The end of a 6-month adventure…

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… I was going to include my journey to go home in my previous post but it turned out to be such an adventure, it deserved a story of its own. After 6 months of intense (sometimes borderline insane) adventures through Latin America and Indonesia, you would think that we finally had enough. That we would have by now prefered to take it easy. Well, this was the plan… kind of… To go home, our plan was to take a public ferry to Ampana, a bus to Luwuk airport and 4 planes to reach Zurich… Long, yes but fairly easy. After three great days on Bolilanga, it was time for us to leave our paradise and our temporary family, heavy hearted. As much as I couldn’t wait to be home, eat a cheese fondue, start looking for a job, catch up with friends and sleep in my own bed, it was hard to accept that this wonderful adventure had come to an end. After 174 days on the road, 12 new countries and a bunch of incredible stories to tell our children, ready or not, we were going home!

The first bad news came in: the ferry that was supposed to take us to Wakai had a technical problem and we had to take two boats to reach Ampana. This was annoying as it was an expensive alternative but not a disaster as it was still cheap European standards. We boarded the small boat that would take us Wakai; it felt pretty adventurous: very bumpy and soon enough, we got wet. At least, our mood was lightened up. Nothing a good laughter cannot fix. In Wakai, we were surprised to see that a public boat was traveling to Ampana! We wondered for a minute (or two) whether we had been lied to by the resort and decided to investigate. The owner was a lovely man and we hoped that this was only a miscommunication. This was indeed not a ferry but a public boat (still we felt like this option should have been given to us, for us to decide whether this was a good idea or not – the owner probably knew better…). We considered taking the speed boat (“take the speed boat” screamed our brains) but chose instead to ride with locals (“yeah! Exciting” shouted our adventurous hearts). We were aware that it would take us a bit longer than with the speed boat but we had 8 hours to reach Ampana, plenty of time we thought. What could go wrong?

Where to start? When the engine started to fail? When we realized that we were stranded on a boat in the middle of nowhere without any phone signal? When 1 hour turned into 2 that turned into 5? When our boat had to take a break every 10-minute to avoid our engine to explode? I couldn’t tell you why but even tho I knew things were getting bad, 7 hours to drive 20 kilometers is bad, I didn’t feel stressed. It might have been the fact that the day was absolutely gorgeous and we had the chance to sit in the sun and chat in Bahasa with locals or maybe feeling welcome among those locals helped: they fed us with coconut rice, spicy dried fish and some more nasi (rice). For me it was also only another logistics issue and I approached the problem the way I would have done it at work. When our new friends realized that we had to catch a bus, everybody wanted to help. There was not much we could do tho but wait until we could use a phone. We had to let the bus company know that we were running late but we were coming. We had to catch that bus as this was our only option not to miss our flight out of Luwuk. Adrenaline was high and I knew I had to organize another boat. I went to the captain and with my broken Bahasa, I attempted to let him know that I needed a boat, any boat (maybe I should have been more specific…) right away. 

Everybody was now aware of the problem, they needed to take the Bule (white people) to a fisherman village asap. Slowly but surely, our captain changed his direction to reach a small village that had unfortunately no phone signal but helpful villagers. It was already past 6 when we arrived there and time was against us. So I decided to be more pushy. I reminded the captain (who was casually chilling on a bench instead of coming up with a solution. Go figure) that we had to be in Ampana by 10 pm latest and we needed a solution. A villager (bless him) told us he could take us there but he needed first to organize a boat as his fisherman boat could not make it on the open sea. To be fair, I wouldn’t have jumped on one of those tiny boats: I am not that brave and I have no death wish. We needed to drive two hours before we could get any phone signal and our savior / new captain told us to be ready to leave by 7 pm. Alright… there was still a chance to make it on time… 

While waiting for our captain, the night had arrived and it was almost pitched dark. Night could not have been darker as there was no moon and when I saw the boat that had been organized, I broke down for the first time. Fear took over and I almost cried… barely bigger than a fisherman boat, the boat was absolutely tiny and had no light… How on earth was the good man supposed to find his way? How on earth could other boats be aware of us? I hesitated but truly there was no time to hesitate. M took my hand and promised me that it would be ok. I had no choice but do what I said I would not do and I boarded this miniature boat. Breathe in, breathe out and karma, please don’t be a bitch. Not today! At first, it was a smooth ride, surrounded by darkness, we felt like smugglers. But after an hour, things started to get bad: a storm was on its way to us and waves got bigger and bigger. We hoped that the storm would not hit us, waves kept crashing onto us, leaving us wet and pretty scared. Our captain didn’t seem to mind, once in a while, I would see his face (when he would turn on his flash light) and he smiled. After a while, it became clear that the storm wouldn’t hit us and we relaxed a bit (a lot. From OMG we are going to die to that wasn’t that bad). 

We could finally send a message to ms. Ulfa, the lady who had sold us the bus tickets. We had no guarantee that the message would reach her and it might have been anyway too late as it was already after 10 but we kept our fingers crossed. We arrived safe and sound in Ampana right before 11 pm and rushed to the office. Slim were the chances that the bus was still there. The office was closed and ms. Ulfa was nowhere to be found. We were not ready to give up just yet. We asked our captain for help and he was amazingly helpful as he walked us through tiny alleys to find ms. Ulfa. After 15 minutes, we felt like we had failed and we slowly accepted the fact that we had to hire a private chauffeur. Missing our flight was not an option. Suddenly, our captain jumped on a scooter and told me to come with him. I left M and drove into the dark. A few minutes later, we had found ms. Ulfa. I couldn’t be happier: even though we were an hour late, she had kept the other passengers waiting because she knew we had a flight to catch up. This woman was an angel. She didn’t have to but she did. Faith in humanity? Seriously improved! We reached Luwuk where we boarded a plane to Makassar where we caught a plane to Jakarta. It wasn’t easy to say bye to M (he still has another month in Asia) but there was no turning back, job interviews, my couch, my friends and another adventure were waiting for me! 

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!

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