For the last time in many I had arrived in town only to hit what I believed to be the local museums closure days, and though I reckoned I had no choice but to kill a day in Bima in any case in view of the non availability of an onward connection, I did not invest the day as I should have done in tracking down some of the regions traditional villages but less inspiring forays around town. The small hill town of Donggo lay about 40Ks away and served as a focal point for many small communities still living amidst indiginous architecture and megalithic remains, yet my only realistic means of reaching them was to hire a motorbike. Though I had done it twice to good effect in Sumatra I was very reluctant to put my neck so deliberately on the line, devoid of a map and more importantly now recently expired travel insurance. My sensible head won the day and so after a bit of a lie in to recuperate from the day previous's bus bashing, I took in another film before hoofing the considerable distance out to Bima's twin town Raba where all the government offices lay. Failing to trace anything resembling a town centre, Raba appeared to be just a long line of penpusher dens, testimony to a culture of deeply entrenched bureaucracy and corner minding, there must have been all of a hundred agencies, most of which were untranslatable. Part of the instigation for my sweaty slog had been to have another stab at tracking down a tourist office, a particular priority since I was now reliant solely on the suspiciously scant offerings of the guidebook. I knew from experience there had to be a lot more out there to explore if I could just find it and Sumbawa's air of mystery had redoubled my resolve. In the end though it was too much even to trace the source however, where the tourist office should have lain there was now only a telltale patch of waste ground to puncture the endless snake trail of ministries, outnumbered only by the "Hello Mister" count. The statue, memorial and architectural oddity discovered en route were scant payback for my efforts and I finally headed back to Bima by Bemo having failed to track down a bus terminal supposedly only 2Ks away though I had traipsed perhaps 5. Checking that the museum was indeed closed, a small but very fine mosque caught my attention by the central Padang, opposite which I also came across a statue of a matching white rearing horse, a testimony to Sumbawa's importance as a horse breeding region. Perhaps it was down to the expensive beer I had unexpectedly stumbled upon in a hotel restaurant adjacent to my pad, but I then found renewed vigour for yet more petty wanderings, this time in a desire to check out the scene along Bima's port, Sumbawa's biggest. I immediately loved the more reassuring vibe in this connection, passing by many down at heels hovels and decrepit warehouses which may or may not have been colonial, and the port didnt disappoint either. Dodging kids playing football barefoot in the dirt and their melee of predictable greetings, I found a very atmospheric gaggle of Bugis style schooners the like of which I had seen in Jakarta and elsewhere, these ones palpably less seaworthy tubs within which whole families lived and traded. One was even ready loaded with a foredeck lined with water buffalo and bales of feed. The strange light here gave the offlying topography the vibe of another world removed, and certainly I was constantly reminded of being an alien. On the way back I resisted the repeated attempts of first a young headscarved chick on a motorbike and then an evidently affluent local boy with a 4X4 to oblige me with a lift, more testimony to the fact that I might just as well have come from another planet such was the level of fascination. The boy was obviously successful and so I concluded corrupt, and my resistance paid dividends when I soon made a couple of good chance discoveries. First, lying in the dust I spied what appeared to be a banknote, and sure enough thats what it was but not a kind hitherto encountered. The tiny 20,000 Rupiah note bearing the portrait of defunct female president Megawatti Sukharnoputri was the size of a cigarette card, and as Jeep Man confirmed "Habis" (Finished). With a face value of over a quid, more than many here earned in a day, I could only deduce that it was now a discontinued remnant of Indonesia's late 90s economic crisis when it would have assuredly been worth much less. A nice souvenir though. Then my resolve to walk was further qualified by chancing upon a Christian cemetery, where some old crumbled obelisks just had to be colonial. Sure enough there were perhaps a dozen or more Dutch graves in total, most surprisingly still with their inscriptions present and discernible. Sadly most were of young children and a few of spouses lost tragically young in their 20s, there were no insights into particular circumstances but the testimony to the liability of a tropical climate in a far off land was enough. Even here the "Hello Misters" did not let up.
Now given that I was under pressure of time to get a move on, a satisfactory but rather inconsequential second night in Bima might have seemed unwise, yet upon checking with a travel agent I was assured that I had a day to kill. Unsure for some time as to what day it was, rarely a consideration over the last month of beach and pub crawling, I thought I had figured it out to conclude my desired ferry departure from Sumbawa imminent. With only one sailing a week, the guidebook had suggested Monday at 5pm, yet the travel agent assured me Sunday at midnight. Believing it to be Saturday, that meant quite good positioning then but Bima would serve better to kill a day than the alleged underwhelming little port dump of Sape 2 hours away. Able to redress my demanding day with a power shower, TV and beer back at my palace, it had all made sense until I spotted a fleeting reference to Euro 2008 on the box. Surely not.....? But yes, I had got my days wrong, today was Saturday and not Sunday as I had deduced. As well as upsetting my ferry connection plans and affording the realisation that I had slumbered late that morning whilst the museum ostensibly lay open, I now saw that the all important football ties had yet to occur. They were showing Man U v Roma, but with Euro 2008 titling occasionally catching a glance. Could it be....? It was in ecstatic subsequent amazement then as the football mad Indonesians gave way to pictures and commentary live from Hampden Park. In otherworldly Sumbawa of all places I was about to realise a dream which even modern world Java and Bali had failed to muster. My 6 quid starchy sheet room was now looking a seriously good investment.
The picture was simple. In their final throw of the dice in what had been a thoroughly accomplished campaign, Scotland needed to beat Italy to simultaneously gain qualification and put the Azzuri out of the tournament. Normally that might have seemed an impossible demand, and yet the form which had seen them defeat France both home and away as no other team had done in over 50 years meant that there was a real chance. Having worked so hard to overcome the once habitual so near and yet so far hard luck name tag, fate tested Scotland immediately as the Italians scored with their first attack of the game. They showed their character in a feisty performance however, riding their luck and missing a couple of sitters before getting their just rewards in the 65th minute after a goalmouth scramble. Pushing for the winner in the final quarter, there was a real perception of possibility before history came back to haunt them at the death. Just into injury time the referee blew for a free kick which should have obviously gone Scotland's way, and yet it was awarded just outside the Scotland box to the Italians in the absence of any infringement. Like Scots everywhere, I sat in bewilderment as an Italian header killed the game with only seconds remaining, and it smacked of the stupifying circumstances in which they had pushed Australia out of the 2006 World Cup. At 1-1 Scotland had still been in with a shout, requiring the Ukraine to beat France, but now the coffin was sealed. The last of the domestic hopefuls, Scotland it seemed had yet to overcome its hard luck yoke after all.