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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Haunted Island

School days trips with friends were always the first of many unforgettable ones. I mean, we are talking about a bunch of teenagers, who actually just grew up and had a taste of the newfound freedom (of being able to travel on our own) but suddenly thought we were able to conquer the world. Our bravery and confidence were unparalleled, matched only by our own arrogance and foolishness. With little or not much money at all, we made things happened. The joy and the laughter, when we looked back, were very innocent and silly at the same time. Some, probably, weren't smartest decisions we ever made, but there was certainly no regret. We lived to tell the stories. 

I was lucky enough to have a couple of trips that fit the description above. None, however, came close to this particular one. It was so adventurous, perhaps enough for a lifetime and, personally, it was the closest I ever came into contact with the other realm. It wasn't a very blessed trip to begin with (some friends actually couldn't get the permit from their parents to join). It went awry in the midst of it and was redeemed only by the fact that, after what we went through, no one actually died. Too bad that I don't have any photos of it, but it'd be always on my mind. Anyway, Parno went to the same island 19 years after my visit, so I'd use his pictures as the illustration here.

Our journey began when someone, likely to be Jimmy, told us about this island called Temajo. It was a little-known paradise that was still so pristine you could actually see the fish swimming between your legs. That sounded like a promised land to go to, so a plan was made and friends were invited. I wasn't very keen because I was more of a city boy, but was talked into joining the trip. Judging from team members, which was definitely not my kind of team as I wasn't close to many of them, I'm pretty convinced that it was Eday who persuaded me. He was my best friend and we were really close back then. I remember Muliady AW and Endrico weren't allowed by their parents. Even Susanto Phang (nicknamed Babi), who was notorious for his blustering antics, didn't get the permission. Yet there I was, tagging along. Very out of character, indeed.

The sea and the beach.
All photos by Parno Bong.

Eday and I stayed overnight at Jimmy's house and met the rest of the crews in the next morning to depart together. We went to Sungai Kunyit, a place roughly 100km from Pontianak, and took a wooden boat to cross the sea. I remember being puzzled by the fact that the boat was floating only slightly higher than the sea level. In hindsight, perhaps the boat was actually overloaded and at the risk of sinking. To think that there wasn't any life jacket at all! Anyway, we weren't drowned but landed safely on the island instead.

Temajo looked exactly like what Jimmy had described to us. The sea water was really clear. We rented a villa (the floor was always sandy throughout our stay there) with a swimming pool in front it. Not very far from the villa, there was a giant skeleton, presumably from a stranded whale (though there wasn't supposed to be a whale there, so it could be a man-made). Some friends actually preferred to build a tent outside the villa and slept there (only to give up later that night as it was very cold). There was this schoolmate named Ali who brought an air rifle (and I don't recall he ever shot anything at all). The most useful item was the one brought by Jimmy, a parang or a machete. You'd hear more of it later.

The first part of the holiday was peaceful. We just lazed around and had our fair share of coconuts that happened to be abundant there (some of the boys, not me, were really good at climbing the coconut trees). For meals, apart from what we brought, I seem to recall that we had the freshly caught squids. Somebody brought up the subject about how squids were attracted to light at night and we were supposed to catch them using this method. Despite all the big talks, Ivan ended up buying them instead. Jimmy was the one who cooked it, I think, because he laughed when Ivan requested for the biggest squid. Jimmy simply told him off that by the time it was cooked, the squid would have been sliced properly, so no point asking for the biggest one.

The wooden boats to Temajo.

Then suddenly someone thought about island exploration. That, perhaps, sounded sexy that almost all of us agreed to it. Ivan and Teddy opted out, but most of us were game, so off we went around noon time, with air rifle and machete, but I don't recall seeing any compass. We marched one by one into the jungle, the uncharted territory, to discover the unknown. It was fun and I made it my job to ensure that none was left behind, so I shouted every once in a while and expected some answer. It worked well, until I heard Teddy replying me.

Nothing could have prepared me for that. There we were, deep in the jungle and Teddy was never with us, how on earth could he possibly reply me? I walked faster towards Jimmy, the de facto leader of the group, and asked if he heard what I heard. He said yes and, before I could ask how that was even possible, he asked me to keep quiet and trust him that I didn't want to pursue this matter any further.

For the benefit of the readers who may not know Jimmy, he is a rather slim and small chap, but he has this charisma like no other that even a bigger and towering man will submit and listen to him. I knew him since we were on primary school and he had always been a person of integrity that was true to his words since then. In short, he's a very interesting character that we all looked up to.

The beach and the coconut trees.

And that moment was no exception. The leader had barked his command, so I shut up and moved on. We continued our adventure, but the more we carried on, the more it didn’t look right. The forest was denser and becoming less accessible. The machete was our only hope, so those who were in front of us took turn to chop whatever that was in our way. When we reached an open space, the path we took already led us to the top of the hill. We took a break and once again the machete showed its magic, breaking coconuts for us to quench our thirst as we observed the surroundings.

We should have turned back, but only God knows what we were thinking then. We headed down to the exact opposite direction instead. We went through the grass taller than us and a pool of mud that was ankle-deep. While we were there, something passed us by, but too fast for my eyes to tell what it was. Once we passed through it, we reached the sandy beach in the late afternoon. I thought our ordeal was over and the villa was somewhere near. Yet I couldn't be more wrong. As we walked on the seaside, the terrain quickly changed into a rocky beach. We had to climb up and jumped from one huge rock to another. The four of us, Jimmy, Syah, Eday and I were the fastest, leaving the rest far behind us.

Suddenly there was no more rock for us to jump onto. The rocky beach ended there, leaving us with no options but to jump into the sea, the idea that scared the shit out of me. I remember staring at the waves that kept coming and slamming the rock beneath me. I was pretty sure I didn't sign up for this. However, it was getting dark and we had not much time to waste. One by one, they leaped into the sea. Eday yelled at me afterwards, encouraging me to jump. The more I hesitated, the more they looked pissed. What was started as encouragement swiftly turned into cursing. They said the sea level was only up to their waist and they'd catch me before the waves pulled me away, so I eventually made my jump.

That's when Ali's sweater, which was tied loosely to my waist, floated away as I plunged into the water. In a way, it was kind of a joke that eased up the tension. Once I realized that it wasn't that deep, I gained the confidence that I could handle this. As luck would have it, we were very near to a gulf and we just had to go in to reach the land. The sun had set and as I looked at the dark clouds, I could see the lightning from afar. For a split second, it dawned on me that if I ever saw a shark fin approaching us at that moment, we would be dead very soon.

Parno, taking a selfie in Temajo.

There was no shark, of course, but there was a villager welcoming us as we stepped out from the sea. Much to our surprise, he was actually asking if we were human while pointing his torchlight on us. Once we confirmed our answers, he was kind enough to help us. He gave us shelter, dry clothes and food. I had two plates of steamed rice with plain soup, one of the best meals in my life, right after 7 hours of walking, hiking, jumping and crossing the sea. Once we finished eating, I asked him what his question earlier really meant. He smiled and told me that he asked because sometimes it wasn't human that came out from the sea.

The next morning, as we went to the beach, I was limping. Apparently my feet had been badly cut by the corals that I passed by as I approached the shore. We stood there, but Jimmy felt like he had to check out how the rest were doing, so he went alone to look for them. Unlike us, they didn't make it to the hut. Later we learnt that they slept on the rock and even though they tried to call the boat that they saw, they weren't heard.

Around noon, we saw a boat heading to our direction. Teddy appeared and immediately swore at us, saying that our lives were as cheap as IDR 10K each. When it was apparent that we weren't returning the day before, Teddy and Ivan were panic. They flipped through our belongings to find as much money as they could, then they crossed back to the mainland to look for a shaman to pinpoint our location (yeah, before Google, there was a shaman). Once our coordinates were obtained, they went back with a boat on the next day to fetch us and true enough, we were exactly where the shaman said. Pure luck or a magic based accuracy? To these days, I really have no idea. And oh, the IDR 10K was the round-up amount after the gathered money was divided by the number of the missing people.

That was the first and the last time I ever went to Temajo. Almost two decades had passed since then, but I still remember that it was drizzling when we left the island. We were wet and we could have sunk anytime, if the sea went wild and the boat capsized...

The rocky beach at Temajo island
Photo :

Pulau Berhantu

Liburan bersama teman-teman di masa sekolah seringkali menjadi petualangan pertama yang tidak terlupakan dalam hidup.  Jangan lupa kalau masa-masa ini adalah saat dimana sekumpulan remaja yang baru tumbuh dewasa merasakan kebebasan berkelana tanpa supervisi orang tua, seakan-akan sudah siap menaklukkan dunia. Keberanian dan rasa percaya diri waktu itu melambung tinggi, setara dengan kesombongan dan kebodohan masa muda. Hanya dengan sedikit uang di saku, kita mewujudkan impian. Tawa dan canda kita sangat lugu dan konyol. Beberapa keputusan kita tidaklah bijak, tapi tiada penyesalan. Semua itu menjadi kisah hidup yang membuat kita tersenyum dan bercerita kembali.

Saya cukup beruntung karena memiliki beberapa pengalaman yang sesuai dengan deskripsi di atas. Kendati begitu, tidak ada yang mengalahkan kisah yang terjadi di awal tahun 1998 ini. Begitu hebohnya petualangan ini sehingga cukup terjadi sekali saja dalam seumur hidup. Secara pribadi, percaya atau tidak percaya, ini juga sekali-kalinya saya berpapasan dengan sesuatu yang luar biasa gaib. Mungkin ini karena perjalanan ini sudah tidak begitu direstui dari sejak awal (beberapa teman bahkan tidak mendapat ijin dari orang tua mereka untuk turut serta). Selagi kita berlibur, terjadi sesuatu yang tidak dikehendaki, namun syukurlah tidak ada yang meninggal. Sayang sekali perjalanan tersebut tidak diabadikan lewat foto, namun saya tidak akan pernah melupakannya. Sebagai ilustrasi, kita akan gunakan foto-foto Parno karena dia baru saja ke sana. 

Kisah ini dimulai ketika Jimmy bercerita tentang pulau bernama Temajo. Pulau yang belum dikenal luas ini masih alami. Lautnya begitu jernih sehingga kita bisa melihat ikan-ikan berenang melewati kita. Karena banyak yang tertarik, rencana pun disusun dan teman-teman pun diundang. Saya sebenarnya agak enggan karena saya tipe anak kota, tapi dibujuk untuk turut serta. Dari teman-teman yang ikut, kebanyakan dari mereka bukanlah teman sepermainan sehari-hari, jadi sepertinya saya turut bergabung karena ajakan teman baik saya Eday. Saya ingat bahwa Mul AW dan Endrico tidak diizinkan oleh orang tua mereka. Bahkan Susanto Phang yang terkenal heboh pun tidak diperbolehkan ikut, jadi keberadaan saya di dalam rombongan sesungguhnya agak janggal dan di luar karakter saya.

Eday dan saya bermalam di rumah Jimmy dan bertemu dengan teman-teman lain keesokan paginya untuk berangkat bersama. Kita berangkat ke Sungai Kunyit, kota kecil yang berkisar 100km jauhnya dari Pontianak, lalu naik perahu kayu menyeberangi lautan. Saya ingat bahwa kala itu saya agak kebingungan melihat perahu yang hanya mengapung sedikit lebih tinggi dari permukaan laut. Kalau saya pikirkan kembali lagi sekarang, sepertinya perahu itu kelebihan beban dan beresiko tenggelam, padahal sama sekali tidak terlihat pelampung di perahu! Akan tetapi kita bernasib baik, perahunya tidak karam dan kita mendarat dengan selamat di pulau, haha.

Perahu mulai mendekati Temajo.
(Semua foto di bawah ini adalah karya Parno)

Temajo terlihat persis seperti yang apa Jimmy deskripsikan. Air lautnya sangat bening. Kita menyewa vila (yang lantainya selalu berpasir selama kita tinggal di sana) dan di depannya ada kolam renang kecil. Tidak jauh dari vila, ada rangkaian tulang-belulang raksasa, mungkin saja dari paus yang terdampar di sana (atau hanya buatan manusia, karena sepertinya tidak ada paus di perairan Temajo, haha). Beberapa teman membangun tenda di luar vila dan tidur di sana, walau akhirnya masuk juga ke dalam karena kedinginan. Seorang teman sekolah bernama Ali bahkan membawa senapan angin, walau dia sepertinya tidak berhasil menembak apa pun hingga liburan usai. Yang lebih berguna justru parang yang dibawa Jimmy. Kita akan berbicara lebih lanjut tentang parang ini nanti. 

Liburan tersebut pada awalnya berlangsung aman sentosa. Kita hanya bermalas-malasan dan sibuk menikmati kelapa yang tumbuh di sepanjang pantai (beberapa teman sangat jago memanjat dan mereka inilah yang memetik kelapa). Untuk makanan, selain apa yang kita bawa, saya ingat bahwa kita menikmati sotong segar yang baru ditangkap. Ada satu di antara kita yang berujar bahwa sotong tertarik pada sinar lampu di malam hari, jadi bisa kita tangkap sendiri. Akan tetapi, meski kita berbicara panjang lebar tentang cara menangkap sotong, adalah Ivan yang akhirnya membeli sotong dari nelayan. Jimmy lantas memasaknya. Ada kejadian lucu dimana Ivan meminta sotong paling besar, namun Jimmy segera menimpali bahwa semuanya akan terlihat sama setelah dipotong, jadi tidak ada yang paling besar.

Kemudian ada yang tiba-tiba mengusulkan acara eksplorasi pulau. Karena terdengar seru, hampir semua menyetujuinya. Hanya Ivan dan Teddy yang memilih untuk tinggal di vila. Kita akhirnya meninggalkan mereka dan berangkat di siang hari dengan membawa parang dan senapan angin, tapi saya tidak melihat adanya kompas. Kita membentuk satu barisan yang memanjang ke belakang dan masuk hutan. Saya seringkali berteriak untuk memastikan bahwa tidak ada yang tertinggal di belakang dan cara ini cukup efisien, sampai akhirnya tiba-tiba saya mendengar suara Teddy yang menjawab panggilan saya.

Saya langsung tertegun. Saat itu kita sudah cukup jauh berjalan di dalam hutan dan Teddy tidak pernah ikut serta, jadi bagaimana mungkin dia bisa menjawab panggilan saya? Saya bergegas menghampiri Jimmy yang memimpin di depan dan bertanya, apakah dia mendengar apa yang saya dengar. Dia mengiyakan dan sebelum saya bertanya bagaimana ini bisa terjadi, dia meyakinkan saya untuk diam dan tidak bertanya lebih lanjut tentang hal ini.

Pemandangan dari Pulau Temajo.

Bagi para pembaca yang belum mengenal Jimmy, dia adalah pemuda yang agak kurus dan tergolong kecil posturnya, namun memiliki kharisma yang bisa membuat orang yang lebih tinggi dan besar darinya menjadi segan. Saya telah mengenalnya dari sejak SD atau bahkan TK. Integritasnya tidak diragukan dan dia merupakan tipe orang yang menepati perkataannya. Secara singkat, dia memiliki karakter yang unik dan sebagai teman, saya menghormati pandangannya. 

Dan di saat itu, sang pemimpin sudah memberikan sarannya, jadi saya pun patuh dan diam. Perjalanan pun berlanjut, tapi semakin kita jauh dari vila, semakin terasa ada yang tidak beres. Hutannya semakin rimbun dan sulit diterobos. Parang Jimmy adalah satu-satunya harapan kita, jadi mereka yang berada di depan bergantian mengayunkan parang untuk membuka jalan. Ketika kita mencapai tempat terbuka, jalan di depan terasa menanjak dan membawa kita ke atas bukit. Kita beristirahat sejenak di sana dan parang pun kembali berayun, kali ini memecahkan kelapa untuk diminum sementara kita mengamati alam sekitar dan mempertimbangkan langkah selanjutnya. 

Seharusnya kita berputar balik, tapi hanya Tuhan yang tahu apa yang kita pikirkan saat itu. Kita justru turun ke arah yang bertolak belakang dari arah kedatangan, kali ini melewati tanah berlumpur sedalam pergelangan kaki dan rumput-rumput tajam yang tingginya melebihi kita. Selagi kita berjalan, saya melihat sesuatu berkelebat di depan, tapi terlalu cepat untuk dilihat dengan jelas. Setelah itu, kita tiba di pantai berpasir dan hari pun sudah sore. Saya mengira bahwa perjalanan kita akan berakhir dan vila kita pasti sudah dekat, namun saya ternyata salah besar. Selagi kita menyusuri tepi laut, mendadak pantai berpasir berganti menjadi pantai berbatu. Kita jadinya harus memanjat dan melompat dari satu bongkahan batu ke batu lainnya. Jimmy, Rubiansyah, Eday dan saya bergerak gesit, tanpa sadar meninggalkan yang lain jauh di belakang.

Setelah separuh jalan, batu-batu besar yang kita lompati itu hilang dan tergantikan dengan laut yang bergelora. Jalan darat berakhir sampai di situ dan satu-satunya pilihan adalah terjun ke laut. Saya terkesima memandang ombak yang terus-terusan menghempas dinding karang. Hari kian gelap dan kita tidak mempunyai banyak waktu lagi. Teman-teman pun nekat mencemplungkan diri. Eday berseru, menyemangati saya untuk meloncat juga. Semakin saya ragu, semakin mereka terlihat kesal. Mereka berkata bahwa dalamnya laut hanya sepinggang dan mereka akan menangkap saya sebelum saya ditarik ombak. Akhirnya saya pun melompat. 

Parno selfie di pulau Temajo.

Ketika saya menceburkan diri, sweater Ali yang terikat longgar di pinggang saya langsung mengapung dan hanyut. Saya tergelak oleh kejadian spontan itu dan merasa lebih santai karenanya. Tatkala saya sadar bahwa laut di pinggir pantai tidak terlalu dalam, saya merasa baik-baik saja. Saat itu kita sudah berada di mulut teluk dan hanya perlu mencapai daratan yang tidak terlalu jauh dari tempat kita berada. Matahari mulai terbenam dan di kejauhan, saya melihat halilintar menyambar. Tiba-tiba terbayang oleh saya, kalau saja ada hiu mendekati kita saat itu, tamatlah riwayat kita.

Ketika kita keluar dari laut, seorang penduduk menyorotkan senter dan bertanya apakah kita ini manusia. Setelah kita iyakan, dia dengan senang hati menolong. Kita dipersilahkan beristirahat di pondoknya, dipinjami pakaian kering serta diajak makan. Saya menghabiskan dua piring nasi dengan sup seadanya. Setelah menempuh perjalanan selama tujuh jam, makanan sederhana ini terasa luar biasa enaknya. Seusai makan, saya lantas bertanya, apa maksud pertanyaannya tadi. Bapak itu tersenyum dan bergumam bahwa terkadang yang keluar dari laut setelah magrib itu bukanlah manusia.

Keesokan paginya, selagi kita berjalan di pantai, saya merasa pincang dan perih. Ternyata tapak kaki saya habis dikoyak oleh koral dan karang yang saya lintasi sewaktu saya naik ke pantai. Kita berempat berdiri memandang laut, namun Jimmy merasa dia harus mencari tahu apa yang terjadi dengan teman-teman lain, jadi dia berangkat lagi. Setelah kita berkumpul, baru saya ketahui bahwa mereka akhirnya bermalam di atas batu. Di tengah malam, mereka sempat melihat kapal dan meminta pertolongan, namun kapal tersebut tidak melihat mereka.

Menjelang siang, kita melihat sebuah kapal yang melaju ke arah kita. Teddy muncul dan segera mengumpat dengan kesal bahwa nyawa kita hanyalah seharga 10 ribu rupiah per orang. Di malam sebelumnya, saat mereka menyadari bahwa kita sepertinya tidak kembali, Teddy dan Ivan menjadi panik. Mereka membongkar tas kita untuk mencari uang sebanyak mungkin sebagai cadangan dana, lalu menyeberang kembali ke Sungai Kunyit dan meminta bantuan dukun untuk melacak keberadaan kita (ya, sebelum Google, kita bertanya ke dukun). Ketika posisi kita telah terdeteksi, mereka kembali dengan kapal untuk menjemput. Kita persis berada di lokasi yang diberitahukan oleh dukun. Kebetulan atau ilmu hitam? Saya tidak tahu. Oh ya, 10 ribu yang dimaksud oleh Teddy itu adalah jumlah uang yang terkumpul dan dibagi dengan jumlah orang yang hilang.

Itu adalah pertama dan terakhir kalinya saya ke Temajo. 19 tahun sudah berlalu sejak hari itu, tapi saya masih ingat dengan rintik hujan saat kita pulang. Kita basah dan bisa tenggelam kapan saja, jika laut mengamuk dan kapal terbalik. Selamat tinggal, Temajo. Semoga tidak bertemu lagi... 

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