Edit Blog Post
Published: February 23rd 2019
When, in my last blog, I said Raja Ampat had drained my resources, I wasn’t kidding. It had. Or you could say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was teetering on bankruptcy before Raja Ampat, it just pushed me over the edge. However, I had already foreseen this. And I had taken measures to mitigate the consequences.
What were those measures? First I moved my return flight forward, as soon as I realised my money wouldn’t last another month. Second, I cut down my spending, even in Raja Ampat, by sharing costs, and being inventive. Third I changed my plans, cutting out all but the essentials (food and accommodation) for my post-Raja Ampat period. But how did I get to this dismal situation? Me, an experienced traveller?
It’s not often that I make a mistake in budgeting for a trip, meaning that my guestimate on how long I can travel with the money I have in any given country, taking into account the things I want to do and general travel expenses, is nearly always comfortably within range. This time I was way off. I can’t remember the last time I got it so wrong.
How did this happen?
It was a bunch of factors.
One: I had miscalculated the amount of internal flights I would be taking. Partially this was due to my sojourn to Perth during Christmas and New Year. I had only taken into account the international leg, but not the domestic flights that were needed to get to Denpasar from Papua and back. Those domestic flights were from out of the way places, which meant they weren’t cheap. They were in fact more expensive than the international flight to Perth. That was the first 450 odd euro mistake.
Two: my time in Australia was a little more expensive than I had calculated, though not much, but let’s say I spend about 100 euro’s more than I budgeted for. This in itself wouldn’t have mattered much normally, as I always keep a comfortable margin in my budget calculations. But together with the extra domestic flights… It adds up.
Three: on this trip I couldn’t compensate for the over-spending. Over-spending isn’t something new for me, but I normally manage it by under-spending elsewhere, mostly in the form of staying in a cheap hotel for a few days and eating
View of Manokwari from Gunung Meja
frugally, and not taking any excursions. It never wholly compensates for the over-spending, but it keeps it in check. However, this wasn’t possible in Papua. Even simply subsisting, that is staying in a hotel and living of nasi goreng, ate up my entire budget, and often I was even above budget (if just). For under-spending you need to live below the budget for a while, not on it, and certainly not a little above it!
Four: the amount of extra’s: or basically doing things that take me (way) off my budget. I always do things that are above my budget, diving for example, or an excursion into the jungle, but they are spaced out far enough to compensate in-between (the over and under-spending principle) to a certain degree. In Papua, everything was an extra. Everything of interest was expensive. If I didn’t want to just see the cities, but visit those special places, the national park, or the karst islands or whatever, I had to charter transport and/or pay a guide. Always... Everywhere... With nobody to share the costs with! Because the amount of tourists visiting those places is negligible. And while I bargained and was lucky, and I
know I got incredibly low prices a lot of the time, even incredibly low was expensive. I had basically misjudged the frequencies of those extras.
Five: Raja Ampat! I hadn’t actually looked much into the costs of Raja Ampat before leaving. I knew it was expensive, I made an assumption on how much it might set me back, but it wasn't based on much research. What I should have done, and was very possible, was to make a much more accurate calculation. The tools are easily available on the internet for such a task. I know, because I made that much more accurate calculation a week before going there, and that calculation was nearly spot-on! I actually spent less, because I took the worst case scenario beforehand, meaning not being able to share any transport, which is where most of the money goes.
Now any one of those mistakes would not have been a big deal, or even a couple of them would have been bearable, but all of them? No! I was off with about 800 euros by the time I had finished Raja Ampat, in time terms that would be about 5 weeks’ worth of travelling
Friends or lovers?
(or in Papua terms, probably just about 4 weeks). Or another way to put it, I had reached the end of my budget one month early!
However, as I said, I had anticipated this situation already. I realised it after I made those Raja Ampat calculations. I looked at my account, saw what Raja Ampat would cost me, and concluded that something had to give. Either forsake Raja Ampat, or move forward my return journey and tighten my belt. Or the wisest course of action, both forsake and move forward, but that I wasn’t willing to do. I moved forward my journey by 2 weeks, I should have moved it forward by 3 or actually 4, ending it right after Raja Ampat. I don’t know why I didn’t. Something stopped me, some stubbornness in me, that couldn’t accept returning back a whole month early.
So after Raja Ampat I should have gone home, my money was basically finished, or at least finished in the sense that I like to come home with a bit of money left on my account, because there are plenty of expenses after returning home. I would have come home with a bit of
money if I had returned right after Raja Ampat, but as I said I didn’t.
Instead I took the boat to Manokwari, stayed there a week in a hotel, without doing anything, which defeats the purpose of going to Manokwari. Because you go to Manokwari to visit the Arfak Mountains, to do some trekking, see a bit of Papuan culture, and do some bird watching. That would have been the plan if I had money to spare. But I didn’t. Luckily there are a few free sites within walking distance from Manokwari, one is called Gunung Meja, which translates to Table Mountain, though it looks nothing like its more famous twin. It is a ridge above town, a tiny jungle covered nature reserve, with a well-kept path winding through it. The other is Pasir Putih, a beautiful beach.
From Manokwari I flew to Bali to spend my last week in Indonesia, mainly because it's much better value. But again, what I should have done, if not return home straight after Raja Ampat, at least do so straight after Manokwari! There is no sense in just hanging around somewhere if you can’t do anything. The reason I travel is
to experience things, not sit in my room or hotel and do nothing. And even with doing nothing the last two weeks, or nearly nothing, I will come back with zero euros left on my account, because nothing still costs money. And when I say zero I am not kidding, it literarily will be zero, or maybe about 1 euro, which is as good as nothing.
Was it worth it? Damn right it was! Except the last two weeks perhaps (though I did meet a very interesting man in Manokwari), but I can live with that. And I have learned from my mistake. That in itself is worth something. Also I actually have some extra funds squirreled away somewhere, I just don’t like touching them, so those of you who had started writing cheques to stave of my eminent starvation may put them away again, I shall not need them. I shall dig into my meagre savings for a while.
And so my Papua trip ends rather ignominiously, but that in itself is sort of interesting. For now I wish you all goodbye, and until next time!
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