Escape from West Papua

After my malaria diagnosis, I sweated my way through the next three days, almost entirely bed bound, and we abandoned our original plan to proceed further into the interior of West Papua – exploring areas devoid of tourists and largely impossible to get to. Manado would be a much better destination for rest and recuperation, especially as we knew of a lovely small hotel on the side of a hill with the most amazing food.

Meanwhile, the reaction to my illness has been interesting. The typical international reaction has been “Oh god. That’s horrible. When are you flying back to a real hospital?”, often accompanied with sympathetic looks or deathly silences. Whereas the local reaction is a lot more along the lines of “Oh really? Malaria? Hmmm. Well, what would you like for breakfast tomorrow?” It seems that malaria here is equivalent to the common cold.

Saying bye to our Papuan friends

There was one ferry that day to the mainland where we would spend a night before flying back to Manado. When we arrived at the ferry it was pouring with rain and I was quickly ushered into the first class section of the ferry to Sorong and told to sit there and guard the bags whilst dad went to get tickets. I sat there patiently as time wore on…10 minutes and still no sign… Another 10 minutes…still nothing. Then the ship’s siren sounded and I went into full-on panic mode as we started to cast off. As I tried to grab all the bags and make a dramatic leap to land I bumped into dad who had decided it wasn’t worth paying the extra 50p for the comfortable air-conditioned seats.

Economy class

Instead, our journey revolved a rather large gentleman who had clearly been at the “Cap Tikus” – “Rat Brand” which is an Indonesian spirit that can also be used to fuel cars. “YOU! You speak Chinese to me.” He roared at some innocent passenger. “I lived in Taiwan for 8 years. CHING CHONG CHAAAAAAA.” Followed by a round of hysterical laughter before he moved onto the next unsuspecting victim. The excitement didn’t end there. Once we got to Manado we proceeded to get into the taxi of the most drunk man on earth. After narrowly avoiding crashing into 3 separate parked cars, starting a fight and running a man off the road, we arrived at the hotel. I was as pale as a sheet and sorely in need of another 3 days complete bed rest! – and perhaps a glass of cap tikus to settle my nerves.


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