Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mentok discoveries

During our stay in Mentok (aka Muntok) on Bangka Island of Indonesia, we did a bit of exploring with our local friend Sam.

We learned that Mentok's history developed from tin mining. In fact, Bangka's name was derived from wangka meaning tin. We were in a tin rich area that stretched from as far north as Thailand to down past this area. Much of the mining is done by large working dredge barges that we had seen in the area and were anchored close by. There were all sorts of support boats, like the fuel transports, tugs, etc.

Tin is found in the sandy bottom of the ocean that is dredged up from the shallows and sluiced to yield a dense black sand that is highly concentrated with tin. Just south of town is a large tin smelter that produces ingots for export. Many tourist items are made from tin and Sam was even able to get a bit of the black tin sand for me to add to my collection!

Sam acted as our tour guide of the town. We visited the new museum where we learned that the Dutch started the tin mining here in the 1700s. He also took us out to the old towering lighthouse at the point where we climbed the cramped circular stairs up over 100 stairs.

View from the top of the lighthouse

However, during the days waiting for a weather window, I was getting some distressing news about my Mom's deteriorating health with the realization that her hospitalization wouldn't be temporary, leaving Dad on his own to deal with this difficult and sad adjustment.

We both were planning on flying home in a couple of months to visit, but now things were not the same. I decided to fly home early and Jordan would join me after he and Sea Turtle made the necessary exit of Indonesia. Sam found and booked me a reasonably priced, short notice, flight back to Canada.

With a few days before I left, we had a chance to receive the warm hospitality of Sam and his friends and family. He treated us royally and even one night when an extremely low tide left our dinghy high and dry in the mud (along with all the other boats in the harbour) preventing us from returning to Sea Turtle for the night, he insisted that we stay with him and his wife in their home overnight.

Sam with wife Elizabeth and their nephews

Our friends (Amy and Arthur, and their kids Rivers and Stephen) on board Morning Glory had arrived at Mentok after doing the same orangutan tour we took. They too were on their way north and needed to wait for weather and renew their visas as well. So we introduced them to Sam who once again obligingly facilitated officialdom for their visa extension.

We and Morning Glory also met a bright young gentleman named Harry who worked in a roadside shop. He made us delicious avocado drinks with ice that he crushed manually with his old antique green crusher. We enjoyed our visits and great conversation with Harry at his shop.

South Borneo and these islands are major growers of the palms used for palm oil. We passed by huge tracts of these palm plantations and saw clusters of the palm tree fruit at the side of the road waiting to be picked up or delivered. Malaysia is the 2nd largest producer but the largest exporter of palm oil.

Jordan with roadside clusters

When it came time, Jordan accompanied me on the bus to Pangkal Pinang where I would leave the next morning. That night, we stayed in a luxury hotel and dined over a gourmet last meal.

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