The Equator Crossing, Part 5 (9/15)

Conversing with Chan first thing in the morning before leaving for the search. Go to E9, the village of Selpele. We might need their help tonight. | Photo by Moira

The third time I crossed the Bhas Crazies, the water was calm. The tide was complete. Still it took me a long time to pass Johnny’s Beach. Inside the Crazies, a spitboat zoomed past me, heading north. Since my mission was now to get a recovery boat organized quickly at Selpepe, we simply exchanged a wave.

After passing Johnny’s Beach, I stopped briefly to reward myself with a nut bar. It was hot and progress was very slow. I sang to keep going. Mid-way to Selpele, I heard the sound of motor behind me. They slowed alongside me and cut the engine.

“Apa Khabar!”, I wearily greeted.

“Baik! Pergi mana?”

“Dayung pergi Selpele...pergi mana?”

“S E L P E L E.”, he seemed to mouth the word out in slow motion and bright lights.

I could not believe my dolphin luck. The most useful bahasa word in such situation came out from me: “Tarik boleh?”. The water was calm and it would not be a problem to pull the kayak along. 

“Bisa, bisa.”

Once on the boat, I I found out that they just returned from the mining station on Pulau Kawe. I was reminded then that it was the same boat that I had exchanged greetings with a couple of hours before. Then, they told me something totally unexpected.

“Ada dua orang sana. Sama itu.”, Jordi pointed to my kayak

“APA?! Dua orang dayung? Di mana?!!

Jordi pointed north.

“Utara P. Kawe?”, I asked.

“Ya. Satu orang cina. Satu orang India, bicara bahasa boleh.”

“Sampan merah?”, I was barely containing my relief.


“Saya kasih rupiah, sekarang pergi sana. Dua orang kawan saya.”, these were the confirmation I needed. And their boat was certainly big enough for 3 kayaks and all our gear.

“Tak cukop. Balik Selpele ada.”, Jordi shook his fuel container.


At night in Selpele, we occupied the 2 warungs and cleaned out the indo-mie. Somehow junk food always tasted better as compensation food. Not that we had any other choices. 

Johnny and Bhas were not with us to enjoy the MSG-loaded dinner. The passing boat they flagged down this morning was from the mining company on Palau Kawe. They were brought to the mining station about 4km south of Safety beach and 10km north of Bhas Crazies. There were given shelter and food, and a notice that a thrice weekly boat was leaving the same day to Sorong. 

Upon reaching Selpele, I had quickly bought a new drum of fuel for Jordi’s boat, and we headed straight back to Pulau Kawe. This time, Bhas Crazies was beginning to boil as the tide was changing. Like Magostan this morning, Jordi aimed his fast boat straight at the exposed rocks and only to turn at the last minute. And Jordi also slowed his boat at the same bay where Magostan's petrol ran out this morning. The mining station was inside the bay.

When I finally arrived, Johnny and Bhas were waiting at the office for the generator to come on, so that they could contact us. Their kayaks were already strapped onto the Sorong-bound boat. They related their idea to recuperate a few days from their harrowing experience, and join up with us later. Although Bhas told me later I looked like “a man possessed with anger”, I was really exhausted with cold and hunger to be in a mood for any meaningful consultations. I just wanted a straight “Yes” or “No” answer whether they were following the recovery boat back with me to E9. I supposed they said “No”, and advised them to go to E32 (Gam), find Paulus, and he would set them up somewhere comfortably. 

They did not join us back till the last day. 

We always carry spare sets of essential items like stove, solar panels, etc. Johnny was carrying one full set and the team's battery cell, but we would be OK. Emotionally the loss of three team-mates were on my mind that night. Everyone contributed in their own way to make the team special and create experiences that were unique. We covered for each other’s egos and hubris to minimise risks. We gave each other something more to do things we could not as a single paddler. 

Exploring a new place with like-minded people brought intense joy, knowing that you were sharing wonderful experience with paddlers who appreciate similarly at many levels of emotional and spiritual core. Yet an expedition was a journey. When individuals took different paths to create their own adventures, I could accept such variations.


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