The day the Pelni ship came to town

The KM Tidar arriving in Banda harbour

The KM Tidar arriving in Banda harbour

It was a big day in Bandaneira.  Not only did the plane arrive in the morning, but the KM Tidar (from the Pelni passenger ship fleet) arrived in the afternoon.   There are two Pelni ships that pass through Banda:  the smaller, slower and cockroach-ridden KM Kelimutu, and the KM Tidar.  The Tidar is the boat that we are considering taking to Kei Kecil islands in another week or so, so this was a good opportunity for us to check it all out.

It was obvious that this was an auspicious occasion.  The normally quiet, sleepy town was coming to life with motorcycles zipping around, tables and food stalls being erected along the narrow street heading down to the ship arrival pier to sell grilled fish, bottles of water, and nutmeg products to the passengers who briefly disembark to stock up on food for the remainder of their journey.

View from rooftop of crowded street leading to boat

View from rooftop of crowded street leading to boat

We had already been given some idea what to expect when the boat comes in but the general chaos and lack of order was fascinating to watch.

People head down to the boat landing area with wooden carts full of boxes and bags of stuff to be loaded onto the boat.  The area is full of prospective passengers, families coming to see them off or to welcome new arrivals.  It’s crowded, people are pushing and there is no concept of crowd control.

People arrive with carts full of stuff to be carried onto the boat

People arrive with carts full of stuff to be carried onto the boat

As the ship is tied up, and while the mobile stair ramps are pushed out to meet the boat, the dozens of red-shirted porters are already clambering to be the first up the stairs.  There is money to be made to help people unload their dozens of parcels. After the porters squeeze on to the boat, the passengers rush on to the ramps – just as the disembarking passengers start to come down the ramp.  It looks like pure chaos.

Crowds everywhere

Crowds everywhere

We watched as people unloaded large bundles of bananas and crates of eggs; only to see other people loading bananas and eggs.  What is surprising is that we would have thought that bananas are abundant on ALL islands in the area, and there can’t possibly be an egg shortage with the number of chickens and roosters running around.  So what are these items being transported?  It’s still a mystery….

Small boats were also queuing up to pass goods up to the ship

Small boats were also queuing up to pass goods up to the ship

Chaos!

Chaos!

 

So many people!

So many people!

We have heard stories about travelling on the Pelni boats.  I think the only way that I would travel on one is to go first class- you get a private room with beds, air con, toilet and shower – and they are reasonably clean (depending on which stories you believe).  In second class you will share a room with 3 others – but men and women cannot mix as I understand it.   And if you’re a man sharing with other local men, they will smoke.  Heavily.

Economy class is a whole other experience according to the tales that we have heard.  There is no allocated spacing – it’s a free-for-all bun fight for space.  This can be on the lower decks where there is no air-con and the cockroaches are in the greatest numbers.  You may find space in the stairwell, or maybe on the top deck which could be OK unless it rained.  In that case, you are stuck in the open with a sheet of plastic to over you and your bags until the rain stops.  We met 2 couples who got caught out in this situation and by all accounts it wasn’t fun – although it made for a great story!

Some are too impatient to wait for the stairs so clamber up the side of the boat.

Some are too impatient to wait for the stairs so clamber up the side of the boat.

It was fascinating to watch the ship loading and unloading process.  It also made us weary of the idea of taking the boat at all – although if you have paid for a cabin, there is no need to join the rush.  You can wait until the 2nd horn sounds at which stage the worst of the crowds should have dissipated.

3-4 hours later the boat leaves and peace is restored to Bandaneira

3-4 hours later the boat leaves and peace is restored to Bandaneira

We are planning on taking the KM Tidar to the Kei Islands (Tual) in a week’s time when the boat returns.  It’s supposed to be an 8-10 hour journey.  As long as we are in first class, we should be able to endure it.  If we don’t secure first class, it will no doubt make an interesting blog entry.

Slideshow:

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EDIT for concerned family:  since writing this post, our plans have changed and we will not be taking the Pelni boat afterall.

EDIT 2:  due to things never going to plan, we did end up taking the Pelni!

About BusyLizzy

Normally I live in NZ but having re-discovered the joys of independent travel over the last few years, I decided it was 'now or never' and am taking some time out to see what the world has to offer.
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2 Responses to The day the Pelni ship came to town

  1. Steve says:

    Hello, how bad was the Pelni? We are looking to go to the Banda Islands in about a week or so and trying to figure the best form of travel to get there. Would like to fly if possible but hear there is only one aircraft that goes there and is pretty unreliable.
    Thank you for sharing your stories. We find them very helpful and entertaining.

    • BusyLizzy says:

      Hi Steve – apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Unfortunately I’m not receiving the notifications of comments like I’m supposed to. THe flights to Bandaneira are definitely unreliable – and I’ve just heard recently that they are being suspended soon (if not already happened). The Pelni is pretty bad but it’s also an experience unlike any you may have had before. Our sailing was overnight so we got a cabin and I’m glad that we did. Trying to ge sleep in the public area would have been a waste of time. You also have to be very careful getting on and off – because of pickpockets, but also because of the crowds of people pushing and shoving to get on and off at the same time. Glad you find the stories entertaining… I’ve been a bit slack lately in keeping things updated! Good luck with your travels.

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