Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



After spending a few days in Melakka normalising - English spoken, proper food, English cinemas, proper toilets etc. I'm now back on the traveller thing again. 

Yesterday, got the boat from Melakka to Dumai and then the bus from there to Bukattingi, the tourist / traveller capital of Sumatra. And it's not bad here, not many tourists / travellers as most are scared off by the news reports about Indonesia. Most of which is pretty much irrelevant out here as the trouble spots are generally pretty isolated and doesn't really affect any of the main sights to see. 

En route here this Indonesian guy (Edward) decided to befriend me and insisted I stay with his family last night so he could show me a bit of Bukattingi today. On arriving (at his parents in-laws place in a small village outside of town) the conversation was strained to say the least as none of them really spoke English and thus far I haven't picked up any Indonesian of note, but we got along fine and they brought out a mattress and blankets etc. for me to sleep in the lounge which was fine. Very comfortable in fact. Only thing was they got up before dawn this morning and when I asked where there was somewhere to brush my teeth, he took me on a walk down the hill to a bit of water cordoned off by screens and explained that that was where I shower etc. You could practically see the cholera oozing out the water so I changed, brushed my teeth and thought bugger the shower. Then had breakfast, which wasn't bad and sorted out my hotel, then they showed me the zoo, where hundreds of school kids rushed me for my address and to have their photo taken with me. Then onto the panorama which kind of speaks for itself, nice view etc. Then back to the hotel where we parted company. Decent folk. 

This afternoon I've been finding out about the treks to the Mentawai islands - some mixed reports from travellers. Does anyone know the score, whether they are worth while or not - if so please tell me soon. 

Anyway, that's my lot for today, I'm knackered and have been forced to drink beer for two hours whilst waiting for a computer to become available.  



Here is another update to tell you of the adventures of the past fortnight or whatever. 

Since then I booked on the Mentawai trek, which was originally going to leave on the Thursday but due to an engine fire the previous week on the boat the schedule was still screwed so the boat wasn't going until the Saturday, as a result Ben (an Ozzie who was also going to do the trek) and I went to Lake Meninjao, a chilled out place where I met a French Canadian couple who have been living in Meninjao for a couple of months, Dominique and Sylvan whom I'd originally met in Melacca (Malaysia). Dominique made sure we stayed at a good hotel (price, location, people, etc. taken into consideration) and told us where the best whatever was in town - which took about 3 minutes as its only a small place. We chilled out in a big way for a few days, mainly playing Jonklak (a game played with holes and stones popular across Asia and Africa), Tock (another game, with cards and a board), chatting and drinking beer. 

On the Saturday we returned to Bukattingi to meet the group and prepare for the trek, I bought some crappy T-shirts at the market that could get ruined. I also borrowed a small backpack from the hotel and got things like cheap cigarettes (for the tribesmen) etc. I then met the rest of the group who seemed like a decent bunch. Them being :- Chris a Brit who's being working in Hong Kong for four years, Damien and Matt brothers from Nottingham  who have been in Oz for a year, Helen and Henri a Dutch couple who have been travelling for a few months, Tom a Belgian who's been in New Zealand for a few months, Diana a French woman who has been living in Indonesia for a couple of years, Ben the aforementioned Tasmanian Devil and myself.  

The guide Jimmy a clever guy who speaks fluent English, French, Dutch, German and Mentawai - not bad for an Indonesian. He could also do great magic tricks and so forth. Finally the assistant guide Afiz - an expert martial artist who trained the police in self defence. 

So on the Saturday we got a bus down to Padang where we were getting the boat to Siberut, the largest of the three Mentawai islands. The journey was pretty uneventful, just playing cards etc. also met Agun who is the head of the mafia in west Sumatra, a really nice guy, just not to be on the wrong side of. During the journey Damien was feeling feverish so upon arrival in Siberut he and Matt went to the doctor who told him it was nothing and gave him some paracetamol. After that we set off trekking, for five hours - through rivers, waist deep mud, up and down steep wet hillsides, in the thick of a real jungle. Towards the end everyone had finished the water we were carrying and I was starting to feel a little dehydrated, but I  survived and on arrival drank plenty of water. We were all given Mentawai names, mine being Buchit Keray. We met Salomo (Aman Baiga) and Cleopatri two Mentawai Shamans, we were staying in Salomos house. Jimmy gave us an interesting talk about the Mentawai and asked Cleopatri and Salomo to demonstrate certain things such as the tribal singing and showed us parts of the traditional house decor, their tattoos, dress (loincloths for most, and head dresses and necklaces for shamans only). He explained the Mentawai religion and when asked why they did certain things he said they don't know and to prove it he asked them and they always replied Gaya Gayanya - meaning "that is the way my ancestors did it". We had the opportunity to talk to the Mentawai, using Jimmy as translator and Gustan a Mentawai who was coming along as cook and general dogsbody made a great dinner. Jimmy did a couple of magic tricks and then Salomo did so as well, just fun stuff. Jimmy who regards Salomo as another father taught him some English so we could have a limited conversation with him which was cool. It was quite amusing because when asking him what a series of shaped logs in the rafters were, he said it was a drum, but I didn't understand his pronunciation so he called it a monkey telephone, we asked what happens if you get a wrong number, do you get a giraffe. It was explained that the drums can be heard for miles through the jungle to tell other villages of births deaths, successful hunts and what was caught and how many. Salomo also showed us his photo album, as he had a Japanese film crew do a documentary about him and then was taken to Japan with

his family to appear on television there. He asked us why it was that when he left Indonesia it was 12 o'clock and when he arrived in Japan it was also 12 o'clock, as he doesn't understand time differences or the fact that there are two 12 o'clocks. Jimmy said he has tried for several years to explain but it is a lost cause. 

The following day we had another five hour trek through the jungle and I went with Henri and Helen a bit earlier at a slower pace as I was worried about dehydrating but it wasn't a problem as there were a couple of government villages where we could get more water. Afiz drove us a bit mad but he was just being overly friendly, in a nice but too enthusiastic way. That evening Jimmy gave us another talk about the Mentawai ways and so on. We were actually staying in Cleopatris house now, where Salomos second wife still lives with her parents.

The following morning we woke up with the dog moaning and went to see Sagu (the main Mentawai food) processing, a strange, lengthy and surprisingly interesting process, whereby the Sagu palm is chopped down, ground into pulp, then filtered, wrapped in banana leaves and buried for three months to get rid of the bad bacteria. Something that begs the question, how the hell did they work all that out. That evening we played cards and chatted and Salomo had a go on the bong Matt had made. 


The following events actually happened and I will try to relate them to you as best as possible. 

Unknown to the group Afiz was mentally unstable, he started having paranoid delusions about the Mentawai and was convinced that Jimmy was screwing Salomos daughter and that all the Mentawai wanted to kill us all. He took one of their poisoned arrows and took Jimmy under the house by force (all Mentawai houses are on stilts) by this point the Mentawai were not only mortally offended but feared for the safety of them and their families. So whilst Jimmy and Afiz were under the house the five Mentawai warriors staying there had pulled up several floorboards and were ready to shoot him with poisoned arrows and hack him to pieces with their machetes. Jimmy had to pacify both the Mentawai and Afiz as he was also stuck their and could probably be caught in the crossfire. After controlling the situation he put Afiz to bed with Chris and Ben and explained to Salomo that Afiz was mentally ill, Salomo explained that in the Mentawai way Afiz should be dead already, Jimmy realised that having Afiz with the Mentawai would probably mean someone would be dead by mid morning so he had to get Afiz out of the village and to the harbour where he would be safe. He woke the Dutch couple and explained to them in Dutch what had happened and that he needed Henri to pretend he was ill so that they had to go to the port. Something Henri did extremely well, these two were the perfect choice for several reasons, Afiz already had a good relationship with them and Jimmy could speak to them in Dutch so Afiz wouldn't understand. Unknown to Jimmy Helen had experience working with mentally handicapped people and Henri's sister is also mentally handicapped so they knew how to deal with the mentally ill. So they went back to the port and chilled out on the beach for a couple of days, staying with Jimmy's brother.  

Salomo acted as guide for the day took us to Aman Lao Lao's house and even cooked lunch for us (not something a Mentawai Shaman / warrior does) he explained to us that the Mentawai way was such that Afiz will die if he ever returns to Siberut but he didn't have a problem with any of the group or Jimmy. 

On Jimmy's return he explained the situation in greater detail and then we chatted with Aman Lao Lao and asked him questions such as - does he mind when people come and take photos of him and his house and family etc., he replied that as long as we give him some cigarettes or rice he doesn't mind at all. We then asked if he found it funny that his three year old child moves quicker through the jungle than we do - to which he replied that it makes him laugh a lot. Aman Lao Lao had a go on the bong as well and we just chilled that evening. 

The following day we walked a couple of hours to a government village where Jimmy's brother was waiting with a boat to take us back to the harbour as Afiz had trashed his shop. So three hours later we got to the harbour where there wasn't a lot to do but just chill out drank some beer and played some cards. 

The following day (last day of the trek) we went to the beach and saw the Dutch couple and Afiz played some cricket on the beach and swam. That evening we got the boat back to Padang and then in the morning the bus to Bukittingi. 

All in all I had a marvellous time - saw what I wanted to see and really interacted with the Mentawai which is why I went. I strongly believe Jimmy was an excellent guide and that there aren't many people who could have handled the situation as he did. Get hold of the book - "Mentawai Shaman - keeper of the rainforest" by Charles Lindsay (1992). it will show just what we saw as it is a photographic journal of Lindsays time he spent with Aman Lao Lao. 

Anyway today, Matt, Damien, Ben, Chris and I are going to go and climb Merapi, the live volcano down the road to see the sunset and stay the night to see the sunrise as well. 



Starting from the beginning, I went to Djogjakarta (Java) and had a good time seeing things around the city itself (sultans palace, water palace and bird market) which was all interesting, although the bird market was rather repugnant as they dye the chicks strange lurid colours so that children find them more amusing and all the birds are in horrible conditions. In the evening there was a concert literally over the main road, suspended by scaffolding, the music was crap but it still managed to bring most of the traffic to a standstill, probably not the best place for a concert I reckon. 

The following day I went to see Borubdur, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world - quite impressive really, it's a kind of pyramid (on the 10,000 rp note). After that onto Prambanan another Hindu complex that was also interesting. 

The following day I got a bus from djogdja to Bali via Bromo - another active volcano. at 4ish in the morning we got a jeep to a great view point where it looks like a moonscape, and Simmeru the big volcano in the background kept hiccuping. 

Then got the bus the rest of the way to Bali. arriving late in the evening in Kuta which is a vile place filled with tourists and the detritus of Indonesian society attracted by them. As you may gather I'm not too keen. It was just strange that these Indonesians who have been decent across the rest to Indonesia were so mercenary and trying to be so duplicitous. I was supposed to fly from Bali to Flores on the Thursday but it being Merpati the shit internal airline here, they cancelled and lived up to their theme son "It's Merpati and I'll fly if I want to".  As I bought the ticket on my Amex card they paid for me to stay in a five star hotel + food etc. until the flight left on the Saturday, not too bad really, but still a pain in the arse. 

On the Saturday flight I met up with a couple of English lads I'd previously met on the way from djogdja to  Bali. Between ourselves and another English couple we chartered a minibus from Maumere (where we arrived ) to Moni, for Keli Mutu, a volcano with three different coloured lakes in the top - also the 5,000rp note. The day after arriving we got up early and went up to see the sunrise and the lakes. It was impressive but two of the lakes were very similar colours - dark blue and black. Still, now I've completed the sights on all the Indonesian bank notes. From Moni - Rob, Stu and I went to Bajawa, in the evening a guy called Theodore invited the three of us to his engagement party a couple of days later in a town near Riung called Wangka (yup, that's right - a place full of wankers). Around Bajawa there were some interesting traditional villages with buffalo and chicken sacrificing etc. The guy who showed us round then took us to his place for lunch, the meal disagreed with him - he was throwing up all the way to Riung our next stop, Rob was also feeling ill and on our arrival in Riung I yacked more than you would think possible. The following day we went on a boat to a island full of fruit bats and then did some snorkelling with spectacular coral and interesting fishes, starfish, anemones, I even saw a seahorse. At one point some dolphins were swimming not far from us and rob and I tried to catch up with them to play with them, but they're good swimmers those dolphins. The following day we went back to Bajawa  - missed the engagement p[art as there was only one bus a day - and chilled out and then the day after that got a bus to Labuanbajo. In Labuanbajo, we arranged for a boat from Flores to Lombok, via Rinca, Komodo and Sumbawa. We also chilled out for a while. A Dutch guy called Sjot hooked up with us (I call him shorty as the real pronunciation is odd). Did the boat trip - saw dragons on both Rinca and Komodo as well as deer, monkeys and the like and did some snorkelling. In the evening whilst looking at the sea at the side of the boat, a 2.5m Ray went past the boat that I wasn't quite sure what it was at first so called to Shorty to look and he and one of the crew confirmed it. Anyway I've now just arrived in Lombok and sorting out my affairs re. e-mailing etc. the four of us are heading up to Gili Meno to chill out for a while.




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