On the sea, Ambon to Bau Bau (Indonesia, 2012)


In March 2012 I hitch-hiked on cargo boats, from Ambon to Sulawesi.

In Indonesia, travelling on cargo ships is forbidden, but I found out that in the eastern part of the archipelago, there are boats which transport cargo without documents, avoiding the sea police, so hopping on them should have been possible.

After a few unsuccessful attempts, in Lombok, Sumbawa and Sulawesi, I tried my luck in Ambon. A big wooden ship was preparing to leave to Wanci, a small harbour in Sulawesi. I paid two cartons of cigarettes, to captain and crew, hopped-on their boat and one and a half-day later, I arrived in Wanci.

I spent two days in Wanci, a fisherman village, and found a klm (kapal layar mesin – a boat with sail and engine) preparing to sail to Bau Bau, a port-town in South Sulawesi.

We left Wanci at the nightfall, hoping for a flat sea. But soon it started to rain, and it last all night. The boat was jam-packed with copra (dried coconut) and I had to squeeze myself in the cabin, behind the captain. The old man was finding his way, in the pitch-dark night, using only an old compass. Somehow, the next day we arrived in Bau Bau.

Overall the trip was terribly uncomfortable, but it offered me to visit some Buginese villages and spectacle of klm harbors. Dozens of wooden boats, some still having masts and sails, with different designs, from different parts of the archipelago, with crews speaking different languages, carrying literary everything, gather in small harbours, neighbouring fishermen villages. The boats dock side by side, forming floating settlements, where people climb and jump from one boat to another, in order to reach the shore and back to the boat.

From Bau Bau I took a ferryboat to Makassar, the main harbour in South Sulawesi, where the adventurous part of this trip ended.

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