The Queen of the Southern Sea


Parangtritis is a small coastal town close to Jogjakarta. You reach it by bus and two bamboo punts which ferry people across a river – you have to wait on a sandbank in the middle of the wide river for the second punt. Rormon came with us and, when we were over the river, he hired two bicycles. I rode one and he, the professional, took Betty on the luggage carrier of the other. The road was rough.

Parangtritis is a beach of black sand. Surfing is said to be extremely dangerous; we saw no-one doing it. Rormon kept far from the water-line:  Nyai Loro Kidul, Queen of the South Sea likes to snatch men from this beach and keep them as slaves in her realm at the bottom of the sea. The beach is long and, looking inland, the view is of terraced hills, a low range, cattle grazing, thatched huts.

A woman with a coconut and a wicked looking knife in her hands hung close to us. She wanted to sell us the coconut and at last we agreed. We thought we were to drink the milk and eat the soft flesh. No. She whacked away a part of the top, gave us each a sip of the milk and ran down to the water’s edge. The rest of the milk went into the sea as an offering to the Queen and the woman brought us a coconut full of sea water in return. She was very pleased, so were we in a way and so, I feel sure, was the Queen of the South Sea; though she may well have preferred Rormon as the offering.

Back we went, five kilometres by rough bicycle, a hundred metres on the two bamboo punts, a short paddle and from then on it was slow bus to Jogja. A group of cyclists rode just ahead of us for several kilometres; but the bus forged on bravely to overtake them.



At the bus station, Rormon hired a becak for the three of us. `Always hire an old tukang becak’, he said to me confidentially. `They are better.’ After that I always took that advice, when possible, and it was always right.

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