Sights and Sounds of Indonesia
08 August 2012 | Saumlaki, Tanimbar, INDO
First morning here I was on the aft deck doing my morning yoga and I was so stoked to see a 747 climbing overhead!!! Funny I'm still thrilled by jets! Then at about 10am every morning now a little prop plane comes in right over the boat and the dogs and kids go screaming down the deck to watch it descend for landing here. Then the next noise you hear are the putt putt boats, the local boats going to and from the fishing huts that are lining the channel. Each night they fish with lights, and each morning they bring their loads in. Everyone eats fish every day here apparently. Some of the boats have a little outrigger and some are a little bigger than a canoe. But they all have these noisy motors that sound like some putting, dying, clanging kind of lawn mowers!
So this place reminds us a little bit of La Paz, Baja, because of the shape of the bay, how far out we have to anchor, the dry climate with cactus growing, and the noise of a busy road fronting the harbor. It's a one way street along the harborfront and the minibus taxis and motorbikes vroom day and night, like everybody has someplace to go and horns honk and people holler. There are ships lined up at anchor to get on the quay, and a ferry comes and goes several times a week to the outer islands which means the pier is really busy. We went to shore there yesterday to get gas and realized it was the diesel depot. One minibus driver saw us and pulled over to help us out, so we got to go into town and found the cheapest gas we've ever seen anywhere in the world, only $4,500/liter (.45cents!!!) and to fill our jug it was only $13,500.00 = $13.50USD vs. Majuro's $40.00USD!!! And still everyone drives scooters and motorcycles that are cheap to fill. Good for them! Anyways, the minibus didn't close it's door and the boys thought that was very dangerous and exciting but they didn't want to sit near it, they've been tossed around on boats enough to know better I guess! There are little vinyl benches that Morgan said were implanted to the walls, which we thought was funny, and you certainly couldn't have a very big bum and stay seated. The driver honked this most hideous clown sounding honk repeatedly, so that everyone knew it was him or to get out of his way.
The first trip in we went to the hotel where a banner from the recent cruising rally was hanging. It has a giant deck over the water, lush with hundreds of planter boxes including ocotillo cactus, lime bushes, bougainvillea, palm trees, chili trees, basil bushes, and other herbs and flowering trees and plants. There are two rickety staircases hanging down to the water that we climbed up and wandered down the massive ironwood deck into the long hotel hallway of white tile and giant wood tables and cabinetry all the way out to the front desk and the street. Allen says it was like a Casa Blanca movie. Stepping out to the street was shocking with all these scooters zooming by, and a bunch of tall flags flapping in front of most buildings because their Independence Day is coming next week. It also reminded us of Ensenada because the sidewalks have really massive drainage under them, and there's plenty of open holes you have to jump over, and when we lived there we'd say if you fall and break your neck it's your own fault! Other sidewalks are so smooth with tile or concrete that you could be ice skating across them they're so slippery.
Then there's the people, all staring at you and some yell as they drive by, "Hey Mister!", or when they see the boys, they scream, "BABIES!!!" and some ladies are pointing at them and blowing them kisses. Then when we walked by the crowds half in and half out of every store along the sidewalk, they want to shake hands so we smile and shake, and they pinch the boys' cheeks and rush out with their children and yell, "HEY!" and they want to take pictures of the kids all together. Eventually we got to the hardware store a few doors down from the hotel since the ATM machine only takes MASTERCARD (Visa, it's NOT everywhere in the world we want to be), and Allen said it was like some shady drug deal to go inside and cash US Ben Franklin for $801,000.00 rupiah. That's a $19 dollar bonus for the exchange man, and some boats were only getting $700,000 for the Australian dollar.
So we went across the street to the grocery store on the second floor of a fancy building, which was a fancy, brightly lit, glistening plastic laden Chinese junk paradise. The ladies working there went crazy, wanting to pinch and kiss the boys, and they literally held them hostage not letting them push their grocery cart. Morgan was like, "Can I PLEASE just push this cart?" and they just kept taking pictures and carrying on and on. Finally Morgan came down one of the aisles and a whole herd of kids were following him and he was saying, "I can't believe this!" and we were so stricken with awe that we couldn't look around but just kept meeting everyone and shaking hands! What a trip! We managed to get an ice cream cone and got out of there.
By my third night I was still a basket case, worse than the first two nights, so I really didn't do anything until today like cooking and laundry. It's like having a heck of a bad hangover with the "jet lag" of the watch system payoff. Headache city and finding your way around a new town, trying to communicate and smile all the way...WOW it was a doozy! There's a great friendliness of these people though, a genuine curiosity and sincerety that can't be denied, and a super hospitality. It's been a great introduction to Indonesia, and now it's time again to get this show on the road!
Eventually we managed to get down the busy one way street along the harbor which is like the shopping bazaar hub on one side and the local eateries on the back side. Along every store front or shack there was a rooster tied to a post, and several people walking around carrying roosters too??? People came pouring out of their shops to see the boys and pinch them and take more photos and they were starting to revolt. We told them to just keep smiling...we found lots of produce, some of it fresh and some of it pretty limp, like carrots. The apples were imported from the USA! There were bananas and papaya, river kong cabbage, onions, garlic, mandarines, grapefruit, watermelon, squash, chilies, coconuts (and an amazing shredding machine), cucumbers, french beans, long beans, russett potatoes, brown eggs, quail eggs, and probably much more. Each place is cordoned off with a tarp or flimsy wall of some sort, and every inch of every wall and counter was covered with stuff! We wandered down one in between row back to where there were clothes hung for sale, and there were some parakeets for sale as well so the boys were enchanted with that. Another day we found a beautiful parrot (an orange bill rosella?) tied to a stick in one shop, as well as a pen with several weird looking birds that were prey for a raptor of some sort in another cage! Morgan saw a skeleton and realized that the banana eating birds were dinner for the bid bird! Very interesting!
Back at the hotel we treated ourselves to dinner out, and the food was all deliciously spicy and laden with chilies. Morgan impressively downed a whole bunch loudly proclaiming his Mexican birthright the whole time until one he had was fiery enough to shut him up. He found out that they burn coming out the next day too! We met some very nice Australians that had raced from Darwin and were turning around to go back now...crazy! It's only about 300 miles each way, but still, "just for the fun of it" smacks when I don't have any fun and have to do it for a living! Another guy was Italian and unfortunately he told us that when he came home to the boat the other day that there was a giant python hanging in his galley!!! Apparently the snake swam out and climbed aboard via the anchor chain, found its way inside and surprised him! YIKES! He said he managed to get a rope around it and put it in a big blanket, I don't know what he did with it after that? So then today (our last day) we heard from an American (we knew him in Fiji first season and Majuro second season) that was at the Harbor Master and was told that there was a crocodile off the pier today! Needless to say nobody is going swimming for a while! and watch out for Komodo dragons while we're at it!