The Mechanic

So I get to the crater rim and I'm driving along. Drive past the tour bus restaurants. Keep driving. Drive into the next town, still on the crater rim. Batur Bali Auto Mechanic parade There's a precession, some parade. This always happens in Bali. Try to get some photos. Wait. wait. wait. Slowly snuggle by. OK free.

Driving along, I look on the map and the road leave the crater rim about there. OK I'll drive about that far and then turn back and figure out what to do. This dump truck is too slow. And it's hard to pass it on this road.

Intersection up ahead. Good. Whatever way the dump truck doesn't go, that's the way I'll go. Hey, it goes down into this little village. Whoa, this road is really steep. REALLY steep. Sure you want to go down this far? Well, too late now, it's too narrow to turn around, just go down to that flat part and turn around, see if you can make it back up.

I turn the car around and drive up the hill. The engine slows, I'm in first gear. The engine slows more, slows and then stalls. I spend about five minutes messing with it and it's hopeless. It's not just that the engine isn't strong enough, but the engine keeps stalling. In fact sometimes it doesn't even start. If I roll it back to the level part, I can start it, but you get to the steepest part of the hill and it just quits.

I ask passing motorists, where does this road take me? They say it goes back to Ubud. That's an hour away, but maybe that's the only solution.

Another guy drives by. What's the problem? Indonesians are always helpful and friendly. "I can drive it up. I drive it up, you pay me 10,000 rupiah?" Sure. Get me outa here. But it has to be all the way to the top if you want the 10,000 rupiah. He doesn't know about the stalling, well, he'll figure it out.

His first try he stalls about where I've been stalling. On subsequent tries he revvs it more and more and I think the engine is going to explode. It's a rentacar. But he gets it half way up the hill. But then he can't get it any farther. He parks the car and gives up. He lets it roll backward so it's on the side of the road and other people can drive around it. (Just a one lane road; not enough traffic for anything wider.)

As he starts up his pickup truck I give him five thousand. Nice try, thanks for your help.

Another pickup truck stops, full of furniture, with three guys in the cab. This is what, in the states, we would call a mini pickup. But in this country, all the vehicles owned by regular people are smaller, partly so that they can pass each other on the narrow roads. Only the tourbusses and the dump trucks are larger.

They try the same things everybody else tried. You know I try to just tell them about the stalling problems but communication of complex concepts is difficult in broken english. You sortof end up using hand signals and sound effects. Turn the ignition key. Baruum Baruuum kough kough kough. If this were the states you'd feel pretty silly. Usually easiest to just let them try it themselves.

So they get out and i start to figure out what they are trying to do. They want to tow my car up with their truck. Along with all the furniture still loaded. They maneuver the truck to be in front of my car. They are untying the rope that's holding down the furniture, it's this thick blue nylon rope. And they're stringing it between the undersides of my and their vehicles. They're doubling it up, quadrupling it, for more strength.

I'm like, what about the furniture? Won't it fall off the truck? Complex concept, can't say that. They know, they're not that dumb. They're just willing to take risks I guess. Third world country. Probably furniture comes tumbling off the truck often here.

Just as they are doing this, another pickup pulls up. This guy is wearing a green hat. It's sortof like a french foreign legion hat, except it's in fluorescent chartruse. I've never seen a hat like that before.

They're chattering away. In Balinese, I can't understand any of it, but fortunately the complex concepts, including the last five minutes of the story, are being communicated rapidly and directly to this new person, no hand signals needed.

He says he's a mechanic. And he knows this kind of car (it's pretty common out here). "This my car." He gets behind the wheel and starts messing with it. I'm sortof wandering around, feeling useless, in my thongs, a little bit loose and useless on my feet, with this steep road. Trying to keep out from behind any vehicle, and from being in front of a vehicle that's about to possibly lurch forward.

The mechanic has his head under the hood, poking around. He jerks his head to the side of the car and spits onto the street, but it's a big long spit, lots of fluid, gross! Then I see what he's doing. He's sucking on the gas line, right into his mouth, and spitting it on the street.

You know I was suspecting that, water in the gas line. Ever since I got that fillup in the warung in Selat, the engine had these periods where it just didn't cut it, it was trying to stall and I had to really rev it, except only going uphill.

The mechanic in the green hat spat out a few more times and got back in the car. He could get it started but it kept on getting water. But he was going to try to get it to the top of the rim. By this time the guys in the truck with the furniture were turning around to leave. I gave them like 1,100 rupes, small change I had in my wallet. Sorry it's not divisible by three, but they seemed really grateful, thanks you have the right idea, we worked for you and so we get something. It was like fifty cents.

I'm going to have to get some more small change, lest i have to start paying them large chunks of cash because i don't have anything smaller.

So we worked together, struggling to bring the car to the top of the rim. By now it was an easy walk to the top, we just had to get the damn car up. It was a single lane road, fortunately asphault, but at any given time we had to leave room for some other vehicle to go by, as there was one every few minutes. Most of them were motorcycles but some were trucks or jeeps like mine. Like these guys with busses would just come careening down the hill zip by all of the stopped vehicles, like it happens all the time. ,p> "Stun! Beeg Stun!" What the hell is the mechanic talking about. "Get stun! Put under wheel!" Oh, stone! Get a big stone. Put it under the wheel so he can start it up without rolling back. This was a standard transmission car of course.

I went to the side of the road, and there was a drainage ditch. But there were no stones. This seemed to be so absurd I couldn't believe it. I looked in the grass. I followed the ditch down the hill, went down the side, to what looked like a dried stream bed. Precious few stones and most were roughly spoon sized. Meanwhile my feet were sliding around in these stupid loose thongs. I should have put on my Tevas when I had the chance. They're right kicking around the back seat of the car. Whoa, there goes the car, he got it to go up another twenty feet! Wow!

Finally he got it up to the rim, and pulled it to the side of the road on the rim road (the LEFT side of course). We talked. I owe him money, and my car isn't even really fixed yet. His name is Nyoman (knee o man), he's third born. Hey, you know, cool. You come and stay at this hotel on the crater floor. You follow me, I drive you to the hotel. Then I take your car to my father's place, there's equipment there. And if that doesn't work I know a good mechanic, you know I am number 3 mechanic. This guy is number 1 mechanic. He is good mechanic.

Batur Bali Auto Mechanic hill So I follow him down, check into the hotel. It's a tourist price hotel, 65,000 rups, $25 us, plus tax. They have this tax in indonesia. It's like a tourist tax, or a service charge, or a tip, depending on who you believe. You only have to pay it in the overpriced places, every other place it's included in the price they tell you. It's anybody's guess where the money goes to.

so what he's gonna take my car? are you kidding? just drive away with my car? But he gives me his ID, a laminated card with his picture. It looks like him, but without the hat. "Hey, picture. No hat!" He doesn't know the word for hat so I signal it to him, and I get a giggle out. We joke around, we get along well. So I have car problems, this is part of the experience. What's it like to fix a car in indonesia? I'd never find out otherwise. The first time it's never a hassle.

So he's gone and I sit down at the restaurant in this hotel. Even though it's a "crater floor" it's not like there's red hot lava flowing all the time, mostly it looks like normal wilderness with rocks rougher than usual.
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