As the gentle waves of Belitung rocked the small wooden boat we were riding in, I wondered what one does exactly during island hopping. “Just chill,” answered one of my travel companions, a Puerto Rican-Brazilian-American boy. It turned out that he was only half right. We did master the art of chillin’, but more importantly, we discovered the importance of seizing the moment.
When you see a white-sand island so tiny you can circle it in five minutes: stop and hop!
Our first stop at 8.30 in the morning, Pulau Pasir, sparked our enthusiasm so much we couldn’t help but jumped high in the air in the excitement of a five-year-old on a sugar rush. Not a problem, really, since the sand has a real trampoline quality being so fine and soft. But seriously, who could help not getting thrilled upon seeing big, pink starfishes so akin to Patrick of the Sponge Bob series lay innocently at the shoreline – sometimes with not-so-innocent translucent stinging jellyfishes floating nearby?
When you arrive in front of a tall, rusty lighthouse: climb all the way up!
Pulau Lengkuas, our next stop, was the only inhabited small island among the ones sprinkled in the area. It’s the home of an old lighthouse, which had provided comfort and guidance to the sailors of the yesteryear. It’s also the most popular among the small islands sprinkled in the area, therefore it is the also the most crowded one. As you can’t indulge with the billionaire with a private island feeling here, you might as well spend your time in the lighthouse. Although the staircase was rickety, your persistence and bravery will be sweetly rewarded once you’re on top. Have you ever known so many shades of turquoise?
When your boatman asked whether you’d like to have some coconut: say yes and follow him!
We never thought that enacting the offer means climbing rapidly with his bare hands up the slim, slippery, graciously tall coconut trees. Or that the coconut would taste unlike any other you’ve had before: sweet, tingling, almost like an alcohol-induced concoction.
When you think it’s possible to swim across two islands: do it!
With several pre-cautions, of course. First, get an okay from your boatman. Although the sea looks very well-behaved, there may be some unknown nasty under current lurking. Second, grab your goggles. And last, have some company – it will boost your spirit beyond measures during the journey and helpful to look out for jellyfishes. Now, four members of our group can proudly boast that we have swum across the sea from Pulau Babi to Pulau Aji. How many of us can actually say that? 😉
And later in the evening, when you noticed how brilliant the stars are: grab a blanket and star-gaze well into the night!Not only were we lucky enough to have the beach with the best sunset in Belitung right in front of our wooden cottage, it also has thick, soft, cushiony sand ideal for an outdoor mattress. It was a perfect dessert after our bonfire dinner, to lay low and try to think whether we’ve seen better starlit sky. To quote the peculiar poetry of Incubus, ‘the sky resembles a backlit canopy, with holes punched in it’.
Wait, what does it have to do with seizing the moment, you ask?
Pulau Pasir was gone, completely submerged by noon, when we passed it on our way to another island. Had we postponed our hop there, we would have missed it altogether. I must confess, I did not go all the way up to the lighthouse and had regretted it ever since. And the night after, the sky was too cloudy and the stars had gone into hiding.
Horatius was wrong. Carpe diem, seize the day, is not enough. We must also seize the moment!
Jakarta, August 2009
Gypsytoes – of a trip in July 2009