Our arrival at P. Mesanak was dramatic to say the least. As Temptress approached the rain which had been threatening for sometime started; a full on tropical downpour. Braveheart had just reached the anchorage and hastily dropped her hook at the first opportunity then she disappeared from our view. We throttled back to almost nothing as we couldn’t see the shore or Braveheart. Eventually the rain eased and we felt our way in, finding seven metres over a gently sloping sandy bottom. Bob decided he too could move inshore a bit. A friendly skinny local guy Ali sculled over in a beautifully made dug out to say hello and offer some fish later i.e. after he had hauled his net in that evening!
Eventually the rain eased and the six of us headed to the beach to stretch our legs. Rompy and Darwing, the crew from Braveheart had already been ashore and reported they’d found a shop an ojek ride (motorbike taxi) away where they’d been able to top up their phones. The island wasn’t as deserted as it looked. Ali met us on the beach, we left Di and Bob with their deck chairs and followed him up the path through the wood. Wellington boots would have been more appropriate footwear and the plank bridge over the stream was calf deep in water requiring some concentration to ensure we didn’t miss it and end up in the peaty brown water either side.
The path emerged in Ali’s yard with chickens pecking at the packed sandy soil, plants in pots lined up beneath the lime green walls. Inside Ali introduced us to his wife and family though his middle son slept through our visit on a pillow on the Lino covered floor of the main room. The spacious home had very little inside but was immaculate; clean neatly folded laundry was piled in plastic baskets against a wall, there were two wooden settees with cushioned seats, a clock hung high up on a dividing wall that didn’t reach the roof and a low table. In the back room a wooden rack made from rough branches held the family’s pots and dishes, on the floor were several large bowls of water and in a corner low shelves served as a food preparation area with jars of spices and rice. There were few windows so it took a while to adjust to the gloom.
We headed off on a broad concrete path, the music we’d heard in the anchorage was apparently a wedding and Braveheart’s boys were determined to visit. It was great having them with us as being Indonesian although not locals they could translate though often our questions were beyond their mastery of English and the pair of them would dissolve in giggles. Ali too spoke some English so between us we had some conversation about Ali’s twelve cows and it not being mango season which was a shame as the village had several large mango trees. The houses were a mix of traditional wooden homes on low stilts and more modern concrete affairs, all had tin roofs in various states of repair and well fenced vegetable patches.
Eventually we crossed a soggy grass playing field, skirted a concrete volley ball court and arrived at the tented wedding area where after handshakes all round we were immediately furnished with plates, spoons and paper napkins and directed to the tables laden with food. The other guests were busy eating. Once the food was over a couple of younger men came over to try out their English – the questions were a little odd, like those they’d learnt by rote at school; my name is xxxx, what is your name, where are you from, do you like Indonesia (where do you begin to answer a question like that about this vast and varied country?), what is your favourite colour? Rompy and Darwing were just happy to have someone else to speak to in their own language, especially female company! They piled their plates with rice and a little of the tasty goat curry, Di does feed them well but this was more their style.
There was a little fussing going on on the verandah of the little decorated house beyond the food tent. Then rather bashfully the bride and groom were ushered onto a low platform that was centre stage and seated side by side on the highly decorated wedding throne. Their traditional wedding clothes were gorgeous red fabric woven with a gold thread pattern. The bride also wore a heavy necklace reaching almost to her waist and both had floral leis. The purpose of this appearance soon became clear; we as the European guests were expected to have our photos taken with the newly wedded couple and his proud parents. Once we were all on stage stood either side of the bride and groom the camera phones came out, a hundred or so family and other guests members taking pictures of us! Kevin apologised to the bride for our intrusion on her day and was surprised to find she spoke excellent English – she was amused by the whole affair and I think by our rather scruffy appearance in a crowd wearing their best clothes.
Conscious that Bob and Di may be wondering where we were and that the tide would be rapidly going out we reluctantly made our farewells. We were invited to come back in the evening for dancing but the thought of crossing that bridge in the dark was sufficient to put everyone off. At the beach Bob had thankfully moved the tender into deeper water. Everyone waded out across the sand some 100 metres offshore in knee deep water to clamber into Ruby for the trip back to the boats. It had been a grand afternoon for all – Bob had got his walk on the beach and a swim, Kevin and I notched up another gate crashed wedding, our third and Braveheart’s crew had scored some company who spoke their own language.