50 - Kiss My Baby Krak (Mt. Krakatoa, Sumatra, Indonesia)
Arts. Crafts. Questionable rafts. Photo clowns and engine sounds. To sea, another day. Do a dance or piss my pants is all I have to say.
by Mr. Nos T. O’maniac
INDONESIA ONLY HAS ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-SEVEN active volcanoes. That’s it. They get pissed. The earth quakes. Shit goes down. That’s life on the Ring of Fire. It’s hard not to be fascinated by them. (Especially when you live far from their reach, eh?) No climbing this time around. Only float and admire from afar. Kalinda is an ideal springboard for trips to Mt. Krakatoa (or Krakatau) in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. So, spring I did.
Krakatoa mainly refers to the caldera formed in the Sunda Strait long before recorded history. The caldera contained three islands—Verlaten, Lang, and Krakatoa. Krakatoa harbored three separate volcanic cones (Danan, Perboewatan, and Rakata). After the famous eruption of 1883, most of Krakatoa (to include Danan and Perboewatan) went bye-bye in the boom-boom. And that boom-boom was a real doozy. It was, ahem, thirteen thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Let’s just say the world felt that the next morning. It may even explain the red sky depicted in Edvard Munch’s famous masterpiece “The Scream” painted in Norway approximately 6,800 miles (ca. 10,944 km) away. Red sky in morning, sailor take mutha fuckin’ warning.
There was a sequel in the works. In 1927, Krak had a baby. Congratulations, it’s a volcano! This fourth island, known as Anak Krakatoa (literally “Child of Krakatoa”), began growing and mouthing off not long afterward. This growth halted abruptly in December of 2018 when a partial collapse resulted in a devastating tsunami. More “bye-bye, boom-boom” from the ornery little bastard that took at least four hundred twenty-six lives and injured over fourteen thousand. And it’s still bitching, Stromboli style.
Seeing Baby Krak requires a boat. My hostel arranged one. Low season. Solo tourist. It’s never cheap to do things alone, so the “tour” set me back sixty dollars. Normally, you’d frolic with a group. Normally, I’d be thrilled to have my own private vessel, guide included. Normally, I’m down with “normally.” Buuuut one client equals small boat. You don't want the small boat. Really, you don’t. (Boat? More like watercraft as in “arts” and “crafts.”)
Come the morning, I drove to the home of el capitan and waited patiently as preparations for our voyage ensued. I sat outside a small shop sipping coffee with my guide and three unknown Sumatrans listening to what I can only describe as Indonesian prom music from a high school “Enchantment Under the Volcano” dance. A black chicklet perched on my leg. Children stared at me with child-like wonder. The men did the same with the Phantom. No one was in a hurry to do anything. Can’t say it bothered me. The scene had just the right amount of bizarre to soothe any “let’s get this shit rolling” anxieties.
To the sea, scalawags! An out-rigger canoe with an engine. Thaaaat’s my boat. Three-person capacity at most. At most. Anak Krak is over twenty miles from shore. Forty miles round trip in a hollow log? Sure, why not? Things didn’t start well. They pushed the boat into the water, I hopped in, aaaaaand… abort. Thirty feet out, we turned around. Why? Couldn’t fucking tell ya. Neither the captain, nor the first mate (my “guide”) spoke English, and my grasp of Indonesian was insufficient to understand why Boat #1 was shit. Maybe it had a leak. Did I really want to know? No, no I didn’t.
On to Boat #2. Same make and model as Boat #1. Preparations were necessary. Half the village assisted with the effort. While my yacht was carried to the water and supplies transferred, I turned my attention to the primary school adjacent to our departure point. Those kids were so adorable it was almost painful, even the ones that looked pissed… especially the ones that looked pissed. I remember thinking, Take all the time you need, captain. This shit’s pure gold. They posed. I smiled… and laughed and smiled and giggled. They responded in kind… mostly. That made the experience worth any delays or frustrations. I still brim with gratitude every time I revisit the photos. Right out of central fucking casting.
But, alas, my chariot awaited. I boarded Boat #2, and we were off! The boat looked small but felt much smaller. (Bodies, supplies, seats, etc.) Hey, wanna go engine canoeing twenty miles offshore in the Indian Ocean? Does a fish shit in the water? Sure do. There was cause for immediate concern. Not only did it feel slightly bigger than my leg, it also seemed to be approaching its weight limit. Just turning to face forward was a challenge. My biggest worry (besides drowning) was my camera. I had it well-wrapped but this wouldn’t matter in a crashing wave capsizing scenario.
A half-hour in… trouble. The engine began making a noise you don’t want the engine to make. The guide and the captain had a high-level discussion. I picked up on the words “bad” and “tomorrow.” All I needed to hear. The captain suggested we turn back with zero resistance from me. The thought of being stranded miles out on a hollowed out cigar wasn’t that appealing. I only hoped we would make it back…
…We did. Our assault of Krakatoa would have to wait another day. My schedule was clear, so this fazed me not. The milieu was pleasant as was the local company. No rush. Tidak apa, apa… and as much engine time as ya need, kind sir.
The next day fared much better. Sure, the boat was still small, but the engine now purred like a kitty. Slow but functional. (One hp with the wind? Maybe.) The trip to Krakatoa took over three hours. That’s three hours sitting Buddha-style in a souped-up canoe. My hip flexors no likey.
Despite the inconveniences, it was a pleasant float to Little Krak. He was active back then though not “catastrophic tsunami” active. You could see him spewing smoke even from mainland Sumatra. On approach, I wondered if it was possible to do a quick jaunt up the side when we arrived. Answer: No f’ing way, ya ignorant wretch! It was a dangerous mix of smoke, ash, and pyroclastic goodness. I could see rocks and debris sprouting from the cone as we closed in. I assumed this was bad.
My first erupting volcano experience (though not my last). By volcanic standards, Krak was merely spitting, the volcanic equivalent of pissing and moaning. No debris made it far from the cone or came anywhere near the water. This didn’t preclude the captain and guide from voicing their concern. We were supposed to stop for a swim and a snorkel, but they wanted none of it. I, on the other hand, had just spent over three hours hunched in ergonomic hell. I was willing to chance it. Of course I was. Cause I’m a dum-dum. They were cautious for a reason. (Given the recent 2018 tsunami, a very good reason.) We were probably too close as it was. (For the record, I did see another non-tourist boat anchored close to shore. This may have influenced my nonchalance. Dumb like me? Perhaps.) So, we looped around Krak and worshiped from a distance, but not a great distance. I surmised the difference between our orbit and anchoring at Krak’s base was negligible. Still, each time an eruption occurred the captain would make evasive maneuvers as if doing so would save us if Krak blew a rod. Um, it wouldn’t. This made me giggle… but on the inside. Inside giggle.
My “come what may, consequences be damned” attitude toward safety wasn’t just the result of cavalier enthusiasm. I had to piss like a racehorse in last place on barbiturates with an enlarged prostate and dysmorphic bladder. This eventually led to a pit stop, but not before a series of comical “conversations.” When I realized we were going straight home, internal alarms sounded. Ain’t no way I could hold out another three hours. As a man of action, I was forced to act.
Me: “So, we go back? Kembali? Yeah?… No?… I have to pee. (Thunderous volcanic eruption) Pee-pee… I have to pee… Air buang kecil?… Pee-pee?” (I consider grabbing my junk authoritatively.)
Two vacuous stares. No verbal confirmation. I thought maybe they got the gist. Meaning conveyed. I remained silent. After circling Krak, I was told again we were heading on. The captain also mentioned something about swimming at another island. How long till arrival? Two hours.
My Bladder: “Nuh-uh. No way, José. Don’t think so, mister. Not gonna fuckin’ happen.”
To the pain! Super legit pain, I might add. The dance began anew.
Me: “Okaaay… ummm, no. I have to take a piss… Pee-pee?”
More vacuous stares. Dictionary… engaged! Another thunderous eruption from little Krak.
Me: “Buang air kecil (I had the words in the wrong order). Buang air kecil? I have to piss, now! Pee-pee. Sekerang ini! Right now! Buang air kecil… Buang air kecil?"
More vapid staring. Not a shred of acknowledgment. I’m not a monster and surely didn’t want to die in petrified mid-stream. So, I was more than willing to piss off the side of the boat. Yes, this would’ve required circus performer agility, but I was desperado. Why else would I have started a “pull out my pecker and piss overboard” pantomime with stalwart intensity?
And… more vacuous staring. Were they afraid of the volcano? Did they not understand? Stop on the island? Have you gone mad, man?! I looked up the word for emergency and repeated:
Me: “Keadaan Darurat. BUANG… AIR… KECIL. SEKARANG INI!”
Translation: DEF CON: ONE. I NEED TO PISS RIGHT NOW MUTHER FUCKER, MUTHER FUCKERS! FUUUUUUUUUUCK ME!
If pissing my pants and bailing urine was the only way to make them see, so be it. An empty victory? Sure, but at least they’d understand my plight. And then… a reprieve. Though clearly not pleased, the captain anchored briefly while I pissed in Krak’s front yard. The angels and my bladder rejoiced. The volcano spared us. We did, as promised, stop at an island on the return for a stretch and a swim. I never would’ve made it. Never.
Karma intervened. I contracted such a furious head cold from the water, it sidelined me for three days. Still, my bladder appreciated the sacrifice.
*Drone footage courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen
*Drone footage courtesy of Galih Jati
*Drone footage courtesy of Earth Uncut TV