WEDNESDAY, 27 MAY – RETURN TO THE FATAL SHORE.

Trish and Sean were already out at the airport when we arrived and we all waited in line for about ½ an hour to check our bags through and pay our Departure Tax. Our final impression of Indonesian officialdom was a customs officer who tried to cheat us out of R2,00 which was the change from the R20,000 note we hand over: an appropriate final impression!

We waited for another 45 minutes until the flight was called and boarded to find that the aircraft was only ½ full so there was plenty of room. The jet rolled down the runway right on schedule and lifted off, banking to starboard (right) and out across the dry hills of Timor, across the coast and south across the Timor Sea.

Indonesia fell away behind us and was soon lost from sight amongst the haze of cloud and sea.

* * * * *

The man paused in his labours and turned his head slightly to listen. Perspiration beaded on his forehead. A small drop ran down his dark skin and into the corner of his eye causing him to squint and lift a calloused hand to wipe his brow.

The noise was faint, a low rumble that was barely audible above the gentle hissing of the ocean as it rolled upon the sand near where he stood in the shade of a palm tree.

Shading his eyes, he glanced up at a sky so blue that it seemed almost black, save for the billowing towers of cloud which hung languidly over the horizon. His sharp eyes caught a flash of light beyond the clouds. A thin wisp of vapour, like an arrow flying, moved across the sky.

The man thought for a moment about what it could be, far up in the sky where only the birds could reach, then turned back to his work: carving a canoe out of a log using a steel adze, just as his father had taught him. As his muscles rippled beneath his taut black skin, and sweat began to bead on his back, he forgot about the object in the sky. His thoughts returned to his own world: a world of sea and sky and land, and the simple task known to all humans…survival.

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