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Published: April 6th 2011
After hearing horror stories about conditions on the Pelni ferries (sleeping on brown paper on deck possibly in the rain, and never taking you eye off your backpacks for a minute for fear of being robbed) we decided to splash out and book a first class cabin. The ferry to Tual on the Kei Islands was due at midnight and expected to take 11 hours, which on Pelni usually means 12 / 13 hours, so we figured we'd sleep for much of the time.
Not far behing schedule the Ceremai sailed into Bandaniera port at 12.50. we were up by it's hooter, that was the beauty of Vita Guesthouse, it was a stones throw away and when you're sitting on the decking (or lying on the bed as we were, you can watch the ferries docking so no need to be hanging around the port for hours. - at least that was the plan. After what we thought was a good length of time for docking, we said goodbye to Alan and walked through the night market to the port, although it was gone 1am it was more like midday as there was so much activity and light.
we arrived at the port, Stefan, the German guy was there waiting to wave us off. Everywhere was chaos, hundreds of people milling round carrying huge boxes, sacks or other large items including furniture. Some items being lowered down the side of the ship on ropes narrowly missing passengers trying to get on or off. Endless lines of people were clamering down the middle staircase while others were struggling down from the stairs from economy class being hampered by others trying to get on carrying their huge cargo!
When at last the stream of people coming down the stairs subsided we were allowed to push our way up. We were shown to cabin 6010 not 6024, as allocated on our tickets, but we ruluctantly accepted. It was actually ok and compared to the hoards of people camped out on the floor in the corridors we considered ourselves lucky. We soon fell asleep to the rocking motion of the boat.
We were woken up several times with announcements we couldn't understand apart from the word 'kapal' - meaning boat. We just hoped it wasn't telling us to man the life boats!
At 7.15am I dragged myself out of
bed to investigate breakfast and was informed we only had 10 minutes left before it was cleared away. We quickly ate our cold omlette and rice but declined the sweet black tea.
Around midday we had lunch of rice and fish - what a suprise! A live band was playing in the dining room but it sounded more like kareoke!
Finally around 1pm we docked in Tual and then the fun began, once we got down the steps the crush to leave the port was terrible, sweaty bodies tightly packed together under the burning sun, one false slip and you'd be trampled on for sure! All we could do was shuffle along and try not to get seperated.
After haggling over prices we got a Bemo to take us to Nagur Bloat, the most popular beach area. It seemed a lot further than we'd expected and we ended up at Coaster Cottages, they looked nice but were an extortinate $60 a night and all rooms were full anyway. After much asking around we were taken to a loseman (cheap guesthouse) next door to a kareoke bar. As it was Sunday the kareoke was in full swing. Another
English, about our age, were checking in and as we were beginning to think we'd end up sleeping on the beach, we checked on too despite the rooms being more basic than basic!
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