I’ve just spent five days (and five nights) on the deck of a cargo ship travelling between Wini, in West Timor, and the Tanimbar Islands in southern Maluku. As in any five day period, there are good moments and bad. The bad would certainly include the hours when the lads sitting close to me, having been drinking palm wine for several hours, broke out a guitar held together with duct tape and took on the booming karaoke machine, a competitive cacophony of tuneless shrieking. The good would include the early evening hours, when the sun had cooled enough to sit dangling one’s legs over the prow (which is also as far as it is possible to get from the relentless karaoke machine), staring at the rippling sea and beginning, gradually, to get a sense of the enormity, perhaps the impossibility, of Indonesia. The very best moments come when those evening hours are punctuated by dolphins, who have come out to play with the passing ship. After a bit, the sky goes fiery, then dark. On truly exceptional days, a blood-red moon rises out of the depths, paling as it climbs, showering gold across the sea. Drunken singing seems like a small price to pay.
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