Sorong is a necessary evil. OK, not evil, but it’s not a terribly interesting place- yet it’s on the edge of the very spectacular Raja Ampat, which we can’t wait to get into. But we have to stop here for a few reasons. First, there are required passes for tourists in Raja Ampat, which are purchased from the office in Sorong. Then, we need to fine propane. We haven’t refilled our LPG bottles since we left Australia, and are probably getting close to cooking on fumes. Not to mention- if I don’t get to a market soon, we won’t have much to cook anyway!
As is our theme lately, we arrive in a nasty squall. This is a trend we would really like to break! The harbor is packed with boats, from the large ferry at the terminal, to a few container ships, to the masses of fishing and dive charter boats in the harbor. We learn later form the tourist office that more than 40 liveaboard dive boats are based here during the peak season (December to March, when the clarity is best).
Even a dusty town can be fun. We scout out some excellent food with Nalukai, and stuff ourselves on chicken & noodles while making a new friend.
I fall in love with the town market, which is a covered rabbit warren of tiny wood stalls and probably a massive firetrap. But it has nice fresh produce (even if a good portion of the offerings are unfamiliar), and friendly vendors who are eager to connect. It’s not part of Papuan culture to bargain, so asking price is generally “harga biasa” – you aren’t expected to counter with a big discount, although you might need to if you’re quoted an inflated buleh (foreigner) price. I’m happy to postpone bargaining for later in Indonesia- I know it’s coming!
Some of the people I meet are too friendly: I’m pulled into conversations by Papuans who want to tell me about the rebel movement in Papua, and how Papuans are mistreated by the Indonesian government. My desire to listen to their story is outweighed by my need to keep my family safe, and so I beg off or pretend not to understand them. This is painful.
We meet an enterprising local guy, Victor. His family has a large equipment business, but that doesn’t give him much of an outlet for the excellent English skills he honed going to University in Australia. He shuttles Iona (Nalukai) and I around to grocery stores and favorite restaurants. We are pleased to have a shortcut to excellent Padang style takeout to bring to the boats for dinner! Victor is immensely helpful with everything from laundry to grocery runs to propane, and a really pleasant guy to hang out with in the bargain.
It takes much longer than we expect to accomplish our Sorong punch list. The big sticking point is propane. We still don’t have a proper adaptor, but a system has been jury-rigged. It’s far from failsafe (and the hose ends up blowing up under pressure before we can use all the gas) but it gets at least one of our tanks refilled.
Goal: 2-3 days. End result: 5 days, but lots of good food and good memories.