22 August 2011

Sumatra (Day 4)

After breakfast, another stroll on "our" beach, and a chicken sate and grilled mackerel lunch, we set off on a tour of the alluvial tin mines that were Michael's reason for choosing Bangka as a destination in the first place.

I'll include photos of our tour below, but for an expert witness account I'm going to send all two or three of my faithful followers to Michael's blog once he posts the authoritative account of timah putih (tin) and the tambang-tambang (mines) where it's recovered from the sand.


In the meantime, though, I'll cover the rest of the day. Here's a traditional Indonesian breakfast: bubur, rice cooked to porridge consistency, in broth with a selection of toppings.

The resort's sales and marketing manager, Ibu DK Listianingtyas, Ibu Tyas for short. I'm forever grateful to her for acceding to my telephone plea to pay when we arrived rather than trying to arrange a money transfer in cash when we don't have a bank account here.

Lily pond on path between our villa and restaurant.

Beach scenes.

Now the most fascinating discovery of our second stroll along the beach. Michael and I had no idea what this tree with its phantasmagoric root system was. Our housekeepers Eky and Desy identified it immediately, though, when I showed them the photos: bakau (mangrove). Even the superfluity of photos below doesn't do justice to what we were looking at. A Pan's Labyrinth-like world.

A few more beach snaps — and a sand dredger lurking ominously offshore, the modern, efficient, and even more environmentally questionable way of getting hold of tin.

Ibu Tyas was unaware of tin mines in the area, but she linked us up with a terrific driver, Taufik Hidayat, who went far beyond the call of duty in making sure that Michael was able to investigate Bangka's primary industry.

First we drove by abandoned quarries, now filled with highly acidic water.

Then Taufiq took us to active mines, where both licensed companies and "prospectors" were extracting grains of tin ore from ordinary sand and crumbling rock. The forty-niners' term is apt: the hydraulic equipment used by these entrepreneurs is distinctly reminiscent of the California gold rush. Michael has read that 40% of tin supplied to local smelters comes from small-scale operations like these.
1880s photo of Malakoff mine in California
 The official operation.

Gist of message: do not enter without permission.



The miners at this company site were orang Jawa (Javanese).

Apropos of nothing, I really liked these mud cracks near the pit.

Another low-key enterprise, down another lonely road, this time a separation facility. Michael was given a sample and a tin crystal that I'm sure will feature on throughthesandglass.

Taufiq and the foreman.

 The open-air pit they're standing in front of.

The third part of Michael's dream itinerary was a visit to a smelter. Taufiq managed to engineer this as well. The first company site we approached was BSI (Bangka Solder Industrie), but although we got through the gates, we weren't allowed to go any farther. At RBT (Refined Bangka Tin), however, the senior manager, Pak Anton, escorted us on a tour of the premises and process, of which he is justly proud. RBT is the only company that has developed a means of reclaiming tin from its own industrial scrap via gas condensation.

This ingot is three-nines (99.9) purity. RBT routinely produces four-nines tin for specialized industrial use. Although we didn't feel we should photograph the equipment, our guided tour included labs where Chinese chemists test metallurgical quality.


 A last view of an abandoned quarry on the way back to the resort.
 Note plastic containers of gasoline being sold alongside bananas.
 The end to a perfect day was dinner at Raja Laut (King of the Sea), a local restaurant recommended by Ibu Tyas and the driver who had picked us up from the ferry.

Otak-otak, a fish paste, similar to Padang pempek, cooked in stapled banana leaves.
 My delectable crab (kepiting) in saus Padang. Since I'm both messy and like to eat with my fingers, this was (like our chili crab in Singapore) an ideal dish. Not for Michael, however, who eats even hamburgers with a knife and fork. I kindly extracted a few tidbits to share with him.
 Michael's fish and dumplings were far more tasty than they look in this photo. We also had excellent sayuran polos, a stir-fried mixture of green vegetables.

No comments:

Post a Comment