Monthly Archives: October 2010


Hearts and Minds

hearts and minds

We meet Cam and The Big O on a WWII amphibious landing craft in a coconut grove outside the island’s capital. They are surrounded by a curious semi-circle of locals, a nice complement to our own substantial entourage, who trail back through the tall palms and young bananas for several hundred yards of scrubby grass. […]


The Last Soldier

Wikimedia commons image of WWii japanese flag

In parts of Halmahera, they remember Teruo Nakamura as the good Japanese. You know. The one who didn’t rape and kill and pillage. Didn’t enslave workers to dig pits for war gold, then bayonet them when the work was done. (When treasure hunters on Halmahera find an Indonesian corpse or two, they know they’re getting […]


Nine Things NOT to Pack for Your RTW

sunset over sulawesi sea

1: Luggage Locks Worried about valuables being nicked while you sleep? Why not stick a small metal sign on your pack saying: “Expensive stuff in here”? It’s not like these thieves have knives, right? Alternatively, put the stuff you can’t afford to lose (passports, cash, card, electronics) in a daypack and use it as a […]


That Rockstar Feeling

Z's face cropped against sea background

We saw some amazing things from the roof of the slow boat the other day. Flying fish. Not just the big, silvery ones, threading running stitch across the sea like giant needles. But little dark critters, gliding low, low over the wavelets like flocks of aquatic sparrows, slender wing-fins carrying them for as much as […]


King of the District: Part 2

king of the district 1

Governor Hein’s clove cigarette fizzes hypnotically, dipped in the incense, and from the utter darkness the ancestral Moro talks the Tobelo language in an old, old woman’s voice, the men around me reechoing jo… jo… jo… hypnotically. It’s like an alien plainsong. He comes in goodness. We all have good hearts. He will do us […]


The King of the District: Part 1

king of the district

Governor Hein’s people pick us up early. 9.30pm, not 10. It’s a big, slick, maroon people-carrier, a Toyota, I think, not quite as pristine as his personal vehicle, but it stands out a mile among the motor-rickshaws, scooters and mikrolet on the streets of Tobelo, Halmahera. They call him the King of North Halmahera, Hein. […]


Like Jane Austen But Not: The Single Gal's Guide to Travelling Asia

Z and me in Georgian silhouette, Penang, Malaysia,

1: Avoid Spaghetti Straps Shoulders are an erogenous zone in many cultures. Particularly shy ones. In South-East Asia, nothing, and I do mean nothing, says “hooker” more than spaghetti straps. OK. Maybe fishnets, Perspex platforms and a basque. And if you packed those, lady, make like the real fetishists and change before you leave the […]


In Which We Dive an Undersea Volcano

tendrilly fan corals in scarlet and orange off halmahera, indonesia

Indonesia is not, let us say, short on dive sites. And, when you can snorkel with giant manta rays, turtles and jellyfish defanged by evolution off Pulau Derawan in Borneo and see pretty much all the Togian islands have to offer (bar the plane) without fronting up for cylinders and BCD, it makes sense for […]


The Adventure Island You’ve Never Heard Of: Morotai

Flickering flames and logs against a pitchblack background.

Ever heard of Morotai? Nope? You’re not alone. But, when it comes to desert island bliss, this smallish island off northern Halmahera in Indonesia’s Spice Islands (Maluku or the Moluccas) packs some serious punch. Over the last four days we’ve splashed by night in luminescent water on the soft white sand of our own private […]


A Country Wedding


Marriage Among the Togutil People of Halmahera In the dirt yard, by the communal sleeping platform her family have built outside their wooden house, Biasri, eighteen years old and five months gone, stands pounding rice in a ripped and muddy T-shirt draped over a little red skirt, her hair pulled back. She’s preparing cakes for […]