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The Bemo

Much has been written about the jetsetter - little about the bemo-setter. It's high time this was put right. Before we go further, let us get this berno bit straight. 1 hate writers who keep hurling the unidentified noun at you, leaving the reader unsure whether he should play it, eat it, put a curse on it or cover it with insurance.

A bemo is all things to all people. A miracle on wheels, or a menace on the roads; a mobile noah's ark or a travelling icebox.

There is never a bemo when you want one - always four in convey when you don't.

 

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Put another way - a bemo is a Bali bus. Rather, it is a life style. You are either a jetsetter or a bemosetter - and if you're a jetsetter, my heart bleeds for you. Mark you, a bemosetter is likely to bleed too, in a lot of odd places - but the heart is not one of them.

This is because, during one trip, the traveller may have to climb, slither or leap over such assorted hazards as a couple of sacks of rice, a large box of woodcarvings, a mudguard for a motorbike, a pig rolled in straw matting, a stack of picture frames, an elaborate temple offering, a basket piled high with fruit, or a barrel of over-ripe dried fish - to name but a few.

A bemo - which does not indulge in such discriminatory nonsense as first and second class - still offers the passenger a choice of seats.

Firstly, he can sit up front in segregated splendour with the driver This is highly recommended for the nature-lover, as it is one of the few seats from where he can view the scenery, which is usually spectacular. The wisdom of this choice depends on the number of other passengers eventually crammed into the cabin and whether one or all are smoking the powerful local clove-scented cigarettes, with the windows sealed against the dust.

If this fails to appeal, then there is the body of the bemo, where two parallel seats run lengthways. Here again there is a choice. For those wishing to soften the bumps and jolts caused by the unsurfaced roads, then the idea is to pick an inside seat as close as possible to the cabin partition.

In order to secure this seat it is, of course, desirable that you have an elementary training in athletics, and preferably a diploma in high vaulting, so you can safely negotiate any abstacies in the way. Once seated in an inside position, there is, naturally, no view except of your fellow travellers. There is also the little question of whether you are likely to require any oxygen during the trip - the possibility of getting any is remote.

But, for the hardy soul not averse to a bit of bone bruising, then the very end seat nearest the door is well worthy of consideration. Your anatomy will be able to accurately register every undulation in the road, you will have ample oxygen, and ' more important, you can enjoy the view. If "enjoy" is the right word. On the berno route, the view usually includes a great number of passengers, all eager to share your bemo, and all toting baskets, bundles, offerings, fighting cocks and an assortment of babies which being translated means that part of the view will soon be sitting on your lap and standing on your feet.

Of course, when the bemo gets really crowded, then there is nothing for it but to grab a toehold on the back step. Here you stand completely outside, with your batik whipping wildly in the wind, your knuckles clenched to the top edge of the roof, your head poking up some 18-inches above it. You are therefore in a magnificent position to view the scenery. You are also handy should any of the multitude of parcels that are jabbing and prodding your ankles and shins decide to fall off - as you can then hold on with your teeth and show-off your skill by rescuing them.

But can you name me one fully loaded jet that will make an unscheduled stop to pick up a mother,~ her five children and a pushbike; reshuffle the passengers to make room, and, when one of the mother's bundles falls off, grab it by the string and deftly wind it aboard?

True, there are times when a berno decides it's had enough passengers and careers around the country side with a cargo of ice blocks - or maybe a half dozen water buffalo. And sometimes for a lark, it just streaks along stark naked - with nary a passenger on board.

But for fun and friendship, gaiety and good humor, a bemo leaves a jet stranded mid-air without a propeller.

 

 
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