November 18th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Typical shanty house

A big comfortable bed provided a good night’s sleep, tho’ it was very hot, +, as usual, Val attracted the attention of the biting insects – she’s very handy to have as a travel companion because of that.  We cooked our own breakfast of porridge, + then walked into town.  We planned to visit Bosnik, a small village 20 kms or so along the coast, mainly to get ourselves out of town for a while, + also, as the guide book suggests, to compare the village with those in PNG.  First, tho’, a couple of chores.  We visited Pelni, where we discovered a man speaking very good English, but who had no good news to give us.  And we tried the other shipping office, where we effectively got nowhere, once again.

Finding a bus was a problem – they left from the market, we discovered, but as we arrived, I made the mistake of momentarily appearing lost, + allowing someone to help me.  He immediately flagged down a bemo for us to charter, tho’ we tried to make it clear a charter was not what we wanted.  (A charter means that you’re engaging the driver + his vehicle effectively as a taxi, + consequently paying taxi rates.)  Unfortunately, Val’s faulty understanding of the language here played a part, + thinking we had arrived at an acceptable deal, we got in.  A few minutes conversation sufficed to inform us we had made a mistake, + that it was going to cost us 10 times as much as it should.  We got out pronto, of course, but had still travelled a fair way, so had to walk that back to the market.

 This time we made no mistake, but strode decisively to an old + battered bus, + asked the driver where we could find a bus to Bosnik.  We had come, 2nd time around, to exactly the right place – we had found the bus.  It was very battered, true, but it was cheap, + even had its own down-market equivalent of a stewardess, a lady wearing vaguely uniform-like clothes, who sold the tickets.  The ride was fairly interesting, especially the houses on stilts built on the mud-flats, + the cemeteries where most of the graves had corrugated iron roofs.  The bus took us all the way thro’ town – if that’s the word, it’s just one long road, with wood + tin houses on each side, + dropped us at the far end.  From there we strolled down to a pleasant beach, where 3 landing-craft were quietly rusting away.  We then found a park bench in a shady spot, + set about cutting each other’s hair.  I performed my usual feat of doing quite a respectable job on Val, then ruining it with a small but rather obvious goof – in this case, hacking a chunk out of the fringe.

Landing craft on the beach (honest!)

We then strolled thro’ town, stopping only for a doughnut from a stall.  Doughnuts are very popular here, + they’re really not at all bad.  At the far end of Bosnik (nearest to Biak) we sat down + waited for a bus.  The first one along was a bemo, so we took that,  but it turned out to be a mistake, being both a little more expensive, + a little less comfortable – I was perched on a narrow wooden bench.

We returned to our losmen for the afternoon – the siesta system seems a good idea here – + relaxed + whiled away the afternoon.  Headed for town at about 5, when things had not even started to pick up, but we weren’t planning on a late night.  Went into a hardware store to see if they had any firelighters for our stove,  but as none of the assistants spoke enough English to cope with such a technical matter, one of them rushed upstairs to bring down his sister.  This was a happy chance.  She had been a school-teacher, + her English was very good, so we chatted for quite a while.  Not just about firelighters, but food, travel, + other subjects as well.  Her name was Sinta, + she invited us to call in on her family in Denpasar when we pass through.  We ate this evening at a different warung, but it was Hobson’s choice here, bakso or nothing, so we had that.  Not quite as tasty as last night’s, I thought.

I walked Val home, but then returned to town to visit a local cinema.  They were showing a torrid-looking number called “City of Corruption”.  Quite an experience.  To obtain my ticket I had to thrust my money thro’ a tiny hole in the wall.  I couldn’t see the box-office at all, so had no idea of whether I would receive any return.  In fact, a ticket was pushed out, along with my change.  The cinema was a big concrete barn, with wooden, vaguely padded seats arranged in rows, + the picture on the screen scratched, flickering, + uncertain.  Plus the film was rubbish, having even the juicy parts censored, as I had been warned by a local youth.  It was also, despite its English title, in Japanese, with Indonesian subtitles, but I was able to follow the story, such as it was, easily enough.  One bizarre twist was an incredibly graphic display, only loosely worked into the story, of the effects of syphilis, complete with huge pictures of scarred + blistered sexual organs, + mutilated babies.  Weird.

A rather better day, first in that we had time to do a bit of exploring, and were also able to take it a bit easier, as we had no deadline to make. We are also becoming a little more used to the pace of life here; we are discovering that it is best to dial down your expectations as to what can be achieved in a day, and to take everything at a slower pace.

The cinema provided an unusual experience, but actually the sort of cultural encounter that I enjoy… provided it works out without too much danger or expense, of course – those two watchwords again.

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