The miracle at Christmas.
Maybe ‘miracle’ is a bit rich. When I was living with JH in Brisbane back in the mid 2000s ‘kissed on the …’ was an expression that was used amongst the boys to describe a lucky break.
I’ve just had a lucky break.
Oh mate, you were kissed on the…. right there.
I wouldn’t advise doing it my way. In fact, this is definitely one of the tips I hope to pass on somewhere like TripAdvisor and crazyguy because things seem to have changed from the research I read which suggested, like Edwin that you can get a Pelni ticket on the docks.
So, my way. No prepurchased ticket. I cycle to the docks, arriving at 10 am, five hours before the ferry was due to depart, confidently cycling past the first security checkpoint calling out, “Pelni. Ende. Merry Christmas” before they could stop me to ask any questions.
There was already quite a crowd outside the Pelni terminal, with their suitcases, bags, boxes, sacks and cockses. (For my English students – just playing around here, plural male chickens are of course……roosters and not cockses, but a single rooster can also be called a cock. But, er, a cock, as you may or may not know can also be something else too. Just look it up in your dictionary.) Appears to be the theme slang word of the post….
I happen to sit next to a university student who is going back to his home island, Sabu, stop number two of four on today’s voyage, for the first time in four years. He’s softly spoken and super polite but not very encouraging. He agreed with Chilean Ben’s version. There is no way to board the boat without a ticket. Mister, everyone here has a ticket. You have to buy it from the office in town. That’s what eveyone has done. Why don’t you have a ticket mister? Because the guy at the hotel told me I’d be fine without. He said I could buy it on the boat. But they won’t let you on to the boat without a ticket. What will you do when they say you need a ticket? The hotel manager said not to worry, everything will be fine. Maybe he is wrong mister.
Maybe he is.
At about 12.30 pm the first lot of gates open and a mass of people push forward. Tickets are being checked. I fold a piece of paper and tuck it into my passport so just a fraction is showing. I wave that, and amazingly it’s enough for my bike and I to slide past.
The ship arrives at 2 pm and it takes an hour to get passengers off, and another hour before a second gate opens and we all push forward again.
Another official is checking tickets on the gang plank to the ship. Every now and again he says something in Bahasa and everyone holds their tickets in the air and waves them at him. He wants us to have our tickets ready. I use the same tactic as before, and perhaps pretend to be struggling pushing my enormous, hard to maneuver bike, and it works again. I’m on board. After scrutinising everyone else’s paperwork I’m waved though. I can’t help but think of how I’m trusted here, a foreigner in Indonesia, but that an Indonesian in Australia would be likely to be trusted less…
I find a free wall to rest my bike against and sit beside it on the floor. There are day beds but these are taken quickly. Almost every available space on the floor is taken up by adults and children, suitcases, bags, boxes, sacks and cockses. Yep, the guy across from me had a couple of roosters. Must be good ones. It was unpleasant, hot and stuffy with poor ventilation.
The boat doesn’t leave until 6:30 pm. The family beside me ask me to join them for (Christmas as it turns out) dinner of chicken and rice. I am carrying one blank Christmas card and use it now, thanking them.
Afterwards, I pack my valuables and go exploring, finding a nice spot on the top deck, over a safety railing (but still safe!) where I sleep for a couple of hours in the sea breeze before it starts raining and I go back inside. I’m the only foreigner on board. Lots of new friends are made and I’m as polite as possible because I realise each interaction is new for the person opposite, but for me it’s almost always the same conversation. Hey mister. Where you from? Where you going? My name is, mister?
The trip goes ok. At each stop more people disembark than embark so it becomes possible to find seating and bedding. You get sweaty and stick to the vinyl in the stuffy conditions if you want to lie down, so that’s not a plus but I do it for short periods of time.
The toilets are horrific. There are hygiene issues all over the boat.
It’s a looooong journey, including a frustrating end when the boat’s motors stop literally 50 metres from the Ende pier. We drift for 90 minutes before they are fixed and the ship is able to be maneuvered so we can disembark, on land by half past eight, over 25 hours since I boarded.