A sad voyage home
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FREMANTLE, WA THE scheduled departure time of the ferry was 7.30am. With Leigh and Sara from Wales, fellow travellers we’d met a day earlier, we decided we’d get to the wharf at about 7am. We were travelling east towards Timor, on our way from Larantuka, on the eastern edge of Flores in Indonesia, to the island of Lembata, where the port is called Lewoleba. It was to be a three-hour boat trip.
By 7am, the 25m wooden ferry was very full with passengers and cargo, but we found good positions and waited for departure. As the ferry took off on its own power, it listed very badly to one side, which prompted most of the locals to move to the other side in an attempt to balance the boat. This went on for about 30 seconds, one side to the other, until the boat levelled out and we were on our way.
My wife and Sara were not impressed by such antics, but the scenery on the voyage was beautiful, with dark blue water and a backdrop of volcanoes.
I had wondered why there were so many army personnel on board and when we got to Lewoleba I found out why. There was a big contingent awaiting our arrival — press, military, villagers and a cluster of people dressed all in black who appeared to be in mourning.
Once we docked, the army guys on board swung into action. They pulled out a highly decorated coffin from underneath the deck. They lifted it on to the wharf and also pulled out what looked to be a coffin for a very small body, but turned out to be a storage box for their weapons.
They then formed an honour guard and the first coffin was carried to a waiting vehicle. Mourners wailed, music played and the procession moved off. We were told the dead chap had been on duty in Papua and had been shot in an ambush by local separatists. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column: travel@theaustralian. com.au. Published columnists will receive a three-piece set for clothes, shoes and toiletries by F1 Spacepak, a compression packing system that maximises suitcase space. $98. More: flight001.com.au.