Surabaya to Flores

Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
Trip End Jan 28, 2005

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Tue Aug 10 - Day 100
We checked out of the Paviljoen hotel, leaving our rucksacks in reception. Despite the occasional outside whiff of sewer and spotting a big rat (outside) it's a very pleasant place to stay.

Rene types journal for 45 mins, presses the wrong key and it all disappears. In a fury of fast fingers and mutley mutterings it's retyped and we have a late lunch.

About 50 yards from the Plaza is a metal walk bridge, crossing a 6 lane road. As you would imagine it's dirty, deafening and the vehicle fumes are choking. People live on this bridge. An old woman, an old blind man and a young woman with 3 very young children. Any time of day or nught they are begging. It's a busy bridge. At night the young woman sits holding her youngest in her arms, while the others lie asleep on the steps above her. During the day the oldest two, a boy and girl of about 3 and 4 stand holding a stiff piece of card each, as people pass they hit them on the backs of the legs to get their attention. It would be funny if it wasn't so incredibly pitiful. People here are encouraged not to give to beggars, but it's incredibly difficult to pass without leaving your change or some food.

A taxi ride has us at the harbour for 5pm. Ferries leave Perak regularly so it's very busy. At 6pm we're allowed to board the Titan nusantara. It's a smaller, older, worn out version of the Pelni ship. Internally it looks like it's been stripped ready for decommisioning. This is a flogged workhorse of a ship. Our first class cabin is spacious but tired, tatty and torn, with lifting lino squares, stained walls and bodged together melamine bunk beds. The room has its own sink, a small dodgily wired TV and two small portholes. We have to share a mandi with crew and any other 1st class passengers. Our cabin is right up top behind the bridge.

A swift bag drop and we return to watch the ship being loaded with lorry after lorry, all overloaded with goods. After a while we find somewhere to sit inside and are quickly joined by a young man, whose name is Julius. He's at University in Kupang (West Timor) and his English is very good. He informs us the ship is scheduled to leave at 9pm. We sat there until 11pm, during that time we were also joined by Elton and Stephen (good Indonesian names) and various others who wanted to say hello and practice their English. Our phrasebook got a hammering as wea attempted to ask questions back. All round people were to and fro, paying for bedding. 1st class 2 in a room, 2nd class 4 in a room, 3rd class dormitory with empty plywood bunkbeds, Ekonmi sleep anywhere else you can. When I say bedding I mean vynl covered mattresses of 2 different thicknesses.

For 700,000rp (43.50) for 2 we have 2 nighs accomodation, five meals and arrive in Flores, plus we have somewhere safe and locked to leave our bags.

We eventually set sail at 3am, which we later found out was due to engine trouble.

Expenses (16,500 rupiah / pound): lunch 75000, internet 32000, taxi 22000, food and tioletries 133600.

Wed 11 Aug - Day 101
Bed at 3am, woken by knocking at 6.45am. Breakfast. Two polystyrene containers, 2 glasses of sweat tea, and 2 sealed plastic glasses of water. Rene puts them on the table and we go back to sleep.

It's a joy to wake up to rice, greased garlic noodles, a small piece of sole of shoe meat and a veiny, thousand year old grey egg. Plus a dolls size packet of prawn crackers?
Speaking to Julius later, he couldn't believe we don't have rice with meat or fish for every meal. The galley seems to run to old peoples homes time, so at 12pm lunch arrived. Rice, tiny piece of bony fish and greasy garlic veg (hungry yet? we were). Our bottle of HP is disappearing fast.

In between gastronomic delights we read or go out on deck. Inside people are spread out on the floor sleeping, sitting talking and smoking or watching TV. Outside people are doing the same. It's sunny with a beautifully warm breeze. At the stern of the ship is a large metal tank containing boilng water. It has 2 taps on the front and you help yourself. Many people pay a small deposit for a bucket, fill it with the boiling water and wash all their clothes. The decks are strewn with drying washing. At the stern of the upper deck is an open air mandi, where people come to wash.

Everyone is friendly and you don't stand or sit long before someone approaches and starts asking 'Where you from' etc., etc. We speak to Julius again, and meet Mert,who's a barber on Flores, Ferdin who's a farmer and Cornelius who's at Uni in Meang, near Surabaya.

Julius is 22, very friendly and funny. Last night he fetched his battered old dictionary and wanted me to explain what the word fart meant. It had been troubling him that he had found a word but didn't understand the dictionary definition. His dictionary put it like this:- Fart - to evacuate air in the bowel out through the anus. Marvellous. Where to begin. Actions and nioses sorted it quickly, and he fell about laughing. I explained at home a fart would be followed by excue me or pardon me or beauty, depending on how you were brought up.

Dinner arrives at 5.45pm. rice, fish, meat, greasy veg. By 6pm following a rapid sunset it's dark. non of these ships serve any alcohol. We can make tea by fetching water from the tank. We read, write, watch a film (the only channel on TV shows whichever film the crew decides to watch) and Rene started feeling queasy as it got rougher and rougher. It wasn't pleasant for a couple of hours but the sea and Rene soon settled down.

Expenses: Donut 7000.

Thurs Aug 12th - Day 102
6.30am wake up call. Pink garlic rice (the rice had been fried in some red chilli sauce and garlic) a round greasy rubber omelette, 2 flat square things that looked and tasted like dog chews, some noodles and a spoonful of greasy garlic veg. I've probably made that sound nicer than it was. Rene couldn't face hers.

Back to sleep. At 10am I open the porthole which is at eye level when lying in the top bunk. It's bright sunshine, and a cloudless sky, in the distance Sumbawa, brown, barren and mountainous and in the foreground is the deep blue, Flores sea.

Lunch arrives at brunch 11.15am. Rice, a whole tiny fish, about the size of a pilchard which has been cremated, and more greasy veg and noodles.

An afternoon on deck, reading and talking with Julius and Cornelius passes quickly on a warm breeze. The sun has been hot all day but it quickly falls from the sky. The ship is now sailing aling the southern coast of Flores in the Sawu sea, it's due in Ende at about 4am. We have our last rice meal on board and watch tonights movie, called Gothika, quality scary film.

Expenses - None.
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