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Indonesia

Author: Maria Zehentner
Beitrag vom: 28.07.2018

An emotional rollercoaster!

Lombok

Leander maneuvered Akela cleverly into the ferry's hull, got out, and did a lap on board. I still could not step on my foot, that`s why Lennox and I stayed in the truck and held the position. The ship was already bobbing on the waves against the open ocean, when Leander suddenly stumbled in and said: "Oh my god." I looked at him terrified and waited for an anouncement.

Nervously kicking from one foot to the other, he breathlessly reported, that he just had a conversation with the captain who told him, that we were the last ferry to be sent out. The harbor was shut down. The sea had become too stormy and dangerous to ensure safe passage. Terrified and wide-eyed, I stared at him. "If it was too dangerous, why did they let us out? What happens now? " "No idea" he hissed back, " Make yourself smart! "Haha, very funny! Had he forgotten, that I could not walk?
To keep Lennox occupied with something, that did not make much noise, because a bored child was the last thing we needed right now, we allowed him to watch a movie while I was lying in the bed and was busy keeping my breakfast in the stomach. The force of the high waves chased us through our thighs and legs. The ship rocked mercilessly from left to right. Leander, who was standing in the truck clawed at the inventory not to be thrown around. Screams came in from outside, scooters were falling around like dominoe stones, and the staff tried to anchor the trucks to the ground with extra bolts.

I was scared! For the first time since we were on the road, I was worried about our safety. We went through many horror scenarios, when we prepared ourselves back at home for the journey, but we never thought about a shipwreck. Leander came up to me, touched my hair reassuringly and asked, if I could handle Lennox, he'd go outside and check the situation. I nodded, looked deep into his eyes and let him go. Lennox was engrossed in his film, he was not concerned about the seriousness of the situation, and that was good.
While minutes felt like hours, I waited for his return. When he came back, he did not hesitate long. He got climbing ropes, carabiners and goggles out under Lennox's bed, filled our drinking bottles with water, put a knife and stowed everything in a backpack. The ropes and carabiners, to chain ourselves together in the water, the diving goggles to protect us from the waves, water and knives are self-explanatory.
Our surfboard was at hand, just in case to have something in the water, that we could cling to. I followed every move with anxiety, trying to focus on the words he preached to Lennox so often, "Fear is nothing bad, it's your friend. It warns you, and makes you focuse your attention to the essential things. His words in God`s name!
The ocean was upset and threw the ship in all directions like a nutshell in the whipping water. The entablature of the old barrow creaked and crashed all over. We could hear heavy objects rolling through the ship all the time.
His inner restlessness forced Leander to stay on deck, keeping an eye on the situation. Wet as a doused poodle, he occasionally looked at us, keeping me informed. and showed me videos he had made of the waves. Looking at the pictures, my jaw dropped down, as the force of the water sloshed far beyond the bow of the ship. It was a ordeal that lasted for several hours. In between, I had lost faith in it, but the old dinghy made it to the port of Lombok. Whoever was involved, that we all had solid ground under our feet, God bless.

Still having the terror of the crossing in the bones, we stopped at the next gas station to get some sleep, because it was already dark. After this hellish passage no one wanted to drive on.

Lennox was already asleep when suddenly an indefinable, loud rumble emerged. With some delay, the truck began to shake as hard as if several elephants were pressing against him. Hysterical screams were heard through the night and out of the window we could see, that people were running out of their houses in panic. The city was dark, not a beam of light, total power failure. Leander slipped on his shoes and jumped out of the truck. Through the small window out of our bed, I could see crowds of people screaming frantically and tapping nervously into their cell phones.

A short time later, Leander came back. A 7.3 earthquake was measured not far away. Our app also warned of a tsunami, which was illogical, because the quake was recorded in the countryside and therefore the blast waves should move out to the open sea, shouldn`t they ?! We were confused.
Within minutes, panic broke out amongst the population, which nobody felt responsible or committed for. No police, no loudspeaker announcements, no crisis management, nothing !! People were left alone to their fate without any information or instruction from state or public organizations. There was no one on hand, who sensibly recognized the situation, communicated and acted accordingly. So people followed their natural instincts and fled into the hinterland.
Whether on the scooter, the bike, in cars or trucks, everything was on the road. Nobody was driving alone because one thing worked perfectly, the help among each other. One truck after another passed by, the loading areas full of people. Including mothers with little babies in their arms, children crying, old people who did not know what was happening to them, farm animals and other belongings, that could be grabbed quickly. It was awful to see. Despair and fear were written on people's faces.
We were at a loss too and did not really know what to do. We did not believe in a tsunami, all the information we got out of the Internet spoke against it. However, we expected further quakes. It was clear, that we had to leave the gas station as soon as possible. We parked relatively unfavorably next to the main gas line, if the gas is gonna explode, our last hour would have struck. In this case, there would be no longer a reason to be worried about further earthquakes, that`s why we joined the mass and drove inland.

There was no jostling during the drive, but the mood was more than depressing. We passed people, who slept in the rain in front of their houses, others gathered in groups around a warming fire or lit candles and prayed together. Nobody stayed alone.
After an hour's drive we stopped together with other vehicles at a meadow. If the earth shakes again, we should be safe on this place, because nothing was around us, which could collapsed over us. We did not hide in the truck, we got out, talked to the people around us and offered our help.
In spite of all the horror we had no choice but went to bed. In the short time it took us to fall asleep, we felt several aftershocks, which were god thank`s not as intense as the first one. Completely exhausted and happy to have survived this day, we fell asleep and registered only the next morning due to an overflowing phone display, that there have been many smaller earthquakes during the night.
Not only the earthquake app runs crazy! We received news from friends and relatives, who were worried about us because they heard about the Indonesian earthquake in the media. We still had a shock, but otherwise we were fine. We could not estimate, how the situation looked like in the direct epicenter. It was clear, that the focus was clearly on the north of Lombok. Thus it was clear to us, that we had to drive south, which was the plan anyway. We had friends there and also a parking lot.
When we arrived in Kuta, we parked Akela back at our usual place and walked to the center. Thanks to a thick support bandage I was able to strain my foot. Usually Kuta was overrun by surfers and young tourists, now it seemed dead. Loudspeakers that used to make loud music were silent, the normally overcrowded restaurants were closed, and surf schools barricaded their boards behind locked doors. Apart from the stray dogs, there was no one to see.
On the way back to the truck we saw the Swiss restaurant owner, whom we had met at our first stop on Lombok. With a hanging head he crouched on a chair in his empty bar, staring at holes in the floor. He recognized us immediately and was surprised, that we had not left the island like all the other tourists.

Mutually we described the last hours of our lives. He told us, that his house had suffered severe damage from the earthquake. It was too risky to stay there, that`s why he was sitting in his abandoned restaurant. He also reported, that the villagers had shut down their shops overnight and were trying to get to their relatives in the north, which had been razed to the ground after the devastating earthquake. Roads and bridges were collapsed, houses, schools and hospitals did no longer exist. He spoke of many deaths, but a rough estimate did not exist yet. Step by step, we got an idea of ​​the devastating effects of the recent earthquakes.
Completely affected and afflicted, we went home. We realized once again, what a gigantic guardian angel must have watched over us the last days. The first big earthquake at Mt Rinjani a week ago, where our laziness had kept us from heading off, then the catastrophic crossing from Sumbawa to Lombok and now the second big quake, whose epicenter was only 20km away from us. We were grateful to be alive, but at the same time we felt bad because we knew that many people out there were not blessed with as much luck as we were.

We called our friends Olle and Diana from the Lombok Surfcamp, who were in Bali at the moment. Of course, they were informed about the situation. They had to cancel their surf classes too, because their guests tried to leave the island as soon as possible. Jordy, the surf instructor held the position in the camp. Shared suffering was half suffering. We jumped on our motorbike and wanted to surprise him with a visit in the camp.

The place Gerupuk looked as ghostlike as Kuta, it was swept empty. From a distance, we saw Jordy sitting on the porch. He was amazed when he recognized us coming closer. The events of the last days were conversation number one. But Jordy was not alone on that, as it turned out. He was surrounded by people working for the organization Pelita, which took care of the village children and had rented some rooms of the camp. In everyday life, they organized trips and engaged the kids in meaningful activities, to keep them away from the streets. Now, in the crisis, they tried to organize convoys with water and food, trying to go north, if that was possible.
Claire, the leader confirmed our vague knowledge.
The north had been destroyed completely. No streets, no houses, no bustling markets, no kids laughing out of schools or kindergartens, no honking concerts on busy streets, just nothing. There was a lack of everything, clothes, blankets, food and especially drinking water. She could not figure out how long it would take them to get into the disaster area. She also reported on roadblocks and looting on the way there. When we asked her, how we could help best, she had no idea for the moment. She urgently advised us not to do anything on our own.

We were thinking and thinking. With Akela we had the opportunity to transport many things. But how far would we get? It could take days until we were there, which was not the problem for us two, but with a child? Maybe the police would stop us "for our own safety" because we did not belong to any organization. We would have to hand over the aids, which were almost certainly sold overpriced. Even in times of need, corruption knows no mercy. Driving with 10 tonne over desolate roads and bridges would probably make no sense.
What should we do with Lennox, if we decided to drive up to the north? Olle and Diana, who would have taken care of him, were in Bali. Taking with us? No! We wanted to help, absolutely, but it did not make sense to endanger one's own family, or possibly block ongoing relief efforts through our ignorance and naivety.

Despite much advice from our friends to leave the island as soon as possible, we stayed. Not out of defiance, but out of decency. We spread the word via Facebook and Instagram, that Lombok needs help, which means tourists. That may sound paradoxical, but the South was safe, and vacationers were the only source of income left for the island at the moment. If that money broke away in the long run, the hole was even blacker than it already was.
The next days we hang out in Gerupuk. Lennox, Leander and Jordy went surfing several times, but there was no real atmosphere. For one thing, the climate had changed, it was winter. Of course, there was no snow, but the temperature had dropped, there were harsh winds, and the sea had no more bathtub temperature. On the other hand, it was contrary to our morals to have fun, while a few miles away people fought for survival. But sitting around and blowing tribulations did not help anyone too.

One afternoon, when the three of them came back dripping wet from surfing, I grabbed Lennox and took a shower with him. While walking into the small wet cell I noticed a small truck, which stood directly in front of it. I did not think any longer about it and pushed the latch of the door. We undressed, turned on the water and began to soap ourselves. As usual, Lennox started to sing while showering until he was suddenly interrupted by a loud bang. He fell to the ground and started to cry. I wanted to help him to get up but could not grab him. The whole building wobbled and I struggled to keep myself on my feet. After a few seconds, everything was quiet around us again. My first thought: "God dammit, the Indonesians and driving a car! The dork must have reversed and slammed the truck into the shower!" But then I heard Leander's voice, which was getting louder and louder, calling worried :" Is everything OK with you? There was an earthquake! "

Only the word earthquake caused me full body goose bumps. As if stung by the tarantula, Lennox and I got ready, slipped into the clothes and ran out of the bath as fast as possible. Together with Jordy we sat down on the ground in the open air, nobody spoke a word. Several small aftershocks followed. Each of us was aware, that every new quake wiped out the tedious and important work and cleanup, that was going on in the crisis center. Like Sisyphus, who tried in vain to roll his stone to the top of the mountain.
The island nation of Indonesia is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the geologically most active zone on earth. There are about 130 active volcanoes, more than anywhere else in the world. However, the series of earthquakes, that hit Lombok in such a short time is also very unusual for Indonesian standards.

During our time on Lombok, over 300 quakes were measured, including three, which exceeded the value of 7 on the Richter scale. Countless times we saw people camping in front of their homes, because they feared of being slained or buried while sleeping by falling bricks. As good as possible we tried to help with firewood, blankets or sympathetic words, which of course was just a drop in the bucket compared to the "whole".
In addition to the entire north coast, other island have been completely wiped out, including the famous diving paradise of the Gili Islands, one of the flagships of Indonesia. It may sound rash, cheeky or foolhardy if I say, that is less bad. Here one can assume, that the government pushes with strong financial injections to rebuilt everything as soon as possible. Because no hotels, no paying guests. If the well-heeled tourists of the Gili Islands stay away, no tax money flows into the treasury.

The situation for the people on the main island remains much more dramatic and hopeless. At the start of the quake series, Indonesia did not call for a national emergency and refused international aid to keep the disaster in the media low. One did not want to risk, that the flow of tourists and the associated cash flow could stop abruptly by international "horror news". But the hopelessness of the situation could not be glossed over forever. Far too late, professional help got to the right places.
This human catastrophe claimed more than 550 lives, many of them had to give their lives because they were recovered too late from the wreckage, because there were to less people helping. Epidemics and diseases broke out because not enough clean water and medicines could be provided. Many of those affected people are still homeless, because they don`t have the money to rebuild their homes or, because the property did no longer exist, because it was devastated by earth and mud.

Our time on Lombok was one of the worst we have ever experienced since we are on the trip. Not because we were worried about our personal safety. Living in Akela was probably the safest place on the island. It was more about the disrespectful and reckless treatment of the Indonesian government to its own people, which caused us grief. There are countries where a human life is hardly worth anything, because it is all about the fucking money. Indonesia is definitely one of these countries. We learned this lesson well here. It was shocking, grueling and inhuman to witness this.
But the heartwarming memory remains in our realization, that there are helpfulness people out there, who have a sense of responsibility to their neighbor´s, no matter what happens. A virtue that we like to forget in the first world!

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