TRAVEL GUIDE FROM THE UNDERBELLY------3
We set sail for Robert's island,
near the southern end of the Riau archipelago.
He’d renewed his visa and was returning
(with bootleg spirits) back to his Canadian homeys.
The restocking of booze was a communal action accepted by both party's (between my host and his Canadian mates) when returning home
from the quarterly visa run to Singapore.
But there is a lot to see and do between here
and there and my host was in no hurry.
Robert told me about a small village
up a long river,
to be found in a secret break in the shoreline,
within a lush and stunning natural harbour.
This was on an island
which lay several hours from us.
There were islands all around us.
There were thousands of them.
The water was crystal clear.
Fish of all size, shapes and colors,
zigzagging in all directions, all at once.
Currents and eddy's were shifting and blending;
creating whirlpools of aquatic chaos.
It was amazing.
Having grown up on the coast
I was no stranger to sailing.
This though, was like sailing into a new universe while stepping back in time and space.
We sliced a course which brought
us to a wilderness engulfed island.
The shoreline broke up
and became a most inviting natural harbour.
Small sampans were to be seen flitting about.
They were local fishermen.
The Sampans they used
were the length of a cot or small bed.
They are to be seen all over the archipelago.
I’ve seen them 20 miles offshore,
in high wind and choppy seas.
As we entered the harbour we confronted
an impenetrable curtain of green.
Dense forest ringed the harbour until,,,,
at one particular and well aimed point of attack
a gateway opened which was normally well hidden.
It was a break in the trees
which revealed a well protected river inlet.
This river would take us into the jungle about a mile or two to a small village.
The river was like a long dark tunnel
in a carnival fun-house.
Bits of light came through the tree canopy
as illuminated pillars
extended downwards from the tree tops.
Vines and trees formed a natural ceiling.
Jungle sounds played out in surround-sound.
This was old growth tropical forest,
not the type one jaunts into for a pick-nick,
unless your stocked up with poison vaccines.
The entire village was out to meet us
as word of our arrival had preceded us.
We dropped anchor and tied up to the dock.
The village consisted of dirt pathways going off into the forest where they had built there huts.
The villagers wasted no time
in promptly ushering us into their homes,
where we were sumptuously plied with a bounty of spiced fish, meats and small dishes of all types.
Eventually we went back to the boat
and set in for the night.
One advantage to living on the water,
was an added protection in combating malaria.
The night breeze along the shoreline
makes it difficult for the mosquito's
to alight long enough to pass their nasty legacy.
There must be something to it
because the Riau archipelago has a high malaria rate and I seem to have survived untouched.
Knock on wood.
The next day I awoke to an eye-burning light
We’d consumed a not so slight amount of moonshine the night before.
I had a hangover which afforded me
no advantages over my unpleasant circumstances.
I stumbled out of the small cabin
which consisted of a roof
suspended between three windows with an open back.
I was not in the best of shape and was not prepared for what greeted me next.
As we awoke with the outgoing tide
we were once again a meter or so lower
than when we had gone to sleep.
Staring down at me in long panorama,
was every male (comprised of all ages)
in the village, looking intently
at the two white men in the small sailboat.
“Oh look! That one just scratched his nose”
“Hey,, that one just farted”
They don’t get many visitors
and in normal times a white foreigner
could never find his way here
to such a remote location.
This was a big event for them.
In the afternoon my host and I
decided on a fish dinner for our evening meal.
We were tied up to the dock along the rivers edge.
We had but to cast a line over the side
and “Presto”, we should have a fine fish dinner,
which is what we thought.
A couple men from the village
had brought us strong ginger tea,
and were seated with us on the boat
as we cast our lines.
We were talking (with my host translating for me) when I felt a strong tug on my line.
We were all exited as I reeled in my catch.
Our excitement turned quickly to astonishment
and then to shock as a mean and muscular snake
broke the water,
yanked rudely from his watery habitat.
He was a writhing mass of anger and indignation and he was coming at us fast as my line
swung him over the side of the boat
and onto the deck.
The Indonesians reacted quickly
as I drew a blade from my leatherman multi-tool.
They cried out,,, “NO DON’T”
(in their language) !!!!!
I changed to the pliers on my leatherman,
grabbed the snake and held him in a firm grasp.
The snake was preoccupied with the hook
sunk deeply into his jaws.
The Indonesians told us these snakes
were highly poisonous and that we must boil it.
That was the local custom.
We soon had a pot of boiling water.
I lowered the snake into the water (he did’nt want to get boiled).
The look on the faces of the Indonesians
was one of deep satisfaction.
They knew that when you were boiled to death,
you were really dead.
We threw the snake overboard
and continued to fish.
We felt another tug and promptly pulled up another poisonous snake.
There was no way to dislodge his mouth
from the hook without risk of a bite,
so we got out the boiling water once again,
repeating the exorcism
before throwing the corpse overboard.
We soon caught another and another.
At the count of nine we quite
The water at the side of the boat
was a thrashing mass of snakes
devouring their dead.
We ate Chinese noodle soup
and drank moonshine that night.