I’ve never been to Indonesia before, and the traffic is absolutely crazy. Driving to the hotel last night, some of it in monsoon rains, there is a sea of cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, scooters, three-wheeled jitneys, and pedestrians. Lane markings appear to be nothing more than decorations, and scooters and motorbikes pass between lanes or squeeze between other vehicles and the curb. Apparently if you wait for a break in the traffic, you’ll be there forever, so vehicles try to just edge their way in–horns are used more than brakes here. Schoolchildren in tan and light blue uniforms, girls with heads covered, march in a line to the curb and step into the fray. One young man’s scooter is much slower than the rest, and I think that he needs a smaller girlfriend–even though the woman on the back of the vehicle is petite.
For Mike, this is old hat, but I’m expecting carnage any second. And it never happens, at least that I can see. It was similar the day before in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but here it seems much worse. Memo to self: Any time I come to Indonesia, hire a driver. Given a choice between driving in these conditions and shooting an instrument approach in a monsoon, I would take the instrument approach any day. Hands down.
The traffic this morning is less crazy than last night (but still crazy, in my opinion) and the drive to the airport takes 35 or 40 minutes. Once there, things happen quickly. We get through the terminal with two security checks (magnetometers for us and x-ray for our bags); customs and immigration are not necessary because we now have seven-day crew transit visas good throughout Indonesia. The fuel truck arrives within just a few minutes, and once the crew gets the right ladder off the truck, we begin the refueling dance. This crew also is friendly and efficient, although their truck measures in decaliters, so I have to mentally recalibrate. Mike has now delegated me to sign fuel tickets, and I really hope these 900 liters end up on his World Fuel account and not on my credit card.
Looking up at the ramp sign at our parking spot, I see that it says 2 degrees south. Mike and I had been talking about the Equator and when we would cross it. Turns out that it’s not on the aeronautical charts or the Garmins’ databases–if it is in the latter, it’s in a section that’s disabled. You know that red line that goes around the middle of every globe you’ve ever seen? We never saw it! We had thought we would cross that line tomorrow. Welcome to the southern hemisphere!
At 8:56 local, about 45 minutes after arriving at the airport, we lift off from a dry Runway 29 into a thick haze, punctuated by smoke rising from what look like cooking fires in a residential area to the north of the airport. Today’s leg is 808 nautical miles and is planned at 3 hours. Our route takes us over the Java Sea briefly, passing just north of Jakarta, then along land to Bali and Denpasar.
Although the satellite image this morning indicated we’re leaving the Intratropical Convergence Zone and its frequently unfriendly weather behind, it’s still monsoon season, and there’s a buildup just ahead of us on airway G461 near BORAS intersection. A slight deviation to the right keeps us out of most of it; there’s a little turbulence and brief rain. We break out into bright sunshine and a beautiful morning; buildups to the left cast their shadows on the water below, and there’s nothing but small, puffy cumulus to the right.
Airliners, however, are holding at multiple altitudes as high as FL 260. We have no idea whether there’s weather or if it’s just traffic volume into busy, single-runway Jakarta (or somewhere else). Regardless, we’re glad that we’re not going where they’re going. Instead we motor along due east, gawking at the seemingly endless string of volcanic peaks jutting out of the clouds off our right wing. Many of them are 15,000 feet high, or higher. In Bali, Denpasar is ringed by mountains with peaks ranging from 7,500 feet to 14,500 feet.
From 8,000 feet on approach, the beaches in Bali look beautiful–thin, white lines of sand ring the islands, bordered by the turquoise hues of shallow water just offshore. There are whitecaps on the bay off the end of Runway 9, and a lot of fishing boats. The general aviation ramp is closed off and apparently under construction, so we’re parked across the field in front of the airline terminal–between a Boeing 737 and a twin-engine regional turboprop. The flight has taken 3.2 hours, and we fill the airplane with 900 liters of Jet-A in preparation for an early departure tomorrow. The line crew here, too, is fascinated by the MU-2; cellphones come out and photos are taken. Considered a domestic arrival, we breeze out of the terminal and to our nearby hotel. Tomorrow we’ll have to clear out through Customs, however–both of our stops will be in Australia.