My Final Day in Sorong & Papua Barat

After a breakfast provided by the hotel (Tanjung Hotel) of rice and cap cay, I had a quick mandi and then we headed out to make the most of our last day in Sorong.
We had heard that just past the Taman Wisata Alam Sorong (see previous post) was a place where we could see crocodiles. Ichal was curious to be able to see a real crocodile, so off we rode on the motorbike along the main road, Jln A Yani. This time, for some reason, the drive to the forest took much longer! Maybe because we didn’t stop to have es pisang ijo! The most amazing thing about the forest was the huge temperature drop as we drove alongside it. Even though the forest was only on one side of the road, the cool temperatures near it was like going from hot muggy sunshine into cool shade, even though we were still in broad daylight! The temperature difference was amazing. I envied nearby residents who live in those conditions! I bet they notice it when they head into town! Driving alongside the forest also gave me the opportunity to fully appreciate its size. It certainly is a very impressive patch of forest and I really hope it remains protected.
Not far along past the forest was Jalan Pinang (Pinang St), a bumpy dirt track full of potholes which were tricky to navigate around on a motorbike and thankfully we soon came across the crocodiles which were all penned in concrete enclosures.

20131030-100501.jpgCan you see Ichal bravely standing close to the crocodile pen?

One of the workers came out and chatted to us which was fortunate as it gave me the opportunity to ask some questions. The owner of the complex is from Manado, North Sulawesi. All these crocodiles were brought here from Sorong and nearby islands by villagers who are paid according to the length of the crocodile. They are paid per inch! The crocodiles are then penned according to their length. We saw pens of very young crocodiles, medium sized crocodiles (photo below) and large crocodiles (photo above), however none were as big as sweetheart ! The base of the pens were all made from cement and incorporated a swimming area which in every pen was bright green.

20131030-101550.jpg

20131030-102550.jpgThe concrete walls were about waist high and then it was strong chicken wire stretched between timber posts, however I am sure that should one of the larger crocodiles rush at the wire, he or she would easily get through!

When there are enough crocodiles, they are crated up and shipped to Manado where they are processed for their skins which become fashion accessories.

20131030-131119.jpgphoto source: http://www.wmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/acar_croc_01_v.jpg

Ichal was so fascinated by the crocodiles and was really thrilled to be able to see them up close. As it was early in the morning, I assured him that we could stand at the edge of the pen and reasonably safely take photos. He did join me warily by the edge of the pens but found it difficult to relax and once he had his photos, he retreated again to put some distance between him and the crocodiles. Ichal explained that for Moslems, crocodiles are like dogs and should be avoided, so no wonder he was so spooked while we were close to the pens!

We didn’t stay too long at this place because we had to be back at the hotel by 12:30 to check out ready to catch the Sinabung Ship back to Ternate, scheduled to leave at 2pm. By 2pm, the ship had yet to arrive and the harbour gates were closed. So we returned to Ichal’s Mum’s rented room and waited there for a friend who worked at the harbour to call telling us that the Sinabung had arrived. At 12pm we finally got the call!! I was really keen to get to the harbour before the boat unloaded so that we could get beds. The idea of sleeping on the floor in the passage ways or on the stairs was not an experience I was keen to try. Luckily Ichal had it all organised and by the time we got there, a porter greeted us with the news that he had found us 3 beds together and then proceeded to take us to them. However when we finally got to where he had reserved our beds, we found a family set up there! The porter was furious with them and without any hesitation told them angrily to leave! As it is so unusual in Indonesia to hear people speaking crossly in public, I was very uncomfortable however, no one else seemed to be! Here in Papua, the people are an interesting blend of Indonesian culture and traditional Papuan culture where emotions are more overtly displayed. Thankfully, the family removed themselves and their baggage before it escalated any further and we happily paid the porter Rp50,000 for his services! I was so grateful to get a bed although it soon became obvious that the Sinabung was nowhere near as nice a ship as the Labobar. The Sinabung is a very old ship that desperately needs a refurbishment or failing that, a thorough clean. day.

20131030-130220.jpgThe decks are infested with small cockroaches and were everywhere. They climbed out from under the mattresses, they climbed the walls and ceilings and nothing was exempt from their inspection. No doubt they crawled over me too when I was sleeping! We had mice running under our beds too so I was glad we had all our baggage on our beds! The final straw for me were the toilets. Unlike the toilets on the Labobar, which worked well and did not smell at all, the toilets on the Sinabung, did not work. On stepping into the bathroom area, I stepped straight into a flood of water which I soon realised came straight from the toilet! As there was only one toilet to service all the passengers in our section of the ship, my skin crawled whenever I had to use it. The only positive about the Sinabung was that up on the top deck was a shop which sold food and cold drinks. Ichal and I sat there twice to get some fresh air and I enjoyed a freezing cold lemonade. As the ship was so dirty, lemonade was all that I could face while aboard. The filthiness also meant I didn’t think about taking too many photos unfortunately. I now wish I had taken photos of the cockroaches!! Another factor which made me wish I was on the Lababor was that the air conditioning in our cabin was negligible which Ichal said was due to the number of people smoking. So that the cigarette smoke wouldn’t circulate to the other cabin areas, the amount of air conditioning we received was far less than other areas. As we walked through them on our walks, I could really notice the difference.

20131030-125954.jpgChildren playing quietly powdering each others faces to pass the time.
By the time we arrived into Ternate, I felt like kissing the ground! Safa being there to greet us was just the icing on the cake! A friendly face leading us through the crowd to the family car. So good to be home in Ternate!
Thankfully the Sinabung was only a tiny aspect of my whole time in West Papua and in no way overshadowed the fact that my trip to West Papua was an amazing experience. A huge thanks to Ibu Esty for organising it all and to Ichal for being a wonderful tour guide. I am still so thrilled that I actually got to taste a tiny part of Raja Ampat and am already looking forward to returning one day, however it will definitely not be on the Sinabung!

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6 thoughts on “My Final Day in Sorong & Papua Barat

    • You’re not a fan of crocodiles either? I felt really sorry for them as the pens felt like death row. Funnily enough in Darwin, the croc farms are supplied with crocodiles fished out of the harbour and coastal areas too, although no money changes hands!

    • Fantastic, because Papua would be the perfect place to visit with you. The homestay I wanted to spend some time at had everything at its fingertips and served Indonesian meals!!It would be like Cubadak but even better! The first thing I want to do now though is invest in a fish identification book. Hopefully I can find one in Gramedia next time I am in Bali. If I see a bird book too that would be a double bonus. Do you have either?

      • in a word, no… and how bout a butterfly n, just joking…. not sure why dont have.. the dive places all have generic tropical fish identification books.. 🙂 )

  1. Isn’t it so interesting that no matter what you experience when you travel there is always something that tops it! Not too sure that to top would be for the best experience though! Just glad you got back safe and sound!

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