Because I’m a cheapskate (or I wanted to prove something to myself, I don’t know), I decided to go to the island of Sulawesi by boat. I did not read one glowing review of the Pelni; but all said it was an adventure.
Since I was carrying “important” things, I wanted to get a private room. Or at least a bed in a room so I can calmly roam the ship. I read it existed. But when I went to the ticketing office it was only “general admission.” Based on my research it meant: secure a bed in an open area.
Ok so I can’t just leave my small bag behind.
The port was really out of the way, and not a lot of action where the vehicles were. I was relieved when I saw the terminal. OK, maybe it’s not that bad.
Then I saw the line on the way to boarding. It looked like those old school movies with poor people pushing their way in the ship, with the rich people going in slowly, looking down on us low lives. Only there were no rich kids. Just people carrying too many baggages.
And as I slowly entered the ship, my protective walls slowly built itself up. I didn’t even know how to secure a damn “bed.”
So I just made my way up and up and up…until I ended up at a stairs landing and saw what appeared to be an empty mattress and settled there. A few minutes later the 1 of 2 persons who spoke English, Merymistika (yeah I still get a kick from her name) approached me and asked if I want to transfer to another mat. At first I thought they just hate my guts, but turns out someone was occupying the mattress I selected, and they got someone else to give up their mattress so I can sleep there.
I had a small bottle of water with me and I bought 2 Beard Papa’s at the terminal to eat for the next 24 hrs (they told me the journey will take this long). I didn’t want to go to the toilet because I expected it to be dirty as hell, so I rationed the water and the bread.
I also waited until everyone was asleep to go to the toilet. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, given the sleeping conditions (I forgot I was in a Muslim country where everyone is borderline obsessesed with cleanliness). BUT since I didn’t know my way around, I found out too late I was a the Men’s.t
And everywhere I went I had my bag with me. Gaaaah. Looking back at it now I really regret what I did. They were all nice and they were looking out for me. I was a celebrity in that ship; not to be fucked with. Apparently I’m the only bule on board. For some, I was the first bule they’ve ever seen and/or met in their entire life.
I remember there was a middle aged man (English speaker #2) who went out of his way to find and talk to me. At 1am in the morning I went out to the docks to read and be contemplative and this young man tried his best to talk to me in English. They always asked me to join them when eating (I declined because I didn’t wanna go to the toilet).
After the 30th hour I was losing my mind and had to go to the bathroom real bad. Since everyone was still awake, I can’t go to the men’s toilet anymore. I asked a nice lady where it was. She brought me there herself. And thank god she did because it was confusing how to get there (and the toilet was much cleaner than the men’s). She also brought me to a place where I can buy cup noodles (I was lightheaded at this point). As I ate, another man came over and we talked with each other as best we could with my limited Bahasa Indonesia and his limited English.
When the boat was about to dock (after 33hrs my god), everyone in the “dorm room” coalesced around me. They all suddenly were excited and asked to take pictures with me. They also wanted the pictures I took (I sent it to Merymistika’s FB). Then I learned that they rode the boat from Jakarta and they have been there 5 days. And they still need a few days more to reach Flores, their destination. And there I was complaining about the 33hr boat ride.
I was exhausted by the time I got off the boat. But really, I wish I was more…loose and made the most out of the 33hrs. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Indonesians, especially from the provinces, are lovely people
Travel Dates: 2015.10.13-14
Duration: Approx 33hrs
Destination: Surabaya to Makassar
Room Type: Foam mat; pick your spot (as long as it’s free)