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The 'Willy Wilson' Chronicles

November 6th: Bon Voyage ~Michael

The morning was spent gathering final loose ends. We needed gas, water, a bit more food and an Indonesian flag (required by law for boats in Indonesian waters). Our incredibly helpful host, Willy, was able to supply us with a flag and the other supplies were easy to find. We were almost ready to go.

Willy, who is an editor for The Jakarta Post (Indonesia's leading English newspaper), received permission to write an article about our motorcycle trip. We were thrilled when Willy asked if he could interview us. We would be in one of the most popular Indonesian newspapers. Willy's questions took 1-2 hours and he asked us all sorts of questions. It was fantastic. The questions helped me to reflect on the trip and work to understand a lot of what we've experienced. I'm looking forward to being back in the US and discussing our travels with more people. We really have had some incredible experiences and other than the blog, the occasional conversation with other English speakers, and a few friends/parents, we haven't discussed it with many people. It'll be an interesting couple weeks when we return home.

Around 2 o'clock we were ready to go. We had a final meal at McDonald's and were antsy to start our boating adventure. We packed all our gear into Willy's car and he drove us to the fishing village where our boat, Willy Wilson (named after Willy, our host), was waiting for us. The boat looked as beautiful as ever as we loaded our gear into it. We had four 19 liter jugs of water, two 30 liter jugs of diesel, a box of packets of ramen, 5 kilos of rice, fishing equipment, a stove, and various other supplies.

The brown box is full of 40 Ramen packets, one of our greatest decision

I wish Graham was caring kegs of ice cold beer, but water is pretty important too

Loading up Willy Wilson!

Willy Wilson was packed up, and we were ready to disembark. We walked the boat into the deeper water, cranked the engine and despite a minor mishap on who was actually driving the boat were off. We waved goodbye to Willy and the villagers and started our course towards Tangkil, a small island recommended to us by one of the villagers that was only 4 miles away. It was complete freedom. Three best friends, with a boat, fishing gear and plenty of time to explore wherever we wanted. We could do or go wherever we wanted. Similar to when we left Boulder on our motorcycles.

Graham steering us through the field of giant ships

It took us an hour or two to reach Tangkil and we were greeted by a beautiful beach with no one it. It took us little convincing to park the boat and set up camp. The water was calm and we easily glided the boat onto shore where we anchored it to a tree. We explored the beach, found a great spot to set up our hammocks, cooked some noodles and started to make spears for fishing. I took the snorkel out and explored the surrounding reef. James and Graham tried fishing. We were like little kids, we had so many ideas of what we wanted to do, but couldn't stick to a single activity. It was great!

We didn't catch any fish, but we had a small beach fire, discussed our plans for the next couple days and crawled into our hammocks around 7 pm (it got dark around 6) and the mosquitoes were out with force so we had little choice but going to bed early.

Nov 7th: Extra Lazy Days

~ Graham

I didn’t sleep very well all night. I kept having a nightmare that the tide was rising extra high and all of our stuff was being swept off the beach, and then the boat came untied and floated out to sea. I very frequently bolted upright to look at the ocean and double check that the tide was overtaking us, and actually got up at one point to go check on everything. Consequently when I finally got up in the morning I felt pretty terrible, and the heat was pretty oppressive so I lost my appetite. I ended up laying back in my hammock and reading for the better part of the day. There wasn’t much else we could do because the Willy Wilson was beached due to the low tide.

Sunrise at low tide. Willy Wilson won't budge

As we laid around all morning waiting for the tide to rise we all had similar thoughts of “what the hell are we doing?” We had all painted a slightly different picture of sailing across the ocean and exploring the vast coastline of Sumatra, however we had only made it a few km across the bay, and were stuck in a little cove due to the low tide. We aren’t very used to sitting around and having nothing to do so it was pretty frustrating. Michael worked on making a Hawaiian sling from a stick and some rubber strips we brought with us; James walked around the island to check it out; and I read about 300 pages of Inferno by Dan Brown. Writing about it now it was really pretty care free, but at the time we were worried that the next month was going to be consumed by lounging and waiting for tides which wasn’t quite what we were looking for.

Our hammock camp in the sharp palm fronds

In the afternoon the tide rose enough for us to push the boat out of our little cove and go fishing. We didn’t have any live bait, but we had a glorious goal of catching tons of squid for bait using our squid lures. Unfortunately our attempts at squiding were unfruitful, and we tried a few other lures we had picked up from the fishing store, but ended up heading back to our beach unsuccessful. Either way it was fun to circumnavigate the island on our boat and just cruise around in the ocean.

We decided that while we still had the chance we should probably walk over to the little tourist zone on the other side of the island and grab some nasi goreng. We grabbed some grub and discussed what the rest of this boat adventure was going to look like. We all agreed that spending more time on the boat was going to be the best way to make us all happy. We decided to get an early start the next day and head to the end of the bay, and see how the boat handled in the open ocean. I set my alarm for 5 and we all crawled in our hammocks as the sun set and the mosquitoes started to come out after a fresh rain. I was craving some waves, and we still had our hearts set on making to Krui. Tomorrow would be interesting!

November 8: Freedom of the open sea


"Crap, we may be stuck! Again..." Graham was awake and looking at the Willy Wilson which was now half beached and with each wave becoming more stuck. Our plan for getting up early and getting off the beach which had been our home for a day and a half was foiled. As the tide receded sealing our fate, so did my motivation to get out of the hammock. I laid back and turned my audio book back on to burn some time and hopefully fall back asleep. Soon Graham appeared with a coffee and a bowl of noodles for both Michael and me. We gratefully accepted the meal and as we ate we discussed our options for the day. We decided that despite having missed the tide we were still more than ready to get off the island and make it farther down the coast. The small stretch of beach and tides were beginning to feel like a trap. We were all growing tired of lounging on the beach and trying to entertain ourselves We expected the tide to begin rising around 3 pm and marked that as our departure time. In the mean time we had some time to burn and decided that we needed to put a good effort into fishing.

Hopping out of the hammock I brushed off the sand which had been pressed into my skin from an uncomfortable night of sleep on it. I was already wearing my swim suit so I grabbed the net and headed towards a calm shallow area where I had spotted some fish the previous day. We had brought lots of fishing stuff but had overlooked the fact that we needed bait. We had planned to catch squid for bait but that had not worked out yet so my goal was to catch some minnows that would work as bait. I set about trying to scoop up minnows in the net while Michael caught a crab and rigged up a small line to try and catch some of the smaller fish. At first neither of us had much success. The crab did not have enough substance to stay on the line and would get nibbled off before a chance to hook a fish presented itself. The net was too slow and the small fish were nimble. Eventually though I noticed that the fish were hiding in bamboo tubes that were sunken into the sand along the beach. By lifting the bamboo up quickly and dumping the water out of the tube through the net I was finally able to catch some little fish that were hiding in the tube. Using this method, Graham and I managed to catch three small fish that would work as decent bait.

Graham and Michael pretending to be Bear Grylls and wrangling a crab to use as bait.

Fishing shenanigans kept us preoccupied for awhile but eventually we grew tired of catching minnows and retired to the beach. A storm was moving in which we were all excited for as it offered the possibility of washing the salt water off and a chance to cool off. As thunder boomed and distant lightening lit the horizon we ran along the sand with arms spread enjoying the cool sprinkling of fresh water falling. Graham and Michael began a game of checkers using rocks and leaves as pieces and a board carved into the sand. The rain and the giant game of checkers passed a couple of hours and the tide began to rise. We packed up and prepared the boat to leave. Before leaving though we wanted to take advantage of the chance for a good meal at the resort located on the other side of the island. When the boat was ready for launch we set off along the coast towards the resort.

Graham packing up the boat, stoked to get off the tiny stretch of beach.

It was a Sunday and the resort was teaming with local tourists. As we walked along the resort we passed countless couples and groups of locals taking pictures and building sand castles. They seemed to be particularly bold about asking for pictures and we were soon mobbed by a group asking for selfies and pictures. By this time we had made it to a small cafe area and had ordered coffees. While jockeying for position a girl bumped Michael's piping hot coffee spilling it all over his hand. He let out a cry of pain as the boiling water burned his hand. The group started laughing and the photographer began snapping pictures. This infuriated us all a bit but Michael was especially pissed off and yelled at them. They just laughed and as he went to clean up his hand and put it under cold water they continued to pester me about taking a picture. I refused a bit irked that they could be so inconsiderate until Michael had returned and it was clear that his hand was ok. We then half heartedly took the pictures before burying our heads in our fried chicken and rice to avoid any more pictures. After the incident we headed back to the boat excited to get the hell out of dodge.

The tide was up and the boat was finally floating freely again. We walked it through the waste deep water littered with rocks until it was deep enough to start the engine. The engine started up first time and we gave a cheer as we aimed the bow along the coast and headed away from our camp spot. The ominous looking weather seemed to be staying put across the bay and the water was extraordinarily flat and calm. The haze from the fires burning inland and the weather made the atmosphere a gloomy gray but on the Willy Wilson it was all smiles and cheers. I took a seat on the very tip of the bow and enjoyed the wind in my face and the myriad of creatures that appeared. From my perch I saw turtles, giant jelly fish, flying fish, birds and a number of other fish ranging from minnows to unknown large distant shapes launching themselves into the air. We passed a number of islands and peninsulas, some populated some completely deserted. Eventually we decided to find a place to camp as night was falling and turned the boat towards a small, shallow looking bay that seemed to be relatively empty.

Enjoying the freedom of the open seas from my perch at the bow.

As the bow crunched gently into the sand we disembarked and began setting up camp. Our new camp spot had some prime hammock spots among some palm trees. The wind had begun to pick up and was blowing directly into our camp, and although it flapped our hammock tarps obnoxiously it cooled our hot sweaty skin. We spent the evening making some noodles and discussing our plans and life in general. We were all much happier now that we were on the move once again. The previous beach, while relaxing had felt like a bit of a trap and we had all been searching for things to keep our minds and bodies occupied. Being back on the move it felt like we once again had a purpose and the excitement and imminent adventure was lifting our spirits. To our dismay the wind abruptly stopped as darkness fell and it wasn't long before the mosquitoes were out in force. Even with the mosquito coils burning we decided to escape to the shelter of our hammocks shortly to escape from the evil pests. After continuing to chat from our closely groups hammocks for awhile, we all became absorbed in our own thoughts and books. The air was stale and hot but I was becoming accustomed to the sweaty, sticky and sandy nights and it wasn't long before my eyes were closing.

November 9th: Shipwrecked ~Michael

I was so thankful when the alarm went off at 5:30 and it was finally time to get out of bed. The night had been miserably hot/stuffy and I was more than ready to get the day started. I crawled out of my hammock, nearly stepped on a jungle crab and saw with horror that the tide was much further out than anticipated. Willy Wilson was almost beached (again) and the last thing we wanted to do was spend the entire day beached on the tiny stretch of jungle we were on.

We jumped in the water and slowly worked to wiggle the boat free from the sandbank. After 20 minutes Willy Wilson budged free and was floating in the calm water of the early morning. It was small victory but it felt so good knowing that we wouldn't have to spend the day in the same area. After a victory dance and a few too many victory yells, we packed up camp, got on Willy, and waded him through the shallow waters.

Once we reached deeper water, we dropped anchor and started to make breakfast. James boiled some water for coffee while I dropped a line in the water and started to fish. After coffee we shared a Kretek cigarette and boiled more water for ramen (or in the words of our Kazakhstani friend Gali, "Chinese Noots"). It was one of the most peaceful/relaxing moments of the entire trip. Drinking coffee, eating noodles, fishing and enjoying beautifully calm waters. This is what we bought the boat for. Moments where everything seemed to be going our way and knowing we had the entire day to explore the waters of southern Sumatra. We were all ecstatic.

To make the morning even better, I caught our first fish (not counting the 3 minnows we caught in the tide pools). After a quick dip in the water, we jumped back on Willy, topped up the oil (he had burnt through a tiny bit but nothing worrisome), pulled up the anchor and started heading south towards the end of the bay.

I thought I'd caught a piece of coral, but apparently some fish have no fight in them.

When we bought the boat, we had been told by numerous people to not leave the bay. The waters would be incredibly rough and most likely the boat would not be able handle such large seas. Obviously we wanted to heed their warnings, but we had to see for ourselves what the waters were like. Supposedly as soon as we left the bay, the waters would change and become rougher. The goal for the day was too see the waters at the opening of the bay and make a decision about whether Willy could handle the supposed rougher waters.

We chugged along for a couple hours, smiling to ourselves, thinking about how wild of an adventure we were on and wondering what lay ahead. Around 10 o'clock we rounded the opening of the bay and saw for ourselves the "rough water". The weather was fantastic and there was little to no wind, resulting in incredibly smooth water. The waves were substantially larger, but the boat easily cruised right over them. We decided to continue without second guessing our decision.

Our one concern was gas and water, we would need more of both before we reached Krui (our ultimate goal), meaning we would need to stop at a village sooner than later to replenish. We had ~30 liters of each left, but we figured it'd be a good idea to refill before facing the open waters of the Indian Ocean. We decided to try and stop along the coastline. We found a small cove and noticed there were houses lining the water front. We pulled in and started chugging towards the village.

There was a small beach break on the shoreline, but it didn't seem large enough to be a problem for Willy. That was an incorrect assumption. The boat hit land and immediately got pummeled by a wave, causing the boat to turn parallel to shore and splash water over the side. This continued for another 20 or 30 minutes as we struggled to unbeach Willy. We were swearing, sweating, and in a couple instances almost panicking while we tried to get the boat off shore. Nothing worked. Until 3 villagers came out to help us. With their added strength we were able to turn the boat around, point the nose out and slowly pull Willy back into the water.

We were exhausted and a bit embarrassed by our failed docking, so we decided to ride back out of the cove and continue towards the final island before reaching the Indian Ocean (Pulau Sawang Balak), where we would replenish our supplies. We had a quick meal of peanut butter and crackers as we rode towards Sawang Balak. The waters were still calm and the ride was just as beautiful as any other part of southern Sumatra.

Around 2 pm we finally reached the south eastern tip of Pulau Sawang Balak. That's when luck started to turn against us. The engine started to make a terrible noise and emitted large amounts (even for Willy) of black smoke. We turned off the engine and started to investigate. We checked the dip stick and found that the engine was completely empty . The water at the bottom of the boat (there was always a small amount of water in the hull) was full of oil. The only explanation we could think of was we busted a gasket or cracked the oil pan while we were struggling to get Willy off the beach while it was getting pummeled by waves. If we hadn't topped off the oil earlier that day, I would've said we had been negligent but we were careful to check oil levels and make sure Willy had enough. Until he was completely dry…

We poured what oil we had left into the engine and hoped it would be enough to overcome the friction of a dry engine. It wasn't. Despite our greatest efforts we could not get the motor started. There was no other way to describe it than toast. It had burnt itself to death with our help.

With the realization that our engine was fried, it slowly dawned on us that we would either have to A) try to land the boat and hike over the island to a village B) hope another boat would eventually pass by and they could tow us into land. We had paddles and decided A was our best option. None of us are good at being idle and waiting seemed like a poor idea. The only problem was, the "beaches" where we currently were on the island consisted of giant rocks and cliff faces. If we tried to land the boat anywhere near there, we would've instantly been smashed amongst the rocks.

Leaving us the only option of paddling along the island and trying to find a possible place to beach Willy. We had downloaded a boating app that had the bathymetric maps (under water topographic map) of everywhere we were boating, including the island we were currently broken down next to. The map showed us that there was a sandbar ~6 miles NW of where we were. That's a long way to paddle…

I'd like to take a quick second to mention that James has had a hard time with sea sickness in the past and was worried about being sea sick during this trip. There had been times where he hadn't felt well, but full on sea sickness hadn't struck him yet. Until now.

As we were discussing our options (James was slowly turning greener and greener), we realized the currents were taking us closer and closer to shore. The shore that was full of rocks and resembled "The Boneyard" from Surf's Up. There was a moment of panic as we scrambled to grab the paddles and started to paddle ourselves away from the shore and away from crashing on the rocks. Once we passed those rocks, there were more rocks that we had to paddle past. There was a rocky point ~1 mile away that looked like, once we past it, would maybe open up to a cove. We hoped it would. We set our eyes on that and worked to paddle towards the point.

Without the engine working, our rudder was essentially useless. Meaning we had little to no control of where the bow of the boat was pointing. For the most part it pointed directly away from the island, which meant we were not paddling towards the rock point, but away from the island. This was fine with me because it meant we were paddling further away from the possibility of being smashed against the rocks, but at the same time was incredibly frustrating not being able to paddle where we wanted. Luckily the current was pulling us NW along the coast of the island. As long as we paddled away from the island (and the smashing rocks) we would eventually drift past the rock point and hopefully into the cove.

Two hours later, around 4 o'clock, James had puked once and was having a miserable time trying to keep down any food and water. Despite feeling awful, he was able to help out with the paddling (we had two paddles so we made a rotation of two people paddling, one person bailing water, securing items, making emergency preparations for a crash landing, and resting). At this point we had put all our valuables, including wallets, water and food (our passports were in a waterproof case around my neck) into our backpacks, just in case we had to make a crash landing. We had made it past the point and were upset to see that a cove was non-existent. In fact, past the point were even more Boneyard like rocks. There was nowhere to land the boat.

Two hours later, the sun was setting and we were still about 4 miles away from the sandbar. The shoreline was unchanged and the possibility of landing Willy was zero. It was looking more and more likely that we would be spending a night on the boat. Which I can only imagine was James's worst nightmare. We were all feeling tired after paddling for 4hours, but James was still unable to keep down any food or water. Luckily, the major fear of crashing amongst the rocks had slightly abated due to our constant paddling away from shore, however a black storm cloud was forming around the island and darkness was starting to really creep in.

By 6:30 it was pitch black and we were hardly any closer to the sandbar. It was time to make a decision on what our next steps would be. As we were talking, we saw a light turn on in the middle of the water, it had to be a boat. We got out our lamp, and started to blink what we thought was the SOS signal, 3 fast blinks followed by 3 long blinks followed by a long pauses (turns out we were close, it's 3 fast blinks, 3 slows blinks, 3 fast blinks followed by a long pause). We continued doing this 15 or 20 minutes, not sure if the other boat saw us and was actually coming our way. It appeared that they did. They blinked their lights at us and we immediately felt a wave of relief. They would be able to tow us to sandbar or another village. As the boat was coming our way, it started raining. Perfect timing I thought, even if it is raining, we've got some help, "so who really cares?". The boat came closer and closer until they were so close that we could see our faces. It didn't look like they were going to stop. We started yelling for help. The fishing boat kept moving. We yelled more, one of the fishermen looked at us, but continued to pull in his nets. The fishing boat, that came within 100 feet of us, just kept going. It was almost comedic. Except now we would have to spend the night on Willy.

We decided to drop the anchor, in the hopes that it would keep us from drifting either away from the island or into the island. We pulled down the rain tarps, got our emergency bags together (our Cotopaxi backpacks and GIVI duffel bags), pulled our life rings together and ate a can of corn for dinner. James was able to have a bite or two. As we were laying on the deck of the boat, water started to splash over the side and fill the boat. The winds had picked up, the rain was coming down hard and the waves were growing larger. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep. We decided we'd have shifts, one person bailing water while the other two slept (or tried to). Each shift would be 1 hour long. I was the first shift and started bailing at 8 o'clock. The light of the fishing boat was still in the distance and I was keeping an eye on it, however my hopes of it coming back and pick us up were minimal.

I was bailing for ~30 minutes before I realized the boat was definitely getting closer, I didn't say anything but continued to keep an eye on it. 10 minutes later James noticed the boat was closer too. We got the lamp back out and continued blinking at the boat. They came right next to us again and we thought they were going to keep going moving right past us, until one fishermen ran into the captain's cabin and told him to turn the boat around. He did. It was an incredible feeling. The fishing boat came up next to us, and after nearly being crushed by the stern of their boat (the waves were really picking up now), I was able to pass them our anchor line. They tied it around the rear of their boat and we hitched it onto the anchor post of ours. We were saved. The boat would pull us into the village, we would park the boat and be back on land in no time. Nope.

The waves were large enough and the size difference between Willy and the fishing boat so great, that when the fishing boat pulled forward, Willy would yank ahead. This caused a lot of slack in our tow line. If anyone has ever been tubing or wakeboarding or waterskiing, the last thing you want is slack in the tow line. Once the fishing boat regained the lead, we were essentially stopped in the water and the fishing boat hard a large amount of momentum. Thus, when the slack in the line ran out, we were yanked forward. After 2 or 3 yanks, the anchor post on the boat started to crack. We were terrified. We backed up the anchor post by tying the line to another post and hoped they would hold. After 2 or 3 miles of bone jarring towing the post ripped forward. This put a hole in the front of our boat. Water was rushing in and all the force was put on our back up point. The boat was filling with water, causing us to sink slightly and putting the edge of our boat dangerously close to the surface. Each jolt resulted in a gush of water crashing over the sides. We were still a mile away from the sandbar.

It seemed to take an eternity but we finally reached the cove where the sandbar was. The fishing boat untied our anchor line, tossed it into the water and waved goodbye. We were in the cove, about 300 yards from the shore, with a sinking boat. We were almost there. We grabbed the paddles and started working our way to shore. By this point the lightning and thunder had joined the constant rain and we were terrified to see, amidst the sporadic lighting flashes, more rocks lining the "sandbar". It felt like a movie as we used the lightening to guide ourselves around the rocks.

The waves were crashing on the shore and we were seconds away from catching a wave that we would either take us closer to shore, or wreck us like the waves did earlier in the day. It wrecked us. More water gushed over the sides and we started to turn sideways. We grabbed our bags and jumped off the boat.

It was an absolutely terrifying couple seconds as I emerged from the water and yelled Graham and James's names to see if they were okay. They both responded and we began to swim into shore. The waves were crashing over us as we swam/climbed over the solid rock shoreline. Who knows how long it took, I'm guessing we only swam 100 yards, but once we reached solid ground, we were dumbfounded and ecstatic to be out of the water. We escaped with a couple scratches on our legs and feet, that was it. We scrambled up the beach, found ourselves in a palm tree forest, set up our hammocks, and went to bed. As I was lying in my hammock, I could see Willy Wilson smashed up against the rocks amid the lightning flashes. I fell asleep with that image burning itself into my memory.

Nov 10th: Defeated

~ Graham

I woke up throughout the night to the sound of thunder claps, flashes of lightning, pounding rain, and waves crashing onto the rocks about 60 feet from our camp spot in the palm trees. I occasionally peered out and could see the Willy Wilson crashed on the rocky shoreline illuminated by the lighting flashes. It felt like something straight out of a movie. You could just see quick glimpses of our boat when the lightning would light up the whole coastline. In these flashes I would see the waves we tried to land it in crashing on the sharp rocks, and various objects still dangling on the side of the boat where we had strapped them down. It was a pretty sad sight.

When the sky started getting brighter as the sun rose the people of the village started to stir, and so did the biggest thunderstorm I think I have ever witnessed. The thunder rippled through my hammock and everything seemed to tremble. The rain came down in buckets, and my not quite waterproof tarp was not cutting it. Water started dripping in everywhere, and while I groggily worked to find the drips and stop them I watched the villagers try and understand what had just landed on their shore. A guy came up with an umbrella and walked up and almost touched my hammock until I moved and then he darted away to James’ hammock where he did the same thing. The earliest risers started pillaging the surviving things off the boat, and eventually they came up to wake us up. The motioned for us to come inside out of the rain, and we happily obliged. Everyone looked really friendly and a little concerned with what we were doing, so I felt pretty safe. I almost left all my stuff there, but then thought better of it and grabbed all my important stuff before following the crowd of villagers down towards their homes.

In the distance you can see the kids pilfering the Willy Wilson where it lays beached on the rocks

The village was pretty nice. The buildings were made of concrete and there was a nice little concrete path through all the houses. Everyone was coming out of their homes to check us out, and see what three ‘bules’ (Indonesian term for foreigner) were doing in their village. They took us to the house of the guy who was obviously in charge of the whole village. He weighed about 30 to 40 pounds more than everyone else, and there were pictures of him in a military uniform on the walls. Some of the other guys motioned to these pictures as if to reinforce the importance of this man. He was essentially the chief of the village, and it was interesting to see the contrast between himself and everyone else. Everyone was pretty interested in us, and determining what we were doing except for the chief. He lounged in his big comfy chair smoking cigarettes and looking us up and down; apparently judging us and trying to figure us out.

Three women brought us some delicious Indonesian coffee, and then retreated back to the kitchen. They hardly ever came into the room unless they were bringing coffee or food. We ate a breakfast of various types of fish and rice, and then set about trying to explain that we needed to make it back to Lampung. It took us about an hour of sign language and looking up different words in my basic translation book to explain what we wished to do. They told us that they actually speak Bahasa Lampung, which is the native language to the region. When I asked Willy about this later he said hardly anyone still speaks that language, so in hindsight it was interesting to have a run in with the traditional inhabitants of these lands. When everything finally made sense to both sides they suddenly said we needed to pack everything up. Apparently the water taxi was leaving very soon!

While we were having breakfast one of the guys had gone back to our camp to grab our stuff, but when we looked at it we realized there were quite a few things that were missing. James walked back over to the campsite to see where his hammock was, but unfortunately it was not there. While we were eating at the chief’s house all of our stuff was being pilfered by the rest of the village. At this point I realized that I actually had not grabbed all my important stuff. Last night I had moved my wallet and money into my backpack so that It would be closer to me if we had to swim to shore. I had forgotten this in the morning when it was pouring rain and we were surrounded by villagers, but now I realized that my wallet and about $150 was gone, and would probably never be coming back. The house closest to our campsite seemed to be the main culprit of the theft, because as we asked them about it various things started appearing from the rear of their home. However when I enquired about my wallet everyone insisted that they did not have it. I started losing my cool, which is really looked down upon in their culture, but I couldn’t help it. I figured that maybe if I was upset the chief would put some pressure on them to return it because I was his guest. It looked that me losing my cool wasn’t getting me anywhere other than maybe making everyone else upset. I retreated back to the chief’s hut, and Michael tried to cool the situation with smiles. We figured our best chance was to sit there and hope that my wallet might appear since we brought up the issue. We had gotten back most of our equipment, but a few things were still missing that would be of zero use to these people (a camera lens, and the Enerplex generator). I explained to the chief that I didn’t want the money back (at this point no matter what I did the money was gone forever), but that I just wanted my wallet back with my cards.

We sat in the chief’s house for another ten minutes packing up all of our stuff, and then got ready to head down to the water taxi. As we were walking out of the house they ushered me back in. I was taken to the kitchen in the back of the house were several people were sitting around a table with my wallet in the middle. They handed it to me and asked me to check it. To my surprise they had left the 12 USD that I had in there, but not to my surprise all the rupiah was gone. There were various cards jumbled in various parts of my wallet that had obviously been rummaged through, but it looked like most of them were there. I thanked everyone at the table and shook all of their hands. I was genuinely happy to at least get my wallet back. We walked back out of the house and down to the beach to catch the water taxi back to the mainland. On our way we could see the Willy Wilson stranded on the shore completely stripped of everything, and a bunch of kids now playing and rummaging through it to see if there was anything left.

The little outrigger that took us out to the water taxi in the background

We jumped in a little outrigger canoe, and they paddled us out to the water taxi through a pretty fun looking wave. My surf senses were tingling at the sight of the first surfable wave I have seen in 7 or 8 months. I perked up at the idea of surfing again, and my mood brightened a bit. I don’t know if I will ever go back to Pulau Tabuan given the sour taste I got there, but as the water taxi cruised along its shore I saw endless amounts of fun looking lefts breaking on the innumerable reefs along the coastline. There are still waves out there that haven’t been surfed. Even in one of the most surfed countries in the world.

Fun looking wave in front of the village

The next 5 hours were spent sitting on the water taxi as it shot around the bay to the various villages and picked up people to go to the biggest city, Kota Agung. The most exciting that happened during this time was when the water taxi engine also broke. This made me feel a little better that it has to be a pretty common occurrence. It didn’t take long for another boat to come and give us a tow the rest of the way to Kota Agung. When we got off the boat we were bombarded by ojek drivers (scooter taxis) asking us where we wanted to go. There wasn’t anywhere that we wanted to go that I was looking to do by a scooter. We were about 2-3 hours from Lampung and at least 5 from Krui, so we walked into town to try and find a bus.

We hung out with these guys on the ferry for a few hours

We ended up meeting an incredibly excitable young man named Jalan. He spoke decent English and ended up giving us a ride on his motorcycle to the bus station. He also did a really good job of warding off the crowds of ojeks who were being incredibly forceful about us jumping on their bikes which only hardened our resolve to not get on their bikes. Jalan could not have been more excited by almost anything I had to say. Every time I answered a question he responded with “WOW! Really!?” We ended up parting ways with smiles, and he now had a friend from America. He told us many times he had friends from Poland and the UK, and now he could add the USA to that list.

Getting a tow into Kota Agung

The leg room on the bus was unbelievably tiny. We all had to sit sideways for our legs to fit. Everyone else seemed to fit comfortably, and I was trying to figure out how they sat so their legs didn’t hit. I refused to believe that I was actually that much taller, but it appears that we are all at least a few inches taller than the average Indonesian. The bus wound its way slowly through the towns between Kota Agung and Lampung, and 3 hours later we were back in Lampung. We gave Willy a call, and he came and picked us up. It almost felt like we never left as we piled back into our room, turned on Archer when the power went out, and sipped a beer to cool off and distress from a ridiculous 48 hours. We all were feeling pretty down and lost about where to go from here. We decided to put off any decision making until the next day, and just try and enjoy the AC, clean shower, and cold Bintang.

November 11th: Recovery


Despite being exhausted and bit lost with the sudden change in plans we were all up and about early. We basked in the air conditioning and allowed the wifi to consume our souls for awhile. We were all busy contacting our loved ones about our most recent adventure and researching what the next step might be. Finally Willy broke us out of our trance by inviting us to a breakfast of pork and noodles. We piled into his car along with another American, Sebastian (Seb), who was working on his PHD in Indonesian politics from Cornel. The breakfast was delicious and the company even better. We shared our trips stories and related our most recent boating adventure to our new friend and enjoyed the company of a fellow American. We were all intrigued to learn about Seb's past experiences in Indonesia which were extensive and picked his brain for new Indonesian words and places to go and things to do. When breakfast was finished we returned to the guest house to once again be swallowed up by the wifi.

We spent the morning researching new options for our remaining time in Indonesia as well as looking up movie times for the new James Bond movie which had just been released. When our eyes were exhausted from all the screen time we left and headed down the street to get some lunch. After lunch we picked up some snacks and a beer for the movie. If we were going to do a movie we figured we should do it right. We caught a bus to a large and fancy mall across town that housed the theater. The theater was very fancy with very comfortable seats and a almost ritzy look to it. We settled in and enjoyed the movie. Not sure if it was just the contrast to our most recent experiences but we all found the movie and theater to be beyond awesome. The movie allowed a complete separation from our world into a world that was familiar but exciting and adventurous all the same. We all agreed it was one of our favorite bond movies to date. The movie was the topic of our conversation as we made our way home stopping for a quick Nazi Goreng (fried rice) at our new favorite street vendor. The rest of the night went quickly as we were all exhausted and didn't feel like doing much other than watching some TV shows and soaking up the luxuries of the guest house.

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