Published: March 21st 2011March 20th 2011
The tale you are about to read will show, contrary to popular opinion, that a fool and his money are not so easily parted. This parable, though set in the small coastal town of Singkil in the strictly Islamic state of Aceh, northern Sumatra, could just as easily have occurred in any Asian country, but it didn't. You see, what you are about to read is no modern travellers fable, nor is it the invention of a wide eyed journeyer seeking to aggrandise a country he loves: no, this tale is nothing but the unadorned and embarrassingly unexpurgated truth. Ladies and gentleman, the eponymous fool of this tale is, as I'm sure my close friends and family have already assumed, none other than myself. The money was both mine and Anny's, my wholly innocent and long suffering partner. The heroes of this tale are several of the good people of Singkil, though if, as I suggest, you read this as either a sort of modern fable or a cautionary tale of how not to travel, then the true heroes are those twin titans of the Asian spirit, honesty and generosity. I hope this small tale manages to both entertain and edify,
all at my expense, and that it serves as a warning to other travellers, deep into their own extended trips, that the creeping fingers of complacency can and will find you, no matter how comfortable you feel. Enjoy.
Singkil is a small and unassuming coastal town in the south of Aceh, a province of northern Sumatra that is famous for being one of the areas most severely affected by the devastating boxing day tsunami, and for being the only state in the otherwise exceptionally moderate Islamic country of Indonesia to practise Sharia law. Aceh gained this exception in 2002 as a concession from central government when it was given "special autonomy", this marked the end of the conflict that had affected this region for the past ten years and which, along with the tsunami and the more recent Nias earthquake and resultant tsunami, had kept tourist numbers during that period to a mere trickle. In the main, with the exception of the ever popular Pulau Weh in the north, the numbers have still not recovered. This is to the detriment of the nascent tourism industry which, before the combined troubles, was just beginning to find its feet, but to
the distinct advantage of those travellers who appreciate visiting areas unaffected by mass tourism.
Two such people, a man and a woman, both young and attractive and clearly very much in love, can be seen, hand in hand, disembarking a bright red and blue wooden fishing boat at Singkil's small harbour, having just arrived from Balai, a small village on one of the islands in the Banyak archipelago. A becak (motorbike with sidecar) driver hefts one of their bags and is struggling up the rickety wooden jetty, Scott and Anny are just behind with the rest of their gear: let us join them as they begin their journey to Medan. But first they are to be delivered to Melly's homestay, where they will remake the acquaintance of its eponymous owner who will prove himself, later in this story, to be one of its many heroes.
Scott and Anny climb out of the becak, pay the driver 10,000 Rupiah, and greet Mr. Melly who, just returned from the Mosque, is wearing a rather natty brown shirt and traditional hat. The three friends sit down at the wooden table in front of the building to drink some kopi susu and
arrange the following days transportation, whilst watching the world drift somnolently past on the towns single main road. Calls of "hello mister" come from passing boys on scooters and girls, dressed according to Islamic law in the conservative hijab, giggle loudly, laugh and point. Soon a crowd of interested and interesting people have gathered around the table, more coffee is ordered and more, many more cigarettes are shared and smoked. Scott and Anny field questions pertaining to their relationship, their origins and their business as best they can which, seeing as they speak no Indonesian or Aceh, can sometimes, as it proves at the moment, be something of a good natured struggle. In time the crowd disperses and Scott and Anny are able to retire to their rooms for some much needed rest and, truth be told, even more necessary shower. The evening brings no further excitement, much to Scott's displeasure, but at least our protagonists receive a long and, though they do not know it yet, much needed sleep.
The morning finds our handsome pair, fresh from the mandi, looking healthy, radiant, and full of purpose. They plan to travel to Kutacane, an estimated eight hours bemo ride
away, in order to replenish their almost completely depleted funds and to spend a few days trekking in the jungle in the hope of encountering wild orangutans. This was not to be, the day's journey was in fact to take them, as has already been mentioned, all the way to Medan, the capital of Sumatra and a place that they had not intended to visit for some two weeks distant. They, of course, do not know this yet, for as they climb into their bemo at eight O'clock in the morning their thoughts are very much with the men of the forest, not the first of the minor inconveniences which will, together with others, culminate in the major disaster (narrowly avoided) that will befall them some twenty four hours later. First they must travel to Subulus Salem in a bemo driven by Mr. Jackie Chan, a chain smoking and highly loquacious, but decidedly good natured Indonesian who, after pleasantly soliloquising for the journey's two hour duration, then insisted on treating Scott and Anny to a "special city tour" in his fabulously beaten old bemo. I fail to describe this "special city tour" now for the simple reason that there was
nothing special whatsoever to recount.
Scott and Anny leave the verbosity of Jackie Chan to his one remaining and distinctly nervous looking passenger, and bid him goodbye at the offices of another bemo company. This was not the last time they would meet however, the manically mouthed Mr. Jackie Chan was himself to play a minor part in the following morning's misadventures, but to Scott and Anny he will always be remembered as the man who constantly handed them his phone, insisting that they "speak the English" with another of his long suffering friends who, to a man and contrary to his long winded insistence, could speak not a word of English themselves. But movement, not fond reminiscences, is what is needed to propel this tale forward, so it is with much relief and no further ado that I can now place our brave adventurers into their second bemo of the day; onwards to Sidikalang they travel.
They arrive, leave the vehicle, and make their way to a bank. A bank that they have been assured, by numerous people and on several occasions, would accept foreign Visa cards. This was not to be the case and was to
prove, if a disaster's (narrowly avoided) genealogy is important to you, to be this particular one's founding father, its not so innocent Adam. Its Eve could be said to be the fact that, due to the unavailability of funds in Sidikalang and the possibility of the same befalling them in Kutacane, Scott and Anny decided to travel instead to Medan, thereby being assured of access to their funds but conceiving the progeny that was to begat the child that would grow up to be such a terrible hand full. Oblivious to the machinations that were being churned by fate, Scott and Anny, a little frustrated at having to change their plans, can be found bargaining hard with a becak driver in a successful attempt to be charged the correct price for the short journey from the unhelpful bank to Sidikalang's bemo station. Unsure whether they would have enough money left to actually reach Medan, our intrepid travellers were both hugely relieved to find that this journey would cost only 60,000 Rupiah, leaving sufficient money remaining to pay for some ikan goreng and a bowl of steaming mee kuah. Suitably fortified, we again witness Scott and Anny heading off on the
road, crammed into the back seats of another bemo, into their uncertain future.
At six thirty in the evening, almost eleven hours since leaving Singkil, our handsome but weary protagonists climb out of their transportation to stand, conveniently, in front of a shiny, glass fronted bank, somewhere in the sprawling metropolis that is Medan. A little tired, maybe a little nervous, perhaps also with a premonition that today is not to be their day, Scott walks into the little air conditioned glass booth that houses the ATM, inserts his card, enters in the pin number, and attempts to withdraw their money. The money in their joint account, all £300 of it, is the last of their available funds. They should have had access to much more, but due to the ineptitude of their bank (the details of which I shall not bother to trouble you with here), they have been unfortunately denied this. Because of this annoying and unforeseen financial crippling, Scott and Anny have had to considerably reign in their plans for the remaining two weeks of their trip and, even having done so, the £300 which Scott is at the moment attempting to withdraw is far from
guaranteed to see them to its conclusion.
Whether or not the funds will be sufficient will become a mute point if Scott, as it appears, is unsuccessful in his attempt to access their funds; but wait, that appears to be money issuing from the ATM's tight little mouth. But Scott looks annoyed and confused; why? We zoom in; past the bankers and office workers waiting patiently in line; through the frosted glass doors; up and over Scott's shoulder to peer down at his hands and see the reason for his frustration. In his left hand he holds but 100,000 Rupiah, the equivalent of only £8. Something must be horribly wrong. Thankfully, it seems that it is only Scott's mathematical ineptitude, which coupled with his legendary dislike of anything with computational powers and his nervous, indelicate fingers, has resulted in him punching in one too few zeros! Phew.
We can now palpably feel his anger turn quickly to relief as, after four transactions, Scott is able to withdraw the entirety of their funds and walk triumphantly out of the bank, happily waving a thick wad of money to the value of four million Rupiah in the air, signalling to
Anny his, and their, small success. Bless. To celebrate, our thin and tanned couple take themselves to a Pizza hut, where the sight of a bottomless salad bar almost makes them cry with delight. It is over this much enjoyed dinner, in which vegetables so gloriously play a leading roll, that our happily sated pair decide to immediately catch an overnight bemo back to Singkil, thereby saving some money on accommodation, and also ensuring that they will catch the following days fishing boat back to Pulau Banyak. This moment, this seemingly innocuous decision of convenience and sense, can be seen as the point at which Adam and Eve are made grandparents: the time for disaster (narrowly avoided) draws ever nearer.
For Scott and Anny however, time seems to have lost its ineluctable flow. Wedged into the back of their fourth bemo in less than twenty four hours, the same view seems to be repeating itself endlessly outside the window. Great piles of spiky green durian are being hawked at the same street corner by the same hopeful vendor in his smudged and stained white vest. They pass an identical bus several times over, each one has an angry looking
man hanging from the roof of the cab by one arm, his only job to harangue and cajole the oncoming traffic into clearing a path for his charging steed. Then there is the same roadside poultry market; where great walls of caged chicks, piles of chickens and rows of white geese, are all being proffered for inspection by seated old women, prodded and measured by fastidious buyers. The same mobile phone shop, the same wartel, the same cyber cafe, the same nasi cart, all repeat themselves like a short length of film spliced only with itself. But this temporal loop is eventually broken and our intrepid duo break free of Medan's maddening repetition and sail onwards, past midnight and towards the early hours of the morning, racing to meet that time when tiredness, stress and foolishness, combine to create a disaster (narrowly avoided).
It is seven in the morning, the sun is just now rising above the rainforest clad hills that surround the town of Remo, mist hangs above a bubbling stream and our bemo, the one containing our tired and frustrated pair, is parked up outside a roadside warung. Some of the passengers are drinking kopi at the
haphazardly arranged tables, others attempt sleep in the van. The driver, who seems to have rendezvoused with one of his mates, is just now starting to loosen the ropes that hold firm the assorted items on the bemo's roof. This is the beginning of a process of removal that will be conducted with typical somnolence, involve several cigarette and coffee breaks and much languid discussion. Normally, the speed at which this country conducts its business is seen by our sensitive couple as being an endearing trait, something which gloriously separates them from the blind haste and singularity of purpose that so compromises life in the west; something that they travelled east to avoid - but this morning it serves only to annoy. Scott can be seen repeatedly checking his watch, Anny can be heard questioning the necessity of a further coffee stop, especially when they are only an hour or so from Singkil, and they are both starting to suspect that they will now miss their boat to Pulau Banyak.
This suspicion breeds frustration, the frustration leads to hasty action, the action makes Scott look like a fool. Marching up to the driver whilst pointing at his watch, Scott
questions the happily smoking Indonesian bemo driver about how long this stop is going to take. Of course, the bemo driver understands no English, why should he? But Scott's gesticulations, which involve pointing first at the still unloaded load on the van's roof, then manically at his watch, and which when coupled with his repeating "Pulau Banyak ferry" repeatedly, gain him, much to his surprise and surely far from deservedly, a very swift and favourable response. Rather than being nonplussed at the crazy foreigners agitated actions, the relaxed driver turns around, hails a passing bemo (the first that has passed in the hour in which they have been stopped), and helps them load their bags inside. In minutes the driver, with a serene smile on his face, waves the now obviously embarrassed and ashamed couple off on the last leg of their journey. To their discredit and subsequent shame, Scott and Anny instantly begin to bemoan the fact that they will now no doubt have to pay extra for the remaining part of their trip. When the new driver turns around and asks for their "ticket", their fears are apparently confirmed.
Not sure if he still has the tatty
slip of paper that was given to him in the bemo office in Medan which constitutes his receipt, Scott begins a less than confident search of his possessions. He does not find it in his bag so he check his pockets, but unsuccessfully. He opens his money belt which he pulls from his bag, as opposed to from around his waist where it should reside, but has not for many months now, opens it up and looks inside, but all that is in there is his passport and the four million Rupiah. He places the money belt on the seat beside him and grabs the lonely planet, not for the language section, not to peruse a handy map, but because he is always tucking odd bits of paper between its manifold pages and, sure enough, after a vigorous shaking, and a sorting of the sundry scraps of paper that fall from its spread pages, the receipt is found. It is passed to the expectant driver who simply smiles and continues to drive them closer to, you guessed it, imminent disaster (narrowly avoided).
An hour later, twenty four exactly since leaving Singkil in the back of the manically mouthed Mr.
Jackie Chan's bemo, Scott and Anny arrive back precisely where they started and we joined them, at Singkil's small port, where three wooden fishing boats sit being loaded for their upcoming journey to Pulau Banyak. The driver helps them unload their bags, smiles, demands no money, even though he is in no way connected to the driver who drove our shattered couple from Medan, and continues on his way. Scott and Anny are recognised by the captain of one of the boats who beckons them on board where they have a brief conversation, before leaving their bags with the grizzled seaman and heading off to a warung to eat breakfast and wait out the time till their departure. The mood of our beautiful pair is now much improved; the heavy eyes and leaden limbs of a night without sleep are quickly diminishing now that their journey is almost complete. A cup of kopi susu (a strong coffee with condensed milk) and a bowl of mee kuah later, and our fair pair are feeling decidedly buoyant. With the hour for departure almost upon them, so is, my patient readers, the much awaited moment of disaster (narrowly avoided). Watch now as the
first flickers of panic manifest themselves upon Scott's currently untroubled and, for his age, surprisingly unlined brow.
Scott stands to pay for the delicious breakfast that both he and Anny have enjoyed. He reaches first, instinctively, into his front right pocket, the place where he always keeps a little small change. Finding nothing there he then begins to perform the pantomime gesture of looking for lost money; he pats his pockets, turns them out, but of course no money is found. There, just now, but only for an instant, like the wrinkling of the skin engendered by the crawling of an insect upon it, we see the first manifestations of doubt, of encroaching fear. But as quickly as the fear rises, it dives back into the depths from which it sprang, weighed down by a new certainty, for Scott has just remembered that they had spent all their money before withdrawing more in Medan, and that all their funds are in the money belt in his bag.
He reaches into his small rucksack and, after a couple of seconds of blind groping, begins again to act out a gesture, this one the gesture of searching for a lost
item in a small bag. Scott begins to remove the bag's contents, slowly at first but with increasing speed and obviously mounting panic until, in a comic gesture of futility, he turns the bag upside down and peers inside, clearly hoping that the errant money belt will miraculously slacken its tenacious grip on the lining of his bag and drop gratefully into his expectant hands. This, quite clearly, is not what happens. Now, finally, and after much preamble,we have reached the moment of disaster (narrowly avoided). Observe how Scott and Anny deal with the blossoming realisation that they are stuck, in Sumatra, two weeks from departure with no passport, not a Rupiah of money remaining on them and none in the bank. Observe and enjoy as they begin to panic in earnest.
Looks of horror pass between them, palms are placed against mouths, heads are shaken and curses are uttered. Picture the scene: Anny stands, hand on forehead, shaking her head in absolute disbelief at the situation she finds herself in, a situation entirely of anothers making. This other, our titular fool Scott, has just approached two of the establishments other patrons, a pair of men in uniform of
a vaguely authoritarian cut. They sit at one of only two tables in the small noodle joint, and though trying to focus on their coffee are, like the other four diners, far more interested in the prancing histrionics of our usually such calm and collected travellers. Scott attempts to describe the situation but, alas and not unsurprisingly, although clearly keen to help, our pair of possible policemen speak very little English, and Scott not a word of Indonesian. Knowing that to have any hope of rectifying what he already believes to be a hopelessly lost situation, his only option is for action, not muddled pigeon English so, leaving Anny to attempt to explain the depressing situation, he starts off towards Melly's homestay at a run.
Not being an entirely omniscient narrator, now that Scott and Anny are separated, we are unable to follow them both as, even though I am "in the third person", my fate is as tied to Scott's actions as is that of their money, so, unable to drift too far away from my metaphoric perch on his shoulder, we are compelled to fly down the road to rejoin Scott, who is presently sweating, flailing and
panting, his way along the two kilometres of road that separate Melly's homestay from the warung he just left. It seems, having overtaken his lumbering form to get a better look at his face, running backwards in front of him as it were, that it is not only Scott's limbs that are in a state of turmoil, as his troubled face clearly describes the manic machinations that are just now spraying a myriad jittery thoughts about inside his purposely bobbing cranium: must get to Melly's, at least he can speak some English; only hope is to find the bemo from Remo (slight smile closes his otherwise gaping and gasping maw), or even the bemo we abandoned in Remo; if we can't locate the money what then?; we don't even have the money for a phone call, the Internet; what about a replacement passport?; we can't even travel to Medan; we are truly fucked here; shit, shit shiiiiiiiit...
Disturbing, if that is the best way to describe a situation and particularly a man that, and who, clearly desperately desires interruption, a scooter slows down at Scott's shoulder and beckons him to stop. He is glad to acquiesce. He stops, looks
up, and recognises the owner of the warung which he left, not ten minutes previously. To his mounting shame, Scott realises that in his haste to leave he failed to pay for his breakfast. Not that he could have even if he had remembered, but that is not the point; nor is the point going to be that useful in explaining to the cafe's owner why he has so recently absconded from his premises at a run, without paying. Payment, however, seems not to be this gentleman's principle concern, his motives appear far more philanthropic as, instead of reaching out a hand for payment, he instead proffers a hand of assistance and pulls the bewildered Scott onto the back of his bike. This act of simple kindness has not come a moment too soon, as to look at Scott's purple face and heaving chest, and to witness the sweat runneling from his body in multiple steaming streams, it seems that but a few metres more could have resulted in a far greater disaster (potentially unavoided).
The next hour, even for this supposed all knowing narrator, pass in something of a blur. I try to observe from my metaphoric perch
on Scott's shoulder the action as it unfolds but, such is the frenzy of activity, and so strong are the emotions, that to get a clear sight of the proceedings is like trying to bird watch from a waltzer. I do remember Scott charging into Melly's homestay and, in a babbled bubble of words trying to explain the situation to the owner, the very same one who, not twenty four hours earlier, waved them off from this very establishment. I can recall that it took all of Mr. Melly's powers of persuasion and calm to slow down Scott's nervous torrent and to tease the salient facts from the matted coat of his description. It appears, but perhaps I am wrong, that the situation is finally understood, and i remember that Mr. Melly proceeded to embark on a series of phone calls, presumably using his network of drivers and their connections, to try and find someone who perhaps knows of a driver of a black bemo from Remo who gave two handsome foreigners a gratis lift to Singkil about two hours ago.
Scott, while Mr. Melly goes calmly about his task, aided by a group of about ten local men,
who themselves are all in telephone communication with their personal networks, tries his best to disrupt this freely given help by running about the road outside where they work, stopping random bemo's, hailing passing military men and generally making a nervous nuisance out of his normally implacable self. At one point, on the verge of nervous exhaustion, Scott sees, driving down the road relieved of its previously massive load, the bemo that bought them from Medan to Remo. Like a crazed Auther Dent, but in shorts and flip flops, as opposed to dressing gown and slippers, Scott practically lies in the road to guarantee that this vehicle will stop. This vehicle, which Scott believes, despite the massed ranks of telephone helpers he has at his disposal, to be the only key to his salvation.
The bemused driver gets out of the van and is literally dragged by Scott to Mr. Melly, where Scott, frantic and barely coherent now, gabbles some half crazed words to the effect that this, this man here, is the driver of the very bemo that dropped him in Remo! Talk to this man, he saw the bemo from Remo, he must know! Talk to him!
Mr. Melly looks implacable, much to Scott's cresting frustration, and the driver, unsurprisingly, looks absolutely terrified at being dragged into this crazy mess by a clearly unhinged foreigner. Scott continues to try to gain Mr. Melly's attention, one hand clasped about the poor drivers arm, the other practically snatching the phone away from Mr. Melly's ear. Once he finishes his conversation, Mr. Melly speaks briefly to the driver who, to Scott's astonishment, walks back to his bemo and drives off. Wide eyed with shock, Scott begins to explain to Mr. Melly that the man he just sent away was perhaps the only remaining link to his money, but he is gently removed from his latest tirade by the repeated assurances of Mr. Melly that everything is going to be O.K.
It takes a while for Scott to respond to these calming and surely encouraging words, but he is at the peak of his pique, and he assumes that Mr. Melly is just trying to placate him, that the situation is still irretrievably lost. But slowly, like a man coming round from a faint, or wakening from a powerful dream, the world begins to swim into a clearer focus; a
little much needed perspective is gained. The smile upon Mr. Melly's face is full of assurance, the words he again speaks confirm the truth, the looks on the faces of the assembled helpers all point to the fact that Scott is only now beginning to realise; that he has been behaving like a distressed little child. Realising this at the same time as he becomes aware that Mr. Melly is in possession of, not his money, but at least the assurance that the driver has been located and the money belt found, he becomes acutely aware of the debt of gratitude he now owes to these kind men.
Even though, as much through translation issues as it is the holding of facts, it cannot be firmly established whether the money and passport are still in the money belt, Scott is deliriously happy. His hand is shaken multiple times, his back is slapped and cigarettes are offered. He is congratulated all round. Scott asks how he should retrieve his money belt, but is only told to wait, that it shall all be resolved shortly, that everything is being taken care of. All this time, unnoticed by everyone, myself included, waiting
patiently and calmly at the roadside, is the forgotten driver of the scooter, the kind owner of the warung where, two hours later, upon Scott the disaster first dawned. He now taps Scott on his shoulder and gestures for him to climb back on. This kind man's gentle ministrations briefly enlighten Scott to the belittling truth that the majority of his simplest, but most important decisions, are so often made for him by others.
He is driven back to retrieve Anny and their bags, with carefully worded instructions to return to the guesthouse to await delivery of his money belt. Arriving back at the cafe, Scott is greeted by a beaming Anny; clearly news travels exceptionally fast in this town. Not wanting to raise their hopes too much, Scott insists that nothing is as yet resolved, and until they have their money and passport in their hands, they can be assured of nothing. After all, four million Rupiah is a great deal of money for Scott and Anny, but a small fortune to a simple bemo driver, or his lucky passenger. What are the chances that some, or all of the money, will have been removed? Would the equivalent
of four thousand pounds remain for very long in the back seat of a London cab?
Having thus far impressively failed in cutting to the chase, I shall now chase and race us to the cut. Very soon I shall bring the clapper board down upon this little tale of misadventure and foolishness, generosity and honesty, but before I do so I shall attempt to tie up a few of the loose threads. As has been made clear all along, the belt was returned with its contents entirely intact. Hugely grateful, Scott and Anny heaped thanks and a little money upon the incredible bemo driver, who not only found the bag and failed to pilfer a single note, but took it upon himself to make the hours drive back to Singkil just so that he could personally return it! Scott and Anny, reunited with their remaining funds, then made a small tour of Singkil so as to thank the many people who went out of their way to lend their help to an exceptionally stylish, but temporarily mad, couple of unknown foreigners.
The becak driver who returned them and their bags to Melly's homestay was the first to
be thanked, but he set a precedent that the others were all to follow, by refusing to accept any payment for his services so freely given. The owner of the warung, the man who, without being asked, drove Scott to places he only vaguely realised that he needed to go, the man who seemed to patiently stand by his side to guide him when needed also refused any money for this immense favour, and his wife would not accept a penny for the food they could not pay for. And Mr. Melly, perhaps the man to whom they were most grateful (excepting of course the bemo driver who found their money belt and who, unlike the rest, gratefully but respectfully, accepted a small financial donation), also calmly refused the offer of a not inconsiderable financial present. It seems, genuinely, that the help Scott and Anny received was freely given and, what is more came not from obligation or coercion, but from a deep rooted sense of honour and duty. It really was, to all those involved, absolutely nothing at all.
There ends the little story of the fool and his money. Can you believe that they were not so
easily parted? Are you perhaps upset that they were not? Do you think that a man such as Scott has the capacity to learn the necessary lessons from this little adventure? Do you consider him as foolish as he clearly considers himself? Could the same thing happen to you? More importantly, for those people who like a story to have one, the moral of this little tale could be this: nothing is ever as bad as at first it seems, and that the people of Asia will always have the patience for one more bumbling fool. Do as I have done my foolish friends, come and visit this amazing continent.
After the day detailed above, Scott and Anny returned as planned to the Banyak archipelago. This time they travelled to Pulau Palambak, where they stayed for five incredibly enjoyable days, being looked after by the supremely friendly Mr. Erwin. On Palambak they explored the miles and miles of perfectly deserted white sand beaches, they swam, snoozed, ate grilled fish and shark curry, viewed the stars, observed sunsets and, a first for Scott, went surfing. From Palambak they travelled to Pulau Bangkaru where for three days they stayed
with the brilliant staff of Yayasan Pulau Banyak, an NGO that is responsible for turtle conservation on the island, and the implication of a wider reaching ecotourism project on the archipelago as a whole. They saw nesting green turtles and hatchlings, they trekked through the jungle, and they relaxed with the staff. They found Bangkaru, with its wild beaches and thick forest to be a pleasant counterpoint to the more traditionally tropical islands they enjoyed in the rest of the archipelago. Most importantly, they found it to be a most agreeable place in which to spend the last few days of their present trip. Bye.