It’s good to meet other people pushing the threshold and marking their territory in the intrepid zone. I’ve been caught up in a few situations that were totally out of my control. In Madura, while looking for a buffalo race, I ended up being at the centre of intrigue when I accidentally stumbled upon a refugee camp for Shiite Muslims who were under police protection from the local hostile Sunni Muslim. The other situation, I was looking for it. It served me right.
I had ran into John a few times at a Perth back packer. He was a miner, married to an Indonesian. He flew from Java to Papua New Guinea for an interview on a gold mine. He had permission to enter into West Papua because of his marriage status. “Not many people go overland to West Papua,” he explained to me.
He was still pale. John had just flew back to Australia. “I still haven’t got over the shock of it,” he said. “So after the job interview I paid $50 dollars for a private ride from Port Moresby to the Indonesia border. I paid an agent. The two drivers seemed nice enough but couldn’t speak a word of English.”
He left at midday and planned to arrive to the border by 7 pm. “We were driving on the coastal road. I knew you could cross the border. It’s not the usual back packer route.” John said the drive was going well until about the last hour. “We were running very late. They were driving very slow and it was now 11 pm.” He said at this stage the driver and his friend were arguing about something. “I had my iPad out and was listening to music. I think they were eyeing up my possessions.”
Thoughts entered John’s head. “They were driving too slow. Something was up.I opened up my door and jumped out. I ran towards the bush.”
For an hour he said the car was driving up and down the lonely stretch of road looking for him. “I found a ditch in the bush and set up camp. I had enough water and chocolates and insect repellant to last me till day light.” He slept for three hours, “making sure they were long gone, before I decided to walk it to the border.”
“Once I was in West Papua, I knew I’d be safe,” he said. After two hours of walking, he picked up Simpatica signal. That’s an Indonesian telecommunication carrier. ” Only then did I think I’d be safe.” Another hour of walking, he was in West Papua. He took the next flight to Surabaya.
Only the week before, a passenger plane went down in the mountains of West Papua, killing over 200 people. “But I didn’t care, I just wanted to get very far from Papua New Guinea.” Two hours later he was back in Surabaya, and grateful to be alive.
“But did I tell you about how I was denied access to New Zealand for calling the customs officials sheep shaggers?” No not yet. “That story is for next time,” he said. Blood had returned to his face. He was lucky to be alive. I asked him if he was slightly paranoid in Papua New Guinea.”Maybe, but you can never be too safe.”