How many people can you fit on one ship?
A lot of my time in Indonesia was spent trying to figure out the ferry connections between islands and waiting in random ports for ferries to manifest. For some reason in Eastern Indonesia the ferry schedules are surprisingly elusive: none of the tourist agencies are really sure when they will leave and for the most part it is a case of turning up at the port and hoping for the best (this is probably due to the lack of a tourist market for 30 hour journeys between islands). However, I appeared to be in luck when my ferry from Sulawesi to Kalimantan turned up in the right port on the predicted day.
Assured that there would be barely any other passengers on the ferry (seriously, who else would endure 30 hours on a boat?); I was grossly mistaken. The ferry was overflowing with Indonesians...I didn't think it was possible to fit THAT many people into such a confined space. They were literally EVERYWHERE, hundreds of them; and that's not even mentioning the mountains of boxes and cases of shit that had to be piled up. There was not even a square centimetre of space in which to walk! Being the only white person out of the 500+ passengers on the ferry, I was pretty conspicuous. Each time I attempted to walk anywhere I was greeted with cries of 'hello mister' (apparently a universal greeting of foreigners, regardless of sex). Obviously this was not at all irritating.
Some of us were lucky enough to have 'matresses' to lie on. Other more unfortunate souls had to sleep on scraps of cardboard or whatever other material they were able to find. It turned out that 'my' matress actually 'belonged' to a family and after a mini dispute, I inadvertedly ended up sharing it with a mother, 2 kids and a grandmother. Lying on the floor amongst dirt, squeezed between my backpack and a screaming kid with cockroaches crawling over me, I wondered why I had decided to take this method of transport over a 2 hour flight, and how was I going to get through the next 24 hours? The kid did not fail to stop screeching the entire 2 nights of the journey.
Without a doubt the worst experience of the journey was the bathroom. As the ferry had grossly exceeded its capacity there were simply not enough bathrooms and each trip would involve waiting in a crowd for at least half and hour. Every female passenger on the ship insisted on having a 'shower' with the bum-gun in the toilet cubicles, whilst filthy water flooded out into the corridoor so our feet were constantly submerged ankle deep in other people's dirt. For God's sake I only wanted to pee; after going for a week without showering in Mongolia, I found this incredibly vain for a 2 day journey!
I no longer have any barriers regarding personal space.
I have been stripped of all standards of hygeine.
I vow never to take another journey longer than 24 hours.