Surabaya to Nunukan to Tawau

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

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Where I stayed
Sactuary Hotel

Flag of Indonesia  ,
Thursday, September 2, 2004

Mon 23 August - Day 113
Having already experienced life aboard a Pelni Ship we know what to expect from the ships cook. Not a lot. So with this in mind, we decide to raid a local supermarket in search of inbetween meal snacks. We do good, real good and emerge like lottery winners clutching a bag containing 4 small packs of Ritz crackers, a box of dairyleaa cheese triangles (called 'President' here) a small loaf of bread, a bottle of HP sauce (makes all the difference to fish head), six mars bars and a bottle of Bushmills Irish whisky (purely medicinal. No idea what it's doing here). To ease the guilt having given in to our western bourgeois taste buds, we purchased some locally produced conscience clearers in the form of 6 tangerines, 2 apples and a dozen mini bananas.

Our tickets tell us the ship sails at 6pm, our Pelni schedue says 5pm. Either way we made sure we were at Tanjung Perak harbour in plenty of time.

The vast waiting hall was absolutely heaving with people and their belonings. We found a small space and sat on our bags ready for some people watching. Unfortunately, being the only freaky looking westerners in the place, everyone we watched was already watching us, and if they weren't watching they were asking 'where you from?'. The place was riddled with men in uniform, it was like a Village People convention, police, army, navy, coastguard and officers from the ship were all decked out in full kit. Even all the porters wore orange jackets. There were obviously some important people knocking about, but we've no idea who. Even an Indonesian TV film crew turned up.
at the far end of the hall a band had arrived and set up, next thing you know its karaoke hour, they love it here, the louder the better. It's hard enough explaining to locals in pigeon Indonesian where the Isle of Maan is, without some tne deaf crooner making your ears bleed.

The porters are constantly on the move looking for customers. For a small fee they carry on board anything the customer can't manage. Most people seem to have their house contents with them so they are busy boys.It's a hell of a way to earn very little, and requires them to get on and off the boat as many times as humanely possible in a short period of time.

When the ship was ready for loading and the doors were opened we stayed back and watched the bedlam begin. Hundreds of men with boxes on their shoulders jostling to get through the double doors. We're not tlaking about small boxes either, theses were TVs and wardrobes. It was like watching a game on 'It's a knockout' only without the big suits, and the Indonesian Stuart Hall wore an army uniform and was armed with a semi automatic.

Once the chaos has subsided,we made our way on board the KM Tidar. It is a big beast of a ship. We paid our key deposit and were shown to our cabin. They are exactly the same as the cabins on the Manx boat, 2 beds, a small table and a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. Home for the next 3 days.

All the officers had been to the Mr Ben fancy dress shop (I used to love Mr Ben) and come out with white cruise ship uniforms. The captain looked particularly dashing (ridiculous) in white, slightly too tight for a man of his age shorts and knee length white socks.

We'd barely opened our rucksacks before a steward informed us dinner was served. Rice and fish you could whack to each other with tennis racquetts, it's so tough. We retire to our cabin and read. The Tidar leaves Surabaya at 8pm, and we have a Bushmills and a mars bar to celebrate.

Expenses (16500 rp / pound): postcards 12000, internet 28000, juice 10000, shirt 179000, cske 5000, lunch 70500, supermarket 108300, magazine 22000, taxi 24000

Tues Aug 24 - Day 114
The knock on the door of the cabin signalling breakfast came at 5.30am, an hour after call to prayers, we grunted a polite refusal and went back to sleep. We later reaslised the clocks had jumped forwad again.

Our own breakfast of a banana and jam sandwich and cup of tea was at the much more sociable hour of 10am. Big mistake. At the ridiculously early time of 10.50am we were called to lunch. Same old solid fish aand rice and a few veg.

Again the Indonesians love of karaoke meant a four piece band were playing deafiningly loudly while we ate and Andi Samuel, one of the white uniformed officers, was killing a Lionel Ritchie song, hopefuly for good, chatting to each other was impossible, so it wasn't all bad news.

Not much else happens on board. We read, then traipse to the dining room hoping for something other than cremated fish.

A deck up from ours the crew have a full size table tennis table. I can hear the ball pinging and ponging so I go and have a watch. A big fat man and a small thin man, Laurel and Hardy. The thin man offers me his bat, but I decline, he'd probably been looking forward to playing all day aand just out of politeness felt he should ask. Very kind. Stood there watching brought back memories of the kitchen table at Eskdale Road, and of Ladybird books for bats.

Dinner at 5.30pm. Green jelly covered in bulls gysm for afters.

We were asleep when we docked and departed from PAre PAre, Sulawesi will have to wait until next time.

Expenses - Nil

Wed Aug 25 - Day 115
Another quiet day of reading, writing, relaxing and eating at odd times. Tidar docked at Pantaloan in Sulawesi at 4pm. We ventured out of our box and watched an hour of frantic dockside loading and unloading. It was exhausting.

Expenses - Nil

Thursday aAug 26 - Day 116
A very pleasant 3 days on board came to an end when we reached Nunukan in East Kalimantan at 11am. Rene's got a stinking cold. The dockside is bustling with porters, fully loaded handcarts and people offering boat tickets, immigration services, taxis and accomodation. This is our first glimpse of Indonesian Borneo.

It's hot, noisy and confusing; smile, look confident and keep walking seems to work, and by the end of the pier we've met a guy whose offering boat tickets to Tawau who seems pretty genuine. He is, and having bought tickets and had our passports stamped we spend an hour in his office / travel agents conversing via our phrasebook.

Half way back along the pier, stands our next boat. The pier is still full of people, many are money changers who stand with pimp sized wads of cash in their hands waiting to turn your rupiah into ringgit.

It's a very long thin speed boat that seat about 100 people inside. There's about 6ft between the bow of the boat and the pier and a ridiculous ladder thing to walk across. There's a 20ft drop to the water and we've got our backpacks on. It was insane, but we made it safely across. We then had to climb down a slope from the bow onto a lower deck. Rene managed fine, but somehow my foot slipped from under me and I fell. I slide down the metal slope n my back and smashed my left foot into a metal winch at the bottom. I was lying there struggling to get up with my backpack on like a capsized turtle, thinking how lucky I was that there were several hundred poeple who saw me make a tool of myself and that I'd thought to wear my completely non protective flip flops. It must have looked funny because everyone was laughing, except me and my foot.

If you ever hit your thumb full on with a hammer, it hurts like hell and the only relief comes with shaking it violently, jumping from foot to foot and swearing loud and proud. My foot hurt like that but I had no room to jump about so I did the stand still, grit your teeth and try and look like it doesn't hurt trick. My foot bled for the rest of the day and then turned purple.

As the boat bounced and banged its way to Tawau, Rene, who wasn't feeling awful, tried to sleep. I was collered by the captain and his mate who waanted to practice their English and we spent 2 hours deciphering the sports pages of their Indonesian newspaper. They learnt some new English words like extortionate and prostitutes, and I discovered that Newcastle and Manure have bid in excess of 20 million pounds for Wayne Rooney. (In case you haven't a clue what I'm on about, Wayne Rooney this week admitted paying for prostitutes after being caught doing so on CCTV. And if you can explain that in pigeon Indonesaian in less than 2 hours you're doing well).

Having spent a mere a mere 90 minutes in Indonesian Borneo, we ow docked in Malaysian Borneo.

Getting from the boat on to the pier at Tawu was the most dangerous thing we've done. It was complete madness and a miracle noone was seriously hurt. The pier is small and there's only room for one of these big speed boats to tie up alongside. Ours was the fifth boat to pull up at the same time and they just rope one boat to the next. So we had four other boats to clamber round, with a tiny area to put your feet and a low grab rail, there was a big swell on (the sea and my foot) and the boats were lurching together violently. There were about 100 people on our boat, many with big boxes and small children. We had our backpacks on and Rene was feeling queazy with the motion. It was very dodgy stepping between boats as they kept banging together at different heights. Two huge round pillars meant there was a 4ft gap between the last boat and the pier. There was no choice but to jump. One at a time, having thrown your bags first. It took ages, again the boat was moving up and down and in and out. Children were crying and one old lady was shaking with fear and had to be cajoled across. Noone was laughing. No one complained, except us to ourselves. Health and Safety is an alien notion and treated the same as no smoking signs, no one takes a blind bit of notice.

We made it across unscathed after throwing our rucksacks first. Passport checks were a breeze. It's getting on for 4pm so we decide to stay in Tawau.

A short walk from the dock is the Sanctuary Hotel, where a spacious, clean room with en-suite and TV is 50 ringgit. Bank, internet, food and Olympics on the TV (thank you malaysian TV) while away the evening.

Expenses - Rupiah: Boat Nunukan to Tawau 90000, departure tax 15000, water 2000
Expenses 7 Ringgit / pound: internet 2, accom 50, taxi 3, dinner 13, bus ticket Tawau to Lahad datu 26000
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