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Change of plans
Banda Naira (Indonesia) to Labuan Bajo (Indonesia), Apr-08-09 / Apr-26-09

It is around 03.00 in the morning when the KM Ciremai arrives in the harbour of Ambon. We spent the last seven hours in the cafeteria of this Pelni ship, to make the journey from the Banda Islands back to Ambon. We decided to travel economy class for this short trip and stayed awake all night. It seems that there are always some thieves on the Pelni ships, that will steal luggage of passengers if they get the opportunity. Especially western tourists are popular victims. But by staying awake, we didn’t give them a chance, so we eventually arrive in Ambon with all our luggage. After we leave the port area, we wander through a desolate Ambon on our way to the guesthouse where we also stayed the week before our visit to Banda. The owners guaranteed us that it is no problem to wake them at night, so that is what we do. At 04.00 am, we fall on our bed for a short night’s sleep.

Our next destination is Ternate in the northern part of the Moluccan Archipelago, but because the first ship leaves in almost a week from now, we have six more days to spend in friendly Ambon. The girls from Ambon that we met last week (see also the article: The girls from Ambon), get soon wind of the fact that we are back in town again. We agree to go to the beach together one of the coming days and one of the girls even invites us for a baptism ceremony of one of her nieces on Good Friday. We join them to the church and visit also the baptism party. It is a very special experience for us! The niece is around six years old and she is beautifully dressed in traditional Ambonese clothes.

Hawkers want to be the first ones on the ship
The day afterwards we go with the girls to one of the beaches on Ambon Island. The girls surprise us when they pick us up from the hotel. They managed to arrange a car from the father of one of the girls, which gives us the opportunity to visit also some other places on the island. One of the classmates has a driving license and will be our driver for today. The first destination is the little village of Waai. Here we visit a water basin in where eels live. The villagers believe that if it goes well with the eels, that it will also go well with the village. For that reason villagers take care of the animals and feed them once in a while with raw eggs. We also brought some eggs to feed the huge eels. We even get the opportunity to stroke them. We also visit a hot spring in the hills, but our main destination for today is Latuhalat beach. Most of the girls choose to stay on the beach to chat with each other, but two of them take the opportunity to go snorkelling with us. They both live near the sea, but never saw the colourful under water life before. They really love it. One of the girls is a good swimmer and enjoys the snorkelling very much. The other girl is not an experienced swimmer yet, but she is absolutely not afraid to go into the water. At the beginning we stay in the shallow water, but as soon as we see that she is doing very well, we also go to some of the deeper parts. Of course, we constantly keep a close eye on her. She also enjoys the snorkelling very much, but she especially enjoys the fact that she can swim. “I can swim, I can swim”, is what she yells several times. She is very proud of herself, and that is justified. We end the day with a dinner in Ambon and afterwards we have to say goodbye to the girls. We had a great time with them and we are definitely going to miss them.

We also spent the Easter days in Ambon and eventually take the boat to Ternate on April 14th. This is a great and beautiful boat journey on one of the Pelni ships (see also the article: Cruising in Indonesia). The only disappointment of the whole journey is the arrival in Ternate. It is raining cats and dogs and we are already soaking wet before we reach a taxi. The weather is really bad, and unfortunately, it doesn’t change a lot the following days. After several days of rain, we decide to leave Ternate as soon as possible. Our next planned destination is Manokwari on Papua (former Irian Jaya), but for an unknown reason we do not manage to get a ticket for one of the Pelni ships to this destination (see also the column: We got a phone call from Jakarta). Because it is not known yet when the boat services resume, we decide to change our plans. We are going to visit the Nusa Tenggara Islands (the group of islands on the eastern side of Bali) first and travel from there to Papua. It is a pity that we travelled all the way to Ternate, because the weather is bad and it is difficult and expensive to leave it again. With the wisdom of today, we should have taken the boat from Ambon to Papua. We go to a travel agency and buy two plane tickets from Ternate, via Manado and Makassar on Sulawesi, to Denpasar on Bali. From there we will start our journey to Nusa Tenggara. But on the evening before our departure, the two girls of the travel agency knock on the door of our hotel room to say that the flight of the following day is cancelled. But fortunately, they booked for us an alternative to Bali, via Manado and Jakarta. It will take around nine hours, but we will reach Bali on the same day is what they say. See also the article “in the clouds” for the experiences of that flight.

A woman is looking for food in the garbage in the harbour of Bima on Sumbawa

We spend our full day on Bali in Kuta. It is the most famous and infamous beach places on Bali. The streets of the town are filled with shirtless surf boys and beach babes in bikinis. On the beach we see western female tourist bathing topless and men are showing their carillon while changing their swimming trunks for shorts. Why are they doing this? Everybody still remembers the fuss a couple of years ago when the magazine Playboy wanted to introduce a purified Indonesian version of the magazine. This Indonesian version was nothing more than a catalogue of a western home shopping company in where ladies display underwear and bikinis. But even this purified version of the Playboy caused a lot of problems in Indonesia. And if you know that, why should you want to go to this country to show everything you have to the rest f the world? It is absolutely not consonant with the Indonesian way of enjoying beach life. Of course, they will accept it because they need the money, but it is absolutely no sign of any respect to the local people.

Bali is not the place to be for us and fortunately, we manage to buy tickets for the Pelni boat the following day to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. It is a journey of thirty hours and during the trip we have good views on the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa. However, we will start our trip through Nusa Tenggara on the island of Flores and our first destination will be the Komodo Islands, to see the majestic Komodo Dragon. It is half past three in the afternoon, so two-and-a-half hours more to go to Labuang Bajo.


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