Last week we went road tripping our way around some of our own backyard – Queensland. We headed northwest into some of the more remote parts of the country where the scenery is somewhat repetitive (dirt, tree, cactus, crow, dirt), and the distance between our points of interest was far enough that calculating whether the fuel level was going to be sufficient to get us to the next fuel station became a necessity. The dusty scenery, the occasional echidna or emu sighting, and the remains of kangaroos and wallabies lying lifeless at frequent intervals along the road were a constant reminder that we were very much in Australia. We mapped our journey out in such a way that our travels connected the dots between the dwellings of friends and family, and catching up with everyone was made all the more enjoyable with a little motorbike riding, a caravan campout, marshmallows and tea beside a campfire, and perhaps most memorable of all – a morning jog around a farm that resulted in us both being chased by a heard of territorial cows. As we made our way back to the coast later in the week, there were some beach adventures, a little rock climbing, the odd cliff exploration, and a spot of fishing that didn’t result in the catching of any fish. In fact, all I managed to catch myself was a cold which unfortunately resulted in me spending the last days of our journey in bed. Along the way there were a lot of laughs and many good conversations with old friends. We were entertained as we came to realise that everyone we met up with seemed to have a different understanding of the whole ‘why we’re here and whether we’re going back to Indonesia’ situation. It become increasingly evident that an explanatory blog post was well overdue. We’re not sure where some of the stories we heard originated from, but just to be clear – no, we weren’t chased out of the jungle by machete, there were no rifles pointed at us, Bazil isn’t jobless, and we’re technically not even homeless. And no, we can’t calculate by percentage the likelihood of our return to Indonesia – not now, probably not in the next month or anytime soon. We just don’t know if, or when we’ll be returning. So here’s the deal in a nutshell. There’s a huge (and rather inconvenient) political debacle taking place currently between the Indonesian government and the mining company Bazil works for. The government has placed an export ban on the mine, which means the mine has been unable to export their product (copper concentrate) since January. At the start of June all storage facilities became full and the mine was forced to stop production indefinitely. If you want to know the latest news, you can find more details here.
All local employees (thousands of them) were sent home on minimum pay, and expats have been reposted to various positions around the world until such time as the situation is resolved (fingers crossed), and we can all return to the jungle. Bazil took a month of annual leave and returned to Australia when he was no longer required onsite. That month has just finished and yesterday he resumed work back in his Hunter Valley office. I’ll join him down there next week, and we’ll carry on just as we have been until we are given further instructions. We still have the keys to our little jungalow at Sumbawa, and we’re hopeful that some sort of solution is reached and we can return, but it’s not looking like that will happen in a hurry. We’re in limbo, and we’re ok with that. For now, we’re just enjoying some of the conveniences Australia has to offer – conversations where translation isn’t required, an existence that doesn’t require a protective layer of insect repellent mixed with tropical strength sunscreen applied to any area of exposed skin, and hassle free purchases that don’t involve a lengthy and awkward haggle over a few rupiah.