It is amazing how a relatively short passage of 260 miles results in a complete transition from one area of the world to another. We’ve been in Jayapura for almost 2 days now, and it definitely feels like we have left the rural South Pacific and have entered Southeast Asia. This is a bustling city of 350,000 people, and 340,000 of them don’t speak English. There is a completely different vibe here compared to the islands, and so far we like it a lot.
As I mentioned earlier, checking into Customs here was quick and professional. Customs is located in an air conditioned two story building right on the main wharf. They spent 5 minutes reviewing our paperwork there and then requested a ride out to Sophie to inspect the boat. They were quite friendly and took many photos of the boat and of themselves. They also did a quick and thorough search. Only 20 cruising yachts have entered Jayapura in 2014, but only 2 of them came from the US.
Afterwards they insisted on taking a picture with our family. How’s this for a potential Christmas card photo?
Clearing Immigration took longer, almost 4 hours. This was mainly because their photocopying machine was broken. We also had to travel to the national bank to pay the fee for Lauren’s Visa on Arrival.
We eventually got it all sorted it out and capped off the day by going to what Customs told us was the fanciest, most expensive restaurant in town, B-One. We shared 7 plates of Indonesian and Chinese food, plus some beers and fresh squeezed fruit juices, all for US$60. And this was the most expensive place in town! It’s one thing to hear that eating in restaurants in Indonesia is less expensive than cooking on your own, but to actually experience it is wonderful. From an eating perspective, we are going to be so happy here.
Yesterday, Jenna and the kiddies started off with Sophie school while Lauren and I went into town to sort out cell phone coverage and Internet access.
This sign is right on the main drag in Jayapura. I know in my heart that the further west we travel, the closer we are getting to our home, including our family near Boston. Here is a sign that proves it. I wonder if I can get a regular with egg nog to go with my half dozen honey dipped.
When school was over, I collected Jenna and the kiddies and we all had lunch at the Jayapura Mall. It’s a 4 storied, air conditioned retail palace, bigger than anything we’ve seen since Auckland.
Afterwards, everyone else went in hunt of an English-Indonesian phrase book while I returned to Sophie for a scheduled SSB radio call with Per Ardua.
When I dinghied out to the boat, I saw that my friends from Customs, Police, and now the Navy were waiting to search Sophie again.
The Navy officer, pictured in the plaid shirt above, led the search. He wanted to see our spear gun and asked if I was ex-military. They also did a very quick search of our bilges. They took many photos with their cameras, including more selfies. When I pointed out that if an Indonesian sailboat had entered a US port, the government officers would all be carrying many guns. They laughed, held up their phones, and said “We don’t need guns, we have these!”
I like this country.
Afterwards, they once again requested to take photos with me. Here is one with me and the policeman who is the master of this patrol boat. He lets us dock our dinghy on their dock and has promised to bring me a proper Indonesian flag later today. We couldn’t find an Indonesian flag to purchase anywhere between here and Auckland, so Jenna made a temporary one from a bit of white t-shirt and a red Sharpie.
Before they left, they wanted to know if I was planning to go into town to drink beer later that night, and if they could join us. I think we had a bit of a language barrier, because the Sophie crew went to a waterfront place called the Blue Café, which had ridiculously good food but like most restaurants in Indonesia does not serve alcohol. They never showed up.
Sophie has traveled over 2,500 miles since we left Fiji 10 weeks ago. When we left, we were concerned about heading off the beaten track and visiting countries like the Solomons and Papua New Guinea where there was the risk of encountering “raskols.” We were told that the political tension on the Indonesian side of Papua made the police paranoid and hostile. We were even told by some cruisers that two American journalists were beheaded here in June. (Not true).
What we have instead found are that almost all of the people we encounter on this leg of the adventure have greeted us with warmth and kindness. We need to lock the boat up at night in cities where there are young men who don’t have enough to do. But we’d lock our boat up at night if we were docked at Bell Harbor Marina in downtown Seattle. So there is not much of a difference between here and home.
People are inherently good. We are welcomed wherever we go, and I hope every day that my family on Sophie can live up to the standards of the people who welcome us into their communities. This next year in southeast Asia will be the best years of our lives.