With its population of 270 million, Indonesia has more people than all but four of the world’s nation states. That factoid is an easy one to forget when you’re sailing here, partially because there are more than 17,000 islands in this country and few big cities, meaning the population density is low, and evidence of any human habitation is often difficult to find. With so much to see in this country, our route, by necessity, is more or less random – we don’t really know where we’re going, and it probably doesn’t matter much. We’ve chosen to hop down the chain of islands that runs roughly along the 8th parallel because a few of the “must see” landmarks lie further along on this route (Komodo, Bali, etc.). But right now we’re still in the “undiscovered” part of Indonesia where tourists are few and far between, and where many of the locals we meet have never met face to face with the white man before. We suspect this won’t last much longer, but for now, “undiscovered” Indonesia is still an absolute gem for those of us addicted to off-the-beaten-path travel, and we hope that never changes.
We’ve probably mentioned before that as we gain more experience, the enjoyment of our travel is more defined by the people than the places. To some extent you could say that a beach is a beach, a reef is a reef, and volcano is a volcano – that’s all true, more or less. But if you went further to say that a culture is a culture and a people is a people, you’d be wrong. And although it may be the idyllic places that give some people an initial urge to get out of their comfort zone and explore, it’s the people that keep them addicted to it for life.
So the highlights out here are mainly the thousands of small villages that line most of the shorelines and dot the countryside. We try to visit as many as we can and catch a glimpse of their organic lives, and almost always we’re welcomed and greeted with warm smiles and treated like royal guests. The people here are “poor” by the western definition but rich in every other way…. bank accounts, expensive homes, and corporate brands appear totally unnecessary for their happiness. These islands are volcanic, meaning the views can be stunning, and the coral reefs surrounding them offer some great snorkeling and diving. Fish are still easy to catch, whales and dolphins seem safe here and playing all around us just like they’ve done for thousands of years. History tells us that none of this will likely survive once western influence takes hold and the corporations move in, so we’re grateful to be seeing Indonesia as it is today instead of twenty years from now.
The distances we need to cover remain large, so we’re resisting the temptation to stay anchored in any one bay for more than a couple of nights and, as usual, wishing we had a few more lifetimes remaining so we could slow our pace a bit. But continuing on with our single-life assumption, at least for the moment, it’s next stop: Komodo.