Doing As the Locals Do

Doing As the Locals Do

I thought you might enjoying hearing about our trip from another perspective, so I snagged an email John wrote to some of his friends about a recent overnight bus ride we took from Bali to Java.  The trip was quite entertaining and so was how John described it.
Please welcome the newest guest blogger to The Courage Vibe, Mr. John White or Boss Man as he is called here in Indonesia.

Okay, so trying to stay on a budget and experience what “the locals do,” we decided to save a couple of hundred bucks and take the bus from north of Kuta to Java, the island northwest of Bali and a ferry ride away.

Where to begin.

Our bus for the 18+ hour ride to Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia

Our bus for the 18+ hour ride to Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia

Oh yes, the bus terminal. Thank goodness we had a guide. There would have been no way we would have navigated that one without some help. Also, be it good or bad, we didn’t have to change buses.

We were told this was a luxury bus and led to believe the seats reclined, with plenty of legroom, and a toilet. Right! There was assigned seating, and Jody and Riley had the only pair of seats on the entire bus with no leg room.

The inside of the bus, Those are comforter blankets over each seat.

The inside of the bus, Those are comforter blankets over each seat.

After about an hour into the trip, the air-conditioning gave out. Did I mention it is hot and muggy here? Oh, and the windows wouldn’t open and the bus was packed.

The lack of air became obvious quite quickly.

Then there was the driving. Let me just say, if anyone drove in the US like our driver did for hour after hour, he would be locked up for reckless driving and endangerment. I’ve never experienced anything like the ride on this bus. It felt like a suicide drive. Our bus was about 75 feet long, and the driver sped along at 60-80 km’s per hour, coming up behind other big trucks, some going 20 MPH, and pulling into the oncoming lanes with motor scooters, cars, trucks and other buses coming right at us.

Our bus didn’t accelerate like a turbo-charged Volvo; it took awhile to get going, which meant passing other vehicles was harrowing. The half dozen times I had the courage to watch, we didn’t make it around the other trucks in time. Often, the driver of the truck we were passing would slam on his brakes or head for the shoulder to give us room, and the oncoming traffic would do the same. The bus driver’s “assistant” sat on the floor about four feet from the windshield without a seat belt. If we had ever hit anything, he would have been the bug going thru’ the windshield from the inside out.

This swerving, diving, and slamming of the brakes went on all night long. Jody had to reposition herself in her seat repeatedly.

After about three hours, we arrived at the port for a ferry ride to the next island. Five ferries were lined up, but there were only two loading ramps. There were scores of large trucks waiting to get onto the ferries, and they backed on, one at a time within inches of each other. It took 90 minutes.

The ferries lining up to load and unload.

The ferries lining up to load and unload.

Once on board, I sat out on the bow, where it was pleasant and peaceful. I needed to calm myself down. Jody and Alli walked up a flight of stairs and were invited by the captain to join him. Riley wandered down to the main cabin. We heard squeals coming from that direction and discovered Riley in the middle of a couple hundred swarming Hindu girls who seemed to believe he was Justin Bieber, or enough of a lookalike to rate a celebrity welcome. He must have had a hundred pictures taken with the girls. Jody and Alli also had their share of photos taken.

Allison and some of the girls on the ferry.

Allison and some of the girls on the ferry.

Riley and some of the school kids

Riley and some of the school kids

We met a teacher who spoke English. He invited us to dinner at his home a few nights later to help his students practice their English.

Getting off the ferry was interesting to say the least.

The captain drove the ferry up to shore and dropped the ramp right onto the big rocks. This meant the passengers on foot had to crawl up the bank. When the ramp finally became available, the buses unloaded. We watched drivers maneuver their huge trucks back down the ramp and onto the ferry in the dark, parking their big rigs inches from each other. No one seemed to get upset, which impressed me.

With about an hour left on the trip in the stuffy, hot, swaying machine, the driver pulled into a bus repair shop…to fix the air conditioning? Please? No, to switch out the windshield!

The bus getting its windshield changed

The bus getting its windshield changed

While the windshield was being replace, we decided we needed a cup of coffee and some breakfast, so I asked a man outside the gate to direct us. He walked us down the street, into an alley and to a café on a very busy street. We ordered coffee and chicken Satay, one of four things on the menu. We watched the café owner prepare our food on a grill right there on the sidewalk. The grill was 6” wide and about 15” long. The “chicken” was chewy, and overcooked. Uncertain what we were really eating, we took it back to share with others on the bus. Later, we were told it was probably goat, hopefully.

Breakfast of mystery meat

Breakfast of mystery meat

At daybreak, we started dropping passengers off. At no point on the trip could I determine where we were. Talk about going by faith! An English-speaking contractor who was building a house in Bali helped us know where to get off of the bus. Fortunately, he got off at the same stop we did and hailed down a taxi, arranging a set fare and telling the driver where to take us.

We continue to have wonderful people like that contractor pop into our lives at precisely the right moment to make friends, give us great advice, and help us get to our destinations.


1. Glad we did it.
2. NEVER again.
3. Met some wonderful people.
4. Have an opportunity to volunteer and teach.
5. New appreciation for what people without many options do to get around.
6. Each of us experiences different things.
7. Each of us is glad about who we are and what we have.



  1. Judy Moody January 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    What a great story and an experience you wont forget. Thanks so much for sharing this Jodie.

  2. lena January 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Oh boy…I would have had my eyes closed the entire bus ride and then gave the driver a look and pointed to him in shame. Crazy –
    Thank you for sharing the story it is always great reading about your adventures and the pictures are an extra bonus of fun.
    You aren’t missing too much in Tigard, Oregon – it is starting to rain and it is getting colder but no snow- I am sad to report!
    We miss you and look forward to your next adventure.
    Hugs and prayers – the Crowley family

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      Personally, I closed my eyes because I figured that way if we crashed I wouldn’t know it was coming! 🙂 I can imagine you giving the driver a look, but I am not sure it would do any good. Not sorry we are missing the Oregon rain. We have some more blog posts coming and we are having a great time and learning a ton about life, animals and cultures. Happy New Year.

  3. Merede January 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Happy New Year! As I read this blog from John’s eyes I could actually hear him telling the story. I laughed & winced with him – YIKES! Talk about scary!
    Glad you guys are safe & have the experience of your lives.
    XO The Whitneys

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks Merede. I laughed out loud when I read his version of events. It brought the experience right back. Very funny. We are having a great time. Just got back from spending a week taking care of elephants including a one month old baby elephant. We are going to be posting some photos soon. Happy New Year.

  4. Carla McNeil, Social Media Manager January 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    WOW, that was definitely some adventure! Yes we here in North America are a little spoiled when it come to travel. Having to clamor over rocks to get off the ferry isn’t something I would enjoy too much.

    I hope you NEVER have to travel like this again on the trip! 🙂

    Keep the blog posts coming, I love them! I definitely am living the journey thru all of you!

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      It was an adventure and I imagine we have some more bus travel in our future, but now we know what to expect. Glad you are enjoying our adventure. I have more blogs coming soon.

  5. Martha J January 8, 2013 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Reminds me of the hair pin turns on the mountains of Taiwan in the 1970’s. One side was rock; the other side was clouds because you couldn’t actually see DOWN the mountain. Traumatic.

    Enjoy enjoy. M

  6. jan b January 8, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Awesome!! Driving reminds me of Japan! Aren’t you glad our angels are on duty 24/7!! love you guys, jan

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      We are very grateful that our angels didn’t sleep, in fact, I don’t think they have slept since we left in November. Happy New Year!

  7. Nick January 8, 2013 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Sounds familiar – we have had one or two (?) journey’s in India just like John’s story. Amazing thing is that after a month of travelling, we haven’t witnessed a single accident. We have seen a whole lot more manners, less road-rage and some incredibly quick reactions (particularly when confronting a lorry coming down the wrong-way of the highway in the fast lane, and trying to squeeze six vehicles into three lanes!). One thing I have learnt: I am NEVER EVER hiring a car in India and attempting to drive on India’s roads myself.
    Keep writing – love hearing about your adventures and missing you all. x

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      I have heard India is even worse than what we are experiencing. We are amazed that there is no road rage. People seem to “ebb-and-flow” with each other and don’t really stress if they have another car coming head on in their lane. They just casually move to the side. We could all take a lesson from them in our own driving habits – at least the not stressing part! We have no desire to try to tackle the driving either. We will leave it to the professionals. Can’t wait to see you in the UK very soon. Tell the family hello.

  8. the Larabee's January 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Wow! What an adventure! Chicken? Goat? it’s all the same right? Enjoying all your stories and pictures. Keep laughing, smiling and having fun together. Happy New Year!
    Love, the Larabee’s

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks. We are doing a lot of laughing and no, after that experience – goat (or whatever it was) doesn’t taste just like chicken! 🙂 Happy New Year!

  9. wendy January 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    OMG!!! And to think I thought you were a crazy driver John

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      John doesn’t hold a candle to what we have seen and experienced, yet we haven’t seen an accident yet, nor any road rage which is even more amazing.

  10. Don Tietz January 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Great story, all quite believable from my personal expirences. I’m enjoying all the posts and pictures.

  11. Russ Mobley January 10, 2013 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    Hey – John, Jody, Riley, Allison!!!
    John – Love your writing style. From where I’m sitting reading this I am cringing with OMG and Smiling imagining your experience. I’m breathing deep for you – HAha. You gave me the feeling of being there! Love the recap – hindsight is always 20/20! Glad you captured it all. With all that being said, I’m glad everyone survived without losing it. I can imagine Riley/Justin with his fans and Allison being surrounded. Know that I am there with you all as you sharing your love of adventure with the world. Watching you from a distance!
    Love and Hugs,
    PS. Let Riley know I am heading to Turkey for the EngliverCity Winter camp on 1/27/13. Here’s the itinerary.

    • Jody Temple White January 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Hey Russ. Good luck with EngliverCity Camp. We will be in Turkey towards the end of April and through May. Will you still be there?

  12. roger buskers February 1, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I never thought I could enjoy such an adventure vicariously,love this trip and your sharing—say “HI” to all,,,,enjoy your growth and building your family closeness—-what a wonderful gift you are having.

    • Jody Temple White February 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Glad you are enjoying it Roger. I will pass on your hello to everyone.

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