Friday, 3 December 2010

3: Java, Batavia to Surabaya and back again - Part 1.

We reached Java after about three days with no further hindrance or sight of the enemy. As we steamed into the dock the crew of the cruiser 'HMS Durban', which was already moored up, cheered 'HMS Kedah' wildly, waving their arms and hats in the air, a fitting tribute to the marvellous seamanship and skill of its Captain.

We were detained on board for a time whilst a discussion took place as to whether we should continue our journey and sail for Australia. Eventually we were told to disembark. We boarded trucks and were taken to a school in Batavia where Javanese workmen were making beds for our use. These they were making entirely of bamboo, the slats, post and binding, all cut from seven foot lengths with machetes.

When given my bed, I laid on it and found it surprisingly comfortable, especially after the last few nights spent sleeping on the ship's iron decks. The bamboo being green, was very pliable.

As mentioned previously, I had very little kit with me and what I did have contained no toiletries whatsoever. I was too aware of my unkempt appearance and filthy clothes. Food arrived, rice with meat and green beans, unusual but I was starving. That disposed of, I then sought out my mate Bill. I suggested that we took a walk and try to find some shops where we could purchase some soap and razors for starters.

The temperature was high and felt humid. The streets were lined with trees which provided some shade as we walked. We could find no shops and the few people we encountered spoke no English, so we were unable to make ourselves understood.

After a while we stopped and after some discussion, decided to try walking in another direction, when suddenly I spotted a Javanese with a tray slung with straps from his shoulder. We approached him and saw he had a display of various toiletries laid out on his tray. I picked up razor blades and soap and offered some straits dollars in payment. These he refused and showed me Dutch gilders. Watching the proceedings was a young white lad of about thirteen or fourteen years of age. He walked over to us and asked in English if we were having problems. I explained our predicament, he then offered to take our money to a bank and get it changed for us, to which we agreed. We hung about for more than an hour waiting for his return and were about to give up thinking that was the last we would see of him or our money, when he arrived in a taxi.

He then told us to get into the taxi and that we were going to his house to see his father. After about a ten minute ride we arrived at a large house set in its own grounds on the outskirts of the town.

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