‘This is not South Africa, this is Indonesia!” demands the Immigration Officer, as Cyle Myers recounts a few speed bumps while returning home from Indonesia. ‘A Law Abiding Citizen’ is his entry into Write To Surf – Zag’s surf journo competition with epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see details below).
A Law Abiding Citizen – by: Cyle Myers
I’m done with Indo. It feels like I’ve got rice paddies coming out of my ears, and I’ve had enough surface level conversations with other travelers to last me at least another year until I get antsy again. We wake up at 2:30am which should give us enough time to complete all necessary morning tasks, ready for our pick up in the general waiting area by 3:00am with all our luggage – which includes four boards and two bags. Our flight to Singapore leaves at 6:00am, and we don’t want to be late!
Its 3:00am and our driver which we prearranged isn’t here yet, it’s 3.10am! He’s still not here, it’s 3.14am, and I’m not spending another day in Bali, not one more! Marishka and I decide that it would be best to look for another driver. It’s 3:20am and the Bukit is as quiet as a Cape Town suburb experiencing load shedding. After much searching, we finally find a willing partner. He agrees to take us to the airport for 200 000 Rupiah, which is great! I’m happy. I just wanna leave this place now. We drive back to our accommodation to pick up our four boards and two bags only to discover our prearranged driver ready and waiting to take us to the airport. We don’t care who takes us, they can both take us, we just need to leave. Our prearranged driver, Aris gets the job. Aris is a crazy man, his English is broken and he chain smokes Sampoerna’s – a cheap local Indonesian cigarette. He also owns the place where we we’re staying. He ties the boards to the roof in what can only be described as laissez-faire fashion. If this was Volker’s doing, I would’ve taken the reigns and re-tied those boards: the only flight I want my boards to experience is when I do my annual credit card air. But tonight, I’m not concerned about that. Aris needs to get us to the airport. That’s what I’m concerned about.
We leave. We’re a quarter of the way there. We’re half way there, and things are going smoothly. We’re exiting the Bukit, down the hill we go, and suddenly, in the middle of the road, there stands a box. It looks like an ordinary cardboard box. I mean what else could be in the middle of the road at 3:30am? But this is Bali, it could be a dog tightly packed in box format for all we know! Whatever it is, it’s too late now. Aris has been chain smoking Sampoerna’s for the majority of his existence on the planet, and his reactions have paid the price. We ride over the ‘box’ which isn’t a box at all, it’s a solid concrete block with a pole sticking out of it. Aris smashes it! I think the front axle of the car is broken! He drags the concrete block about a 100 meters down the hill before eventually stopping the car. In my mind I’m thinking, “What in Moses’ name took him so long to stop the car!” The cigarettes have slowed him down so much so, that his reactions to stimuli are slower than a sloth. We all hop out of the car and look underneath it. I figure out that all we need to do to get out of this pickle is reverse the van and we’ll be free of this concrete block. Aris reverses the van. By some miracle the van is still in perfect driving condition. I thank the Japanese company that put this van together, because I know a VW’s wheels would’ve come off and all its windows would have shattered by now!
We’re on our way again. By now Aris needs a cigarette to calm his nerves. Flip I wouldn’t mind one too, and I’m sure Marishka wouldn’t say no to a nicotine blast either. I bet any man regardless of his upbringing or belief systems wouldn’t have said no to a ciggie. But we mustn’t. Aris struggles to light his entjie due to the open windows and the fact that he’s driving the car. I offer to help him, but he’s not interested. This is his cigarette, and this is his car, and he is lighting his cigarette in his car – while swerving between both these two lanes on his own accord!
I’m tired of this casual and blatant disregard for life in this country. I want out. Marishka wants out. I’m ready for the first world. I’m ready for rules. Wrap your laws around me, I don’t mind. I will delight myself in them. I will take them to heart. Singapore’s the second safest country to Sweden, and that is what I want. I want to see my parents, I want to see my sister. Marishka wants a home cooked meal and company that cares.
We arrive at the airport, untie the boards, say a thank you prayer to God, wish Aris a safe trip back (even though it’s only a 30 minute drive) and head for the check-in counter. We’re almost home, or just where my parents live. But emigration has other plans…
Off we go into the airport, it’s 4:00am in the morning but the air is humid and thick. I can’t wait to check-in, get through immigration and board my flight with Marishka in hand. However, our next challenge is almost upon us. Instead of booking sports equipment for our flight, we booked 20kgs of extra luggage. This posed a huge problem in Singapore where the check-in attendant wanted us to pay an extra $30. I mean, let’s think about that, whether I put a surfboard bag which weighs 20kgs on the plane or a suit case which weighs 20kgs, it makes no difference to the freakin plane, as long as the extra weight is accounted for. It’s not like the electronics of the plane will suddenly fall into disarray if there are two unaccounted for surfboards. I fought Air Asia tooth and nail in Singapore until they let us board that flight at no extra cost! Marishka and I weren’t giving some corporation that doesn’t need any more money for no reason.
But here in Bali boarding the flight back to Singapore, I’m tired. I’m a tired old man, I have no fight left in me. I’ve fought my way through two Jakarta trips to organize my emergency passport. I’ve fought for cheap taxi trips to and from the airport. I’ve fought the authorities for necessary stamps and dodged cops on my scooter to avoid paying fines. I’m over dodging and fighting. If one more money-requiring encounter occurs, I doubt the Velcro on my wallet will be able to resist.
We check-in, the check-in lady smiles at me, looks at my piece of paper which now resembles my passport and says, “Emergency Passport.” I’m thinking, “oh no!” but she checks us in, says nothing about the boards and lets us go. Marishka and I smile at each other, I feel like we just got away with air travel murder. We make our way to emigration, I say a quick prayer and head into the devils lair, hoping my piece of paper (which represents my passport) will stand the test. I place my Emergency Passport in front of the gentlemen, he looks at it, turns it over and says, “Where are your stamps?” to which I reply, “What stamps? The South African embassy said this is all I need!” He looks at me, shakes his head and makes a quick phone call. A severe looking Indonesian man appears from a small room close by, he heads over to me, he looks at me and says, “follow me.” Marishka and I follow him onto the small room from whence he came. You know those small rooms! Anyone who’s traveled a bit knows those rooms. It’s the rooms that Australians and Brits who have been traveling for the past 2 to 5 years end up when they try enter countries with strict drug trafficking laws. Cause everybody knows, those brothers have been partaking and living life to the fullest and most psychedelic. I’m nervous, I hate this, it’s my worst nightmare. Marishka’s nervous too, we can’t look at each other, it’s too painful. We’re both thinking the same thing, ‘they’re going to send me back to Jakarta because you can only get the stamps to leave the country in Jakarta.’ I’m scared. I’m too scared to think, and yet my brain is moving at a 100 miles an hour.
The gentleman seats us in his little room, and this ain’t no smiley, happy clappy Indonesian, this is one of those strict hard looking buggers. He ain’t gonna take no nonsense from nobody! He’s in charge now! He proceeds to make a couple of phone calls and then turns to explain to me that I need stamps from the emigration in Jakarta (within that moment my heart drops and I feel like I have died) or alternatively, I need the emigration in Bali to allow me to leave the country. My heart revives itself and I can breathe again! Marishka then explains in desperation that I have gone to Jakarta twice in order to get this Emergency Passport and that’s all the South African Embassy in Jakarta said I would need! The man turns to us dead pan and says, “It is Indonesian law to have these stamps in order to leave the country, this is not South Africa, this is Indonesia!” He then proceeds to cancel my flight to Singapore. I’m shattered. I feel like a Balinese dog that has been ravaged by mange since the day it was born. I don’t know how much more I can take. Marishka is shattered too. I can see it. I turn to her and beg her to stay with me, it doesn’t take much begging, she agrees immediately and we cancel her flight as well. I’m so happy to have her with me. If I was alone, I think I would’ve dug myself a hole and buried myself a long time ago. But she is here and we’re going to get out of this country if it’s the last freakin’ thing we do!
I’m not sure how long these stamps are going to take, for all I know, it could take a week, a month even. Man I can’t go through this again. The gentlemen assures us that the stamps shouldn’t take long, but all I can think of is South African emigration and how long things take there. And then I realize that I’m in Indonesia and it dawns on me that it could possibly take 35 years to get these stamps! To be honest I would rather surf Muizenberg everyday with the Great Whites and no option of heading to Dunes or Kalk Bay then be stuck here for another day surfing Uluwatu! We collect our surfboards from Air Asia and head back out of the airport, devastated. We were so close.
We sit down at a coffee shop, it’s now 5:00am. The sun hasn’t even risen and I feel like I’ve experienced every emotion under the sun in these two hours. Marishka and I sit in the airport and try sleep. The immigration office is definitely still closed and we’re tired. Tired of this shit.
I wake to an Indonesian man staring at me from across the airport hall. He’s wearing a fairly ragged button-up shirt, an over-sized pair of pants and has a mostache that would shadow a Mexican tequila manufacturer. He signals to me, gesturing if I’d like a taxi. I do need a taxi, but not from this brother. I need a legit brother.
Marishka and I need to make our way to immigration, but for all we know, immigration could be in the heart of Denpasar. And if anybody knows Denpasar, that place is a nightmare. One way streets everywhere: imagine Cape Town’s Long Street, but every street is Long Street – that is Denpasar. Back in 2008, when I lived in Bali, a mate and I had a running joke that there was an Australian man who is lost in Denpasar, and he’s been there for the past five years because he can’t find his way out! It’s a funny joke if you don’t have to go to Denpasar.
Anyway, it’s time to get our hustle on. We need to find a cheap taxi to the airport, and in order to do that you need to turn into a gangster hustler. It’s on like Donkey Kong. We find a man, give him the address and he says okay. “How much?” is the all important question. To which the taxi driver responds by giving you a rate which is about triple to four-times the metered rate. Our taxi driver responds by offering us 150 000 Rupiah there. Oh man, this is a good sign, it means immigration is close by, it means it’s about 10 to 15 minutes away. While we’re hustling ‘stubborn brother A’ to give us a better deal, ‘brother B’ says he’ll take us there for 100 000 Ruphia. Marishka says, “100 000 there and back.” Brother B accepts the offer and off we go.
It turns out immigration is super close. It’s basically around the corner. 10 minutes away. I’m relieved we don’t have to head into the land of a thousand one ways. Civilization here we come.
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