Adventure Gone Wrong

Yesterday there were 2 Canadians who had taken a bus from Medan (North Sumatra) and were headed to Jakarta. They were using the Lonely Planet travel guide for their journey—no personal guide or translator. They got halfway through Jambi and realized this was not the adventure they had imagined.

At a bus stop in Sarolangun, a friend of mine saw them, and though he doesn’t know English, he realized that they were quite distressed, not being able to communicate with anyone. He then called me on his cell phone and let me talk to the hapless travelers.

The Canadian lady I spoke with said they wanted off that bus and wanted to fly to Jakarta. I told them they could take a bus back to the City of Jambi, then take a plane. They were relieved to hear that, and they were intending to do so, but after we had hung up, they mistakenly got on a wrong bus! A few minutes later my friend called me and told me they were on the bus and were on their way to Jakarta. I said they wanted a bus to Jambi! He replied, “Kasihan” (that’s too bad), they just left for another day’s journey on the bus to Jakarta!


For those adventurous souls out there who want to explore, you can enjoy an adventure on Sumatra, if you have a translator or guide with you. It will be a miserable experience for you if you try to get around without somebody helping you. The Lonely Planet travel guide is good, but only when you have a few people around who can speak English to help you along on your adventure. Jambi doesn’t happen to be a location where there are many who speak English!

Those bus rides are miserable for Indonesians, let alone westerners who expect a few additional creature comforts. The bus ride from Medan to Jambi will take a couple of days, and the ride to Jakarta a couple more. Those poor Canadians will be on that bus another day before they get to Jakarta! It will be something for them to laugh and talk about in the future, but on that bus right now—I guarantee you, there is no laughing going on!