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Wooden Planks, Goats and Home Made Vodka

May 12, 2015 9 Comments
Sumatra Kuala Tungkai Wood Ship Ferry

Wood Ship Ferry to Batam

Monday, 11th May 2015

At a city called Jambi, in Sumatra (look it up!), we got a tip to go to Kuala Tungkai, to get a ferry to the island of Batam, so you can get a ferry to Singapore from Batam.

So we drove for 4 hours, to find the ferry is a long speedboat with 6x 150 hp outboards! No cars.

We worked with the police, the harbour man, and our hotel manager/owner (interpreter), and found 2 wood cargo boats to get us to Batam island!

So the adventure ramps up significantly…

Donna is shitting razor blades about the trip, because at the minimum, Barry and I will travel with the cars. I think the girls have elected to come with us. They can go on the fast ferry, 6 hour, if they like, but Donna is nervous about splitting from Baz. Barry and I have been on board, and accept the boat as seaworthy. We’re waiting for the tide to load the first car – Barry’s. His car is lighter so he goes on the first smaller boat.

It’s a 17 hour trip… we have a fridge stocked with beer, so were ready! We go tomorrow, as we need to wait for the captain to come back.

Tuesday, 12th May 2015

Awesome meal last night in a local restaurant. We ate with the hotel owner: crabs, prawns, vegetables, chicken two ways, spicy sauces, made in house. $28 for the 5 of us – full as butchers dogs! Some police were at the adjacent table, and asked to have their photos taken with us.

A lovely lunch with Alan, the owner and us 4.

At the jetty, the ship people said the Land Cruiser will go first, on the little boat, as it has a smaller wheelbase. We loaded at about 7.30pm to match the tide. Holy dooly! They berthed the ship to a wooden jetty, with an exit to the river some 6m above the bank.

2 planks were tied to the jetty and the boat gunwale, and as I backed onto it, the planks bent like bananas. More planks needed. That made the cruiser higher, so as I backed back, the rooftop camper lifted the jetty’s thatched roof up with it.

We added more timber to the inside of the gunwale, so I didn’t drop 600mm into the boat, and I backed on, low range, with Barry and 50 Indonesian helpers. Took a few runs, but we made it. One of the timber guides cracked while I was midway, and I thought I was a goner.

So, as we left port, Lynn and I sat on the front starboard gunwale, looking at the town at night, cloudless sky, 40 minutes south of the equator, drinking beer and home made 40% vodka, out of coffee mugs – as the boat has a Muslim crew and is dry!

So, Barry and Donna go tomorrow, on a bigger boat. Barry rang just then, and last night, the police came to the hotel, wondering about the goings on, accepted a bribe, and went away. The police came up to our boat as it departed the harbour last night, but they didn’t come on board. I think the bribe they got off Barry was for the two boats.

We slept on the deck last night till it stormed. I eventually got under the car, beside the goats (the other passengers) and slept.

We’re just arriving at Batam Island, so will get back to you. Getting off this thing hopefully will be a lot easier and safer than getting on.

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  1. Judy Veitch says:

    hi, folks!
    So great to hear about all your adventures. Talk about being perfect examples of “The best laid plans…”!
    We usually manage to catch up via Jim and he was telling us about your adventures getting the vehicles onto the wooden ferries … Oh my goodness!
    I’ve left two comments previously but they don’t seem to have gone through. Hopefully this one will, and it comes with love and best wishes from Lee, me, and all the movie crew xoxo

    • Lynn says:

      Hi Judy,
      Lovely to hear from you. Driving thru Indonesia is an experience of a lifetime! Bit stronger than we expected,but the people are awesome, the language skills from us are the letdown. They try so hard to help, far better than typical Australian.
      We think we are close to a ship to Singapore, then drive to Malaysia.
      Al and Lynn.

  2. theodore says:

    Hey Barry and team!

    The wife and I were lunching at Nongsa Pt Marina Resort in Batam this afternoon (17th May) when we saw your vehicles pull into the driveway.

    Had a quick chat with you about your journey thus far and I regret not having been able to get your contact details much less offer any help at all!

    Thankfully we found your vehicles parked at the ferry terminal and thus found your website.

    How very exciting indeed! I’m definitely going to be following your adventures through this page.

    I would love to catch up with you guys when you get to Singapore, perhaps over a couple cold brews? Do let me know!

    Anyways, all the best for your onward journey, safe travels and God-speed! :)))

    With best regards,
    Theodore Lai

    • Barry says:

      Hi Thoedore,

      Thanks for your comments.
      We are really stugling here on Batam to get passage for our cars to either Malaysia or Singapore. Working on a couple of options however both options are proving to be frustrating and lengthy time frames.

      Hope to catch up when and if we get to Singapore.


      • Theodore says:

        Hi Barry,

        I’m glad something has been worked out with Winstar.

        There almost certainly be significant red tape and/or taxes to get the cars to be driven through SG, but at least you’ll have the comfort that you don’t get fleeced and all payments to be made will be above board!

        Looking forward to reading more! (:

  3. Jane Lyon says:

    Ah yes, Lyn, Please be nice to your ‘man’, (‘boy’, in Australian), and keep in mind that if the guys ever run out of money they could sell you, theoretically of course.
    Be careful!
    Jane Lyon

  4. Mariline & Bruce Kane says:

    Hey There Canadian Couple met you at Amazon Seafood….shared the $100 dollar bottle of wine…may have mistakenly picked up your tab as well lol…all good worth a giggle enjoy your travels will keep checking hope we cross paths in the US or Canada…as we are Glamping not Camping lol….

    • Barry says:

      Thanks guys I thought our grog bill was a bit light on, hope we can catch up again to return the favour.
      Met Annie today she is putting together a proposal to get us out of this p[lace.

      Many thanks for your help

    • Lynn says:

      Send your email address, and when we’re in USA we’ll drop a bottle in. My email is

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