Danny and Helen were off to Bukit.

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