Poetere: the "pinisi" port in Makassar

POETERE

Photography: Poetere: the Pinisi port in Makassar

I’ve been crisscrossing the Indonesian archipelago now for a little over six months and 4,500 nautical miles. Time for a brief recap.

My voyage began in the second half of 2012 in Makassar, where Joseph Conrad’s anti-hero Heemskirk deliberately wrecks his rival Jasper Allen’s brig on a reef. All for a woman, the beautiful Freya of the Seven Isles. Allen goes mad, Freya dies of heartbreak and pneumonia. Only Heemskirk’s fate remains uncertain. As uncertain as my own ongoing adventure.

My visit to Fort Rotterdam does not prove very rewarding. But just as I’m about to leave the nattily renovated fort, a rickshaw driver pedals right up to me and says, “You must go to Poetere!” No idea what he’s talking about, but I get into his rickshaw without asking a whole lot of questions and away we go. Past big docks, containers, cranes, no-go grounds on our left, karaoke bars on our right. 20 minutes later, we’re in Poetere, the old traditional port of Makassar. How did the rickshaw driver, with his hearty laugh and continual “Look, Mister, here!” and “Look, Mister, there!”, know this was precisely what I was looking for? And how come I didn’t even know Poetere existed in the first place?

First I need a cup of coffee. I’m waved into a little shack where a fragrant beverage is brewed for me. Around me a bunch of muscular, cheerful sun-tanned dockworkers and sailors are eating breakfast and smoking Gudang Garam cigarettes whilst marvelling at my presence – and poking fun at me. Outside this little hut, no-one would guess there is such a convivial crowd inside eating, drinking and smoking away – which is actually against the rules, for the customs are quite strict in these parts: it’s Ramadan.