November 20th 1983

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Fort Rotterdam

We passed a remarkably comfortable night, all things considered, but we couldn’t wait to get out of the place, so immediately after breakfast we packed our bags, paid our bill, + left.  We were held up briefly by a military parade along our street.  I was particularly amazed to see that the bass drummer in the band was wearing a frogman’s outfit, wetsuit + all (tho’ fortunately for him without flippers.)  Extraordinary.  There was some haggling with a group of becak drivers, but as they wouldn’t drop their price to a reasonable level, (not that one ever knows for sure) we shouldered our bags + walked.  It really wasn’t too far.  We were moving to the Hotel Ramayana which was by all accounts a little more expensive but much more pleasant, + had the added advantage of being close to the offices of Liman Express, the bus we were taking up to Tana Toraja, the attractive area north of UP.  We called in at this office, as we happened to be on that side of the road, + the guy there, mistaking Val’s general request for a positive booking, duly booked us in for tomorrow’s 7 am trip.  Ah well, we thought, + resigned ourselves to the fait accompli.

Then across to the Ramayana, which looked too good to be true.  We walked in to a spotlessly clean + neat foyer, fully expecting to be looked at with scorn,  but no, we were beckoned to the desk, + there it was in black + white, R7000, just as we had been told.  By any standards it would be an entirely acceptable hotel – compared to the Alaska, we were in paradise.  Our room was beautifully clean, + tho’, like last night, the attached bathroom held a Spartan toilet with water + dipper to flush it, in this case the toilet was clean, the room was clean, + there was a shower.

We set off immediately for town once again, obtaining first from the pleasant guy at the reception desk some info + a small map.  We then caught the bemo to town + strolled down towards the docks.  There were a number of small shops advertising on a blackboard the various ships sailing around Indonesia for the next week or so, + it seemed (after some initial confusion), that we could get one on the 24th, or Dec 1st, giving us some choice about how much time to spend in Tana Toraja.

We strolled around next to Fort Rotterdam, the old Dutch fort which is now being re-fitted + restored.  It was quite impressive, + also houses a small but interesting museum, well laid-out.  It was too hot to linger tho’, so we found ourselves a becak driver willing to take us out to Paotare, the fishing village a little way north of the town, + also the centre for the old Makassar schooners still in operation (UP’s old name was Makassar.)  A long + very bumpy ride, + tho’ Paotere was interesting, it also stank.  We asked a couple of people about the possibility of a schooner to Surubaya, in Java, + tho’ one bloke seemed to think there might be one, once again the language barrier came down to prevent a more fruitful discussion.  We took a couple of photos, + then started walking back to UP, that seeming preferable to emulating mad dogs + our countrymen, + standing around in the midday sun.

We were fairly confident of finding either a bemo or becak closer to the main road – the section thro’ the village itself was very bad, potholed and/or cobbled, so wasn’t likely to attract much attention from those people if they could avoid it.  And so it proved.  We seemed to get a good deal too, being quoted R500 for the trip back to the hotel.  It seemed rather cheap, so we weren’t surprised when the fellow pulled up at the wrong hotel.  We apprised him of his error, + he asked directions of some local people, + off again.  A tortuous route he took too, along one street which, with the mud, would have been difficult for a fuelled vehicle.  However, we arrived eventually, to an unpleasant little scene.  I gave the driver R600, at which he protested, saying it was very hot (which was true), + that he was very tired (which was very probably true.)  On the other hand, if he had quoted us the R1000 which he was now demanding, we would have turned him down + looked for a bemo.  It was his mistake, not ours, + tho’ I was happy to contribute an extra 100, I didn’t see why we should be unfairly penalised.  Anyway, I ended the argument simply by walking away + into the hotel.  An unfair tactic maybe, but all’s fair… as they say.

We rested for a while, then walked out to do some shopping, checking out greedily a new supermarket.  We then passed a film developing store, + we discovered that they would be able to develop our photos there + then, at about a third the cost in Australia, so I handed them over, + we strolled away to a nearby bakery to kill some time.  Val was a little annoyed with me, since she thought we should have taken advantage of their slightly more expensive but larger + borderless prints.  I had rejected this because it meant waiting till tomorrow morning, or, for us, whenever it was we returned from Tana Toraja. + I wanted our photos there + then if possible.  But she was right – I should have consulted her.  Tho’ she, too, should have made her feelings clearer.  Still, the bakery was excellent, + we bought both bread + snacks.

I wish the photos had been as inspiring.  On first looking at them we were bitterly disappointed – so many seemed completely drained of colour.  Either we weren’t making enough allowance for the brilliance of the light, or the films had deteriorated in the heat, or the developing was just plain bad.  Actually, when we got them back to the hotel, there were some excellent photos in there, which cheered us a little, but a lot were pretty well washed-out.  Instant sepia.    Feasted that night on a home-cooked meal of sardines, mash + peas, but the snacks we had eaten had taken the edge off my appetite, + one needs a good appetite to down such a meal.

One of the disadvantages of travelling, especially of the sort we tend to do, which is rarely to linger, is that one is always looking out for, and making preparations for, the next stage of the journey. But UP really did seem to have very little to occupy us, so it was probably no bad thinbg that we were on our way out and up to the far more attractive-sounding and interesting Tana Toraja. And in the meantime, we were able to enjoy the delights of the Hotel Ramayana.

November 19th 1983

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Chris in a becak

Rather a bad-tempered morning.  When I dragged myself out of bed, Val was sitting in the lounge.  She was trying to finish her book so that we could swap it for one on the losmen’s small bookshelf, so she had her nose buried for most of the morning, emerging to eat some soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, + leaving me to pack.  I was, however, slow – my heart wasn’t in it – so I hadn’t finished by the time Val had finished her book.  And then I decided we didn’t need to carry an extra book, thus negating Val’s rushed reading – that didn’t please her.  So in the end our things were thrown into the bags, + it was a mad dash for the airport.

We were booked on a flight to Ambon today, with another flight to Ujung Pandang tomorrow,  but we tried to get our flight changed to a straight-thro’ one to UP today.  It was not easy – the wheels of bureaucracy, once set in motion in a particular direction, are difficult to turn, but by repeating our requirements several times, + having them cleared by superiors, it was arranged.  The time of the flight was, however, 2.30, so we had quite a wait in the waiting-room.  It gave us, tho’, a chance to reflect on Irian Jaya, which we were about to leave.  The Melanesians, the native Irian Jayans, were wrecked, it would seem, victims of the 20th century, + of the patriation policies of the Indonesian govt.  But even the ones who were left had lost so much already, even tho’, in strictly financial + material terms, they might seem better off.  Their culture had been destroyed, + with that their spontaneity + purpose.  Now, in order to survive, they must become Asians.

The plane was a DC9, + remarkably spacious.  Even I was able to stretch my legs out, + that’s not bad.  On the minus side tho’, the catering was paltry in the extreme – just 2 small cakes (one of which I thought revolting) + a cup of coffee.  And it was really quite a long flight.  UP airport was easily the biggest we had seen since Melbourne, + we treated ourselves, on leaving it, to a ride in a becak, or bicycle rickshaw.  Because of our bags, we had to take one each,  but it was only R200 a throw, tho’ admittedly not a very long way.  We connected with a bemo, which took us into town.  It was clear that we had now entered the world of crazy Asian drivers, one hand on the wheel, the other on the horn, + overtaking at will.  Most of the time the road looked like a one-way street, with cars overtaking bemos overtaking scooters overtaking becaks overtaking bicycles, + all somehow flattening in when a vehicle came the other way.

UP was a shock tho’ – larger, busier than we had anticipated – when we got down from the bemo, we were completely disoriented, despite having a sketch map in the Yellow Guide to help us.  Our first priority was a place to stay, so we picked one out of the book, finally discovered where we were, + set off for that.  It was a nightmare walk, much further than anticipated, every road crossing a major operation, + even walking along made difficult by the absence of a footpath.  We were also in no mood to deal with the hassles – the ello meesters + a crowd of young guys messing us about.  Eventually tho. We made it, + were pleased to be there, even if the Hotel Alaska was less than the answer to a prayer.  It was cheap, but also filthy, + incredibly depressing.

We couldn’t bear to stay long, but took off once again for town, this time without bags, + this time hiring a becak.  We got our driver first to take us to the Pelni office, but that was shut so far as we could tell – it’s not marked so it was a moot point whether we had actually found the right place or not.  So we then asked to be taken to a warung.  In fact, we ended up at a small restaurant, but it seemed to be more or less within our budget, so we went in there.  We had boiled rice with 3 different dishes to go with it, a sort of vegetable in a green sauce, some meat in a red sauce, + some chicken with a very hot + spicy coating.  It was not, I need hardly say, the meal of my dreams,  but filling enough.

After which our driver, who had been patiently waiting outside, took us home.  We considered asking him to take in the scenic nightlife on the way, but the linguistic difficulties in that one were beyond us, so back to the hotel.  We couldn’t face our room yet, so sat downstairs, + watched a little TV as we also wrote + wove a bilum.  There was an English language programme on, which was interesting, if only to criticise the presenter’s pronunciation.  Eventually bed-time had to be faced,  but we had a cup of coffee to give us Dutch courage, + then listened to the Walkman.

The decision made to cut short our trip and miss out Ambon altogether; with only a day there, we could scarcely have done it justice, with the hassle of another air trip the following day. Though Ujung Pandang was closer to a real city, i was also a reral dump, and our experience of the Hotel Alaska made it all the more important that we should et away as soon as we could.

A new start

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After my Ethiopian adventure, a chance to reset the Wembley program; we had reduced almost to nothing before I left.  As part of a new recruitment drive, I visited the Monday group; once a week, a group of volunteers with C4C (Care4Calais) meet up in a church in Wembley to offer a range of classes in English and offer somewhere warm for people to meet and perhaps access other services.  I had arranged to come in to offer a taster class in the sort of activities I provide – some games and improvisations, and possibly, if a regular enough group is formed, then to look at the possibilities of producing some theatre.  (In the end, that is always my objective; though I am appreciative of the benefits of drama as an activity, it is theatre that I love, in particular introducing others to its attractions, the way that it offers memories that can last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, because I had double-booked myself, and had to rush off immediately after what was a foreshortened session, it did go about as well as I could have hoped.  We had about twenty people there, and there was a good deal of laughter – always a good sign.  And though it was pretty standard stuff, the sort on introduction I tend to fall into, that I have done a hundred times or more.  And when I left, Hamed was able to carry on for a while, introducing them all to a game that he had learnt at a Drama session elsewhere.  Which is exactly what I would like to happen; Hamed has a great deal to offer, and could be both a great help to me (or even a replacement) as well as developing useful (and marketable) skills himself.

Unfortunately, there is a problem.  I had a low-key session at the Holiday In last wee, and Hamed was not allowed to come in; mas he is no longer an asylum-seeker, having attained the giddy heights of becoming a refugee) he is not allowed to join the class.  As it happened, he pretty much was the class last week, so we simply decamped to a local coffee house for a chat, but it is an issue.  We are looking into the possibility of him becoming a volunteer with C4C himself, so that he can then come in as my assistant, but this will require some hoops to be jumped through.

Anyway, he was still there for my session the day following my introductory session, exploiting a loophole which does allow him into the hotel if he is visiting someone, and simply slipping into the class.  And along with him were about ten others.  In fact, there were not so many from the session yesterday, and almost all of the newcomers were Iranian, so it appeared as though Hamed had been exploiting his own address book.  But the result, all the same, were very positive.  Not one of them had previously done anything of this kind before, but all of them appeared to enjoy things, and a couple of them were very good indeed.  There did seem to be a willingness to return, so maybe there are some possibilities.  Next week will be key.

November 18th 1983

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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.

November 17th 1983

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Typical street scene, Biak

My temper had cooled by the morning, tho’ I was still annoyed with The Runt.  We were all decided not to pay any attention to a visit to the police, but simply to leave.  We also decided to give young Linus the push at the first available opportunity.  First, tho’, farewells.  We took a picture of the family, + I gave them R3000 for their trouble.  Plus our tent.  We finally decided it was time for it to go, since it’s heavy, no longer sits nicely on my pack, since we disposed of the frame, + is likely to be of minimal use from now on.  It is nice to cover oneself for all eventualities, of course, but the pros have to be weighed against the cons.

The bus down to town dropped us outside the bank, + both Kay + I changed some money.  A bit of luck there, as we ran into an Aussie guy we’d met on the plane.  He was working on some sort of water supply project for the govt., + he too was flying out of Jayapura today.  He had a privately chartered bus, so offered us a ride out to the airport, so I explained this to Linus, gave him his bus-fare home, + said a not-so-fond farewell.  The money-changing took a long time, of course – tho’ David, the lift-giver, told us it’s improving all the time.  I foolishly only changed $100 tho’ – to save inconvenience, I certainly should have changed more.

Jayapura airport turned out to have a reasonably comfortable departure lounge, air- conditioned (tho’ that wasn’t really working – it was very hot) with a coffee bar – too expensive for us – + a video, showing first a selection of Western pop music, + then a pirated version of the Fats Waller musical, “Aint Misbehavin’”.  That was fun, tho’ it distracted me from my diary, still struggling to keep up, you see.  We had quite a wait – air travel is so very time-consuming – but the flight itself was short + very comfortable.  Our first experience of Asian airline food – a box of nasi goring, or fried rice.  Not, I’m afraid, much to my taste.

Said farewell to Kay in Biak, + having rec’d our bags, marched out of the airport quickly + decisively, thereby discouraging taxi-drivers + would-be guides.  That seems to be the message – even if you don’t know where you’re going, pretend as tho’ you do.  Otherwise, you’re likely to have rather too many helpers.  Our SE Asia on a Shoestring Guide (hereinafter known as Yellow Guide) was a help here, as it told us it was a 2 km walk to town, + that there was a losmen on the way.  This turned out to be very pleasant, with a room for the 2 of us for R6000, or £6.  We dumped our bags + had a cup of tea (revolting) then went into town.

It was now mid-afternoon, but things in Indonesia (except for the banks) seem to stay open very late.  We visited 2 shipping offices in town, neither of which could help us much, as they didn’t speak English.  However, Val was able to ascertain that there was a boat in at the moment, which was sailing tonight for Jayapura, then Jakarta.  So we went along to have a chat with the captain.  It was a big ship, but by flashing the word “captain” at everyone we encountered, we were soon directed to a small cabin up in the bridge area.  There were 2 people there – a young guy (the second officer) + a rather older one, sitting fiddling with a radio.  They were very civil, inviting us to sit down, but after an initial moment or 2 when it seemed they might consider taking us along, we were turned down, first because we had no docking (whatever that meant) then because they said they were going to Singapore.  We chatted for a while – mainly for ulterior motives, I’ll confess, to convionce them we really were wonderful people – but the suitable topics were soon exhausted, + the silences grew too long, so we made our farewells, + left.

We passed some time wandering around a couple of the markets, looking in the shops.  Many, may cries of “Ello meester” – we were quite an attraction, + it seems they don’t have too many white people passing thro’ Biak.  We stopped for a cold beer in one shop – quite pleasant – + then visited a warong, or food-stall.  Val had nothing – she is passing thro’ one of her weight-conscious periods – but I had a bowl of bakso, or noodle soup with meatballs.  It was very tasty, + would have been even better if I hadn’t doused it with just a little too much hot chili sauce.  This forced me to take advantage of the cold drinking water, not very sensible when it was, as we had already discovered, slimy-tasting.

We then strolled home, only losing our way once.  We are both as yet quite happy with this gentle introduction to Indonesia.  The language is a problem, it is true, but Val is getting better at that, + even I am managing to pick up the occasional phrase.  And people have been very friendly, even, on the whole, the world of officialdom.  Provided one has patience.  That must be my key word for Asia.  Patience.

No real need for the antagonism towards Linus; I suppose we were trying to be independent, and he interfered with that. We are growing – already – a little disillusioned with our island-hopping our way through the outer islands of Indonesia. Because we have just a day or two in each place, it gives us no opportunity to explore, having to stay near the airport. And, to be honest, niot all that much of onterest to see. The places we have seen so far have been very similar, pretty much shanty-towns, and as such, not so very different from each other, either in what we could see, or in the locals’reaction to us – curious novelties in their lives.

November 16th 1983

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The family we stayed with

Breakfast + packing, then Ralf drove us to the airport.  There was one more person staying at the hostel, a Canadian girl called Kay, who was also travelling our route, for the first section or 2 anyway.  I’m rather pleased than otherwise, since she’s not out type, but she’s got some courage, I must say, travelling on her own.  Wewak airport was thoroughly uninspiring, nothing more than one barn-like room with some plastic chairs, + some ceiling fans which they deigned to turn on… eventually.  The plane, tho’, was on time, so we didn’t have to wait long. 

It was no more than a short hop to Vanimo, where we had to disembark to go through PNG immigration, time for no more than juice, coffee + biscuits.  One frustrating thing was that as we came down to land in Vanimo airport, we saw the ship we had got off from in Wewak, sitting at the dock.  We had known it was coming thro’ to Vanimo, but had rejected carrying on with it, since we couldn’t be sure of it getting to Vanimo in time.  Obviously, we should have taken the risk, + saved ourselves a lot of money, but it’s easy to be wise after the event.

Immigration was a piece of cake (except for 2 French guys, who didn’t have visas), + then it was back on the plane.  The flight to Jayapura was even shorter, but, presumably because it was an international flight, we were fed on this one – the same 4 puny sandwiches we had been given on the flight out from Cairns.  I tried what Greg + Paul had tried then, + asked for some more, but I didn’t have the success they had had – all I got was an extra packet of biscuits.  The scenery along the coast was beautiful, + then there we were, coming down into Indonesia, with the stewardesses desperately scurrying around clearing away food.

Immigration was a piece of cake, just a matter of handing over passport + landing card + receiving the appropriate stamp.  Customs, tho’ was considerably more chaotic.  The baggage handlers seemed to be the same as the customs inspectors, so as each bag was flung onto the counter (no neatly revolving counters here) it was pounced upon both by its owner, exercising his proprietorial rights, + the officer, exercising his official ones.  As usual, we escaped relatively lightly, though there were suspicious looks at the small piece of tin foil we are for some reason carrying with us, as well as the bottle of kerosene.  And then we were free.  A little confused  + disoriented, but in the country + on our way.

We emerged thro’ the gates + into the airport lobby to see Kay besieged + surrounded by taxi-touts.  Naturally we went to her rescue, but we were not much better off.  The German couple had given us the name + address of a guy who was likely to be hanging around the airport, but it seemed he wasn’t there, so after dispensing with the services of the taxis (despite several severe reductions in price) we walked out to where we could find a bemo, or public minibus.  We had somehow secured the services of Linus, who had attached himself to us as guide + interpreter, + we took the bus with him to town, about 40 kms away, + costing 750 rupaiyah each.  A horrific sounding figure, but in the region of 75 USc. 

There were a number of immediately striking differences from PNG.  Obviously, Irian Jaya had been the target of massive immigration from the rest of Indonesia, since the vast majority of the faces were Asian.  Generally, the people were a little better dressed – long trousers +, most noticeably, shoes + socks.  There were motorbikes bombing around – something virtually unseen in PNG – with, quite often, a girl sitting side-saddle on the pillion seat.  The houses were not in particularly good condition, but nearly all were of brick or concrete – apart from some shanty communities on stilts down by the shore, there was nothing approximating to PNG’s native housing.  Basically, the change could be summed up very simply – in one short plane ride over just a few miles, we had left the South Pacific + entered SE Asia – another small step towards home.

We received a first shock when we disembarked from the bus + discovered we were expected to pay for Linus as well.  It seemed, tho’, we had no choice, + also we thought he might be useful in finding us some accommodation.  There were chores to perform in town – we had to visit the Garuda office.  It was, however, shut for lunch, so I minded the bags, while V + K went off to look for a losmen, or guest-house.  They returned, unsuccessful, so it was my turn next to check out the Pelni shipping office, to see if we could find a boat.  Again, no luck.  There was one heading direct to Jakarta, but that was in 5 or 6 days or so.  We had disposed of the services of Linus, by the way, temporarily at least, arranging to meet him again at about 5.30.  We then took turns minding the bags while we had a look at what the city of Jayapura had to offer.  I spent some time sitting at a coffee stall, looking after the bags, drinking coffee + chatting to a local car salesman.  The conversation was limited, but the coffee was dreadful, made with dollops of condensed milk as well as loads of sugar – sickly sweet.

Eventually V + K returned, bearing a very large cooked fish, as well as a bag of sundry tropical fruits.  The fish was tasty, but too dry to eat very much of, + the fruits, I’m afraid, were not to my taste.  But I was quite satisfied, having had in addition a couple of spring rolls + a banana fritter.  By  now, tho’, quite a massive + rather intimidating crowd had gathered around the 3 white strangers picking at a fish with their fingers, so it was quite a relief when Linus appeared + led us off to the taxi-bus stand.  He had made some noises erarleir about us staying at his place,  but he had now decided we would be better off at his friend’s house, so that was where we were going.  It was on the outskirts of Jayapura,  but still a bus-ride away, + then a walk up a hill.

When we arrived tho’, we were quite charmed.  I don’t know which was Linus’s friend, as it was a family house – very clean, very neat.  We were introduced to the family, + tho’ there were some obvious communication problems, we got on generally very well.  I dug out my photographs of mum, Geoffrey + Jennifer, all of which raised approval.  And then we were shown our bedroom, which couldn’t have been nicer – very clean, + with 2 beds, one single, one three quarters double.  Val + I took it in turns to have a shower, which in Indonesia consists of dipping water from a bucket or tank, + pouring it over oneself.  There is a special bathroom fitted out for this, so it is quite private + very pleasant.  I was just completing my ablutions in this way, + compliment myself on our good fortune, when all of a sudden the dream turned into a nightmare.

Val was outside the door, telling me to hurry up, because a policeman wanted to see our passports.  It turned out that Val hadn’t seen a policeman, but was simply passing on a message received from Kay.  I hurriedly dressed + rushed outside, of course, but discovered no policeman, but Linus waiting to escort us to one.  Not far, he assured us.  Meanwhile Kay, having begun (or contributed to the beginning of) the panic, had now grown suspicious, + was refusing to go.  She sounded a bit paranoid to me, +, anything for a quiet life, Val + I trotted off with Linus.

He was right – it wasn’t far, just the next-door house, in fact, + at first everything seemed fine.  The policeman was somewhat pompous, but affable enough, + his wife brought us a cup of hot milk (ludicrously sweet, of course) plus a plate of sandwiches.  Except that they were sandwiches whose fulling was hundreds + thousands.  We managed one each for politeness, + that was all.  Then came the bad news.  The policeman looked at our passports, (page by page, from the beginning), + could obviously make no sense of them.  So he had passed the buck by radioing his HQ, + they had come back with the inevitable reply – tell them to report in.  This evening.  I was dumbfounded at first, then tried to find a way around it.  Why did we have to report in?  Everybody did, every foreigner, throughout Indonesia?  Couldn’t the officer report in for us, by radio.  No, he had already done that, + they had said we must come in.  Couldn’t we do it in the morning on our way to the airport?  No, they were expecting us, waiting for us.  And then Linus used his most powerful argument of all – if we did not go in, the Police would come for us, + would take away not only us but the family as well.  This decided me to go, not because I thought it would happen,  ut because I thought the family would think it would, + I didn’t want to upset them.  But I was furious nonetheless – mostly with Linus, whose interfering ways were causing me a great deal of trouble.  And money too, since I would have to pay for fares for both myself + him – I could find my way into town alright, but would never find my way back.

Fortunately, Linus did not insist on Val going too, since I was her “husband” + was taking her passport, but Kay flatly refused either to come or send her passport with me.  I admired her tenacity, tho’ I was still annoyed with her for having started the panic,  but by Val’s account – I wasn’t there – she made herself pretty unpleasant, + made a lot of noise.  By contrast, I said nothing to Linus on the journey down – I couldn’t trust myself to speak.

The ordeal at the police station was  no ordeal at all – mere bureaucratic  nonsense.  We finally managed to find someone to attend to us (thereby scotching the notion that they were waiting for us, + having a patrol ready to come out + pull us in) + he read my passport (page by page, tho’ I would have thought the date we entered Mexico was a little irrelevant.)  He then searched for 5  mins or so thro’ various old files before discovering 3 copies of a form for us to fill in.  Bring them back tomorrow, I asked?  Yes.  Hurrumph.

So back to the house, in the same manner as the journey out.  The only good thing about the journey out had been that it hadn’t taken long, just over an hour.  And one note of interest.  I was sure that in the courtyards of the police station I saw a black man, wearing only shorts, tied to a post + shouting.  Only, for obvious reasons, I didn’t look too closely.  At the house, I was in no mood to talk about anything (V + K had already discussed the whole matter at great length) so I accepted gratefully the oversweet cup of Ovaltine I was presented with, + went to bed.

I suppose this was our first view of Asia proper, and with it our first experience of being the centre of attention, simply because of the colour of our skin, and our rarity value.  It was also our first re-entry into the world of bus touts; we’d experienced a little of that sort of thing in Mexico andf Central America, but it seems far worse here, far more aggressive.  But it was to be something that would plague is for quite some time to come.  Linus was by no means the worst thing that could have happened to us; we did end up with a comfortable place to stay.

November 15th 1983

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After a very long + most unpleasant night, it was good to see daylight + feel fresh air once more.  We were still underway, to my surprise – obviously I had misheard or misunderstood the sailing time.  Finally pulled into Wewak at about 10 am.  The original plan had been for me to go off to town leaving Val on the boat, but when I discovered town was a fair bus ride away, we pulled our bags back together again, + departed together.  A bit of a plod from the wharf out to the main road.  On the way we met an American Peace Corps working + living + working on a health education project in a village on the Sepik.  She wanted us to come + visit her + her husband – infuriatingly, of course, we had to refuse.  Nice to be invited all the same.

Stocked up with kerosene at a village store, also re-fuelling ourselves with un-needed but much-wanted bottle of coke.  Then caught the PMV into town – Wewak is the first PNG town that we’ve encountered that seems to have a publicly-run PMV system, as opposed to a loose collection of free agents, + very efficient it seems too.  Not that there are so many roads to cover.  We were dropped in what stood for the town centre – like every other PNG town, Wewak has no proper centre – + I performed 2 vital functions – located some accommodation for the night, + discovered a dentist.  I forgot to mention yesterday – while biting into a piece of toast at breakfast, I felt an unpleasant + unnatural crunch.  The tooth that Ralph had tried to fix had splintered in my mouth, + for the next hour or so chunks of amalgam dropped out.  It obviously required fixing, + this was effectively my last chance, since we had already been warned that the medical care in Indonesia was not worth having.  The dentist in Wewak, I discovered, was English, so I left Val sitting at the bus stop minding the bags while I jumped on a PMV + shot out to the hospital.

I saw an expat walking down the hospital driveway, so I asked him where I could find the dentist.  As I’d half-suspected, this was the very man, but he was just off for his lunch-break.  The surgery opened again at 1, he told me, + tho’ he was very busy he would try to fit me in.  I decided to catch the bus back to town, since it wasn’t expensive, + I had realised, in any case, that we needed to go to the bank (again!)  So, upon my return, I relieved Val with the bags, while she trotted off to perform chores.  She returned eventually, + I set off once again for the hospital.  It was indeed quite a wait – I had to pop into the chair 3 times – once for an examination + X-ray, once for an injection, then the extraction.  Yes, the final solution decided upon was whipping it out – another one bites the dust.  Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t right next to the one I lost in Mexico.  The guy was worried about patching it up, since it would be so long before we got home again, + an abcess could develop.  So out it had to come – that was the professional advice, so I could hardly disagree.

It was quite an experience.  The dentist had one hand against my face, while he tugged + pulled with the other, while his assistant stood behind me holding my head steady.  And it still took one heck of a lot of pulling, tho’ fortunately it wasn’t too painful.  Nor was the cost of the operation – a mere K7.  I still got a receipt, since we may as well attempt to claim the money back against our travel insurance.

I arrived back in town, bloody mouth + all, at about 4, + as I had expected, Val had gone.    I’d arranged with our host for the night, Ralf Stuttgens, to pick us up ay either 2.30 or 5, depending on whether we had finished everything we had to do, + Val had taken the earlier run.  The timing was good tho’, since it gave me enough time to call in at Air Niugini + pay for our flight from Wewak to Vanimo, + then grab a few provisions.  There were 2 more Europeans waiting at the PO when I got there to wait for Ralf – they had been unsuccessfully trying to post a huge parcel home, { I surmised correctly that they too were going out to Ralf’s guest-house.  They were German, + had just spent 4 weeks in Irian Jaya – apparently, when entering it from the other side, from the rest of Indonesia, there are nothing like the same amount of controls. It seems.  Not for the first time in our travels, I felt envious of the experiences of other travellers.

Ralf was prompt, + seemed nice enough – he drove us straight out to his place, pausing only for a few minutes at a local market, where I bought a couple of doughnut-like cakes.  Ralf’s place was very strange – he is married to a national lady, + has 2 boys (one black, one coffee) who are very noisy + boisterous, + completely lacking in control – just the sort of kids I cannot abide.  Presumably their temperament derived from their mother, who was remarkably moody – at one moment she was all smiles, the next she was screaming violent abuse.  At her family rather than us, true, but uncomfortable all the same.  Particularly in that all of us were sharing the same building – a living-room/kitchen, with just a few beds as well, a bathroom + 2 bedrooms, one for the family, one for guests.  Val + I had elected to cook our own dinner, rather than pay the K3 each for the meal provided.  I was pleased we had done so – a delicious omelette, while they had what looked to my eyes a rather unappetising meat + rice dish.  Tho’ I suppose I shall soon have to get used to such things with Indonesia imminently approaching.  A quiet evening – they have a video, but were watching an appalling British gangster film.  Just as well – it allowed me to get on with this.

More dental work – my 3rd visit to such a facility in the time we have been away; Ralph had been a friend of my cousin Mike in Sydney, who had been distinctly unimpressed by the quality of the first piece of work, in Mexico. But needs must… Otherwise, a rather low-key end top our time in PNG. The walk had definitely been the highlight of the trip; for much of the rest of thetime, we found ourselves to be slightly uncomfortable watchers from the sidelines. PNG was not at all equipped for tourism when we were tyhere, with very little in the way of accommodation, eating-places, etc, so it was just as well for us that we were able to cash in on our relative rarity, and to be looked after by the expat community. But contrary to reports, we never felt ourselves to be in danger… but6 then maybe that’s must our innocence stroke pure good luck.

 

November 14th 1983

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On the move again today, with so much to do + so little time to do it.  The day did not start very well either – young Antony was in a foul mood, screaming + screaming until he got his own way, + then screaming some more.  I think Ann makes things difficult for herself, by giving in to him – saying no 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) times, but then saying yes to grant herself some peace.  It seems to me (not that I have any kids yet of course) that one should try to set definite ground-rules for kids, which shouldn’t be broken, + if a child decides to scream + bawl because he doesn’t like it, then let him.  Preferably in his room, of course.  I think all 3 of the little Budds are rather spoilt, not necessarily in a material sense, but by being allowed to have their own way.  I’d also reckon they’re a little overweight, but I’m not exactly sure of that.  My favourite is Kerry-Ann, but that could well be just because she is not at such a difficult age as the others.

I was going with Kerry to school, so that I could call in on her headmaster.  Jim + Katie had given us his name – he used to work in Popondetta – so that provided me with an introduction.  But I was also interested in seeing round the school, + discovering, if I could, the means of obtaining work in PNG.  I am quite struck by the place, + would like at least to explore the possibilities.  In fact tho’, Mr Horsfield turned out to be a little distant.  He was helpful enough, + showed me round, answered my questions etc, but he certainly wasn’t warm, + in less than 45 mins the interview was over.  I had been able to obtain the English address of the International Schools Council, so may well pursue that upon our return.

When I returned to the house, Eddy had not yet left with Val to take her on a tour of the factory, so I was able to go with them.  It was interesting.  Although the main part of the place could not really be called a sweatshop, in some ways it wasn’t all that far off either, with rows of girls bent over sewing machines.  It was hot too (tough the offices + art room were air-conditioned.)  I was impressed by the artist they have working for them – he seemed to be able to turn his hand to anything, from cartoons to intricate native designs.  Val bought a hand-printed lap-lap (= pareo, = sarong) which Eddy offered us at a bargain price – we could hardly refuse.  We then said goodbye to Eddy when he dropped us back in town.

Much busy rushing around now.  We had to send Val’s basket home, so had to procure boxed, wrapping paper, + tape.  Next came our regular trip to the bank, and a trip round Burns Philp, buying up last-minute provisions to last us on our trip to Wewak – we were determined not to be so poorly prepared  as we had been for our last boat journey.  And then, almost the biggest headache of all, finding a present for Eddy + Ann.  We finally settled on a book, a pictorial history of PNG – probably not entirely suitable, but the best we could manage.  Nobody was home when we returned to the house, but we packed everything away, + were about to set off once again, when Eddy, Ann + Belinda returned (Belinda had been unwell, so Eddy had taken her to the doctors.)  This was fortuitous since a) we didn’t have their PO Box no., and b) Eddy gave us a ride to the wharf.  It wasn’t far, but it was very hot, + somehow our bags were now of stupendous weight, even heavier than when we’d first arrived in PNG, so  lift was much appreciated.  Goodbyes once more at the dock, after which we lugged our bags aboard.

We deliberately avoided going in to the office – when we had checked things out on Saturday, we had been told that “ex-patriates” weren’t allowed to travel deck (ie cheaper) class (it smacked of racial discrimination to me) but we planned to take matters into our own hands + simply position ourselves on the lower deck.  It worked too.  At some stage (I was sleeping at the time) a crew member informed us we should move upstairs, but Val pleaded poverty + presumably flashed her eyes at him, + no more was said.

One small hiccup in our arrangements came when we discovered I had left my swimming trunks hanging on the veranda rail, but from the looks of things the boat wouldn’t be leaving at its appointed time of 12, so I strolled back to collect them.  I was also able to use a decent toilet + have a cold drink, so it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.  I had a sleep upon my return, + then spent the rest of the day writing my diary, while Val busied herself with her bilum.  She’s getting on well with it, tho’ it’s a slow business.  She was even able to teach the rudiments to Kerry, tho’ I don’t suppose that will last long after our departure.

We left at around 2, + it was an uneventful trip.  The worst thing about it was the noise – as we were right over the engine, it just throbbed + throbbed – + the heat.  During the early part of the evening it began to rain, so all the windows were covered with tarpaulins.  Unfortunately, they remained that way for most of the rest of the night, so the heat built up + up.  Val in particular found it unbearable, but the noise bothered me more.

On our way again, and actually on our way out of PNG,by slow degrees. It had been a pleasant and enjoyable enough time, but actually I think I dodged a bullet by not getting a more positive response from the headmaster at the school, as I have decided that, while there are some superficial advantages to that sort of life, (in strictly financial and immediate quality of life terms)I do feel that the expat life is essentially empty, most often filled by alcohol. But Eddy and Ann were very kind, and proved excellent hosts.

There is an interesting postscript to our visit, when the whole family turned up in London a couple of years later and got in touch with me, clearly expecting me to return the favourI am not sure whether their PNG adventure had come to a close, or whether it was just part of a short visit home. I was happy to do my best, but at the time I was boat-sitting a small houseboat on the Thames for some friends, which really did not allow me to offer more than a walk around Richmond Park, and then putting them all up on the floor!

November 13th 1983

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We seemed to have quite a day ahead of us.  Yesterday, Eddy had arranged with Fred + Peter that we should all be paddled over to Siar Island, where we would have a barbecue + a swim.  Both Fred + Peter had been knocked out of the squash championship at an early stage, so their interest in that was more or less done.  They came round at about 11, but we still weren’t ready – 3 kids + 4 adults need more time than the average, I discovered, tho’ I would hope that any kids that I would have would be a little more obedient than these 3.

Finding Siar village turned out to be a little difficult as well.  We drove past the turn-off twice, I believe, before finally being directed by an English-speaking woman at an establishment called Kirsten Press.  A strange sight on the main road just before the village – row after row after row of coconut palm, still standing, but dead.  It may have been the aftermath of a fire, tho’ it looked less charred + more controlled than one would expect, but it was very eerie. 

Siar village looked amazingly neat + tidy, + rather more affluent than the average village – as a result of tourism, perhaps.  We had been instructed to find Paul, which we did, + a group price was soon negotiated.  He then paddled most of us across, while what I would imagine was a young relative paddled Fred + Peter – he still came in a comfortable first.  It was a lovely ride across, just gliding peacefully along, + looking down at the fish + the coral, + quite short, being just 2 or 3 hundred yards.

It was a wonderful afternoon, swimming in the warm water, drinking beer, + having a super barbecue – what a life.  As a bonus, Paul took Val, me + the kids (regrettably they could hardly be prevented from tagging along) over to another tiny island, off which we did some snorkelling.  This was very pleasant, + the girls were good at it too, tho’ it was a pain having to keep Antony amused.  Just before we left, Val went with Paul over close to the island, where they pulled up some cowrie shells + a big blue starfish.  We paddled back, me at the front, getting arm-ache from the exercise, while Paul did the real work at the back, + steered as well.  It was a fine canoe, 40 years old, Paul told us, made by his father.  It had an outrigger, + a high platform in the middle.

Back on Siar Island, we whiled away another hour or so, the only event of notice being Eddy attracting the notice + sting of a sea cucumber – a nasty affair.  Paulk ferried us back in 2 loads, + I paid him off, a little more than the agreed amount, then a little more because he had no change, having given the K2 we had already given him for the snorkelling trip to a guy on the island for the use of the beach… when we’d already given the guy on the beach K2 for the same thing!  So it wasn’t such a cheap trip, but thoroughly enjoyable, + worth every toia.

The excitement for the day didn’t end there – as soon as we had returned, we had to start getting ready for a mumu (phonetic spelling only) or native meal cooked in a ground oven, that Peter (the work colleague Peter) was having cooked for us – he is married to a native lady.  The meal was soon there, along with Peter, his wife, + 3 kids, + various other guests.  The meal was beautiful, of course, but very little to my taste, apart from the chicken – I’m afraid I could eat none of the vegetables.  The others all pronounced it splendid tho’.  Fred + Peter arrived late – they had been to the squash presentation + dinner, + then the beer really started to flow – altho’ we hadn’t been doing too badly up to then.  It was pleasant, sitting on the verandah, drinking beer, + chatting about this + that.  A variety of subjects – computers, education, racial prejudice (particularly with regard to Asians in England.)  Fred was dry + teasing, Eddy sometimes heated.  But I enjoyed it – it’s been a while since we’ve been able to sit + talk in this way with friends.

And another pleasant, social day, of the sort we would never have been to access without being involved in the community. I am a little contrite now about my attitude to the kids, when now I am (a little) more prepared to give them the time and attention they deserve.

November 12th 1983

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Madang market

In the morning Eddy gave us a ride to market on his way to work, + then we were left to our own devices for the rest of the morning.  The market was fascinating, fair humming with life – easily the most colourful we have seen in PNG, tho’ the fact of it being a Saturday may have helped.  There was lots of art + craft work on display, + many more tourists to appreciate + buy it.  There wasn’t too much in the way of fruit or vegetables – in that respect the Highlands markets were considerably better – but there was a fascinating fish house in the centre, with cooked octopi + various other exotic-looking delicacies, both cooked + raw.  Val was determined to buy herself a bilum, or native-crafted string bag, tho’ it took much wandering around, 2 visits, + any amount of mental anguish, she was finally rewarded with a fine example for K6, well below the regular market price.  We happened to see Ann wandering around, +she gave us the go-ahead for Val to cook pasties tonight, so we bought the necessaries for that, + then strolled home.

The lady who sold Val the bilum

When Eddy returned, we all took off to spend the afternoon at the pool at the Madang hotel.  It was pleasant there – we had some drinks brought to our table, + then dived in.  The water was rather too warm, unfortunately – it was salt water pumped in form the adjoining sea, but it was nonetheless pleasant.  And we were able to take advantage of one benefit of having kids around, since they gave us an excuse to play games.  We began by throwing the Frisbee around, which developed into a game of piggy-in-the-middle, which became a sort of possession rugby with 2 teams, the Budds against the rest.  I like playing games in the pool, + thoroughly enjoyed myself on this occasion.  Unfortunately, little Kerry was too small to compete successfully in the piggy-in-the-middle, so went off for a sulk.  I felt sorry for her, since I was similar sort of child myself (have become, for that matter, a similar sort of adult.)  By the end of the afternoon, tho’, she had been coaxed, more or less, into joining in a game I had been playing with Belinda + a school friend of hers.

Val started work on the pasties immediately we had returned, with Ann as her capable assistant, so before too long they were sitting on the table.  And very tasty they were too.  Not the best she had ever made perhaps, but not the worst either.  The evening was spent in relaxation, watching half of the TV production of The Thorn Birds, which seemed to me a bit torrid + Dallas-like, but was, Val assured me, a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book.  Tho’ once again, I only had half an eye for the screen – I seem to have become less + less a TV watcher.  At least, I certainly hope so.

A pleasant enough day, taking it easy while doing some light shopping, swimming, cooking… all pleasant enough but actually we really want to get back to some real travelling. Or maybe that is just me thinking that, forty years on, while at the time we were more than happy to rest up while the opportunity was there.