Saturday, 11 January 2020

Visiting Indonesia and the zoo

Monday 6 Jan 2020

Grandad John with eye belt
Ann was forced to spend a few days in bed, feeling too ill to dress or travel, but the chance of a trip to Indonesia was too great to ignore. Indonesia is an island nation of 17,500 islands strung out over 5,000 km, with 6,000 inhabited. Great Britain in contrast has 4400 islands of over 0.5 acres, of which only 210 are inhabited. From the harbour, ferries ply the seas regularly enough not to be concerned with booking, so we could turn up to buy return tickets to Batam, the most northerly island of the group.

Singapore uses thumb prints to enter and exit the country. Edwin put his thumb on the glass and sailed through, but mine was not recognised. They tried several times and on different machines, but I was marched off by armed border police to a private side room to be sat down at a much grander machine which eventually agreed I was me.

The boat trip was amazing, shearing through blue seas under a bright sun sky on a fast hydrofoil, spraying high sheets of water to either side. Formalities on Indonesia were slight, and we were soon in another country, where poverty, dirt and non-existent pavements contrasted starkly with Singapore.

We entered a huge modern shopping mall designed to entice rich Singaporeans to buy cheaply, and Edwin bought new Nike running shoes and a singlet to further his ambition to be more energetic in the New Year. Meanwhile, I saw an old fashioned looking barber's shop, advertising: "Premium Haircut. Haircut, Wash, Tonic, Hot & Cold Towel, Head & Face Massage, Masker Aloevera Vitamen, Eye Belt, Line up beard, Shoulder Massage." There was no queue, and they warned me it would take nearly an hour for the premium haircut, but I went for it. I may not have looked much better, but I certainly felt it. The whole experience cost just £6. Labour is also clearly cheap in this country.

The panda enjoys her bamboo
On Tuesday, we saw the zoo. I am not usually a fan of zoos, although I appreciate they do good conservation work, but the zoo here is outside all my experience. It is a vast site reclaimed from the original tropical rain forest, a considerable area of which has been retained. Dense, impenetrable and mysterious, it offers a glimpse of how once the whole island was forested, as once was much of Europe. The loss is symptomatic of the destruction wrought by an ever increasing and demanding world population, with what is happening in Brazil (deliberate) and Australia (indirectly man-made). No end is in sight, but surely nature will fight back; this unsustainable population growth will be decimated by our own destruction, and one day, the forests and oceans of the world will recover without us to see it. After mass destruction, new species will arise, perhaps in millennia, as they always have.

A leopard dreams of leaping for its prey

Giraffe stretches for food

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