3 days. 9 dives. The artificial air had got to us and we were feeling sleepy. But there is no rest for the wicked and so were off to the harbour to check on the ferry we had heard was leaving for Sulawesi (today, the 12th July)…
At the harbour, dumb looks glared back at us at the mention of ‘ferry, Pelni, boat… Sulawesi, Makassar, Bira?’. So no ferry to Sulawesi then. I innocently asked, ‘When’s the next ferry’. A simple reply. ’23rd’. Too far away. We might have to fly.
Unconvinced and hoping on a different truth we called in at a reputable travel agent – Perama – who after making a quick call to a friend at the Harbour announced that the,’next ferry to Sulawesi leaves on the 16th’.
Back to the harbour. Inform them of this development. Now they tell me there is a boat on the 16th to Sulawesi but that it leaves from a town on the south coast, a day away by bus.
Back to Perama. Inform them of this development. They look at me strangely and, with both of us looking at the map, come to the same conclusion that this is absolute ‘poppy-cock’.
How very South East Asian.
In a fit of ‘I-cant-be-arsed-with-this-anymore’ and knowing that our bags were already packed and ready for the off we decided, screw it, we’re going to the islands. We’ll deal with this later.
And so, a hop, skip and a jump later we were puttering out from Labuanbajo harbour – on a boat at least – but to a very different destination to the one we had hoped. We were heading for Seraya. A private island with just a few secluded bungalows. To leave our problems behind and, bury our heads in the sand! And…
… this is what we were presented with. Not a bad decision. A simple (incredibly basic) bungalow and mediocre food was more than made up for by soft white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and…
… an almost complete lack of people. Except those we got high with watching sunset!
Two days well spent. Our Robinson Crusoe moment. Our transport troubles not forgotten but certainly faded! Then in the crash of a wave we were heading back to Labuanbajo (its now the morning of the 14th July by the way). This time with a plan…
The boat leaves on the 16th… The reputable man at Perama said it did; so until then let’s get one more day diving in (on the 15th).
Back at the diving centre; Kiara, the manager, of course overjoyed to see us (Hey Kiara). We threw down our bags – informed Kiara that we would be diving again (yeah!) and headed to Perama… Just to check that the boat was indeed leaving on the 16th. Our man remembered us as we came through the door, phone already to his ear to call the harbour. And…
… ‘Next ferry is on the 23rd!’. Should have guessed it right… In fact we kinda already had! ‘Ferry on the 16th has been cancelled’.
Okay. No worries. Our contingency planning was already in full swing; we would fly instead. We could still dive and fly the following day. We would just have to swallow the premium of the flight – a cost of over $350 instead of $40! Ouch.
And so we found ourselves in a little cafe overlooking the harbour, skyscanner browsing the skies to see what we could do when…
… In walked two fellow travellers. A polite exchange of hellos. How are you ensued… nice guys.
They innocently asked how long we had been in Labuanbajo. I replied, ‘Too long…’ And proceeded to divulge our travel woes in getting to Sulawesi. And their response. Well I can tell you. It knocked Joyce and I for six… Are you ready…
‘Sulawesi. No way. We are too. There is a ferry leaving tonight (the 14th!).
How we didn’t find this out asking around town (in more places and to more people than my simplified story above portrays) I will never know. How did these guys find out? In the end it’s irrelevant. There WAS a ferry (…apparently).
Clutching our new found friends tightly we were heading to a different office, no where near the harbour but in the hills. It was a ramshackle little place, that was apparently the main office for Pelni – the official boat company in Indonesia.
We were greeted by a very friendly girl who unfortunately spoke no English, although we managed to gather that, if we would hand over $20 each our name would be put on a list. We wouldn’t get a ticket or anything but our name would be on a non-descript piece of A4. My name next to a number 11. Joyce’s next to a number 12. … We had to write those numbers ourselves as well! Oh. And when we got to the harbour just ask for Piter. Easy. Simple. Official.
Well. We all felt we had little choice. We handed over the money and walked away…
Was there a boat?
Was it a scam?
Did our heros and heroines make it to Sulawesi?
Find out next time in AsiaAndBackAgain… 😉