A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.

After breakfast the day was filled with interviews with a few government and political leaders lined up by Effendi. He was apparently quite respected and well-connected in Mana, judging from his ability to get the appointments arranged within such a very short notice. The bottom line of the political moves to separate South Bengkulu from its northern neighbor was the desire of the leaders in Mana to get a larger share of the revenue cake. They said that was the only way they could upgrade the dirt road we traveled on and build bridges across the rivers we crossed on rafts the day before, and finance other development projects to improve the living standards of the population. In both Bengkulu and Mana we were told by government and political leaders both sides had amicably reached a consensus on the separation issue. I remember just a few months after our trip to Mana the Jakarta central government decreed to split Bengkulu into two separate provinces – North Bengkulu with Bengkulu as its capital and South Bengkulu with Mana as its seat of provincial administration.

We stayed one more night in Mana and left at 5 a.m. the following morning for our return trip to Bengkulu. I was asleep during most of the drive back, which was pretty much a repeat of the southward journey we did two days earlier. Going to Mana was excting because we had never been on that kind of a drive in which we had to get off the muddy and slippery road every hour, if not every half hour, run over the villagers’ vegetable gardens and drive almost on the beach with the vast Indian Ocean clearly visible on our right. It was quite a tense sight to see the villagers’ faces showing burning anger as they helplessly watched the destruction of their source of livelihood crushed by our mighty Land Rover. And it was heartening, even amusing, to see those faces turn back into big smiles and grins as they waved their hands to us after Effendi gave them wads of cash.

We spent the night in Bengkulu and the following morning took a Garuda (the Indonesian national airline) flight to Lampung, capital of the province with the same name located in the southern tip of the Sumatra island. Effendi took us to the airport and managed to get us two seats on the DC-6 flight. The flight would connect with another Garuda flight from Lampung to Palembang, where we first started our South Sumatra odyssey. It took us only 45 minutes to reach Lampung, and another one hour to get to Palembang from there. We stayed overnight in Palembang as we arrived in the evening. The following morning we flew on a small 10-seater Twin Otter aircraft operated by Merpati Nusantara (Indonesia’s second government-owned, domestic airline) from Palembang to Pangkalpinang, capital of the Bangka-Belitung province located on the island of Bangka, east of Sumatra.

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