Cockfight on Bonerate


Photography: Cockfight on Bonerate

Not a trace of Samsjul, the ship owner’s son! Not a word, not even a phone call. Meanwhile, the affable owner of the only room to rent in town, with an obscured view of the sea, says blithely, “Try again tomorrow, Mister!” I eat two bananas and take a stroll down to the pier. Two young fellows zoom up on their motorcycles and ask me, “Are you Mr. Beat, the Ovaltine guy? Samsjul told us to look for you, he lives on the other side of the island.”

We spend the next two days crisscrossing the island, swimming in the lagoons and freshwater grottos and watching cockfights, where sorcerers tie lethal knives to the feet of the cocks and charm them with secret incantations. We admire a proud red- and blue-painted fishing boat that is to be launched next week with great pomp and ceremony. On the beach not far from my lodgings, a good dozen Pinisis are being built. People wave to me wherever I go, shouting: “Mister, Mister!” No wonder: it’s been a long time since any white men came this way.

After a week on shore, we line up a ride on a Pinisi called Medina. We’re to be at the port by 7 am, says Captain Nidun during our visit on the eve of our scheduled departure. At 9 am we heave his motorcycle onto a little dinghy and then onto the ship. At 10 am comes the announcement: “Besok Baru Barakat!” I glance over to the engineer uncomprehendingly, but my little dictionary comes in handy here: the voyage has been put off to tomorrow. The crew disembark, the captain didn’t even show up at all. The engineer and I remain aboard the Medina. What is there for me to do on land? I feel better here – there’s even a motorcycle on board, only this one doesn’t make any noise! The next day it transpires that the helmsman had had one too many and was indisposed, hence the postponement.