It is just a few minutes
after five when I arrive at “Sari Laut”, the open space at the sea
side in front of Ford Rotterdam. Though above land the first signs
of the starting new day are visible, the sea is still dark with only
now and then lightning illuminating black rain clouds. Besides some
people sitting in a corner (or are they sleeping?), there is nobody around.
Where are the people I am supposed to meet here? My friend Jan could
have been here by now, and the person who is expected to become the
hero of the day, Marek, should be busy with preparations, like a
warming-up; or is this not needed? I am here to join Jan in the boat
that will follow Marek swimming from town to Jan’s little island Kodingareng Keke, an incredible distance of about 12 kilometers. This
exiting attempt I really want to witness. For a moment the thought
that I have been fooled comes up, but no, this is the 1st of
December and not April Fools’ Day. After a few phone calls I am
confident again: everybody involved turns out to be a bit late, but
on their way already.
About half an hour later the group is ready and leaves in one of the
“skoci” (small boat) used for transportation between the islands.
Marek is sipping form a pack of chocolate milk and thinks it is wise
not to start his swim here, but get out of the dirty water of the
harbour first. Looking around I see that Marek’s hygienic worries
are not shared by all people living in Makassar: “Sari Laut” turns
out to be a place where many people bathe in the morning. People are
not really swimming, but are chatting in groups while standing in up
to their neck in the water.
Shiny of sunblock and
By the time we have passed the opening between the dams protecting
the harbour, Marek has covered his skin with a layer of sun block
and Vaseline and is ready. The long distance swim is going to start.
Though there are still thunderstorms in the distance, there is
almost no wind and the sea is smooth. In the east the sky has turned
red. The time is twelve to six when Marek fixes his mask and snorkel
and makes his first strokes. The first stop, Samalona island, looks
Not long after the
After half an hour we have passed the last boat anchored in front of
the harbour. Now it really feels to be in open sea.
Passing boat anchored
in front of harbour
are strong and regular all the time. Our boat follows beside or
behind the swimmer. Nobody on board can imagine doing what this
After one hour in the water Marek asks for something
to drink. It looks like we are half way to Samalona Island now.
Short drink stop
swim continues as easy as it looked before, and at 07.47, exactly
two hours after the start near the dam of Lae-Lae, Marek gets ashore
at Samalona. Here we will have a short break at one of the “warung”
(little restaurant) on the island. Only Marek turns out to be
thirsty; he finishes a bottle of Bintang beer. “Good for adding some
carbohydrates”, he says. Further he explains that he hopes the
alcohol will give him something extra next to “the boring blue
screen” he had all these hours before his eyes.
Break on Samalona Island - Jan Munneke, his son Vincent and Marek
At 08.35 Marek is in the water again to start his next lap to the
island Kodingareng Keke. Now things start to be more difficult: the
wind has become strong and waves with now and then white heads come
from the right. Marek asks us to sail in front of him, because in
between the waves it is hard for him to see the island. Our boat has
to show him in which direction to go. In spite of the rougher
circumstances, our swimmer still keeps a regular pace. It is only
our boat that up to three times has engine problems and has to stop
An other two hour swimming has nearly passed when our skipper starts
panicking. A liner of Pelni is showing up between us and town.
Though it looks like the boat just left the harbour of Makassar, our
skipper wants to get out of the way as soon as possible: Marek has
to come aboard and has to move to a safer place with us. First I
feel the skipper is over-worried, but when I see that after the last
repair he didn’t take the effort to put the cover of the outboard
engine back in place, I think it is better not to risk another
engine-failure just in front of the Pelni liner. Marek comes aboard
and we move to a safe distance from the route of the liner and let
the boat pass before continuing.
Pelni liner "Awu"
passing at safe distance
It turns out that we are about half away Samolona en Kodingareng Keke
now. Marek has still a long way to go. And there he goes again,
still with the same pace, but now and then changing crawl with
breaststroke. Later Marek tells us that this is because of a strong
pain in his shoulder. When we get nearer to the island, the sky is
still dark, but the wind
diminishes and the waves become lower.
Still a dark sky,
Though until now almost not
moving, Kodingareng Keke is clearly getting closer and closer. It
looks like Marek is going to complete this incredible long swim!
Kodingareng Keke is
getting close now
Above the corals at
A few minutes after we saw the first corals on the bottom, Marek walks to the beach of
Kodingareng Keke Island.
There we join him and give our congratulations. It is 11.45: two
minutes short, six hours have passed since Marek started his swim in
front of the harbour of Makassar. Everybody agrees
that something very special has been done. “I am sure you are the
first person ever swimming to this island”, says Jan. I ask Marek
why he didn’t invite more people to witness this event. “No, it is
just a personal thing”, he answers.
Once again: congratulations Marek, you did it!