It’s Wednesday morning, March 7th – we’re watching the election returns live from the U.S., Tuesday evening. The Komodo Dragon stories continued last evening at dinner and again this morning at breakfast – each tour group had their own unique tales to share. We’re glad we went but as I’ve said, neither of us have the desire to return.
We have several dozen photos to share from many locations, and have decided to wait until we arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday – we will find a land-based internet connection and upload them at that time. Our satellite connection at sea is so weak it takes between 5 – 10 minutes per photo, and most of the time they don’t upload at all - we simply receive an error message. Hong Kong is currently 2,335 miles to our north. To date, we have sailed just over 22,000 miles.
Indonesia is the home of many of our crew members. Most had not seen their families in 10 months. The pier was loaded with hundreds of people of all ages who had traveled from great distances to see their loved ones – it was very heartwarming to see the reunion and all the happy faces, many streaming tears of joy. People are so poor in Indonesia that if you have a job on a cruise ship, you are considered to be very wealthy. The average annual income on the island of Lombok is $2,500 – the average employee on Holland America earns about $24K, so again, they are considered quite wealthy by Indonesia’s standards. We arrived in the Lembar (Lombok) harbor at 7am Tuesday morning – extremely hot & humid. The island of Lombok has a population of 4.5 million. We booked a 6-hour tour of Mataram, the capital of Lombok. Once ashore, we boarded a bus and began the 60 mile drive north. We passed several rice fields and observed the harvesting process – a very labor intensive process in the heat & humidity – we felt very sorry for these workers but they didn’t seem to mind. The primary mode of transportation here is scooter – there are literally thousands & thousands of scooters – people going to school, to work, to the market. We found Mataram & all communities to be extremely poor & unkept – no modern homes – all metal & cinderblock shanty’s with cloths hanging in the front yards & alleys. The sewer system is nothing more than a cement trench flowing in front of each dwelling – residents simply use these open trenches to relieve themselves – the trenches flow into local rivers and ultimately into the sea. We saw several children (without clothing) bathing in one of these “pools” – no wonder there’s so much disease here. Our first stop on the tour included a “restroom” opportunity near a museum – this was actually an enclosed restroom facility. It was nothing more than a tiny room with a hole in the floor, intended for use by both male & female. Despite its primitive construction, there was a long line of participants from our bus. You do what you have to do & move on. The museum of Indonesian culture was actually quite nice. The people have a lot of pride and have an interesting history. The street peddlers or vendors swarm the tourists with trinkets – many were selling “Rolex” watches for $10 – the children are trained to beg – they are all very cute and your heart goes out to them. It’s very similar to what you find in many Mexican ports. We stopped at one clothing store downtown that was the most modern-looking…the bus pulled into the parking lot and iron gates were closed behind us. Cheryl bought a locally-made skirt and I bought an Indonesian shirt – total bill was $33. We proceeded to a local Temple – there were peddlers waiting for us there too. We were all given religious yellow sashes or cumberbuns to wear around our waist out of respect, and the tour was guided by the Temples leader. He was very difficult to understand but we all participated as best we could despite searing temperatures. The structures were quite old but reasonably maintained when compared to the villages. We started our journey back to the pier, arriving at approximately 2:30. The Tender ride back to the ship took 30 minutes – we showered, attended happy hour, had dinner & were once again in bed by 7:00pm. We are now well on our way to Hong Kong having sailed roughly 250 miles last night. The sea, unfortunately, is littered with debris in every direction. There are so many islands in the area – trash control is minimal – the beautiful ocean here is the victim of poor societies who don’t understand the adverse impact of their actions.