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In the clouds
Pelni boat from Denpasar to Labuang Bajo (Indonesia), April 25th 2009

Today is a day that we are mainly going to spend in the clouds. It is the day that we are travelling from Ternate in the northern part of the Moluccas, to the small holiday island of Bali. There are no direct flights between these two destinations, which means that we are going to travel this stretch by using three flights: first from Ternate to Manado in north Sulawesi, than from Manado to the capital city of Jakarta, and finally from Jakarta to Denpasar in Bali. The first flight, which only takes thirty minutes, is scheduled for twelve o’clock noon. We take an Ojek (motorcycle taxi) from the centre of Kota Ternate to the airport, which is located just outside town.

When we arrive at the airport, we notice that it is a small and typical regional airport. The building is small and the equipment that they use is outdated. Every airline that serves ternate has its own wooden counter and make use of old pairs of scales to see how many kilograms the passengers want to take. We are quite early, which gives us the opportunity to see how the airport is organised, if you can speak about organisation is this situation. The man who operates the x-ray machine is most of the time absorbed in his newspaper, resulting in many passengers and their luggage entering the airport building without being checked. It is also a chaos at the check in counters. People are not queuing, but are trying to find a way to the front, using their luggage as crowbar. They make their arms as long as possible, to put their ticket as close as possible near the person who handles the check in. The real queue jumpers are the persons who do not embarrass themselves for the fact that they remove the ticket of somebody else in favour of their own ticket. Many of the diehard queue jumpers are people who work for the government and wear a uniform. They use their position to be served first, without being ashamed for that. And they don’t do it only at the airports; you will see it also happen at banks, post offices and even super markets. After check in, the luggage is equipped with a destination tag and thrown through a trapdoor. Guys at the tarmac pick up the bags and throw them in an old truck that will eventually take them to the right plane. At least, that is what we hope.

View on the town of Ternate in the northerns part of the Moluccas

By the way, we are not convinced that we will reach our end destination Bali today. But fortunately, Lion Air is. They issued three plane tickets with minimal transit times. We have a transit time of forty minutes in Manado, and only twenty-five minutes in Jakarta. And if we manage to make the transits successfully, what about our backpacks? Do they make it to Bali today? We look again at each other and decide that we are not convinced. It would be a huge achievement of Lion Air if they could manage this with the present organisation. We open our bags again to get the most essential things out, and put them in our cabin luggage. It concerns power supplies for the computer and camera’s, and tokens of the banks. It would be a small disaster if we would lose these. After that we check in and notice with pain in our hearts that our backpacks disappear in the hold of an old truck. We hope that we will see them again soon.

Our first flight departs with a delay of almost thirty minutes. This means that our transit time in Manado is cut back from forty minutes to only ten minutes. But when we arrive in Manado, we see that there is no other aircraft on the tarmac yet. It turns out that the plane that brought us from Ternate to Manado is the same aircraft as the one that is going to take us to Jakarta. And that is great, because it means that our luggage does not have to be transferred from one plane to another. And that means less chance that our luggage will get lost. Let’s hope that nobody removes the luggage from the aircraft. We have to leave the aircraft and as soon as we enter the airport building, we get new boarding passes for the journey to Jakarta. We have to go through the security procedures again before we can embark the plane again. We catch up with our delay a little bit, which means that our planned arrival time in Jakarta is five minutes before the plane to Denpasar is scheduled to leave. The flight will take three hours.

Kuta Beach on Bali
The flight to Jakarta takes us over the Indonesian part of Borneo, named Kalimantan. It is not difficult to see, even from the huge altitude and through the small windows, that most of Kalimantan is deforested. The vast areas of forest are disappeared. What remains are small pockets of forest in a predominantly agricultural landscape. We heard already several times from other travellers, that for this reason, it is not recommended anymore to travel to Kalimantan. We are now convinced. At 3.20 pm, we arrive on the Soekarno-Hatta airport of Jakarta and as soon as we can, we hasten ourselves to the transit counter of Lion Air to see if we missed our connection to Bali. But we are lucky, the flight is delayed and we are definitely going to make it to Denpasar today. Relieved, we take a seat in the waiting room in anticipation of the flight. Eventually, it appears that the flight is delayed for almost two and a half hours. But we are not really sad about that, because it means that also our luggage will probably make it to Bali today.

At 7.30 in the evening we finally arrive on the airport of Denpasar. After a long an tiring day, we stroll to the baggage claim area to collect our backpacks. After half an hour of waiting, everybody of our flight got their baggage already, with the exception of us and one other guy. “That’s not good”, is what we say to each other. We wait for a couple of minutes more, but as soon as the baggage conveyor stops, we know that our backpacks stranded somewhere between Ternate and Denpasar. We are helped decently at the Lost and Found counter and fill in some related forms. Somewhat disillusioned we take an overcharged airport taxi to Kuta, located just a few kilometres from the airport. We eat a fat meal at the local McDonald’s and go back to the hotel afterwards, for a restless night’s sleep. However, just before eight o’clock on the following morning, we got a telephone call from Lion Air. Our bags finally made it to Bali. We are back in business again!

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