Bus rides to Sintang

Seated in the aislesThe distance between Pontianak and Sintang is roughly 400 kms. In Montreal, that would take about 5 hours. Here in Borneo, I am lucky if I can make it in just over 10.

By now, I am used to the bus breaking down in mid-route. Once it took 14 hours to get back to Pontianak since, after my bus had broken down, I had to wait for another one to pick me up. My last visit to Sintang, however, took the cake.

When I went to put my 70L backpack in the lower deck storage compartment, I was told it was full since they (the ATS bus company) were transporting goods between the two cities. That meant I would have to sit with my giant bag in between my legs, with my laptop and helmet, in an already packed bus.

I was still able to sleep, imposing my bag into the aisle. All of a sudden, a storm started. I knew that would be bad news for the already potholed road, and figured we would have to get out and push the bus, as had been done countless times before.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the fact that it would start raining IN the bus. So much so that the aisle would get soaked and I would have to stand my bag upwards again. I was still able to fall back to sleep… until our bus hit a Caterpillar truck. It’s not like we didn’t see the yellow mammoth, our driver simply thought he could squeeze by it. He couldn’t.

The loud crack was unmistakable. but the yelp from the woman  struck by the shattered glass confirmed it. Despite this,Broken glass the bus  crew kept on driving, along the bumpy road. All of a sudden, the other window, whose cracks I hadn’t noticed, shattered, letting the rain in on the unsuspecting passengers of rows D, E and F. It was then that the bus crew took it seriously, although not seriously enough to stop driving.

At the routine bus stop, where the bus crew began tying the curtains together in substitute of the missing windows, there was a power failure. We all clambered back in the bus and headed toward Sintang, wearing whatever we could to protect us from the rain. Those displaced by the shattered glass and rain water were assigned folded chairs in the middle of the aisle. The man in the folded chair next to my seat fell asleep on my head and, in truth, I was very happy he didn’t drool.

At the bus station in Sintang I found it remarkable that after a 12 hour overnight ride, where it had rained glass and water inside the bus forcing people out of their seats, everyone was still in good spirits. I guess we were all secretly happy to have made it there alive and in one piece. I actually wasn’t doing all that bad myself, despite the fatigue. I took an ojek to the office (where I live) and then after a quick “mandi” went to the office (where I work).

Welcome to Sintang.

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