22 June 2012
Larantuka, Flores to Kupang, Timor
The road to Timor. Well, it's not a road exactly but you can drive, sort of.
I arrived for the ferry 6 hours early. Good thing too as it was already filling up and if you don't claim your spot then you end up under a truck or on the floor next to the toilet. Not how you want to spend the next 24 hours. So you get there early, mark your territory, and build a little camp. Folded up clothes for pillow here, snacks over there, bag of stuff to keep close so it doesn't get stolen, etc...
Instead of seats this boat was configured with a supersize sort of bunk bed. Two flat metal level platforms without about 3 feet of crawlspace between top and bottom. At least you could lay down. Mostly. People are pretty packed in. Reminded me a bit of WWII internment barracks I'd seen. I choose the top bunk, later on this proves to be incredibly wise.
It looks full, you think they couldn't possibly get any more people on, but they do. Eventually the engines fire up, vibrating the entire hull in a relaxing low frequency hum, and you shudder away from the pier. Then the real fun begins!
The ferry is a little moving village, complete with camps, musicians, animals, pots and pans. It begins the trip looking like a poor but respectable shanty town. Within 6 hours it's more squalid refugee camp. There seems to only one trash can for 300+ people. I'm surprised at the number of people who DON'T throw their trash overboard in to the ocean. Instead they just toss it on the ground. Soon the ground is covered with ramen noodle cups, cigarette butts, chicken bones, and all manner of plastic and packaging. Not consolidated in any way, just scattered as if it had rained from the sky. The filth doesn't seem to bother anyone but me. God I'm glad I'm on the top bunk.
The bathroom (as ferry bathrooms always are) begins in questionable condition and quickly degrades to cesspit. 300 peasants eating spicy rice and chicken, 3 bathrooms, you do the math.... There is a 6" lip at the floor of the door that keeps liquids and 'stuff' from sloshing out of the bathroom. So it collects in a murky pool instead. Wearing my tall riding boots it reaches a point where I couldn't even step inside without getting soggy socks. I'll just hold it, it's only another 8 hours, right? Anyway, I think something might be living in there. Remember the scene from Star Wars scene where Luke, Leia, and the rest of the crew all jump in a garbage chute? Exactly.
As the only white man within 100 nautical miles I also acquire a few stalkers.
Some of them speak pretty decent English. But oddly they don't understand "I'd like to just relax and read and be alone now". It's a bit awkward to be sitting very tightly between two guys who stare intently at your laptop, your ipad, and everything else that you do. It's even more awkward when they are little touchy.
Some of them ask annoying questions.
M: Do you know Chuck Norris?
B: No, sorry.
M: Do you know Bruce Lee?
B: No, I think he's dead.
M: Do you know Obama?
B: No, we're not really in the same social circle.
M: Do you know Arnold Schwartzenegger?
B: Yes, fabulous guy, best friend, talk with him all the time
M: Do you know 50 Cent?
B: Oh for F#ck sakes!
Some of them insist that you drink poison from a plastic bottle.
Some of them are creepy. "Show me some pictures of your girlfriend." ... "show me more pictures of your girlfriend" ...
But you are trapped. It's a two deck ferry and there is no escape. Subtle to direct 'leave me alone' statements will not be understand. They will find you, no matter what corner you hide in.
There were three adorable little girls (annoying, but adorable) that spoke some English. They were nice but tended to crawl all over you. Like a cat, if you are reading they managed to put themselves between you and the book.
When we finally reached Kupang I was relieved. It seemed there was a real risk of the volume of trash exceeding the volume of the boat.
The road to Timor
Super old school shout in this pipe to reach the engine room.
Stock up on supplies before setting sail
The lower bunk, before it got all icky.
I admit these girls were adorable. That guy on the left wore his helmet the entire trip.
I admit these girls were adorable