20-Jun-2004 -- I went to Singapore on a business trip, and made a quick trip down to Indonesia to try for a confluence on Rangsang Island.
I took the Penguin Ferry from the Harbor center (formerly the world trade center) to Tanjung Balai, Indonesia. I traveled with my friend Ellick, who came to TJ balai but skipped the actual confluence trek.
The Ferry ride was uneventful, but Customs and Immigration in Indonesia was interesting. Indonesia has recently implemented a “Visa on arrival” program for Americans and other westerners. Since virtually no Americans ever visit TJ Balai, the Immigration agents were not comfortable with the procedures. After about 20 minutes they had it all figured out, and I had a fancy visa affixed to my passport, complete with Hologram.
The Customs agents pulled me out of line after the X-ray machine, and took me in to a side room to go through my pack. They were somewhat concerned about my two identical GPS’s, and were very concerned about my big stack of color satellite photographs of Rangsang. Several customs agents came in to the room to look at my things and discuss them, but no one spoke English. After 10 minutes of heated discussions, including asking me lots of questions in Bahasa Indonesia (which I don’t speak at all), they suddenly decided that everything was fine and sent me on my way.
We checked in to the Paragon hotel (N 0.99078, E 103.43318). The hotel was great, clean rooms with AC and very helpful staff for S$35.
I explained what I wanted to do, and most of the hotel staff set to work figuring out how to make it happen. After about 2 hours of research and negotiation (on the part of the staff), they arranged for me to charter a boat the next morning at 8:00AM.
Zulkifli and Benny worked in the hotel and spoke English. They did most of the negotiation for me, and agreed to accompany me the next day.
We met in the Hotel lobby the next morning and headed down to the local jetty. It turned out that the boat I had chartered was a 40 passenger inter-island ferry, with a crew of 4. They had apparently removed it from service for the day so that I could use it.
We stopped at a floating gas station to purchase 2 barrels of Diesel, and headed out.
We crossed about 25 miles of open ocean, and arrived at Rangsang Island. We first stopped at a relatively major fishing village near the easternmost point on the island, about 15 miles from the confluence. Zulkifli and Benny hopped of the boat and made inquiries, but concluded that there were no roads between this village and the area of the confluence. We proceeded north up the coast of Rangsang until we came to a fishing village due North East of the confluence. (This was somewhat North of where Kampungcina is shown on some maps, and was not called Kampungcina).
The Ocean is very shallow here, so the ferry had to remain some distance out in the water. At one point the ferry grounded in the sand, but after a few minutes the captain was able to work us free by pulsing the engine. We hired a small local boat to take us in to the Jetty.
The jetty was a bit of an experience. It was about 500M long, with various things such as shrimp-drying platforms, houses and pig stalls all suspended over the water. While the jetty was more or less public, we had to walk through pig stalls and across shrimp-dying platforms to get to shore. I felt like I was intruding, but everyone I saw smiled and waved or said hello.
Once we got to shore, my guides talked with some local people at a house, who told us we should check in with the head of the village. We did this, and then looked around for some sort of transportation.
Two guys came along the path on motorcycles, and Zulkifli and Benny flagged them down and talked to them. They agreed to take us on their bikes. I got on the back of one bike, and Zulkifli and Benny got on the back of the other. We headed down narrow dirt paths through coconut groves, trying to find the best way. We hit a dead end, and the motorcycle I was riding crashed as we tried to turn around. Luckily we were only going about 10MPH, and no one was hurt. We picked another route and got on a path that appeared to head straight to the confluence. We proceeded down this for some time, but the path became too rough for the motorcycles.
At this point, we were only 3KM from the confluence, and the path looked very walkable, but we were out of time. It was 12:20, and because of the shallow water we had to be back to the Ferry at 1:00PM to beat the tide.
The guys with the motorcycles took us back to their house. We sat outside and drank green coconuts for a few minutes. I printed pictures of several kids, which was very popular.
We headed back to the jetty to find that the ferry had moved quite a bit farter out to avoid grounding. We hired a man with a small boat to take us out. The boat was basically a punt, propelled by pushing a long wooden pole against the sea bottom.
About 80% of the way out to the ferry, the water got too deep for the pole to reach, and the ferry couldn’t come any closer. We flagged down a motorboat, which took us the rest of the way.
The Ferry took us back to TJ Balai. I thanked Zulkifli and Benny, and headed to the international ferry terminal.
I had purchased a round trip ticket on Penguin ferry, but I discovered that the ticket was not a guaranteed seat, and the last boat had sold out. It turned out that I could have exchanged my ticket for a boarding pass that morning, which would have guaranteed a seat.
Luckily I was able to buy a ticket on another ferry line called “Falcon”. Their boat was 45 minutes late and took an extra hour to get to Singapore, but it was cheap and it got me there.
Zulkifli and Benny told me that if I had been willing to stay on rangsang, I could have caught a regularly scheduled one-a-day ferry from TJ Balai. They said they’d be happy to be guides again, so future confluence hunters might want to look them up via the Paragon Hotel.