Living in the 70’s – a Sumatran adventure
Travelling across Indonesia still remains a mad adventure, even by today’s standards. But taking this journey in the early 1970’s was another trip -.especially if you were an Australian women travelling with two young kids.
In 1973 my mother decided to drag me and my brother across Sumatra by bus. It was a seminal adventure that effected me profoundly and set the compass for many years to come. For us kids, exploring the outer regions of Indonesia was a quantum shift from the tourist sanctuary of Bali – but doing it using public transport was yet another level of insanity. The old buses were sweaty and crowded, the wooden seats uncomfortable, the roads horrendous… and the heat utterly unbearable.
One can look at it all nostalgically now, but in reality the experience was harrowing – particularly for two young tenderfoots from Sydney. But of all the obstacles my mother faced travelling with two youngsters through the Sumatran backwoods, keeping us kids hydrated was one of the biggest issues. Bottled water didn’t exist back then and there was no refrigeration, so boiled (hot) water was the only option… and in 40 degree heat this was a hard sell.
Eventually my mother discovered this fruit ‘rambutan’ from a local market. This lychee-type delight was available almost anywhere and extremely sweet and juicy. We began hoarding bunches of them like squirrels under our seats – mum had saved the day – she was our hero.
Of all my childhood Indo travel memories – besides seeing that old Javanese woman with ear lobes stretched to her waist – those rambutans have stayed with me. Whenever I devour one, I remember that epic bus journey with a mother who believed anything was possible.
Thanks mum for those rambutans and sharing your beautiful spirit of adventure… it will remain with me forever.