Is there a place on the entire Earth that can rival Indonesia as the most perfect place to begin an adventure?
Over half of the surface area of the 17´000 islands, haphazardly scattered across the equator between Australia and the Indochinese Peninsula, is covered with impenetrable jungle. With 400 active volcanoes and an average of three daily earthquakes, it´s as if Mother Nature herself has set up an obstacle course in the Indian Ocean, daring Australians to get to Asia.
Since the year 2000, Indonesia had endured 45 incidents of major seismic activity averaging 7.2 on the Richter scale. In fact, as soon as we set foot in Denpasar airport, Bail, we were but a few hundred kilometres from the great Mount Tambora, responsible for the biggest eruption in recorded history: an 1815 catastrophe that was heard in Perth 6´000 km away, caused a 2-day sunlight blackout as far as 600 km away and even changed global temperatures for the following year.
As if the natural disasters weren´t enough to contend with, it could also be said that the local population have to some extent absorbed some of the personality traits of the tumultuous isles they live upon. Indonesia, the 4th most populated country in the world, is crammed with 500 ethnicities speaking 700 languages living among the second richest biodiversity on the entire planet (after the Amazon).
Whilst “United in Diversity” is the national moto, it hasn’t always been so rigorously followed. For example, what the CIA has called “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century” was 4 perpetrated here during the 60s when as many as 500,000 people were massacred in the wake of a political uprising.
More recently, in the decade since the turn of the 21st century, Indonesia was subjected to 24 separate terrorist attacks, the worst of which being the 2002 Bali Bombings whose death toll reached 202 people.
On the day we departed Kalgoorlie, the Australian government’s tourist advice website, www.smarttraveler.gov.au, recommended travellers to “reconsider the need to travel” to Indonesia and gave the country the second highest possible danger rating, just below “DO NOT TRAVEL”.
If you´re looking for adventure, intrigue, culture, diversity or danger then look no further than the one country where the great explorer Marco Polo, so often charged with exaggerating his tales, didn’t have to do so.
There are literally dragons that live here.