a sudden change of plans


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last we spoke i was most likely sun bathing on a jetty on Mabul: an island somewhere off the coast of Sabah in eastern Borneo.  well folks, since then i have stirred things up quite a bit.  in fact it was not too long after pushing the ‘post’ button on my last blog entry that i proceeded to haphazardly slingshot my way across Asia.  from Mabul i took a boat to the mainland port of Semporna then took a bus to Tawau at the far southeast end of the overland Borneo trail.  from there i took a flight to Kuala Lampur, then another flight to Jakarta, then another flight to Makassar on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia then a final flight to Sorong in West Papua at the far east end of Indonesia and almost off the map entirely.  my layovers were long and the crammed budget-air conditions woke up muscles i didnt know i had only to numb them again with a slow dull ache.  this was all made worth it when i was greeted in Sorong with four-star treatment that all began with a very nice man holding a sign with my name on it.

why the sudden ‘West Papua or bust’ action you may be wondering?  one night while on Mabul drinking Tanduay Rhum with my new dive buddies and mentally plotting my path to the Philippines i received an urgent and unexpected message from my parents.  as it turns out they were just about to embark on a posh ten day scientific oriented live-aboard snorkel adventure in Raja Ampat: a tropical archipelago off the coast of West Papua.  a couple they were to meet there unfortunately had to back out at the last minute suddenly leaving an empty cabin on the boat bought and paid for and about to fall directly into my lap as long as i could get myself to West Papua as quickly as possible.  after giving the matter very little thought i put Philippines on the back-burner and headed as fast as i could in the opposite direction.  with the help of a very useful flight search engine, my credit card and the patience and pain tolerance i had built up over the past seven months, i was able to make it to Sorong in West Papua in record time with three whole days to spare before meeting my parents and my new home for the next ten days.

sorong5when i first arrived in Sorong it didn’t seem like much.  a poor, dusty, long and slender town built along the shore with a market and port of appropriate size and one road to connect it all.  i was put up in the nicest hotel in town which was by no means a Hilton but compared to the accommodations i was used to it may as well have been the Bellagio.  after my first wave of jet-lag passed i initiated my routine wander mission.  i made it down the street and rounded a corner when i witnessed a child’s reaction to me unlike any i had ever seen before.  it’s mouth and eyes widened to their absolute fullest extent out of pure necessity just so it could purge itself of the raw excitement boiling inside.  somehow it managed to stay upright while twisting its body and launching its limbs in all directions in random patterns.  this child was accompanied by others who were also made ecstatic by my sudden presence but none had the spark of this child.  this child was one hundred children.  once in my lap, one hundred children became a calm dead weight that could be easily held and molded into any shape.

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my wander mission soon turned into a scout mission or rather a hotel hunt.  the truth of the matter was that when my posh ten day boat trip was over i would be on my own once again and stranded in a foreign land.  when that time comes it would be in my best interest to be prepared with a list of accommodations far more modest than the one i was currently staying in.

along the way groups of young (but not too young) girls would rush out of schools and shops and bolt across busy streets and circle me in hopes to get their picture taken with me.  once i gave them what they wanted they would scream and flail their arms about as if Justin Bieber himself had just kissed them on the cheek.

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i could get used to this…

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i could get very used to this…

sorong2about seven kilometers into my hunt i was stopped by a nice young man in business attire who introduced himself as Patrick.  once he learned of my predicament he insisted on assisting me with my hunt.  i graciously hopped on the back of his motorbike and he took me to every single hotel in town.  we sang to each other along the way and had heated discussions about which artist sang the better rendition of “i will always love you”.

i soon learned that budget accommodations are almost non-existent in this town.  in fact, budget anything is almost non-existent in this town as well as in all of West Papua due to the hard logistics of this remote and underdeveloped part of the world.  this intensifies the further inland you go since many villages can only be reached by air.

after the hotel hunt was complete, Patrick continued his grand tour by taking me to the university he was attending to meet his class mates and then to a rehearsal of the A cappella group “Voice of Glorify”.  there forty voices filled my ears with song.

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i was hand delivered to the doc early on my final morning in Sorong and shuttled via tender boat to my new home on the magnificent “Sea Safari 8″.  i was reunited with my parents for the first time in 9 months, then introduced to the passengers and crew and shown to my quarters.

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stay tuned for fishy tales from what is quite possibly the last untouched and most biodiverse marine habitat on the planet Earth.

  1. #1 by Karen on October 22, 2013 - 10:59 am

    It was so good to see you after 9 months!

  2. #2 by Diane on October 27, 2013 - 12:55 pm

    Great post! I loved the singing and your story. Those students sure love you … what’s not to love?

    Looking forward to the next story ….

  3. #3 by Nik the Caveman on October 30, 2013 - 6:18 pm

    nice trip dude

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