A sad voy­age home

FOL­LOW THE READER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - STEVE TUCKEY

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.

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