The Corn Flake Traveller in Indonesia
Indonesia is a huge country made up of lots ofislands of different sizes, most of them formed by volcanos butall inhabited by some of the friendliest people I have met on my adventures so far. It boasts a host of cultural delights and some really unique attractions, such as the Komodo Dragons or the TonaToraja area.
I visited Indonesia during my 6 month tour of Southeast Asia and was excited to cross the border from Malaysia after hearing so many good stories from fellow travellers. Unfortunately Ramadan postponed my arrival for about a week with all public transport fully booked I was forced to wait for ages at the side of the road for a vehicle to pass with some spare seats. I also had to wait 3 daysstaying in a floating hotelin Semporna, sharing a room with a travel companion suspended above the water waitingfor the embassy to open.
Eventually we got our visas and took a ferry to Nunukan, an island on the Indonesian side of the border just off the East coast of Borneo and here the universepresented us with an incredible stroke of luck. The ferry we wanted only came to the island every 2 weeks but happened to be leaving just 5 hours after we arrived. Scared to miss it I took a taxi to the town and withdrew 3.6 million Rupiah from the bank before heading back to the port as a multi-millionaire for the first time in my life. We paid a mere €20 for the 36 hour journeyto Sulawesi, which included BBQ’d fish with rice, soup and cups of tea.
We boarded the boat to find it more than full, people in economy class were packed in like sardines, with people lying all over the floor.It was quite intimidating but people helped us find somewhere to lie down, squeezing us in next to a friendly family. There was a lot of commotion withlittle men loading huge cargo boxes on to the boat and people moving on and off the ferry right up until it departed 2 hours late, which I was informed was on-time in Indonesia.
The people were fascinated by our presence and didn’t stop looking at us like they couldn’t believe we were there.They watched us do everything but in particular liked the strange things we did, like when I blew up my camping mattress and a crowd of people formed around us staring, pointing and laughing, some even took photos.
It was really hot in the lower decks of economy class, the heat of the engines and the ‘penguin effect’ from so many people adding to the heat of the air as we approached the equator.It was difficult to sleep at night; mainly due to non-stop sweating making it really uncomfortable but also the clucking chickens, the screaming children and the ‘call to prayer’ bellowed over the tannoy.
During the day I was like a zombie but it didn’t matter as there was nothing to do except wander the boat and take siestas. We met lots of people as everyone wanted to meet us and we were treated like movie stars, with people taking pictures, wanting autographs and watching us, no matter what we were doing. It felt like a really happy place with a great community spirit, lots of laughter and people playing guitars.
We were supposed to arrive at 10am but it was closer to 5pm,getting off the boat was great fun like a cross between standing on a football terrace and a stampede aswe had to fight our way pastpeople unloading boxes of cargo.
We treated ourselves to a€6 room with A.C and a warm shower then walked around the town. The people on the main land were equally friendly, we talkedtomany, or more honestly listened to them ask the same 4 or 5 questions over and over again. There were plenty of ‘Hello Mr what is your name?’ and ‘Where are you from?’ questions flying about,the real basics that they must have all learnt at school.Sadly we were in no mood to socialise just wanting ashower and somedecent sleep.