The crossing only took half an hour, but I was on the ferry for an hour including the time spent waiting for the boat to depart Bali and dock on Java. Once in Ketapang, on Java, I walked past the touts offering transport to the bus station. At airports, bus stations, and ferry terminals, gangs of taxi and rickshaw drivers descend like vultures on arriving tourists, hoping to charge exorbitant prices for short rides. The scam usually involves the touts asking where you want to go and then informing you that it is too far to walk. As usual, I walked past the vultures and continued towards the bus terminal, which I figured couldn't be too far from the ferry terminal. Unfortunately, in this case it turned out that the touts were telling the truth, and I walked for ages along a busy road in the stifling tropical humidity. I passed gated off port facilities and ignored the many vehicles that honked at me to ask if I needed a ride. I was determined to not be ripped off. I asked everyone I passed the direction to the bus terminal to make sure I was getting a consistent answer. I spoke using the few words of Bahasa Indonesia that I knew – people here in eastern Java don't seem to speak English nearly as much as the Balinese because there are fewer tourists. In fact, I didn't see a single foreigner on the ferry or anywhere in Ketapang.
Just when I couldn't take the humidity any more, my walk was hindered by an inconvenient but refreshing tropical downpour. I ducked under a plastic tarp on the side of the road so my bags wouldn't get soaked. There was a man sitting on a bench underneath the tarp, and we attempted to have a simple conversation, half in English and half in Bahasa Indonesia. The rain soon let up, and after ten minutes, I finally saw the much-anticipated sign for the bus terminal. It was in the middle of nowhere, and I didn't have much choice other than to pay what the ticket collector asked for the ride to Probolinggo, which was three times the standard price. Even though I got ripped off, it amounted to only a few dollars, and I was just happy to take off my pack and sit down for a while. I wiped the sweat and rain from my face and breathed a sigh of relief as I settled in for the six-hour bus journey.
As I gazed out the window, I immediately noticed how much Java differed from Bali. In Bali, Hinduism permeates every aspect of the island's culture and the overall look of its cities. In Java, mosques are everywhere, and the intricate stone work of Bali's ubiquitous temples has been replaced by more modern, but very bland, architecture. Instead of beautifully patterned batik sarongs, women in Java wear plainer head scarves. Java seems to lack the magical and exotic atmosphere of Bali.
The bus stopped for a while at the bus terminal in the uninspiring town of Situbondo, and I hopped off to use the toilet. No one indicated when the bus would leave again, so I made the stop quick so the bus wouldn't roll off without me. The bus ended up staying for half an hour. It would have been nice to know that beforehand so I didn't have to rush, but the driver had disappeared and no one spoke a word of English. During the stop, a gang of snack vendors boarded the bus to sell snacks, and I bought a packet of weird fried sticks that satisfied my hunger well enough – I had not eaten anything all day except some stale wafers from the dilapidated snack bar on the ferry.
I was exhausted and ready to crash when I arrived in Probolinggo. There did not seem to be much in the way of budget accommodation in the city, as most places seemed to be hotels popular with Indonesian tourists. I finally found a hotel for $7.50, which seemed like a decent price, except this dismal room had only a noisy fan anchored to the wall, a squat toilet, and no sink. Literally hundreds of ants infested the grimy floor. Luckily I was only staying one night.
I think today is the first time on my world trip that I've truly felt like an independent traveler. I've taken plenty of cheap local transport before, but I felt like all that travel knowledge culminated in today's epic 14-hour journey. Things didn't go perfectly, but I can learn from today's mistakes as I prepare for many more long journeys across Asia.