Mon 9 May 2011 11:02
Saturday, May 7th
Marina Batavia, Jakarta
Not too impressed, after the peace of last night, to get down here to the smells and bustle of a busy waterfront. Marina waypoints particularly unhelpful, but as a result, I inadvertently entered and toured the fishing port area; a stinky noisy place, and a lot of apparently good natured banter from the various crews, who clearly recognised that I was out of place! It was quite fun. Finally tracked the Marina entrance down, and just got in with a foot to spare, at low tide. I was the only visitor, and there were some three dozen local boats, nearly all high powered sportsfishing cruisers. The pontoons were rather run down, but by contrast the shoreside facilities were excellent: the place functions as a club for wealthy locals to socialize and network, with the 'draw' of the marina as a backdrop. Jakarta is huge, and relatively speaking I was outside the North Circular Road, trying to glimpse the centre. In the end it was only possible to do this by taxi, the ride 'in' was firstly through very poor areas, shanty housing, pockmarked roads, and endless queues of cars, often four abreast, all nudging to fill each vacent place up ahead. We had seen this before in Bali; and finally I'm a convert! Althought there is a lot of horn work, everyone actually stays very cool, and I am impressed how little 'down time' there is at major junctions. I wonder if we got rid of all our traffic control systems, and learned to drive with these techniques, whether we would not all get to work much quicker! Instead of traffic police or traffic lights, vigilantees take money from vehicles trying to join a stream of traffic, and if you pay enough these boys leap into the main stream and halt it: it seems to work very well, and I saw no one killed. Anyway nothing much in the City Centre: a couple of big East German type Statues, and modern malls and office blocks rising at random from the surrounding unkempt and rather poor shops and streets. The old Town: Kota, behind the fishing port, was more scenic. This was the original Dutch developement, houses by the canals have some character, but many are falling down, despite preservation orders. There is a History Museum here, you can stand on the spot where the Dutch hanged all the petty thieves: but we've done colonialism several times before!
Provisioning was easy, there was a big French chain supermarket downtown. More difficult was getting my clearance papers. The customs office in the old port was a container, painted blue, standing on concrete blocks in a huge puddle of water from last nights rain. One of the Marina Staff took me there on his motorcycle (what crash helmet?). Inside there were four boys sitting on the floor playing cards. Sit down please, said the one with a little English. So I sat on the floor as well, and when the hand of cards was over they spread my documents out, passed them around, and tried to make sense of them: I was trying to keep track of them, especially my passport! They said that I would have to pay a bond of several thousand pounds (this is an old trick, that we had all been warned about), then they said that they needed to inspect the boat: so we re-assembled on Fleck, and they started to open all the cupboards, but in a very half hearted way. So then the leader said, 'Well, do you have drugs or firearms?' 'No', says I. 'Well thats good then' says he, but do you have any powders? I offered him a bottle of Horlicks and a tin of dried milk. He sniffed the Horlicks, and stirred the powdered milk with his index finger (right index finger, good Muslim!). And that was that, except because I hadn't paid my bond, there weren't going to give me the customs certificate that I needed to clear the boat. Quarantene next: a straightforward bribe of ten pounds for a certificate saying that I was free from transmissible diseases! Then Immigration: set off for the Main Shipping Port at about three pm in bright sunshine, in the back of my bluebird taxi. Was promised that the fare would by about six pounds including a wait at the Office. Everything then took place in a torrential downpour, virtually all the streets became waterlogged, but this is a near daily occurrence at ths time of the year. The immigration office, when we finally found it, was closed; but the caretaker took me on his motorbike to the passenger terminal office. I was drenched through, clutching his bike with one hand, and my documents, fortunately in a plastic wallet, with the other. We seemed to travel miles. There were six cardplayers in the new offices, and I must say that they were extremely pleasant, offered me a bottle of water, and passed my ducuments around. None of them knew where Cocos Keeling was (my destination). I drew a map, and they didn't seem to recognise even Indonesia. This is a problem that I have encountered before, they can manage apps on their mobile phones, but they have never needed maps. Anyway, after I had promised to visit all their home islands on my trip through Indonesia, I got my passport stamp and immigration certificate, and miraculously my original taxi driver turned up smiling, and took me home. Well, smile he might, his taxi had clocked up the equivalent of thirty quid!
When you have got yout first three bits of paper you have to go the the Harbourmaster to exchange them for the vital bit: the Port ClearanceForm. Without this, you can't enter any other Country. We will skip the 'finding the Harbourmasters office saga', I'm sitting on an uptuned plastic milk bottle container, before a panel of seven harbour officials. Where is Cocos Keeling? I had a brainwave: Australia, I said. Ah, they said, that will do nicely! No one seemed to mind that the customs form was missing, and after paying the reasonable harbour dues (but you never get a receipt!), I was done!
Next up the Sunda Strait, and then out onto the South Indian Ocean, where it looks like being a difficult trip until we get down to Cocos Keeling, where there are already good tradewinds for Mauritius. One step at a time.