Location: Gam, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Wayag is a pretty impressive spot. In the world outside of Argo, at least, I have rarely experienced the sensation of looking over an area and seeing no evidence of Homo sapiens. I qualify this statement because while living on Argo, we are lucky enough to spend days or weeks moving through areas that only make a fleeting appearance on Google searches. Try the West Caroline Basin, for example. I haven’t checked this for myself, but I would imagine that it is rare to catch sight of it in any headlines. So when you find yourself on an island (or, in our case, surrounded by a whole horde) which leaves you with the same feeling: this silent, transitory, fleeting sense of a very long time – it’s pretty cool. Leading on from this, I’m going to break convention and begin this post with yesterday evening because I think it makes for a good pretext.
We had just gotten out of the water post-challenge course when we noticed a couple of mantas feeding at the surface a stone’s throw away. A few of us got into the water and swam over as silently as we could to watch them exist. The sun was now going down over the limestone peaks, there was barely a breath of wind, and other than the occasional piece of marine plastic, for all we could see for just a minute, it could have been us that were the vulnerable species.
Anyway, this morning we pulled out of our nook and turned south. As a result of the sheer amount of sub-aqua and hill-climbing madness of the last few days, we have managed to get through all of our dinghy fuel, so our first priority was finding some more. This quest took us 40NM south, back across the equator (that’s three times for this trip for those interested) to an island just south of Penemu called Pam. Now we weren’t totally certain how this would go, in that both Pam and Penemu – and Raja Ampat for that matter – are out of the way sort of places, but we had been told that the villagers there would sell gasoline to cruisers intermittently. So armed with Google Translate, six jerry cans, some cash, and a can-do attitude, Carolyn and Lolo went searching. Naturally, they were an immediate hit, and within literal minutes of setting foot on land, they seemed to have the entire village out to meet them (this was an observation from Argo while we were standing off, waiting for them. After speaking with Carolyn and Lolo later, we found out that what looked to be the entire village was, in fact, the entire village). Apparently, one mother, upon seeing that Carolyn’s recently shaven hair was of a similar style to that of her children, suggested that they rub her head – presumably just to be sure of the validity of the earlier observation – much to everyone’s excitement (particularly Carolyn). While this was going on, Lolo was engaged in negotiations with a group of about 18 others, which she estimates to have been between the ages of 5-8 years, regarding the price of petrol. After much discussion, good-natured haggling, and a few delicious homemade buns to sweeten the deal, they were able to settle on a price and quantity agreeable to all.
Amanda C drove Megatron throughout this, safely delivering both fuel and staff to and from the beach. It’s true that not all heroes wear capes.
I realize that this might sound like a long-winded version of “we went to get some fuel, and then we got some fuel,” but interactions like this have been few and far between over the last couple of years. You don’t need to look very hard to find some generic travel blog talking about how travel is about people, not places. While I think that this could use a bit of further qualification, it was lovely too – at least in proxy – have this sort of interaction again. For now, we are finishing the day off in an anchorage surrounded by mangroves on an island called Yangello, looking forward to another day of adventure in Raja.