Desert Island Distractions

New Years 2011 on an uninhabited island...

How did this come about? Well: During the time spent volunteering, there was a lot of work done in collaboration with other organizations, one of them being an Indonesian NGO called the Ibu Foundation. Over the months we formed some fantastic friendships and they invited us to spend new years with them. A plan was set in motion to spend two days on a set of uninhabited islands off the southern coast of Pariaman.

Widhie was my closest friend from Ibu and he helped us organize transportation and logistics. The plan was fairly simple; hire some fisherman/boats to take us to the islands on new years eve and bring us back late in the day on new years day. Supplies required: beer, small amount of food and something to sleep on/in. We rushed around grabbing weird and wonderful varieties of cheap alcohol, ranging from beer to weird flavoured mixtures. Food was mostly snack food as other stuff was being brought wish us as well.

We all met at the IBU Pariaman headquarters and then set off down for the docks. It was nice to get away from the volunteer base for a change and have a bit of freedom, as well as spend some time with some local people. After a fair amount of faffing around, we set "sail" on our mighty voyage.

The sun was fast setting over the islands but they were only a few kilometers off shore. The journey was a little choppy but everyone was in a fantastic mood and very jovial. Within an hour and a half we were coming up to a tiny jetty that the fisherman had built to take shelter in rough weather. We grabbed supplies and jumped off. The rosy sky had all but vanished, leaving a fantastic silver like veneer to the clouds. The other islands were visible in the distance as well as a large portion of the Sumatran coast line. Ibu had a large tent to sleep in, we pithed up my small tent and my jungle hammock just inside the shelter of the trees.

A large bonfire was lit and we started our festivities. The view was spectacular and the company was even better. It was difficult to believe we were really there. The fisherman brought us some fish they'd just caught and we cooked them on sticks over the enormous fire. I'm not a fan of fish and rarely eat it but this tasted fantastic, I even used a knife to cut out its eyes and slurped them down; delicious! Everyone else seemed less keen to try this....

The later it got the more merry people became. As it neared midnight, we were a little spread out. Some people had stayed round the fire and others, like myself, had spread out into the ocean. It was the perfect temperature, lovely and warm. You could see all the lights down the coast of Pariaman and Padang from where we were sitting. The waves occasionally lifted us up and down on the spot and I allowed my beer to float around whilst i relaxed. When the fire works started we were able to see every single display down the coast. This magical moment lasted about 15 minutes and was a great way to bring in the new year. Exhausted, I head off to my hammock for an amazing nights sleep, the sounds of the waves the only noise for miles.

In the morning, people woke up in a staggered fashion. Having no schedule, this was not a problem. Some of us had yogurts for breakfast and others had more fish. We relaxed and took in the sights and sounds of an island on the first day of the year. The sun was bright but not too hot and the sky was cloudless. We decided to play around for a bit on the beach, climbing logs and swimming around a bit, before we headed on to our next destination.

Widhie pointed to an island in the distance and told us that we were going to get on the boats again and head over there for the day. Three of us decided that this would be a fantastic trip to make in a dug out canoe. I will admit it did get towed across but it was still a great experience. Three blokes in a tiny canoe with a couple of beers, every wave nearly capsizing us.

It took about 40 mins but we arrived at another incredible island. Not another person in sight. There was no jetty at this island so a few front flips were performed and a swim was required. The sand rose up at a very steep angle to form the island, it was almost as if it had been dropped there. The water was as clear as I had ever seen it and there were fish everywhere. There was even a decent sized reef on the back of the island where i saw a turtle!

The day was spent between two groups of emotions, utter awe and extreme excitement opposed with a serene sense of calm and solace brought on by the sheer beauty of the place we were sitting. A fantastic quote from the book "The Beach" sprung to mind:

"The only downer is, everyone's got the same idea. We all travel thousands of miles just to watch TV and check in to somewhere with all the comforts of home, and you gotta ask yourself, what is the point of that? I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing."

This was definitely not just the same thing. We had traveled to the other side of the planet, to help people we'd never met before and our reward was a well earned break on an uninhabited island. Jackpot.