Jogjakarta (alias Yogyakarta), Java

2100 hrs 8-2-72
Dear parents etc.,

You may have noticed that I have not written for some time. The spirit has been willing but the flesh (as usual) weak, opportunity lacking and substance short. I hope you appreciate the fact that I am missing out on a shadow-play (with puppets) to write to you tonight.

I posted my last missive on my way to consult a medico about my leg. The male nurse simply gave me mercurochrome to cover the offending area and told me to keep taking penicillin. Nature is taking its course and the healing process is discernible. I am able to hobble along quite freely now: you will notice that I have moved on in my journey.

That same afternoon I went on a wild spending spree and spent inordinate amounts of money on batik sarongs, a kris, a carved workman and a yogi-man. Incidentally, I am quite horrified at how much it's costing me to live even in this cheap country. In about 6 weeks I'll either have to get more money sent or come home - probably the former! Returning to my souvenirs, I discovered it was going to cost me nearly as much to post them home (surface) through forwarding agents as it cost to buy them. I was thunderstruck and eventually settled for packing them myself in my own clumsy way with few materials and posting them at the ghastly P.O. in Den Pasar. I only pray they'll get home, even if it is in 3 months.

For the princely sum of Rp 75 I attended a cock-fight in Kuta Beach, the gory details of which I won't bore you with at the present moment. It aroused painful excitement and furious betting amongst the locals, while Yours Truly remained very blasé!

Balinese food is generally fairly westernised. I haven't been very careful about eating and haven't contracted the trots yet. The only problem I've had was the catharsis I told you about on the mountain-top.

Interesting fruits that we may or may not have at home are mangostan (not sure of the orthography), salat, durian. I've become very partial to hot chocolate milk (condensed). Satay is very nice: pieces of pork on skewers roasted on charcoal and served with peanut sauce (Rp 50). Also interesting are the mushroom omelettes containing (they say) in pure form the constituents of LSD. The effect I noticed was fairly mild but rather like alcohol.

The sunsets at Kuta Beach are, for some indeterminate reason, consistently spectacular: the whole sky (360°) a blaze of glorious colour. (I have been very disappointed in my photographic performance: the half-dozen photos I really wanted to characterise Bali I was unable to get for one reason or another.) The Balinese people are beautiful, clean and incredibly friendly and honest. Their good qualities are magnified to me by what I have perceived of Java so far. (I don't know to what extent this has to do with the difference between Hindus and Moslems.) However, in spite of the idyllic life on Bali, I was eventually in a state of increasing restlessness, chafing at the enforced inactivity, especially after most of my original set of companions moved on Singapore-wards.

So yesterday afternoon at 1600 I boarded a Mercedes microbus and 12 bone-shaking, fitful hours later arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia's second city, at the eastern end of Java. The lushness of the Balinese countryside, the extent of the rice-paddies and the quantity of water are quite astonishing. The water rushes down the rivers and pours from one rice-paddy to the next. There is water everywhere but none of it potable. I can hear the Ancient Mariner crying out with a singularly appropriate comment.

The bus crossed from Bali to Java on a ferry. It seemed perhaps 2 miles. The phosphorescence at the prow was like a continuous flame: magnificent sight.

The most striking differences in Java were more western-style housing, ubiquitous betjaks (bicycles with two-passenger seats in front), more expensive food, and the miserable beggars outside the place we stopped to eat at. A man with child in arms standing at one side of the door and (I suppose) his wife and another child on the other side. He looked able-bodied enough. I suppose it's a profession like any other. There are very few beggars in Bali but a few seem to have crossed from Java.

Arriving in Surabaya at 0400, we took a Rp 75 betjak ride to the station and booked first-class tickets (Rp 1450 vs. Rp 700 in 2nd class) to Jogja. The Australian fellow I was travelling with is racing to Djakarta: his visa expires tomorrow so he has to get to Singapore. Didn't feel like struggling with masses of Asians in 2nd class. 1st class is about like our 2nd, though there are better trains. [It was on the railway platform in Surabaya that I first met the Swiss Jack Etter of Murten who figures a good deal later in the story. He was playing a trumpet. I don't know what happened to the trumpet: I never saw it again. JC]

I don't think they've ever heard of the word "pollution" here. As we travelled along in the early morning we descried men, women and children in the characteristic haunches crouch, defecating into deep brown rivers and canals: a sight to turn one's stomach.

Java seems to have a lot of old steam engines, made by Friedr. Krupp probably before the war and fed with wood fuel: a sight evocative of the former glorious days of the Iron Horse, now lamentably past in advanced countries. I couldn't help feeling vicarious agony for the workers in the paddy-fields, consigned to back-breaking labour without hope of release until their backs break or their hearts peg out. What a grind!

Arrived Jogja around 1145 and eventually found a grotty little cell in what ought to be a condemned building for Rp 250. There are geckos running over the walls, I can hardly see to write and when it rains (as it just has) I get wet. With a Swiss called Jack (Jakob) I went by betjak this afternoon to see a batik factory. Briefly, they draw a pattern on the material, covering various parts with wax while they dye the rest of the material, scrape the wax off and repeat as often as necessary with different coloured dyes.

My plans at present are to take the train to Bandung at 0554 Sat a.m., on to Djakarta on Sunday and, if I can get a seat, fly to Singapore on Wed. Suggest you write to Bangkok if posting within a few days of receiving this, then Rangoon or Calcutta. I'll leave forwarding addresses at embassies anyway.