Every good adventure begins with a bit of trouble. Initially, on this quest for the truth about kratom, I meant to travel from Chicago to Jakarta with my business affiliate from Infinity Supplements.
I left alone.
After some debate, my decision to travel to Indonesia was last minute. My business partner had made all the arrangements, been in direct contact with the people we were to meet there, and knew, generally, much more about what was going on than I did. Alas, after some difficulty with his passport, I left alone for Narita, traveling overseas by myself for the first time and with no plan, no hotel, no vehicle, no idea.
Bring it on.
Stepping out into Indonesian air, my nostrils immediately filled with a humid, spicy aroma. The people milled about me speaking in their various dialects, but mostly in Indonesian, as I searched for my friends who had planned to meet me upon arrival. Nervously, I turned around and around until I recognized a few faces. After greeting each other for the first time in person, we made our way to the hotel.
I had many discombobulated questions floating through my jet lagged brain, and between that, translation issues, the fact that it was midnight their time, and the fact that I’d just traveled for the past 24 hours by myself, we left the talking for the next morning.
Despite lack of sleep, I woke up the next morning at 4 AM, but waited until breakfast was served to wander downstairs. Seeing my friends, I joined them in eating a traditional Indonesian breakfast of rice and vegetables. I was able to ask my various questions as I waited for my travel partner to arrive later that night. As a writer, my first question has to do with their stories. How did they come to the kratom business? I was disappointed that translation issues did not allow me to get a straight answer from everyone, but it was also awkward because I was a woman alone with a few Muslim men. Instead, I would have to piece the answer to this together throughout the journeys we would take over the next few days.
When my travelling partner arrived, we discussed travel plans for getting to where the kratom trees grow in the jungle and the facility at which the leaves are harvested, dried, and crushed. We discovered that because of my travel partner’s delay in travel, our plans would have to be delayed also. We had planned to travel by plane first from Jakarta to Pontianak and then from Pontianak to Ketapang. It turns out that Ketapang is such a small airport and a small city that it isn’t always possible to fly. We were given three options; once we arrived in Pontianak, we could wait there to travel by plane on Tuesday, we could travel by car, driving eight to ten hours, or we could take a five hour boat ride. Since we only had until the following Thursday and the roads are terrible at the same time as the driving is crazy, we decided on option three: boat ride.
It seemed like the best option
It seemed like the best option given that we wouldn’t have to sit in a cramped car with four other men and a driver for eight hours or more, and we’d get to see some of the country along the way. Perfect.
We flew to Pontianak which is on the larger island of Borneo where we met he families of our friends and stopped to eat lunch at Pizza Hut, which is surprisingly nicer than Pizza Hut in America. Pizza Hut was their choice, and we were warned that people would stare a lot at us because westerners do not often come to Borneo. I still wasn’t prepared for the silence that greeted us as we took our seats to order our meal. They just stopped their conversations to stare unashamed at the strange white people that had popped into their existence for a moment.
Anxious to get to the kratom, yet dead tired, my partner and I crashed, getting some much needed sleep before the next day’s journey, one which would be much more difficult than we had imagined.