Day 669: One Hell of a Halloween


I left the Mariott with a spring in my step.  I had my book back and I had plenty of time to get to the train station, even considering the gridlock nightmare that is driving in Jakarta.  But there was a problem.  Two weeks ago when I was last here in Jakarta, Barclay’s bank, in their infinite wisdom cancelled my debit card (it would seem I’ve been abroad too long).  After much kerfuffle, I managed to get it unblocked and told them in my best Monty Python voice to never do it again.

So I need to take out money for the train fare this morning, and what happens?  Seven different ATM machines turn me down.  Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding me.  I get to the station and try to pay on Visa, but (of course) they don’t take Visa because THE ONLY PLACES THAT TAKE VISA OUTSIDE THE WEST ARE GOLF COURSES.

So I want to get on wi-fi to call Barclay’s via Skype, but the owners of the station café make me buy a can of Coke before they let me have the password.  They look bemused when I leave the can on the counter as I frantically call up telephone banking.

Here’s the conversation:

Just a couple of security questions, sir… what’s your date of birth?

I gave it.

And what’s your mother’s maiden name?

I gave that too.

I’m sorry, sir, but that information is incorrect.

I roll my eyes – here we go.

No it’s not.  I share the account with my dad – you must be looking at his details.  Seriously – do I sound seventy years old??

I’m sorry sir, but you did not answer the questions correctly.

Yes I did.  You asked for MY date of birth and MY mother’s maiden name.

I then gave them my dad’s DOB and my grandmother’s maiden name for good measure.

I’m sorry sir I can’t help you.

I’m just about to have a nervous breakdown… the train leaves in less than five minutes and this bitch is seriously wrecking my Sunday morning head.  I grow angry and tell her, in no uncertain terms, that it is a joint account and I have every right to conduct telephone banking especially when I’m on the other side of the bleedin’ planet and I need the frickin’ ATM to frickin’ well work.  It’s not my fault if she’s looking at the wrong information screen.

What’s your card number again?

I give it. Again.

Oh.  Sorry, yeah, you’re right.

I hold my tongue, fighting an overwhelming desire to make a childish noise in the manner of the professors from History Today.

What seems to be the problem?

The ATMs here in Jakarta won’t give me any money.

Oh, that’s because all international ATMs are down for servicing. They’ll be back up in an hour.

The train leaves in three minutes.


I run about the station asking if anyone will change my emergency dollars.  A guy in a little phone shop agrees and gives me a lousy rate, but sod it, the seconds are ticking down, I’ve got a date in Bali and I don’t want to keep her waiting another day.  I thrust my newly-acquired Rupiahs at the counter lady and I jump on the train as it is moving out of the station.


Big shake on the box-car moving…

The wonderful train journey across the northern coast of Java took me from Jakarta to the eastern port town of Surabaya, but it simply wasn’t eastern enough for my liking – I needed to get to the wonderfully named port town of Banyuwangi for the ferry to Bali.  But by the time I reached Surabaya it was already getting dark.  I clambered aboard a clapped-out old coach and paid my dues: could I get there today?  No chance… how does 4am suit you?  Ah, sod it, I knew the ferries ran all night, so I was happy to give it a red hot go.  It would have been a slightly more pleasant trip if I didn’t have to change coaches in some random down in the middle of the night (I was half asleep).  At 5pm the bus, an hour late, pulled into the Banyuwangi ferry terminal.

Hee hee.


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Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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