First Encounters in Indonesia

After leaving our beloved islands of Papua New Guinea on June 15, we did a passage of 625 miles and stopped in Manokwari, which is on the north coast of Papua, Indonesia, to enter into the country - customs, immigration, etc., and to get cash and fuel and provisions. Since the banks could not process a single large transaction, we resorted to the ATM's. $100 US gets you one million rupiah (easy to be a millionaire here!), but it takes 5 transactions each day and many days to get enough cash to buy fuel. The card fraud department didn't like that at all! We also tried to exchange US currency and were given the cold shoulder. Apparently the local banks had been burned with counterfeit bills a few years ago, and they refused ours, insisting that they will take only those bills dated 2003/4/5.

Getting fuel was another exercise in patience. The local docks were either too rickety or too shallow to approach. We finally made arrangements to use the Navy's dock around the corner (the fuel truck owner is an officer). Halfway thought the transfer, the 'commandant' came down and chased the truck and us away. Maybe the officer did not give him a cut! Corruption is away of life here. If you want a decent job, you must 'pay' for it! Finally, got the rest of the fuel at high tide the next day a the local dock, after some of the local fishing boats moved to make room for us.

We went shopping and got provisions and lots of little gifts for Jim's birthday (July 24). Had a good time with the people, all very friendly. Dylan and Vicki are trying to learn Bahasa Indonesia. We have got the greetings memorized, and this makes the locals very happy. I (Vicki) am studying away but do not have a proper instruction book. I have several phrase books and two very poorly done dictionaries (words just completely missing and a good 15% of the English words are misspelled!). That's okay; I always like a puzzle and I have figured out some of the ways they make new words out of others, adding prefixes and suffixes. That's why you can't find many words in the dictionary!

Indonesia is so very different from the islands of Papua New Guinea that we have been visiting the last 5 months. We are back in the material world. There are plenty of stores and stalls with 'things' - cheap CD's and watches, anything made of plastic, toiletries, office supplies, beads, noodles, fabric, umbrellas, toys, biscuits and so on. The open market has plenty of produce and lots of freshly caught fish. The roads are busy with the buzzing of motor bikes and bemos (10 cents for a ride to the other side of town), cars and trucks. But the sidewalks are hazardous, with huge gapping holes where the pavement has collapsed into the gutter underneath and no fence next to the larger gutters to the side. And I have never seen so much detritus - trash, garbage, litter, junk, debris - everywhere. The shoreline of the harbor is thick with it, and as the tide goes out, it exposes the stuff that has sunk as well as the stuff that used to be floating. Then the tide comes back in and the floaters start swimming again.

As I said, the people are all very friendly; everyone wants to shake our hands. And when we start taking pictures, they come up and ask to have their picture taken. The children are just as sweet as elsewhere, loving it when I bring out the bubbles, but there are MANY of them, so I have not been able to give out candy (lollies) for fear of being overrun! The people wear decent clothes, as opposed to our Papua New Guinea villagers, who have no way to buy good clothes and wear what they have til they have disintegrated.

Because we have not really visited any village areas, this is not a fair depiction of Indonesia. However, Indonesia is a HUGE nation, with tremendous ethnic diversity. Unfortunately, we will not be focusing on the remote areas as we did in PNG. There is no straight line through this country; also, it lacks the welcoming anchorages that we are accustomed to. So on we go, and someday soon we expect to see another cruising boat. Last one we saw was in Gizo, Solomon Islands, about six months ago! But we all three concur. Our time in Papua New Guinea's outer islands was the best time we have ever had!

On July 1 Dylan started to feel ill. Soon it became clear that he was suffering from a malaria attack. We started treatment immediately (arthemeter - a Chinese herb that has become the best cure available). He had a really rough go the first night - high fever, chills, his mind got a bit bent. He couldn't talk straight either. The second night he was able to sleep, and then he began to improve. He was exhausted for many days, but has finally returned to his normal, energetic self.