Here is a sample chapter from our latest book
A MAN AND A WOMAN ON VACATION
(AN ADVENTURE) IN SUMATRA
Indonesia is so much more expansive than most travelers expect. Sumatra is the least traveled and explored of all parts of this diverse country. Off its northeastern coast, in the province of Aceh, there is a virtually undiscovered archipelago -- Pulau Banyak. It has 99 separate islands; some inhabited, most not. The main island is Balai island and 2,000 of the 4200 total area population resides here. There are accommodations for visitors, fishermen and other islanders. Open markets have provisions according to the unpredictable arrival of boats from Sibolga and Singkil. There are a few restaurants. The population is conservative and predominantly Muslim. Dress codes for both the men and women are adhered to strictly and the arriving visitors are expected to comply. During Ramadan, the high holiday for Muslims wherein a month of fasting from dawn to dusk is observed, food is still served to the visitors but eating is not permitted in public places.
There are few, if any time constraints in this culture. A watch is of little use and a calendar even has a questionable place in the people's daily reality. This can frustrate a traveler's schedule. Boats come and go with increasing regularity as the economy and tourism grow, but this is not a place to come to with a need to get in and out for a quick dose of cross-cultural gratification. Even those with a fair understanding of "manana" in Mexico and Central America will be challenged by attempts to figure out the best time to come and go. The few resorts that are currently in place are run by gentle and kind-spirited people who do not however have much contact with the "outside world". Patience with speaking, being understood, figuring out when meals get served and how not to antagonize your host will require patience.
You do not go to Pulau Banyak for sophisticated service and accommodation. You do go for the most beautiful beaches, blue water, light jungle and peace and quiet that is available on the planet. Locals can be willing to help transport you between the islands. You can rise with the sun and go to sleep with the arrival of darkness unless you bring flashlights and headlamps. Hosts will offer oil lamps and candles occasionally and on a few of the islands there are generators that run for a few hours at night. Palembak Besar is one of the islands with a target on the growth of tourism. There are three resorts with varying degrees of comfort in the accommodations. The Nias people are the inhabitants of this island -- there are about 15 huts inhabited by the families. There are no schools or health facilities and the daily life is simple. Their local economy is sustained by fishing. Snorkeling is almost non-existent on this island (there is a small patch of live coral with interesting fish life just off the Point). Use of the Chinese bombing-technique for fishing has obliterated all the other reef life around this particular island, but swimming is endless and the water is calm and clear. Other of the islands provide interest -- Palembak Kecil and Gosong Sianji are good day trips for snorkeling. One of the islands supports a growing turtle population. A TRAVELERS HANDBOOK TO ACEH by Mahmud Bangkaru details much of the information that is available about these islands for anyone interested in spending time there.
REFLECTIONS FROM A "VACATION" WITHIN THE TRAVEL
The morning is soft and cool and mostly grays. The turquoise water in front of the bungalow is lapping gently against a sandy bank of palms that is eroding slowly so that eventually our little row of four bungalows will stand in water, but not before we have to leave. It began raining about 5AM this morning and the coolness seems like it will be with us for most of the day. It is a pleasant relief from the intensity of the sun's warmth at the distance of only 2 degrees latitude from the equator.
I can see my reflection in the screen of the computer and realize that it has been a couple of weeks since I have seen myself in a true mirror. We have become comfortable with a wardrobe of assorted pieces of clothing that create a fashion statement unique to this sort of travel and climate and a number of other variables. Comfort is the ultimate directive and we have several expressions of that modality. Today's is the long soft pants - Peter's are blends of blue and white rayon with an occasional coffee stain. Mine are turquoise and cream batik, purchased after bargaining a shopkeeper down to $4. They are yet to be stained with some unremovable substance I am sure to spill on myself. Both are soft tied at the waist. The sleeveless tops are the perfect compliment for our lounging in the privacy of our own space and if the coolness persists, we may need our flannel shirts - sporty plaids of the Walmart variety. In the event that company comes along we will find something with sleeves that will express our sense of respectful modesty in the absence of words that could convey it, if we only knew the right ones to use.
Ever since we began this journey at the airport in San Antonio, Texas, and first began trying to figure out what time it would be when we got where we were going, I have been unable to really get a handle on exactly what time it is. I am comfortable enough knowing that as the morning begins for me, it is evening where my children are. Do I need to know more than that? I am not hungry and I slept well...it must be time for me to be sitting here writing since it feels so good. And as for what the date might be, Peter's watch is somewhere with that information and the alarm on his computer is set to tell us a few days before our visa in Indonesia is supposed to end.
We have finally moved into our own small bungalow here on the island of Palembak Besar, in the complex known as Bina Jaya. There are four separate bungalows spaced about 20 ft apart along a docile part of the Indian Ocean. 98 other islands form the complete archipelago known as Pulau Banyak.
Only three of them are inhabited. The largest one has been made a National Preserve and a project for reclamation of turtles is being carried out by volunteers there. Perhaps 20 people are the whole population on this particular island where we are staying, all of them families of fishermen who dry their catch patiently and take their accumulated stores on to Balai or Singkil for sale. The woman who brought us our lantern last evening before sunset, is the mother of three children. I have difficulty imagining her life and the nature of her aspirations. This level of simplicity is as awesome to my understanding as the complexity of my needs must be for her. What does she imagine about these people who come to the island with boxes of food and bags of "stuff," to swim in the sea or sit on the porch of a bungalow and stare off into the horizon. Since there are almost no words we have in common to share our perspectives, we sit together on the porch whenever one of them wanders down in their curiosity. We smile, breaking the silence occasionally with a few words like "bagus"(beautiful), "baik" (nice) depending on which of us feels most compelled to comment. These words, in the wake of an exchange of names, eventually yields to a silence with which I am becoming more and more comfortable. Eventually, the given visitor leaves with a smile and a wave - "terimah kasih"(thanks), or "selamat tingall"(a blessing on your stay).
Between the Bina Jaya bungalows, a set of pathways has been created and maintained. The garden areas are in various states of cultivation and manicure. The coconut palms dominate the landscape all around us and rustle gently in the breeze. The gray that started the day has given way to a promise of sun as the sky clears and the heat is increasing proportionately. Siesta here is a must sometime between 2pm and 4pm at least. The intense heat during that time of day makes breathing laborious and typing is effort enough to break a sweat. Peter calculated our number of available days remaining in the trip and as with all our plans, the reality of our "plan" will follow the unfolding of days and the "if's" they present. It seems like we will be here for at least two weeks, indulging in the quiet, with time to read, write and stare, in between sleeping, eating and snorkeling. (It seems like a rather extensive list of activities to me right at the moment.)
Peter left for a short snorkel and wore his shirt to kill 2 birds with one stone - prevent sunburn AND rinse the shirt! I have repositioned my chair in response to the flourish of activity and industry. Actually, he has been quite industrious. He awoke trying to figure out a way to collect the sweet rainwater hoping to provide an alternative to filtering our plain drinking water from the well. It is brackish and the viral guard in the pump still leaves a taste of iodine. It is ok to cook with, but leaves something to be desired in the continuous swigging one needs to do during the day. While he did not get to the final stages of the water collection operation, he did get his brand new machete into working order and added a long stick to the handle that allowed him to get us three green coconuts for their sweet milk. He also washed the morning dishes that resulted from my single household-related effort - preparation of eggs and potatoes in the kitchen that is also part of the Bina Jaya resort.
If the bungalows were full, a cook would be on hand for preparation of the "fixed menu" but since Peter and I are the only inhabitants and are quite willing to cook for ourselves, we have been given the key to the kitchen. An odd assortment of pots and two kerosene burning stoves comprise the preparation area. Most local cooking is done in a wok and I have 2 here, along with a rice pot, a straw steamer and plate service for 20, just in case we have guests.
LATER: We went down to the Point for dinner and mostly to get bottled water since Peter seems to be responding poorly to the filtered well water. The walk was vigorous with the rising tide having taken away most of the beach. Mawan was happy to see us arrive. At Michelle's suggestion they had killed the oldest, most aggressive free-ranging duck. He was exuberant about providing his guests with such a treat and delightfully suggested that we could have ours "spiced" or "plain". "Spiced" equals VERY hot chilies so we declined and went in favor of "plain". Once again, I allowed my own thinking to create expectations. Silly me. I remembered my own recipe for Duck a l'Orange and a succulently prepared duck in plum sauce I had once eaten in a restaurant in San Francisco. We got our warm cokes and went up to the beach telling them to call us whenever dinner was ready.
When Dr Love shyly called us, I went to pick up the dinners for me and Peter. There, in two separate melmac bowls, were piles of dry, dark plain duck meat that had been cut the size of small turds. I envied the spicy ones with their red coloration and appearance of moisture even though I could not have tasted them without removing the first 3 layers of skin from my mouth and tongue. The steamed rice had been well prepared and Mawan was proud of a cooked cabbage and egg combination he had made. I ate 3 pieces of the duck before leaving my remains to Peter. The rice filled part of the emptiness of my stomach that had originally been open for a big serving of Nase Gohreng (fried rice with vegetables and an egg the standard menu item). The cabbage was something I could eat, but Peter could not. The conversation and laughter with Michelle and Jason filled other spaces, but as we returned home in the dark, it became clear that dinner had been more ideation than reality.
Peter and I were both thoughtful and tired as we sat back on the bungalow's porch. We played backgammon to pass a little time and finally surrendered to the fatigue and went to bed. Once in bed however, the half-full condition in my stomach gave way to heartburn and I finally got back up and went to the "cookie" can knowing that if I ate at least a few, the acid would reduce itself. Back in bed, I read until my headlamp went out and fell asleep to a soft, puffy rhythm Peter's breathing had taken on. My dreams were of a friend's mother from high school who had made a huge carrot cake with thick, moist cream cheese frosting slathered on top, which she was keeping in her refrigerator to give just to me. By the time I awakened I had dreamily accumulated two more very delectable dessert items and was trying to figure out a way to share them with the "poor". Some parts of a vacation seem to be designed especially to remind one of the wonderfulness of the luxuries and conveniences that have been left at home in the name of adventure!
And, by the way, along with a few other night images that filled the space between reading and dreaming, I spent time thinking about the fact that I am afraid of catching malaria and I am also afraid that when I walk along the water's edge at night the little ghost crabs will bite my feet. It's the small things that creep into those thoughts in the dark! That time when you really get to come to grips with your true fears!!
THE SECOND FOOD TRIP TO BALAI
The day started like any other. Life at Bina Jaya had finally settled down, thank heaven, into a semi-predictable routine. Kim and I had said to each other that this was what made all of the hard travel worth it. Sure there was adventure, but Bina Jaya was the pot of gold at the end of the adventure. Here we were able to form a safe comfortable secure routine in a truly magnificent paradise somewhere near the end of the earth.
So here it was that we had awoken early. I fixed the morning coffee, and we sat and read on the porch overlooking the calm Indian Ocean. Our view of the other islands, sitting way off on the horizon, was framed by the coconut palms that dotted the coastline. They also shaded our little one room bungalow from the morning sun. After a leisurely morning we moved to the back of the property, where the kitchen building was located. It was as empty as the other three bungalows were. We set up our little backpacking stove on one of the tables and Kim made us a delicious meal of banana pancakes. As we ate them she said to me, "You know, we are getting low on fresh fruits and vegetables."
"But I just went to the store last week! Could we have eaten everything already?" I whined.
"No, we still have food. I just mean that we should be thinking about (she emphasized the word "thinking") our next food run."
I didn't want to think about it. After the last trip with Jason I thought we had enough food to last at least two weeks. We sat in silence for the rest of the meal. And so it was that we passed the next few days. A pleasant routine taking place, but with the ever present thought of another town trip looming overhead -- threatening to break the calm. Then Jason and Michelle walked up the beach to bring us the rest of their food. They were leaving on the boat which was going to pick them up at 3:00PM at the Point.
"You think that we could get a ride to Balai?" I asked all the while trying to eye the food that they left so casually on the porch.
They thought that there would be room, because we were supposed to be going on Mawan's "big boat." "If I were you I would get there early. You know how the Indonesian 'rubber time' works" Michelle said.
I did know. I looked at my watch. It was already noon. Let's see, to get there by two, and there's a 40 minute walk up the beach, we would have to leave in about an hour. Time to get ready to go. So we said good-bye to them and started our preparations to walk up to the Point. We were going to travel as light as we could, yet we still needed things to entertain us if the wait was long. We each brought a book, rain gear, our passports and of course money. I knew from our previous trip that small denominations were the only thing we could use, as no one usually had change and there was not a bank for 500 miles. So we counted our 100, 500 and 1,000's rupiah notes into little piles. Satisfied that we had enough, we closed up the house, buried the computers in a plastic bag in the sand next to a coconut tree, and walked off down the beach toward the Point.
The walk was spectacular. Just what you would expect from a south sea tropical island. Thankfully there was a cloud cover, but there still was enough light to give the forest canopy a bright pastel green glow. The beach spread out in front us like a slanted white carpet on which an occasional coconut tree had been blown over. As we stepped over them I thought that they looked like a huge magical Pic-Up-Stix game.
When we arrived at the Point we found everyone packed and ready to go. "When are we leaving?", I asked Jason.
"Don't rightly know. I can't get a straight answer out of Mawan."
I said that I would go see what was happening. I walked back to the kitchen area. There was Mawan cooking on the wok. "Kim and I would like to go to Balai with you. OK?"
He said he thought it would be better if we went tomorrow with a charter. Dr. Love could arrange it. His boat might not come back for days he explained, "Better you go charter. Dr. Love fix. You wait. I tell you, OK?"
I thought about it for a second and said, "OK. And while we are waiting for you to do your thing, could we get something to eat?"
From the look on his face I could see that I had pushed my inquiries one step too far. I asked for a couple of cokes. He said "No Coke, only Sprite." Another shitty lunch, I thought to myself. Instead of saying it out loud I just reminded him that we would wait for him to find out something. When he did, could he please just let us know.
For the next 3 hours, we sat around on the beach, talked with Jason and Michelle. I spent some time talking to a Greek guy who was nice enough to loan me his old travel guide to Malaysia. He said he was interested in going on our charter tomorrow, and I said great. Everyone was getting antsy to go, but no movement had been made to get the "big boat" ready. I could still see it up the beach. It was low tide. The blue and red wooden boat laid on it's side, leaning at about a 45 degree angle. I walked back to the kitchen to see what was going on. Mawan, Dr. Love and three other islanders were just sitting around eating what looked like a pretty nice meal. I remembered that Jason had said that Mawan had told him that there was no food for breakfast this morning. Those sure look an awful lot like pancakes I thought to myself. "Hey, Mawan, any word on my charter for tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow at 10 in morning. Dr. Love fix. Pick you up at Bina Jaya. OK?
"OK, tomorrow at 10 o'clock. At Bina Jaya."
"What about 'big boat'? When will it leave? Today?"
"At high tide. Maybe one more hour?"
I went back, and told everyone what I had seen. Kim and Michelle said that they were starved and were going to go back to the kitchen to get Mawan to make us something to eat. But when they came back 10 minutes later with only four Sprites I knew the mission had not succeeded.
Kim and I walked back up the beach to Bina Jaya, secure in the knowledge that we had started a plan in motion. A plan that would eventually lead to groceries. We hoped! The walk was even more lovely and we both kept repeating over and over just how lucky we were to have found an island such as this one.
The next morning we awoke at the crack of dawn to make preparations for our trip to town. We were pretty much ready, having left our packs packed from yesterday. We found that the getting ready was really more mental. So we relaxed on our porch, watched the sea, and awaited the arrival of our charter. Would it come early? Would it come late? Would it come at all? These are the questions we pondered out loud to each other.
When 11AM came and went, we sprung into action. We closed the house, reburied the computers, and headed up the beach toward the Point. Once again we were off on an adventure. One we hoped this time would end in food. About half way there we met Dr. Love. He was walking on the beach. I knew something was happening because he had put on the same traveling clothes that he had on for our last trip to Balai, a pair of jeans and a heavy T-shirt.
"Boat no come, Fadder. I go. Find other boat. You go Point. Wait. I come wid boat."
"When," was all I could think to say.
"Soon," he replied as he walked off in the direction that we had just come from.
At the Point we met the Greek guy. He couldn't figure out what was happening either, so I filled him in on what few details I knew. Then we settled in for the wait. No one was there except a couple of other tourists, and there was - surprise!, surprise! - nothing to eat in the kitchen. Jason had paid Mawan the rent and food money he owed, so I guess Mawan had decided to go with them to Balai last night leaving the three tourists to spend another day without food. We had brought crackers, coconut and some marquisas. We grabbed one of the last Sprites and went to the beach to wait.
By about 12:30 I could hear the distant drone of a diesel motor, and a small boat appeared on the horizon. By 1pm a very little, very thin dugout arrived at the beach with Dr. Love. The young boy who collected coconuts on the property behind Bina Jaya was piloting the boat. He was maybe 15 on a good day. The Greek guy showed up at the beach. As he was leaving the island for good, he carried his two very large bags. Add the five of us and we had a good load. We carefully made our way into the canoe, and distributed ourselves as best we could. Kim wound up having to sit on the Greek guys backpack - other than that I thought that we fit quite nicely. The ride was bumpier than I imagined it would be. For the past two days it had rained. I guess the storms had given the water a slight roll, so up and down we rode over each wave. Our captain, in addition to steering the boat, had to simultaneously bail the ever collecting water. All of the weight probably didn't help either. Since we were really cramped, everyone kept changing positions a lot. I know in my case, the confinement started to do a number on my back, so that I shifted uncomfortably with everyone else. Each time we moved the boat threatened to capsize. Fortunately, our dugout had two outriggers for stability and they seemed to work quite well.
We took a very circuitous route. The same thing had happened the last time we went to Balai. We would zig very far out of our way, only to zag back at very sharp angle. It was almost like we were on a sailboat trying for some tactical maneuvers. At first I thought it was to avoid the coral heads, but later I thought it was more because they believed we would think we were getting a good value for our money if the trip lasted longer. It wasn't! Only Dr. Love and the young boy stayed in one position throughout the journey. The rest of us foreigners continued to fidget.
When we arrived in Balai, we pulled up along side Mawan's "big boat". He exchanged a few words with Dr. Love, and then turned to me and said that he was just getting ready to go back to the Point and we should go with him. He said that there might be a storm brewing and he thought we would be safer than in the little, overloaded canoe. I had to agree with him, but I said we had already paid for the charter. He said he wouldn't charge us full price, he would give us a deal off the usual 5,000 rupiahs. And he added in his broken English that our charter would take us from the Point to Bina Jaya when we returned.
"OK," I said wiping the sweat from my face, "we will see you in about 2 or 3 hours. We have some shopping to do."
"No! We all ready to leave now. You come now!"
"Oh no!, I just chartered a boat to buy food. We're all out of food."
There was a heavy-set Italian guy on board the boat. Everyone seemed to really enjoy his company. In fact I saw Mawan fawning over him like a little school girl. Kim recognized him from Pulau Palambak. "He's the cook's lover she reminded me." Then I spotted the cook inside the cabin of the boat. Apparently he was going to come back. I looked over at him and he gave me a kind of girlish wave. He winked at me. I winked back and waved. "He likes you," Kim whispered in my ear.
"Hey, you always want to be on the good side of the cook in a place like this."
Mawan was vehement in his insistence that we leave right now. I thought to myself just how ridiculous it would be to return without food, and I was about to tell him so when the Italian guy blurted out, "It's OK. We can wait an hour while they shop."
This seemed to placate Mawan who repeated, "One hour, but hurry!" And, to make sure we did, he sent Dr. Love along with us. Actually this turned out to be a pretty good thing. All we had to do was tell him that we wanted "benzin" for our stove and off we went to exactly the right shop. I think we even paid all of the right prices for everything else because he seemed to be bargaining for us too.
After we had been walking for a while, I noticed that most of the tables out front had nothing or very little in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables. I asked the Doctor and he replied that the boat from Singkil would not come with fresh food until tomorrow." I thought to myself, "Then why the fuck did he let us come today instead of tomorrow? But I just looked at Kim and shrugged my shoulders. I whispered to her that our trip was indeed taking us for a ride this time and she laughed.
We finished our shopping as best we could and in slightly less than an hour we found ourselves back on the "big boat." Mawan pushed off almost immediately. Dr. Love and the boy rode along side in the small canoe. The two boats moved side by side till we got some distance away from Balai. Then they began to play a type of tame, slow "chicken" with each other. The Doctor kept taking sips from some large Tupperware bottle, which I assumed was water. About a half hour into the journey, Dr. Love stood up on the bow of the unsteady boat, took off his shirt and began to wave it over his head all the while shouting something we could not hear. It was then that we speculated there might be something other than water in the jug.
Peacefully we cruised out among the chain of tropical islands. The hum of the motor, the gentle bobbing of the boat and the muted drone of languages that were unintelligible, put Kim and I into a restful stupor. The canoe had easily outdistanced us and was almost out of sight. We could see the outline of Pulau Palambak forming on the horizon as the sun continued to set lower behind it. It was now about 5:00PM and some of the afternoon's heat had begun to subside, helped by the breeze that the forward movement of the boat created for our overheated bodies.
Then the motor sputtered and came to a complete stop. And so did we. There was some yelling going on as Mawan manually worked the bilge pump. Water squirted out of the tube with each stroke. At first I thought maybe we had just flooded the engine. When heard the clanging of tools being used, I knew we were in for a wait. Storm clouds loomed on the horizon edging closer to our helpless boat. They tried to start the engine but it did little more than tiredly turn over a couple times before they quit and they began clanging on the engine again. That's exactly what it sounded like to me. I didn't go look, but it sounded like there was a lot more banging of wrenches on metal than there was twisting and turning of nuts and bolts going on.
In spite of it, I really didn't seem to care at all what happened. The ocean, the sky, being stranded out at sea had a very calming effect on my psyche. At first, as the boat began to rock and roll, I worried about Kim. She has a tendency to get seasick, but when I asked her she said that she had already taken a second Dramamine and she felt tired but otherwise great. I looked around at the rest of the passengers. The Italian guy was up front. Mawan had taken this opportunity to give him a back rub. He was grinning broadly. The cook came out to see what was happening to his boyfriend. He jumped and danced around squealing something in Bahasa Indonesian that we didn't understand, but then it was more fun to just speculate. The clanking, and unsuccessful starts of the engine continued.
By this time the small canoe with the Doctor and the boy noticed that we had stopped. They had almost reached the island. I could see them turn around and head back in our direction. When they pulled up alongside I could see that both of their eyes were bloodshot and they seemed to be having a hard time keeping their balance on the rolling sea. Everyone was very animated in their gestures and conversation. Mawan opened up a bag of dry sugar cookies and passed them around to everyone. He threw them over to the canoe and then shouted for them to send over the plastic jug. He caught it and took a big swig before offering it all around to the passengers and crew. The crew all partook. Just Kim and the Italian guy refused. I thought about it and said, "What the hell! I'm on vacation." I took a couple of deep swigs. It was home-made banana whiskey! Alcohol is illegal in this orthodox Muslim part of Indonesia. It had a nice harsh kick to it, followed by the pleasant taste of ripe bananas. I liked it and almost immediately it made my head swim a little. I was more than a little sad to see it get passed back to the canoe.
It became evident to me that the engine was not going to ever be fixed by the two boys in the engine room as I began to hear their wrench-pounding start to take on a basic reggae rhythm. As a joke Mawan tossed the canoe our bow line and told them to tow us in. Every one had a good laugh over this one. This was the largest boat in these parts. A canoe towing a boat dozens of times larger??? But as the reality of our situation started to sink in along with the sun, and the storm clouds continued their trek across the open water toward us, the possibility seemed more concretely worth a try.
It wasn't like there was a marine patrol that was going to come along and save us. So the little dugout started it's engine. It sounded like a toy. As the rope tightened I could see the propeller come out of the sea. It was not much bigger than my fist. No wonder, we always moved so slow! The little boat bucked and chugged and made a rapid gurgling sound each time the propeller lifted completely out of the water. Eventually I could feel us making some headway. We all talked among ourselves and estimated that it would take at least an hour more till we reached shore. Then life settled down into an even more relaxed state. Hey, it was out of our hands! All we could do was hang on and enjoy the ride. One of the crew turned on a cassette player and the sound of some obscure Indonesian Rock n' Roller drifted around the deck. I said out loud to no one in particular that it was really unfortunate that our motor broke with us out to sea, but it was really fortunate that Kim and I had chartered our little tugboat. Anyway, I added, people pay a lot of money just to lounge about like this on the open sea.
It took a little more than an hour to reach the beach in front to the Point. We unloaded all of our gear onto the beach, and waited until all of the activity settled down. Our "tugboat" took the Italian guy over to PAP's first. Apparently he had had a fight with the cook, as they were now not talking to each other. The cook walked off the beach with a huff, kicking up the sand with his toes as he did.
Dr. Love sat a short distance away from us. I think he felt somehow responsible for our predicament. We had an interesting conversation with him about the life and politics of the islands. The sun had already set by the time the canoe returned for us. We loaded everything in and headed out across the bay to Bina Jaya. The boy's eyes were still glazed over from the banana whiskey. He raced us through the water, kicking up large waves which splashed in and soaked us all. I think he did it partly to get us home before dark, but partly for the pure joy and exhilaration of it. I think he was feeling pretty proud of himself, having saved the "big boat" from the very brink of disaster.
Soaked to the skin we unloaded our stuff on the beach. I gave him an extra 5,000 Rupias. He indicated it was too much, but I couldn't thank him enough. I bowed many times while repeating, "Terima kashi! Terima kashi!" Back on our porch it was dark as we stripped off our wet clothes and sat down. We looked at the soaked cardboard box of food. It didn't contain a single thing that we could eat quickly, so we brought out the last of our peanut butter and jelly and put it on sugared soda crackers. We washed it down with the warm Sprite we had been hoarding for just such a special occasion. Exhausted, but contented, we made our way to bed. As we climbed under the mosquito netting, Kim said to me, "Peter, these shopping trips are murder!"
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Thanks, Kim and Peter (about the authors)
Some other great travel links:
Lonely Planet on-line at one time we were hoping they were going to publish our book, but alas, they passed.