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Living in the 70’s – a Sumatran adventure

November 13, 2013


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.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Greg mossop permalink
    November 14, 2013 12:06 am

    Thanks for sharing such a truly great story and for you – a very personal memory ,,,wow what a woman ,and what an experience ,,truly remarkable ,,

    • November 14, 2013 6:10 am

      Cheers Greg. Where would we be without our mothers? Not of this earth at the very least – God bless them.

  2. Davo permalink
    November 14, 2013 9:28 am

    id love to restore one of those busses and deck it out plush with a good motor and modern suspension …., and yeah – Aircon …., are they ” fords? ”

    • November 14, 2013 9:34 am

      Where were you 40 yrs ago Davo? I could’ve used that A/C while winding thru them sweat-ridden mountain trails to Lake Toba…

  3. November 16, 2013 2:37 pm

    Yeah the true meaning of discomfort, those winding roads around Lake Toba have had me feeling less than 100%. I would have done anything for a soft comfortable chair to sit on,at the end of that day everything is wood and hard. Tough trip great to have done rather than the doing. Cool story.

    • November 16, 2013 4:21 pm

      And lets not forget all those pot holes… especially when that passenger behind you (who’s vomiting into that tin cup) loses her grip and releases the contents across your back 😝

  4. November 22, 2013 2:56 am

    Some mothers really do know how to raise their kids right…sounds like your Mum was one of them Bear.

    • November 22, 2013 4:32 am

      Thanks Jo. Mothers deserve a lot of credit in this world – especially those that raise their children to believe in themselves.

  5. December 14, 2013 11:26 am


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