After spending not nearly enough time in Nias, I had to spend the last three days of my holiday travelling just to make sure I got out of Indonesia on time. It was pretty tough leaving Lagundri Beach knowing that the next few days would be not much more than plane flights and waiting around.
The first step of my journey home was in getting on a bus to take me to Gunung Sitoli from where I could catch a plane to Medan. The bus ride was not too bad by Indonesian standards, I actually had a whole seat to myself, but the locals seemed to think my white legs were pretty funny and a protracted conversation in their local language about them. I got off the bus with great relief just outside Gunung Sitoli at the losman in which I would be spending the night.
The Losman was fairly expensive considering the room they gave me, but I couldn't be bothered shopping around for a better deal, and I had no desire to head into Gunung Sitoli itself as all reports were that it kinda sucked. So I stayed in this place which was reputed to have nice food, but the menu looked so expensive I opted for the usual Nasi Gorang (fried rice) - the cheapest dish on offer. The management did not look happy, I think I was the only person staying there and I was a miser in the cheapest rooms and eating the cheapest food.
I had asked the management how I was going to get to the airport in the morning and he assured me that the "car of Semak" would pick me up. This confused me for a long time until I figured out that SMAC was the name of the airline, and that the airline bus would be picking me up in the morning.
Indonesians have a saying for the way they treat schedules very casually - they say jam karet which means "rubber time" - in Australia we have a similar saying: running late. I waited anxiously for over an hour for the SMAC bus to arrive, not sure if it was ever going to come - if I missed the flight out of Nias I would have to reschedule all of my connecting flights, not something I really felt like doing. But the bus did arrive, though the plane ended up not leaving until two and a half hours late. It was lucky I had left myself a day in Medan to organise my flight from there to Jakarta, otherwise I would have been stuffed completely.
In the end the flight out of Nias was one of the best I have been on in terms of viewing conditions. It was a perfect day with only a few clouds in the sky and the plane I was on was small enough that it actually bothered flying around the larger clouds. I took a lot of photos out of plane windows while in Indonesia, the views from above are regularly quite spectacular, I remember one view I didn't bother taking a photo of because I knew it wouldn't turn out looking as good as it did from the plane; we were over the water and a few wispy clouds were forming on a cold front - the clouds leaving a double image on the clear blue water, one from the reflection and one from the shadow. I spent the whole flight looking intently out the window.
Inevitably, however, we landed and I was in Medan again.
We had passed through Medan on the way from Jakarta to Bukit Lawang, but we had barely even stopped before getting on a bus and leaving. This was to be my first real experience of Medan.
The first order of the day was to find a Losman, for this I depended on the trusty travellers Bible, the Lonely Planet Guide. I ended up going to the first place listed in the book, and the place closest to the airport. It was not a bad Losman though I tried to spend my time in Medan looking around - there wasn't much to been seen as it turns out.
I had to organise my ticket out of Medan - which I had transferred off another ticket I had booked to fly out of Padang - from Nias by phone. I wasn't anticipating any problems, but when I went to pay for the extra cost of my ticket at the Garuda office they told me what I had done was impossible. After much calm negotiation, I eventually figured out that, although they seemed to have no trouble cancelling my old ticket, they could not transfer the cost of the ticket - so I had to buy a whole new ticket which was, thankfully, properly booked.
After this fun, I wondered around Medan looking for something to visit. I settled on having a meal at a place called the Tip Top Restaraunt which was not bad, but beyond this, I didn't really find anything in Medan that I hadn't seen in any of the other cities of Indonesia that I had seen. Though I guess by this stage I just wanted to get home, I was travelling by myself and just wasn't all that enthusiastic about things as I had been. Also, I had called my parents for the first time in a couple of weeks and I was told that my Grandfather had just died a few days previously.. all in all I was pretty depressed by this stage.
The next morning I watched the opening ceremony for the Olympics on TV at the Losman, and again in the airport foyer waiting for my plane - previous to this I didn't even know when the Olympics were starting, I had pretty much been in a news blackout travelling through some of the more remote regions of this planet.
Back in Jakarta, but only for a few hours waiting for my connecting flight to Sydney. I had McDonalds for the first time in weeks and was reassured to find that Maccas tastes just as bad in Jakarta as it does in the rest of the world. I had bought the new Michael Crichton book - the sequel to Jurasic Park - so I sat on my backpack and read my book waiting for my flight to be called.
Eventually I boarded the 9:30pm flight out of Jakarta for the overnight flight back to Sydney.
Night flights are not good things. You board the plane and get given a snack, then they feed you a meal, then they give you a drink and show a bad movie (Loch Ness starring Ted Danson - yipee!). They turn the lights off for two hours and suddenly wake you up for breakfast while it is still dark outside the plane.
Having just been stuffed full only two hours previously I wasn't much in the mood for breakfast - my eyes were red from not enough sleep and too much reading in semi-darkness. Instead of eating I watched dawn from a plane, which is a pretty cool thing to see - the sun comes up above the horizon in front of the plane, but behind the plane it is still pitch black. The clouds hung low to the ground like a blanket in the cold air and the sun created an orange glow along the horizon.
Coming into Sydney was really cool, we came in from the North after circling around and around for a while so I got to take some photos of the Harbour Bridge and the rest of the city from the air. It was still only about 7:15 in the morning by this stage. We landed and I met my parents and one of my sisters at the airport, I was very glad to be home though I was somewhat exhausted from all the flights and travelling - I slept very well that night, in my own bed with springs and stuff.