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Monday, 10 January, 2011

Bukittinggi, Indonesia

Last week we looked adversity right in the eyeballs and then kicked its arse, adversity being the largest volcano in Sumatra – which we climbed like two conquering, awe-inspiring gladiators. This week instead of meeting our problem face on, we tried our best to avoid it – but to be fair, she was mental.

Bukittinggi, our journey’s next port of call, is only really known for one attraction, the Pasar Atas market – which was good, if you like stalls that go on and on and on and on. It is especially thrilling if you are craving a fish head, which we weren’t. The stalls were mostly made up of sea creatures, jewellery and fake football shirts. Unfortunately, the idea of a Man U shirt with Ronaldinho (he has never played for them) on the back was even less appealing than the fish heads, therefore, we left the market area empty handed.

Although we ended our outing product free, other things were less easy to avoid within the marketplace, most notably the village lunatic. Bukittinggi’s crazy lady decided that we’d be worth following around for a while, and her antics were even less subtle than her bright, pink puffer jacket.

Her devotion to following us around was truly bizarre, and led to me falling into an uncontrollable laughing fit. There are times when laughter is not helpful – this was probably one of them.

She deemed the giggles to be positive and even saw it as an invitation. She came to me, and forced my hand into a secret handshake. Sadly, my laughter only increased at this, which encouraged her further. It then appeared that we would be accompanied by a new friend throughout our market experience.

To be honest, she seemed relatively harmless – just a bit weird. In fact, I’d even say I grew to like her.

At one point, she brought over a jacket that matched the one she was wearing and indicated that Ruby should buy it. I agreed with her which earned me another secret handshake. Ruby wasn’t amused by my enthusiasm, but let’s face it, I was always going to encourage the idea of seeing those two in matching puffer jackets side by side.

Unfortunately, the bond would later be cut short before we had found the time to exchange our contact details. She was considered to be bad for business by a man running a trainer shop that she had followed us into. Security got involved and removed her from the premises – she was throwing shoes on the floor at the time, to be fair.

As stated, Bukittinggi is not overflowing with activities, therefore, Ruby decided to pass the afternoon by treating herself to a facial. That didn’t interest me, but the place did also offer a traditional Indonesian massage (whatever that was) so I decided to get one of those instead.

The massage lasted an hour, but it felt as though it went on for five – my masseuse seemed to hate me. I laid down on my front, relaxed my body and then she just went straight into punching my legs as hard as she possibly could. It was extremely painful! What the hell was her problem? Did I look like her bailiff or something? One thing was for sure, my football career was as good as over now.

She didn’t ease up throughout the entire massage either – I just had to lay down and take an hour long beating. The head massage was by far the worst, to the extent that it literally made my eyes water. She was clawing and ripping at my hair like some kind of angry eagle. I was certain that there would by patches missing once she was done.

To conclude, a traditional Indonesian massage is about as soothing as listening to nails down a chalkboard. In fact, I reckon if the place had a CD playing throughout the session, it would have been that very sound on repeat to fit with the theme of pain.

So, Bukittinggi had provided us with quite the day – which will mostly be remembered for my new shoe throwing best friend and my hair tugging worst enemy. However, while we were ready to close our eyes on the city for the night, the city wasn’t quite ready to close its eyes on us.

The top bloke at the local mosque has a microphone, some speakers and he bloody loves the attention to be on him. This tone-deaf, rambling nut offers a long-winded speech followed by a collection of songs for the whole town to enjoy – at five o’clock in the frigging morning! Actually, I take back my previous comment about the chalkboard, this guy’s CD should have actually been playing in the massage place – it was far more painful.

There was a purpose for our Bukittinggi visit, and believe it or not, it wasn’t my urge for a five o’clock hymn. There is a highly praised volcanic lake in the area that we wanted to check out called Maninjau. It was gorgeous, thus, we decided to go for a swim – this was preplanned by the way, as in, we had swimming gear, don’t start getting funny ideas.

We swam pretty bloody deep too – cheers for the early morning swimming classes that you made me endure as a kid, mum! As it goes, I’m now a bit of a mermaid in the water – or a merman, rather.

In order to get to and from the lake we needed motorbikes, which I would not be driving myself – although my mum sorted out swimming lessons, she didn’t consider that motorcycle classes may have also benefited a six-year-old boy in the long run. So, we would not be riding the bikes ourselves, but instead, backseat passengers with guides.

We travelled back to our hostel via the iconic ‘44 bends’ road. Which is basically forty-four sharp turns of fear – picture riding a bike up or down Bart Simpson’s hair line, this journey was essentially as I would imagine that to go. While the guides didn’t seem to sweat, I can admit that I needed to close my eyes at points – some of the bends were very acute. It was certainly a very cool experience though.

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It has been quite an eventful week. Therefore, we felt that at the end of it all, we just wanted to chill out over a nice lovely, warm cup of coffee. Amazingly, we managed to find the perfect blend, it was truly delicious, so much so, that we even had two cups each!

What made the drink so special? Well, apparently, that would be civet cat crap – a lady in Bukittinggi makes coffee out of left behind feline poo. She’s even rather famous for it at this point, Hollywood actor Bruce Willis even had a cup – we were shown pictorial evidence, as I am sure every guest she has had since he left has been.

Our host was very lovely and accommodating. I was curious to know how much crap she has drank over the years though – I just mean, not many recipes start with cat poop, do they? I suspect she must have tried various different excrements in order to find the perfect ingredient.

When I get back I might go to Hyde Park with a plastic bag, collect what’s about and see if I can make an extravagant soup or something. Harriet, you can have the honour of the first taste if you would like?

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