It turns out that Indonesia is made up of lots of islands. Travelling between them involves flying (see my posts about under-represented provincial airports) with a variety of airlines, but some islands, and dive resorts, can only be reached by boats. Some advice about traveling by boat in third-world countries:
- whenever there is transfer by boat involved, even if there is a jetty/pier when you’re boarding, do not assume there will be one at your destination. Be prepared to get wet to your thighs, and use ziploc bags to protect your valuables and electronics in case you and your hand luggage fall into the water when boarding or debarking. Wear flip-flops or dive booties if you can to protect your feet from pieces of coral, garbage, or mangrove roots.
- Even if there is a pier, it might be under construction. I arrived on Gili Air in the midst of a thunderstorm, and the jetty’s surface consisted of several joined barbed metal plates, which ground against each other and tried to eat my feet. The pier itself felt very unstable due to the swell. Well, I wanted adventure, and I got it.
Pier-to-be at Gili Air
- Do not assume first-world safety standards. There will be open gasoline canisters and people re-filling them while beside them, a passenger is happily smoking a cigarette. Even if it’s forbidden.
- Do not assume the motors will work flawlessly during your trip. Delays may be caused by drifting garbage getting stuck in the propellers, overheating engines, and all other kinds of fun stuff.
Once safely on land, the trouble are not over. Road traffic can be fun if your transfer vehicle has a working safety belt. Snugly belted in, I mostly enjoyed the chaos. I am not sure there are any rules whatsoever, but the average speed being quite slow, it’s ok.
If there is no motor traffic, like on Gili Air, you’re not safe either. Electric scooters are soundless and so you will encounter them without any advance warning. Apart from those, everything and everyone on Gili Air was transported by horse carts. The horses, as a rule, had tinkling bells on their harness.
At least one of them was not equipped with those. Hooves on sand can approach quite… quiet.
Lastly, a word of advice regarding not-so-common methods of transportation. When Agung Rinjani on Lombok erupted in October, about a hundred trekkers had to be evacuated from the mountain. An European living there contributed the following remark: “Well if I’m given the choice between an exploding volcano and an Indonesian helicopter, I know what to do…”.
I am sure he exaggerated a bit…