Coast Guard Henkie Imanuel Parinussa

OFF INTO THE UNKNOWN

Diving with Coast Guard Henkie

How do you actually organize a trip like ours? some readers might wonder. And I asked myself the same question! Moving to a different place every five or six days. How do I get from one port to another, from one island to the next? What route to take? Where do I eat and sleep? What and whom should I focus my attention on? What to do and what to avoid? Whom do I trust, and whom should I not? In the meantime, after three months under way, the answer to that last question has become crystal clear: the coast guard!

It’s an odd story: last autumn I was invited to exhibit and lecture at the university in Bogota, Colombia. On the flight back I’ve a stopover in Paris. In the transit area, I come upon a bunch of people speaking a language not entirely unfamiliar to me: Indonesian! 22 coast guards from all over Indonesia on their way to Bremen for some advanced training. We exchange addresses, and six months later we’re walking into the coast guard’s office in Ambon, the capital of the Maluku (Moluccas) province in Indonesia. The surprise is great, the ensuing exchange quite brief: “You want to go to New Guinea? Either in two hours or two weeks!” We make tracks and two hours later we’re off to sea. The voyage has resumed.

In Fak Fak we proceed likewise, our first visit is to the coast guard. Again a cordial hello. One of the coast guards, Henkie Imanuel Parinussa, lets us use his motorcycle. The next day, two of them invite me for a dive. We spend the evenings dining together – on fried fish, rice and vegetables, like every day for the past two months. At the weekend we ride two motorcycles through the overwhelming jungle over 950 m-high mountains to Kokas Kota on the other side of West Papua.

But the coast guards can’t tell us – at the time of writing this blog post – how we shove off from Fak Fak. The gods only know.