After several months, our eventful voyage unexpectedly comes to an abrupt end. Stopped by – of all people – those who’ve previously been so helpful to us. Back from Minado, we find the situation hasn’t got any better. Shipping has been shut down, not a single ship is allowed to leave port. The reason is the two typhoons that hit Japan and more recently the Philippines and have been churning up the sea along the shores of Sulawesi. The waves are said to be up to 6 metres (20 feet) high, and the vessel that would take us to Samarinda in Kalimantan is stuck in the harbour. As are we. Now as before, rain, cloudy skies and a dismal weather forecast.
We end our wait on the north side of Sulawesi island and decide to try our luck again in Makassar. In Makassar I am greeted by Professor Tato, head of the art college there. Back in 2012 he helped me find a ship to Balikpapan. He is all excited about the prospect of a political sea change in Indonesia: “Jakowi is our new president! Jakowi! Jakowi! He’s going to put a stop to the corruption in this country.” After a meal of fish, rice and vegetables, we drive off to Poetere to look for a ship to Surabaya, where I’m planning to conclude my voyage. But that’s not how things turn out.
In Makassar it’s the same scenario: storm, wind, shipping is suspended. Still, we do find a ship quickly. A beautiful little pinisi with a very likable captain, who’s glad to have two guests aboard for a change, he says that’s good for crew morale. But we still haven’t got our sailing papers from the Coast Guard. The next day we make our way to Poetere again to obtain the necessary authorization. Just to play it safe, I take my policeman friend Zarkoni along. But we hit unexpected snags from the start: we’re to take the Pelni boat, insists the coast guard on duty, deaf to our entreaties.
But the Coast Guard office in town might be worth a try. Zarkoni drives us there. The head coast guard, a woman, is gruff, dismissive and couldn’t care less about our reportage on shipping in the Indonesian archipelago. “Where’s your passport?” she barks. At the Goethe-Institut or the passport office, I reply, but I do have my ID card here and my Surat Tanda Melapor (registration letter). Nothing doing. No passport – no authorization.
Disappointed, we drive back to Poetere and tell the captain what happened. He is furious and rants and raves about the matter. He’d take us along without authorization but that’s risky: they routinely get stopped by the Coast Guard here in Makassar and have to pay bribes for nothing at all. And at that very moment a fishing boat is trying to leave the harbour to fish along the coast. Out of the blue a little boat appears alongside it, and we can see something change hands between the vessels. “Coast Guard!” growls the exasperated captain.
Perhaps the Coast Guard boss in Makassar ought to crack down on her own ranks rather than keeping creative artists from their work….