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MAUMERE Island | Pelni Experience
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The reason for my rushing to Maumere was to catch a Pelni to Sulawesi: Pelni is Indonesia's domestic passenger ship service, connecting all the islands for fares that would be laughed at as paltry in Europe. The 22-hour trip to Ujung Pandang from Maumere cost me 44,000 rupiah, but the drawback was that the boat only goes every two weeks, so I'd missed it, with my 60-day visa it would have really scuppered my plans: hence the rush to get tickets and to ensure a place.

Our motley crew of three other Westerners and I, Asian myself, set out from Maumere at 4.45am to catch the KM Awu, Sulawesi bound. The number of locals hanging round the harbor was astounding: more people were there to welcome people travelling from Dili in Timor than were joining the boat, but it was still an elbows-in-and-scrum-down event as we crushed our way down to the economy class deck, right in the bowels of the ship.

Economy is the word: the beds were simply flat wooden strips, onto which millions of locals crushed themselves in a territorial thrust that even their Timor-invading government would have been proud of. For 1500 rupiah you could rent a mattress for the voyage, so Lilis and I grabbed two empty berths - despite the protestations of a nearby Indonesian who seemed to be saving every space available for his friends who had yet to arrive - and he managed to track down two mattresses, converting our sweaty corner of the crushed deck into a semblance of comfort, despite the lack of free-flowing air and the stifling heat and noise.