The Lost Dutchman

On Christmas Eve, Shannon and I somehow lost our travel companion, Marten. You may remember Marten from when we spent 11 days trekking to Everest Base Camp. Well, after exploring India, Shannon and I met up with Marten in Indonesia and planned to spend two weeks exploring Java and celebrating Christmas.

Marten, Shannon and I at Everest

Of course, that was until we lost him.

(Slight disclaimer: Before I get to far in this story, I want to go ahead and say that Marten ended up being fine. We can all assume that I wouldn’t post a slightly light hearted story on my blog if we had say, found him dead in a gutter somewhere. )

On December 24, we found ourselves in the slightly depressing city of Yogyakarta in Eastern Java. Yogyakarta is large, busy and loud. It we ridiculously hot and we were much too far from a pool or beach. Even more depressingly, the city doesn’t seem to sell champagne. (After a lengthy and unfruitful search, we found one hotel that offered to procure a bottle for us at the very reasonable cost of $400) Nevertheless, we still wanted to celebrate. So, on Christmas Eve, the three of us planned to spend the evening out a nice dinner before heading back to our hostel to sleep. The next morning we would pop open a bottle of sparkling pomegranate juice (We opted out of the $400 bottle) and exchange gifts.

One of the sites in Yogjakarta

Dinner turned out to be wonderful. Ever optimistic, I order a glass of Champagne (which of course they didn’t have) followed by a glass of red wine (which was similarly indisposed).

“Well, perhaps I’ll just have a Bintang?”

“Wonderful choice!” Agreed Shannon as if we hadn’t been drinking the same variety of light, local beers since we left the US four months ago. At least this bottle would cost me five times the normal beer price – it felt a little like Christmas.

However, despite this setback and another when they ran out of the advertised special of “rainbow cake” the evening was lovely. In order to keep the air of celebration a live, Shannon and I decided that we should take a rickshaw back to the hostel rather than spend the next twenty minutes fighting our way through the overcrowded streets.

The rickshaw only sat two people so Marten decided to walk and meet us back at our room. We said goodbye and took off down the street with our driver. Naturally he got lost. We had walked to the restaurant so we knew the way, be he insisted that he knew a better way and then five minutes later was hopelessly lost. Then it started pouring and we began a forty minute tour through the city as we tried to find our way back.

By the time we arrived back, I was sure Marten would be waiting – worried for our safety. I was shocked to find he hadn’t yet arrived home. We checked with the other girls staying our room and they confirmed that he was still MIA.

I figured he had ducked into a coffee shop or something to wait out the rain, so I wasn’t too worried. I sent him an email saying we were home on the off chance he had found wifi and then we sat down to watch TV and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Another hour passed and I started to get concerned. Where could he be? It was 11 pm and not much was left open in the city. Plus the rain had let up long ago. On the one hand, Marten had been traveling alone for months and was more than capable of taking care of himself, on the other hand it had been an hour and a half since he had set out on a twenty minute walk. He had no more than 10 block to walk to make it from the restaurant to our hostel.

Yogjakarta is a fairly safe place with a low instance of violent crime – I couldn’t image he had been attacked or kidnapped. But then again…

I kept going outside the hostel to look around our street to see if he was on his way. However, during one of my forays I encountered a man who had removed the vital part of his trousers. Hopefully he had just ducked into the side street to relieve himself, but you never can tell. Even more disturbing was that he kept up a creepy eye contact during the entire encounter.

After that, I decided it was better to stay inside the hostel.

I’ll admit I’m a worrier. As the clock ticked ever closer to midnight I began playing out every horrible scenario in my mind. Maybe he was hit by a car or runaway rickshaw? Maybe he got arrested for some unknown reason? Maybe he decided to take in a midnight movie? So many possibilities. We sent him one more email with the hostel address in case he was lost and continued our vigil.

At midnight, officially Christmas, I couldn’t wait any longer. He had been gone for over two hours and in my mind was officially a missing person. Time to call in the calvary – which in this case included Shannon, myself and anyone we could enlist from the dorm.

The official “Locate Marten task force” had it’s first (and as it turned out, only) meeting in the hostel lobby. Oddly, the hostel workers were no where to be found. We considered our options:

  1. Call the police – sounds good in theory but none of us could figure out the number to call them nor did we know how to operate the phone. Plus, I’m not sure how quickly you can report a person missing in Indonesia.  Also, we didn’t really know if he was missing.
  2. Contact the Dutch Embassy – This also seemed like a good plan, but of course I had no idea if the Netherlands had an embassy in the city. Call me unprepared but I had stopped short at researching the American Embassies in each country. And again, I didn’t know how to call them or even what I would say.
  3. Go search the streets for him – Shannon and I would go look for him on the streets while the other two task force members waited for him in the hostel.

The LMTF decided on option three. This plan had several positive aspects including 1) Marten is extremely easy to spot being that he is 6’5 and white. Also, on that day he happened to be wearing a bright orange shirt  2) If he wasn’t lost, we wouldn’t’ unnecessarily alarm anyone 3) We didn’t have to use a phone.

Marten on the day he disappeared...the skirt is a story for a different day

And so, shortly after midnight, Shannon and I set out on the streets. The only option we really had was to retrace our steps back to the restaurant. By now the streets were pretty empty so we knew he would be easy to find. Still we checked every passing rickshaw and stopped inside any open store in case he was inside. Finally, we had to admit defeat. We stopped into a chain hotel to check email and see if Marten had resurfaced.

Thankfully, two and half hours after we had last seen him, Marten had sent us an email saying he had made it back to the hostel. With immense relief we headed back.

As it turns out, there had been no attacks, car accidents or alien abductions. Marten had simply gotten horribly, horribly lost. For two and a half hours had had wandered the dark and rainy streets searching for the admittedly small and hard to find side street where our hostel was located.

I have never been more relieved to find someone and this incident made me realize how unprepared we all were if something like this were to happen. The next day, over Christmas breakfast we discussed contingency plans and exchanged emergency contact information.

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One Response to The Lost Dutchman

  1. Marco Fiori says:

    I’m not going to lie Elizabeth, this made me laugh. I can picture the panic (having experienced the same situation in Japan where a newly made friend took a lift back to our hostel from a random old man, only to appear three hours later saying the guy thought himself to be a god and his duty for an impromptu sightseeing tour of Nagasaki).

    I’m glad your mate turned up – it certainly makes for an entertaining read.

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