Suara Pulau is a local NGO on Bangka Island in North Sulawesi, Indonesia
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The adventures of living on an island without roads

Posted by Felicia (felicia) on Friday, 23rd September, 2016
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Something that I absolutely adore with Bangka Island, is that there are little to no roads for you to bring a vehicle on. This underrepresentation of infrastructure gives less comfort to a person being forced to make long trips on foot lifting heavy baskets with fruit, but all the more comfort to a person who loves to breath in clean air and to preserve the nature that still is. 


Without a road, or a regular boat access, I am traveling on foot to get myself to school. It is a walk that can take anything between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the weather and the tide. If the tide is high, I have to move myself inland, away from the beach, trying to find my way through a compressed jungle without any tracks, and if there’s a storm and the trees have collapsed, the only choice left is to sacrifice my shoes and walk in the water. But as much as the road to school can be difficult, it is as much a challenge as it is an adventure. I will not forget to mention how, while I struggle to get myself passed the cliffs and forests, I meet at least 10 people, 3 times my age, carrying heavy loads of fruits and tools between the village and their farms. How they still have the strength to do so, remains a riddle to me, and is not to forget, completely astonishing. 


Here comes a summation on my walk to school in 11 easy steps: 


1. I wake up, preferably before 5.30 to watch the sunrise from the beach. I eat, drink, and save up energy for my day at work. At 6.25 I am on my way.

2. My first obstacle is ‘The angry mama dog’. She has two puppies, and they make her very very angry. Although being a dog passing her makes your life 100 times more difficult, she still makes us humans a bit nervy as well. 

Tips when passing her: Don’t look her in the eyes. Don’t be a dog. 

3. The second hinderance is ‘The Bamboo Bridge”. It is not really a bridge, but some bamboo’s forming an unstable path over a small estuary. I kind of feel like I’m in an episode of "Expedition Robinson”, a Swedish reality show in which contestants are put into survival situations. The bridge is around half a meter above ground, and around 2 meters long, but it still makes me feel like I could do anything after passing it. 

4. The third mark on my road is “Nomad resort” owned by a group of British people. Fittingly they have an english blood hound who has started to take interest in me, joining me the 100 meters that form the area of the resort. 

5. “The first hill”. This is where it gets interesting. Bangka island is not a flat island, and some parts lack the dreamy white sand beaches, and forces us adventurers to climb up small paths in a warmth of 35 degrees Celsius to be able to go forward. This is where my water bottle becomes handy. 

6. “The river” is not really a river, but a tiny estuary that sometimes becomes a bigger estuary depending on the rainfall. This estuary is located out in the warm sun and looks so clean that you could bend down and press your lips against the surface of the water. But don’t be fooled! This water has been mixed with the salt water from the ocean, and the pollution from land, which makes it a no-no. This is where I pick up my water bottle a second time. 

7. “The traditional grave yard” is made out of two, grey tomb stones where the people have been buried above ground in a crouching position inside huge stone boxes. It’s been overgrown with plants and is part of North Sulawesi’s cultural history, which is cool. 

8. The next obstacle, and maybe the least attractive one, is what I call “the garbage road”. It’s a small beach avenue between a mangrove forest and an inland forest, completely covered with trash that has been travelling with the currents and later been trapped in that spot. You can find pretty much anything there; plastic bottles, shoes, food supplies, dead pets, clothes, candy paper and children’s toys. 

9. After climbing through trash, I reach “the second hill”. I keep my water bottle ready, and I climb it like there’s no tomorrow.

10. When I’ve reached the top of the hill, I walk down, passing ‘the village's farms’ where I can see all different types of fruit trees and vegetables. Something very popular, and easy to grow here is Papaya trees. 

11. My road ends in Lihunu village where I walk to the absolut top, to the location of the two schools situated here. The schools were actually built on private ground, and are still pretty young. It wasn’t before the beginning of last decade that a local decided that education should be a possibility for anyone, including the people who couldn’t afford sending their children to the mainland. This person deserves all the respect I can give. 


Stepping through the gates of the school, being greeted by more than a hundred happy students, instantly grabbing my hands and pulling me inside their classroom is such an amazing experience which makes my adventures to and from school seem so small in comparison to the curious minds of the 204 children ready to learn more about the nature surrounding them. 


Right now I am counting down the days to Coral Day. We did it, Coral Day will happen. I am ready, and the children are too. 


Last changed: Friday, 23rd September, 2016 at 19:57

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