Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Wed 01/04
Sleeping all alone under the stars, on the top deck of a ferry bound for Sulawesi sounds pretty romantic. In some ways it is. But in reality, on a humid night, with the dew settling fast, the crew doing the rounds and a 2am stop, we don’t get much sleep.

The regulars on these ferries come prepared with a change of clothes and have a mandi twice a day to keep fresh. We feel a little bad that we’ve been in the same clothes for a day and a half, but after the state of the toilets on the Larantuka ferry we’d planned on holding on until Bira. Unfortunately Ann, who can’t hold out any longer, twists her knee badly on the slippery floor of one of them. Its not the sort of injury you want when you’re doing what we’re doing and will stay with her for months.

Bira has a forgotten look about it. Like much of Indo, there was some money thrown around maybe 20 years ago, but not much since. Places like this were hammered by the Bali bombing and the tourists just never returned. The Salassa guesthouse is an ultra budget place, but has a really nice feel about it and Eriq and his wife speak English, so its great to just sit and have a coffee and talk. He tells us we’re the first tourists he’s had in 3 months. We’re not sure how they survive.

Thu 02/04
By this stage we’re sure you’re all wondering how we do our laundry, so without further ado... Your average Indo doesn’t have a washing machine, so they use a bucket and a scrubbing brush. There’s usually a bucket in the hotel mandi, so we do this daily and just reuse 2 sets of clothes. Its become a ritual, along with pumping water to take on the bikes. We took all kinds of gear with us on this trip, but the pump is an awesome bit of kit.

Tanah Beru is about 20ks up the road from Bira. Its the place to come if you want a 20 metre yacht custom made from virgin rainforest timber. Ironwood is incredibly strong, impervious to creepy crawlies and so dense it will actually sink in water. But we’re told that because the supply of ironwood has virtually dried up, the boats under construction along the foreshore are some of the last Phinisi schooners being built from traditional materials.

The Bugis have been doing this for at least 500 years, and if the boats were purely for local consumption this would be a real shame. However we haven’t met anyone here who can afford upwards of 100000 Euros for a boat, and the massive devastation of the Indo rainforests has been encouraged in some part by wealthy westerners buying these fancy toys to park in marinas across the globe.

We pick a boat and find somewhere to park the bike. This of course brings construction to a standstill. The German owner and his partner come over to check out the bike, offer us drinks and take us on a guided tour of what will eventually be a dive boat. These boats are so cheap to build that people like this will move out here for 18 months just to supervise construction.

We promise not to get too preachy in this blog, but guys, you are just Part Of The Problem.

Fri 03/04
We follow Eriq out to see his land today. Overlooking his own private beach with amazing views out over the coral. This can be yours for $8 per sq metre.

Pulling up at Bira beach later on causes a near sensation. We just want to have a swim, but everyone else has other ideas. This is the deal (believe us it happens a lot): get off the bike, take off the helmets, get immediately mobbed by a dozen (usually) girls, “Me me me me me. Take me. Take me.”, 10 minutes later after everyone’s had their photo op, or we call time out, the crowd disburses and leaves us wondering what the hell we were doing here in the first place. Oh yeah, a swim.

Sat 04/04
We’re gradually getting used to doing everything in public. This includes working on the bikes. Its ok if you’re a mechanic, but for noobs like us it can be a real pain in the arse. Luckily this morning we’re only tightening Ann’s chain (which is a pain in the arse, but not like we’re stripping the engine).

Tanah Beru is a fascinating place, so we head back there today. The beach where the boats are constructed is typical Indo. Filthy. There’s rubbish everywhere and we narrowly avoid stepping in someone’s half buried shit. People live, work, sleep and eat here. Why do they choose to live in such a disgusting mess? Why would someone choose to shit in their front yard like a dog? We have no idea, but don’t believe it has anything to do with poverty. They’re paid good money for these boats.

Sun 05/04
We leave Bira this morning for Makassar after many goodbyes. Eriq and his wife have been fantastic and we feel that finally we’re beginning to unwind.

Makassar is a city of 2 million people. We’ve never been here before. It’s raining. The road is shit. The traffic is ‘don’t think about it just do it’ horrendous. Half the streets are one way. But we have a GPS. Before we left Oz, someone advised us not to take a GPS. He said it would ‘take all the fun out of it’. Bollocks. This scenario isn’t fun, its just basic survival. If you have a tool which can make this easier, why not use it?

Later that day we discover Makassar has a gaggle? of Becak drivers on every corner. They’re like human powered taxis. We like walking, so unfortunately there are going to be some compatibility issues. Its probably impossible to explain how annoying these guys are. Just when you think you’re in a big enough city to escape the Hello Misters, its Becak Mister! every 5 minutes, and the fact that they don’t hassle the locals (who are obviously the main users), just adds to the frustration.

This seems to annoy Lucas far more than Ann, and so he goes through several stages with them. Maybe the third stage is the “Fuck off” stage. This is fairly tame really, something you might say swatting away an annoying fly for example. The next is the angry “Do I look like I want a fucking becak?” stage (you can actually buy t-shirts that say this back at the hotel). The final, somewhat resigned stage might go something like “We have these in Australia you know. They’re called taxis. If I want a taxi, I’ll just walk up to one and get in.” Unfortunately the sarcasm is lost on these guys, but it makes Lucas feel a lot better. Ann also prefers it to the swearing.

Mon 06/04
One of the reasons we’re in Makassar is to look for a new rear tyre. It probably sounds defeatist, but we’re expecting this to be a complete waste of time. There are maybe a handful of big bikes in Sulawesi, but the rest are 125s, most of which have as much rubber as a mountain bike. Its worth a try though, and we’re even willing to hang around if someone can ship something over from Java.

However, after fruitlessly hunting around for most of the day it becomes apparent that the tyre quest is doomed on all kinds of levels. You’ve got the big bike problem, the language barrier, the fact that the Indos use imperial tyre sizing instead of metric, and even if you find someone who speaks a little English, they still won’t order anything that’s not in their catalogue because they’re small operators locked into distributing limited products. Bummer.

Tue 07/04
We give the tyre quest one last shot and then resort to the internet where we checkout some online tyre shops. Somehow we pluck these guys http://www.borneobikingadventures.com from memory (we’re heading over to Borneo eventually and they use similar bikes to ours), so we fire off an email to Terry as a last resort. He must get his tyres from somewhere, right?

The other reason we’re in Makassar is to checkout ferry options to Borneo. Upon returning to the hotel after figuring out our options, the manager Rina, who has been bugging us since we got here, calls her 'friend' at the port office to see whether he can get us a 'special price'. He arrives 10 minutes later and after getting a quote for nearly double the official rate, we’re looking at him like he’s completely mental when the penny suddenly drops. “You’re with Pelni aren’t you?”

Pelni officially don’t take cargo like our bikes, but if you negotiate a special price with the right guy its not a problem. However, since there’s no way that special price is going to be anywhere near the cost of a normal ferry, why bother? We thank him politely and apologise for any misunderstanding.

Wed 08/04
The ride to Pare Pare should have been fairly straightforward, but we suffer a couple of setbacks along the way.

The lovely Rina has advised us that it will be no problem to use the motorway out of Makassar. Thanks a lot Rina. We get stopped at the first toll booth of course and told to turn around and go back. Go back where? Its not like you can make a u-turn. So Lucas sits on the bike and argues with an official, who looks like he’s having a bad day. This goes back and forwards for awhile, so in frustration he pulls out a wad of Rupiah and waves it at the guy. Everyone is starting to get a bit panicky that we’re holding up traffic, so reluctantly they take the money for the toll and let us through. However, as soon as we’re through, a policeman waves at us to pull over to the side of the road. Um yeah... right. We take one look at him standing there minus his pursuit vehicle, give him a friendly wave and twist the throttle.

The second setback starts to manifest itself about 100ks from Makassar. Its been a manic, fun ride, blasting through the traffic, but Lucas has been feeling a little uncomfortable for an hour or so with stomach cramps. Its not a big deal though, and we even chase an ambulance for half an hour, which clears the road ahead.

All of a sudden Lucas pulls over and climbs off the bike, bent over double.

Note to viewers: don’t expect to find a public toilet handy in the middle of a Sulawesi rice paddy. Oh yeah, and be very wary of the onion soup.

This isn’t looking pretty, but eventually we head off again in the hope he can hold out for 30ks until Pare Pare. About 5ks further on we go through the same routine and it looks like this is going to be A Bit Of A Problem. Luckily Ann spies a lady going into her house and asks if Lucas (pointing at him bent over double) can use her loo. Unbeknown to him, when he resurfaces from the mandi half an hour later, Ann has been fed and watered and is entertaining half the family. We’ve been pretty blunt in these pages, but this sort of kindness and hospitality is the reason people keep coming back to Indonesia.

After a couple more emergency stops we make it to Pare Pare, where we hassle the local cops for directions to the hotel. We don’t have a map and figure they need the exercise.

Unfortunately we get paid back plenty for this later on when walking down to the waterfront. Pare Pare is a city tourists bypass on the way from Makassar to Tana Toraja. Consequently we’re a massive novelty, and get mobbed, yelled at and Hello Mistered more than anywhere we’ve been so far.

But we do discover the ferry leaves here for Nunukan every Saturday. Job done.

Its hard to believe in hindsight that it took so long for us to first break out the stove and make our own coffee. Maybe the idea of using an all-weather multi-fuel stove in a hotel room seemed a bit like overkill (they are a bit noisy). This turns out to be the start of what will become a daily ritual (or addiction).

Thu 09/04
Ann can do nothing but blindly follow Lucas as he blindly follows the GPS to Rantepao. Its kind of strange following the big white arrow on the screen, but there just aren’t any road signs for most of the way.

After sorting out a place to stay, we wander down the road to see what Rantepao has to offer. Indonesia is full of mini marts, which are almost like old fashioned little corner stores. The locals tend to shop daily in small quantities, so mini refers not only to the size of the shop but also the size of the packaging. We have a nosy in the one on the corner and do a double-take when we spot the tall, blonde guy behind the counter.

Connie turns out to be Swedish, has lived here for 10yrs, and teaches English when he’s not serving customers. After chatting for a while he suggests that we might like to use one or two of his students as guides to explore Toraja. The deal is we get a local guide for the day, they get to practice their English and we buy them lunch. Sounds like a plan. Connie has tried this before, but when some of the 'professional' guides found out they gave him a hard time, so we agree to keep quiet about it while we’re here.

Fri 10/04
Our student in fact turns out to be an aspiring English teacher. After taking us to his house, Gideon shows us some of the local sights, culminating in a ride up the mountain to Batutumonga.

We thought the BMW off-road training course might be a good idea before we left Oz, but the cost put us off. However, we’re pretty sure they don’t teach buffalo avoidance techniques, so maybe it would have been a waste of time after all. On the way up to Batutumonga Ann gets into some sand on the edge of the road trying to avoid someone’s house-buffalo and lays the bike over. But being a country girl at heart, she picks herself up, grabs the 'tow rope' and hauls the buffalo off the road out of the way.

Sat 11/04
We’re tired of the bikes, so the plan today is to ride a short distance to Kete Kesu, a traditional village with some hanging graves, and go for a walk.

However its never that simple here. We haven’t once felt like tourists in Indonesia. They always manage to turn the tables on us.

For example, most tourists visiting Kete Kesu would hop out of the bus, sort out their camera gear and walk into the village. We park the bike, but just as we're sorting out the camera, are mobbed by a coach load of women begging for photos. Its a laugh, and even some of the locals think its ridiculous enough to roll their eyes and smile.

In another bizarre twist to the day, after wandering around Kete Kesu for a while and returning to the main entrance, we find the Kawasaki Racing Team has taken over the place and is doing a photo shoot to promote their tour of Sulawesi. Its kind of surreal, even more so when we’re asked to pose for some photos with the bikes.

Sun 12/04
Today we’re taking another one of Connie’s students, Rita who works in a local internet cafe, to her village way up in the hills.

The road is pretty steep, but the views out over the rice paddies are spectacular. We don’t take much notice of what the locals tell us about road conditions anymore, just expect the worst. So its not too much of a shock when we reach halfway, to find the road completely washed away by a landslide. All that’s left is a narrow goat track hugging the side of the mountain, with what looks like a sheer drop of hundreds of feet down the other side.

Lucas, minus Rita who jumps off, makes it to the other side and waits for Ann to come up behind. Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan and Ann, who’s gotten all tangled up in the bamboo poles marking the edge of the path, drops the bike and is nearly trapped between it and a rock. Luckily it fell to the left otherwise she and the bike would have been history.

Later after we checkout the statue of the Torajan hero in Pangala, Rita’s village, she suggests we ride out to a waterfall close by. However the roads up here really suck, so after a couple of kilometres we bail, park the bikes and walk. We figure this is the whole point of today anyway.

Somewhere during the walk (we never actually make it to the waterfall), Rita realises how often people are saying Hello Mister to us, and because we feel its our duty to further her education, proceed to explain how absurd this local custom is. “Do you say Hello Mister to any of your friends, or people you meet in the street?” Um no. I just say hello, Selemat pagi or whatever. “Ok then, why do all you guys say Hello Mister to westerners?” Well, its what we were taught in school. “Ahhh I see. Well you know in our country we just say hello to each other. Even in business we mostly use first names. The only time you might get Mister is when you’re checking into a posh hotel.” So you don’t use Mister at all? “No. In our culture its an old fashioned, outdated way of talking to people.” Then you must think its pretty silly when someone says Hello Mister to you. “Uh huh.” I’m going to tell all my friends! (looks to the heavens) “There is a God.”

After eating a meal of what was definitely not chicken, pork or beef, and eye-wateringly spicy we turn around and head back to Rantepao. Maybe the worst thing about crossing the goat track this morning was the realisation we’d have to do it again the same afternoon. And its started raining. Bleh.

That night at dinner with Connie, we decide to treat ourselves to spag bog at a local tourist restaurant. The spag bog is revolting, but the conversation is, well, Connie if you’re reading this mate that was one amazing amazing story. Sorry folks, we can’t share.

Actually Connie, if you’re reading this, please drop us a line. Your email address bounces.

13/04 – 17/04
Lucas is in bed with the flu, so the next couple of days aren’t all that fun.

Maybe its completely unrelated, but the Indos don’t seem to use much salt in their food. Because we didn’t think we were big salt eaters, its kind of surprising when Lucas announces he’s craving some. So the highlight of these couple of days turns out to be avocado on toast, with some salt sprinkled on top.

The hotel seems to be a bit of a kindergarten, and we’re sort of fed up with drum kits and playstations outside our front door, so we decide to move tomorrow. It seems crazy, but we’re literally moving to the hotel next door. Luckily its around the corner and out of sight, so we don’t have to explain things to the owner.

Speaking of food, we’re convinced the lady here at our new hotel makes the only edible bread in Indonesia. Previously, we were under the impression that bread was kind of like beer. People have been making it for thousands of years. So maybe someone can tell us why it isn’t possible to buy a decent loaf in Indonesia.

We spend the next few days exploring Toraja, talking with Connie and the locals and trying to gain some insight into the Torajan way of life.

Sat 18/04
Its kind of bizarre to be looking forward to a funeral, but today is the day.

We’re also looking forward to the livestock markets, which are held every six days, so we trudge off to Bolu early (well Ann hobbles actually). Because it rains here every day at 3pm (you can set your watch by it), the markets are a quagmire. This seems to suit the buffalo, but unless you’re really careful... wellies would be good.

Some of the buffalo are amazing and the albinos can be worth as much as one of our bikes.

The babi (pig) markets, on the other hand, are a bit of surprise. We’re probably expecting a western style setup where all the pigs are kept in pens, so find it a bit difficult when confronted with the reality of pigs trussed up to bamboo frames and piglets being sold out of canvas bags. And sure, its just the noise they make but still, there’s something really wrong with the sound of a screaming pig. It almost makes your hair stand on end. Does this little piggy look happy? You be the judge.

We take a bemo with our guide Adi, a moonlighting tourist information officer, to the funeral at Sa’dan. This one’s been in full swing for most of the week and seems more like a festival than a funeral. Outside, people are selling cigarettes, sugar and lollies for donations. Inside, music is blaring on the PA, babi is sizzling on the barbie, people are milling around or pigging out on pig and buffalo, and every now and then one of the pigs lets out a horrible scream after being stabbed in the heart by a long knife. After being introduced to the family, we sit down to lunch which includes a huge bamboo container filled with palm wine. If you’re polite like us and say “Mmm, very nice.” you’re then expected to drink the whole lot, which actually translates to carrying the wine around for the rest of the day until finding a discreet spot to dump it.

All the government officials are also here. Their job is to keep a tally of how many animals are slaughtered, because the family will be taxed accordingly. This means they’re usually wined and dined in the hope they’ll reduce the tally, and this lot look like they’re really enjoying themselves. Lucas snaps a photo of them, which seems to make the highest ranking official a bit nervous, so she invites us over to share their meal. Or maybe she’s just being neighbourly, who knows?

All of a sudden someone mentions buffalo fighting and half the funeral, including us, take off up the road to the local football pitch to watch. We pity the local team because it looks more like a rice paddy, complete with hollows for the buffalo to wallow in.

The first two bouts are between normal domestic buffalo which are hopelessly docile, so are a complete non-event. The last bout, which will be between proper fighting buffalo, is what everyone’s hanging around for, so countless millions of rupiah change hands before the animals are led out.

In hindsight we were incredibly naive. All the locals knew how things were going to pan out.

As soon as they lay eyes on each other, the buffalo race forwards from opposite sides of the pitch and smash together. You can almost feel it. The crowd go mental. This happens a few times until the buffalo become tired, after which they lock horns and push each other around in circles. The crowd close in and form a circle around the snorting animals. We join in of course; this isn’t something you see every day. Every now and then the buffalo look like they’re going to separate and the crowd go “Whoa!” and move back a few metres. After a few times of this we start getting a bit complacent and just sort of follow the ebb and flow of people back and forwards, Lucas holding the camera over everyone’s heads journo style and clicking the shutter.

The crowd goes “Whoa!” once more and we step backwards again, but out of the corner of our eyes spot about two tonnes of beef racing towards us, the crowd scattering in all directions. Buffalo can move incredibly fast when they’re cranky and one guy, who isn’t paying proper attention to the snorting mass of horn and muscle bearing down on him, is steam-rolled into the mud. Unbelievably lucky, he reappears and staggers away, caked in mud but unhurt. It dawns on us later that it could have been one of us instead.

19/04 -20/04
We spend a lazy couple of days, doing normal stuff like making ourselves sandwiches, trying the local Arabica coffee, uploading the blog (sorry we’ve been slack with this folks) and spending hours talking with Connie in his shop.

Coffee never used to be a big deal with us. Ok, we like good stuff, but when you’re working in an office you just drink whatever’s in the cupboard. Unfortunately the Torajan stuff is turning us into coffee snobs, because $6 a kilo for ground Arabica is ridiculous and we’re going to find it pretty tough to ever deal with Nescafe again. You can read more about it here.

Something else we never used to pay much attention to is chocolate. Well... possibly Ann did. Outside the hotel and pretty much all around here are trees with large, weird looking fruit growing straight out of their gnarled trunks. After a frustrating 'duck and chicken' conversation with Teresa, Connie’s shop assistant, Lucas is forced to draw a picture to try and find out the identity of this mysterious fruit. (much laughter) Kokolat! Boy do we feel stupid.

Tue 21/04
Unbelievably the funeral at Sa’dan is still going strong and we’ve been invited back to see the buffalo sacrifices. It sounds macabre, but people fly out to Toraja from all over the world specifically to see this.

We arrive early, park the bike outside, chain the helmets to the handlebars and wander down. Over the next few hours around 25 buffalo are paraded back and forth in front of the guests and parked in front of those who’ve donated them. One of the family spray paints each animal with a number; the order in which it will be sacrificed.

The act of slitting the throat of the first buffalo is so quick we almost miss it. Its completely unexpected for the buffalo as well, which has been pampered most of its life and is almost a domestic pet, so it looks at the Torajan wielding his knife in utter disbelief. The next few minutes aren’t pretty, with the dying animal staggering and thrashing around, blood spraying everywhere.

We stay for three sacrifices (one’s enough really) and watch while the carcasses are butchered on the spot and divided up between the families, but with a storm on its way we decide we’ve seen enough.

As we approach the bike, we must have looks of utter disbelief on our faces as well, because Lucas’ helmet is gone. Stupidly, we’ve run the chain through the d-ring and some arsehole has cut the strap with a knife. It didn’t occur to us that this would happen, because in Oz it would render the helmet useless. You might as well chuck it in the bin. The average Indo however, rides with a plastic flower pot for a helmet and rarely buckles it up. To say we’re angry is an understatement and to put things into perspective, an Arai helmet is worth the average Indonesian’s salary for 6 months. Its almost like stealing a car.

Connie is shocked when we tell him over dinner and offers to go with us to the police tomorrow to report it. Frustratingly, he and Rita can’t really translate any choice swear words into Indonesian. Its a shame nobody speaks English here. We can think of a few...

Wed 22/04
On the way to the police station with Connie, we stop at a few bike shops and look at some helmets. In order of popularity/price: the classic plastic 'flower pot' - $2; the Indo open-face - $20; the Indo full-face - $35; the import full-face $50 - $75; an Aria from Jakarta - $500 - $600.

Nearing the police station, in an interesting departure from the usual Hello Mister, two little schoolboys raise their middle fingers at us and yell out “Fuck You Mister! ... You Understand? ... Fuck You!” Wow, that was something different. Ann resists the urge to chase after them and give them a clip round the ears.

You can hear the cock fights on the TV in a back room, so the police, who aren’t incredibly active at the best of times, struggle to give us their full attention. It takes two trips, even with Connie translating, to actually get any paperwork filled out. We’re resigned to the futility of all this, but its something we feel we have to do.

Thu 23/04

Tonight, while walking back to the hotel, Connie, on the back of a motorbike pulls up in front of us. “Hi Connie, what are you doing?” I’m looking for you! Its another surreal moment, especially when it turns out the other guy on the bike is a local undercover detective, or spy, as he describes himself.

We meet with our new spy friend back at the hotel, where Connie explains that upon hearing of our trouble with the helmet, Victor was very upset and insisted that he be allowed to do something about it. Victor’s a nice guy and seems genuinely concerned about what’s happened, so we have some laughs and agree to meet with him out at The Crime Scene tomorrow.

Fri 24/04
Victor does his best the next day and we’re extremely grateful, but not very hopeful of any outcome. However the cops do agree, after much laughter, to let Lucas give the guy a good kicking if they ever do catch him. There’s no need for Connie to translate this part, but we’re starting to wonder what we’re going to do without him.

On a lighter note, thought we’d mention the unusual monetary system they have in place here. Because Indonesia has a shortage of coins, most of the shops will give you small change in lollies. Believe it... or not.

Sat 25/04
Rantepao to Pare Pare and back is 360ks of challenging roads, but Lucas wants to see if there’s a better choice of helmets there, so...

There are much better ways to spend your day. Take it from us.

26/04 – 27/04
The dogs across the road are driving us absolutely insane. We haven’t really slept much in two weeks, its almost like some sort of sleep deprivation torture. During one particularly bad episode around 1am Lucas, true to form, storms across the road half naked, wielding a hunk of bamboo and hammers on the neighbours’ door. Getting no satisfaction there, he chases one of the dogs down the road while one of the guys next door cheers him on. All completely pointless of course, that’s just the price you pay living in a protestant area.

Tue 28/04
These 650s of ours have a dry sump and a separate oil tank where the fuel tank would normally be, so an oil change is a little more involved than your average Corolla. We’d heard the alloy (you’ve got to be kidding) sump plug could be a bastard to get off and this proves to be the case, so Ann’s bike sits there half-done while we ponder what to do with it.

We’ve also agreed to take Connie’s students to the markets today, so the bike gets put on hold while we all troop off to English at the Markets 101, grabbing a couple of kilos of buffalo while we’re at it. That night we joke that if someone had told us not long ago that one day we’d be cutting up a hunk of freshly sacrificed buffalo with a blunt knife, for a rooftop barbecue in a Swedish guys’ house over a mini mart in Tana Toraja...

Uh huh.

Wed 29/04
We got to check our email yesterday, and in a huge change of luck Terry has got back to us with offers of tyres, brake pads and any other bits we need. Fantastic.

With Connie in tow to do the translating, we push Ann’s bike to a garage down the road to try and get the get sump plug off. Job done, we finish both bikes back at the hotel. While Ann is standing there holding a bucketful of old oil, one of the hotel staff whisks it out of her hands saying No problem. I’ll take care of it.

Before she can stop him, he dumps the contents into the storm water drain outside the hotel. We look at each other in stunned disbelief.

Thu 30/04
Thanks for the cheque Mr Rudd. We can probably live here for 3 months on that. Just letting you know that Lucas used some of it this morning to buy one of the import full-face helmets from a shop here in Rantepao. He briefly went through the 'flower pot' stage a few days ago, but in the end discarded that idea as insane. Ta ever so much.

Its our last night here and Connie invites us to his place for tea. Much later on its really really hard to say goodbye, and at times like these we wonder why we’re moving on.

Fri 01/05
Especially when its to Pare Pare. Lucas especially hates Pare Pare. If he could pick one city in Indonesia to blow up, this would be it.

We buy tickets for the ferry and then go down to check out the actual boat and say hi to a few of the crew. The casual one in blue overalls, who later turns out to be the captain, encourages us to go on board and have a look around. He probably thinks we’re just being nosy, but in fact we want to have a look at the tie-down points etc.

Sat 02/05
Its difficult to escape all the people following us. Today we’re feeling a little down and just want to be left alone to kill time while we wait for the ferry. Just when we think we’ve found a little spot all to ourselves by the waterfront, a couple of ladies from across the road come over to say hello. This is really almost their front yard, so we politely try to make some conversation. Gradually their families and friends start trickling over and soon there’s about 20 people gathered around us. Food and cans of drink soon follow. After nearly two months in Indonesia, where we’ve gotten a bit wary of unsolicited offers, we’re kind of on our guard, but its impossible to say no. Later on when they find out we’re waiting for the ferry its Do you have any food for the trip? “Yeah, pop-mie, chips, peanuts, some bread...” No no no, that’s no good! We’ll give you some food. “No really, that’s very kind but we’re ok.” No no no...

After a while we end up saying goodbye to our new friends and riding off with a tray of Cornish pasties to eat on the ferry. Just when we were really down on this place, its a huge reality check and an experience that we’ll probably never forget.

There are 1000 others on the ferry later that night, and while the rest are slurping down their pop-mies, we scoff the pasties to looks of pure jealousy. Its the only highlight of our first night, as its a little difficult to sleep on a floor mat with the lights on, TV blaring, babies crying and cockroaches scuttling around all over the place. At least the lights keep the rats away...

Sun 03/05
This morning, after trying to escape from the cigarette smoke, Ann decides she’s going to ask someone if we can go and sit up on the top deck. Hey, it worked once... The crew make her an honorary man for 15 minutes and invite her into the prayer room, with Lucas following on later after finally wondering where she’s gotten to. The request gets a bit mucked up in translation, but its not long before one of the crew invites us to come up to the wheelhouse.

We spend the rest of the day up there, joking around with the crew. Its a funny sort of a deal: we escape the thriving masses and the crew get entertained by two crazy westerners with tales of exotic places and big motorbikes. That night the crew insist we come down to the mess and eat dinner with them. The food is fantastic and watching the MotoGP is hilarious, as the Casey Stoner fans are outnumbered ten to one.

The special treatment continues with the captain insisting we sleep up in the wheelhouse. Its a massive contrast to last night and we drift off to sleep amidst the faint green glow of the radar and the murmur of the night shift...

1 comment:

  1. At long last I have finished reading your story , to date. Its Thursday 9th July. Havn't seen you on line lately BUT did get your email , thanks Luke, about the paper write up . Hope alls well with you both and looking forward to the next installment.
    Love N.