The Elephant Bus
“You take elephant bus.”
“What, an elephant bus?”
I’m desperately trying to leave this godforsaken little hamlet in the middle of the Indonesian rain forest and now he’s carrying on about elephants! Two long weeks of futile waiting for surf in a soggy marsh nearby have drained my reserves and set my teeth on edge. My nerves are ragged, my guts have long since turned to liquid and my eyes roll around in their sockets when I shake my head. I need to get out fast.
“No mate, I hate going on those phony elephant tours where they make the poor dumb animals do tricks and carry poles around and what-not. It’s degrading for the elephants as well as the tourists.”
“No, no! Elephant bus! Bus go elephant.”
“I just told you, I don’t want any elephant rides. I want to get to Sukup. Just give me a plain bus ticket as soon as possible. Any bus.”
“Yes, but next bus is elephant.”
“What? A real elephant? Have the roads washed away? What about the regular bus service?”
“Is very good bus. Brand new. At elephant.”
“I didn’t even know that there were elephants here at all! Does the bus leave from an elephant park?”
“No, sir. Very good bus. New bus. From here. Go to Sukup. At elephant.”
My nerves are jangling like loose guitar strings. I have a juddering headache and the sun is too bright after endless days in the jungle. A fortnight of rough sleeping in the undergrowth all by myself has not done me any favours. A fortnight of getting up every morning to complete flatness in the bay, while huge close-outs smashed themselves to a foaming froth on the other side of the headland. And me praying fruitlessly every evening for the swell to just bend a little to the south, just a few degrees so that it could wrap into the bay to create that perfect right I had been dreaming of for so long. A fortnight of Neptune sneering and laughing at me while I sat eating my instant noodles and dried fish flakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A fortnight of flatness while dozens tropical reefs broke flawlessly all over the rest of the archipelago on the swell of the year. I could have been surfing perfect Desert Point, or the Bukit, or those semi-secret spots in the Lombok Channel, but no, I had to check this setup in the middle of nowhere.
I can’t think. I need coffee, I need a drink.
“Listen friend, is there nobody else here who can help me? I do not want to go to an elephant park, or to one of those sad rehabilitation centers, or to a circus, or anything that has animals in it. I just want to get to Sukup. Please give me a ticket. Please.”
I want to lie down in a hammock with a cold drink. I need to scrape the fungus from my shirt, clean the festering tick bites and dry the dampness out of my bones. No more checking my boots for scorpions before I ease my blistered feet inside them. No more leeches and infernal whining mosquitoes! Anything to get me out of here now. If I make it out in one piece, I swear I’ll only go on sensible trips booked six months in advance to established tourist attractions with paved roads and clean bed sheets. No more setting off to unexplored places on the spur of the moment, just to see what the swell does to a potential setup. From now on it is up-market hotel accommodation with a reliable wave out front for me. Who cares whether it’s boring or not? I want safe and easy. Predictable. Secure.
“Why do you keep pointing at your watch? Don’t you rush me! I’m the client you know, I’m entitled to as much time as I need to get a ride! Oh bugger it, give me any ticket, with or without the elephant tour. I’ll wait in the bus while the others ogle the elephants!”
“Elephant o’clock, sir! Elephant o’clock!”
“What? Elephant o’clock, have you gone completely mad? Oh, eleven o’clock! The eleven o’clock bus? Err, sorry! Yes, that would be lovely. One ticket please.”