(Spelt Tjilatjap by the Dutch).
Within days of my arrival in Indonesia Andy Satrapa and I were off to meet up with the advance team of the Cilacap Harbour Rehabilitation project. It involved dreding the estuary gateway to the ocean; removing vessels sunk during WWII; construction of wharf and storage godown.
We travelled by overnight train to Purwokerto then were picked up by a local driver assigned to the Serayu River Basin Project to take us on a four hour trip to Cilacap.
(a distance of about 80ks - but the road was horrendous.)
We booked into the only hotel and asked if the staff had seen an Orang Putih (white man) called Pat Carol Pat, an Australian had won the aid contract, to dredge the channel in Cilacap Harbour which was a component of the MOU.
In 1942, Cilacap was an evacuation point for escaping allied forces embarking by flying boat and ship to Broome WA.
The harbour was unusable due to sunken craft bombed by the Japanese and post war siltation.
The historical significance did not escape me.
We were here to re-instate the facility. Wonderful!
A hotel receptionist said that Pat had moved out and set up in a house in town but had left a "note".
She handed over the "note".
It was a "cheque" signed by Pat for so many Rupiah - made out to the hotel.
We were puzzled.
It turned out that this person did not know that this "piece of paper" was a cheque and thought it was something that Pat wanted to pass on to us.
Pat was recruited from Singapore and spoke no Indonesian. He must have handed this piece of paper over the counter as he was leaving to set up premises in town.
Strange but true. But it demonstrates the lack of worldly ideas and concepts that we in the West took for granted....
We met up with Ian Lewis, the Project Administrator; Tony Foran Supervising Engineer and negotiated the rental of premises; purchase of furniture and creature comforts such as ice boxes, desk fans and mosquito nets. Air conditioners were out of the question as there was not enough electricity in any home to support even the smallest drawing current. We also arranged for hire of transport until and aid vehicle arrived as well as bank accounts for the transfer of monies.
We also showed Ian how a simple Imprest Accounting system worked using a manual spreadsheet.
We were asked what to do if the was civil unrest.
Our advice was to commandeer a boat and head due south - 400 km to Xmas Island.
We also surveyed the derelict godown and wharf that was to be knocked down and rebuilt to Australian specifications.
The major engineering component was pile driving concrete piers to support the superstructure - designed by Australia's Department of Housing and Construction (Melbourne)
At night we dined in the only restaurant in town.
Ice in the beer - no option. Hygiene - dicey!
But it was the best seafood and cheap!
I came back to Cilacap several times
To express the embassy's condolences to the families of two Indonesian locals killed by asphyxiation cleaning out the bilges of the dredge;
The next was to supervise the survey mapping of the sunken wrecks in the harbour
Then to accompany the Industrial Estate Feasibility Team investigating linking WA industry with Javanese labour
Pat's dredge would suck up the mud n silt from the harbour bed; head out sea; open the hydraulic bottom flaps thereby dumping the muck and repeat the exercise until the channel was dredged.
Occasionally the load would not drop. Pat's contract local employees had bamboo prodding sticks to stand on top of the load and it free up.
Once the load would give signs of dropping they would hang on to the sides.
Pat would relate that often, without warning, the load would release together with the prodders.
No fatalities - they would emerge about 50 meters behind the moving barge screaming and yelling!
Sunken Vessel Survey
A contract surveyor (Capt ??? an Australian) and his Singaporean diver and I hired a local "tinnie" and petrol driven compressor.
The diver slid over the side. His head piece consisted of a mask; and air line and a two way radio. In the murky depths he plotted the location of a major wreck that had to be blown up.
It was a case of touch, feel, report and plot. I was invited to give it a go. I stripped, got two feet down and chickened out.
Laughing the Singaporean diver took over.
He was down there god knows where he was entwined when the air compressor stopped.
The Captain took command. He was very deliberate in a set emergency procedure and got the diver back on board, navigating through a maze of twisted metal. When the crisis was over I asked the local what had happened.
"Bensin habis- no petrol".
We were all cowboys.
Like Brisbane, Cilacap was a natural harbour because a large island (Nusa Kembangan)
This island is dubbed the "Alcatras of Indonesia". There are nine Dutch built maximum security prison farms scattered throughout the island. It housed the balance of the 'reds" rounded up and awaiting summarily execution.
Without trial, no preparation, just taken out and shot - as a culling exercise.
Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine group were arrested at Denpasar airport in 2005 for drug trafficking and sentenced in 2006 to execution by firing squad. They were eventually transferred to the island and executed on April 29, 2015.
Pat Carol took me out on a "sea dump". To do so you motored past the island. So close you could see the prisoners and their guards.
You could also see the throngs of daily visitors (family) ferrying to the island to provide solace and supplementary food.
It was like a scene from the movie Papillion .
As a precaution, the local authorities placed someone with a uniform on each barge trip.
I did not care. I took a series of pictures - all the time with this official gesticulating not to do so.
(I hope one day I will find these photo negatives)
As part of touring the location we ended up in a part of the town that was literally built on timber stilts over the water.
It was a mass brothel. I did not partake - so squalid. It was as if I had stepped into a world two centuries ago - no electricity, no radio, banter and bartering, laughing, babies crying.