Fiol Bevek cycled two days to reach Indonesia.
He used an old ontel bicycle with a rusty stem and a dry chain without lubricant. Fiol was wearing boots that were stained with mud all the way up to his pants. The journey from his village in Papua New Guinea through the forest to Sota, Merauke does not seem easy.
Fiol brought two boxes of instant noodles flavored with onion chicken. Not only noodles, the box also contained rice, sugar, and several cartridges of fireworks for his son.
“It’s much cheaper here,” he said.
The price of goods in Sota is indeed much cheaper than in Papua New Guinea. Although compared to the price in Java, it is still much more expensive.
He tied the two boxes to the back of his bicycle. They are ready to go home.
“Is it a hard life?” a friend of mine asked the man who was fixing his broken bicycle chain.
” Yes it is”. He replied with a smile showing his yellowish teeth. “But this is life.” he said
Crossing the border is not difficult. There are no fences or gates to pass through. They only reported to the army, then went to the market which was only a few hundred meters from the border.
From Merauke, I took a double cabin car with offroad capability belonging to the border army. The road is narrow but smooth. The car drove no less than 100 km/hour along the one and a half hour drive through Wasur National Park.
Along the way, almost no one passed our car until we arrived at Sota. I was greeted with a smile from a policeman who was on duty here.
Mr. Ma’ruf, the policeman who greeted us, has been on duty at the Sota border since 1993. He is one of the people who mobilized the surrounding community to turn the bushes on the border into a park. His house is not far from there, right in front of the headquarters of battalion 142. He also sells souvenirs typical of the border here.
After talking and asking the soldiers for permission, I walked to Sota Park. It was there that I met Fiol Bevek and his friends who were resting.
In contrast to the busy Jayapura border, which is quite tight, the border in Merauke is almost unguarded. There is only a small monument that marks the boundary line between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. I can even stand in two countries at once.
What is unique in Sota is that there are so many Masamus, nests of ants (or termites?) whose height can exceed the ceiling of the house. It is brown in color with a limestone-like texture. I thought it would be fragile to hold, but it turned out to be very solid as a river stone. I didn’t see any ants passing by. But, seeing the size of the nest that was this big, I did not intend to lure these ants out. I don’t know why they don’t come out on their own, even though I’m already this cute? *ignore*
Guarding the border is not easy. Especially to fight boredom. Cellular signal is only enough for sms and make phone calls. Many soldiers haven’t been home in months.
Fiol and company started moving away from Sota’s borders. He returned to his village which was two days away and brought boxes of instant noodles. They waved their hands while laughing happily at me. Fiol and his friends don’t look like a father who is fighting for his family, but rather like me when I was a kid who played bicycles while looking for fish in the river complex next door.
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