Banda Aceh, Sumatra

Ode to Sumatra

Kevin Clement|January 31, 2011|Blog Post

Poem written by Kevin Clement (with apologies to Robert Service) and given during the final recap of our 2011 Circumnavigation of Sumatra

There are strange things done in the tropic sun
And one of those was our trip
Round Sumatra Isle, but in highest style
On the Clipper Odyssey ship.

On the expanding shore of old Singapore
With its crowds and malls so outrageous
All races mix for a big shopping fix
Neath a skyline that rivals Las Vegas.

Thither came we, to this growing city,
Where they’re just having more and more kids.
Attached to a mall, our ship looked so small.
We toured and saw lots of orchids.

We sailed to Malacca, a town simply chocka
With history, and old buildings to see.
But we left the port one person short—
A fellow who got off Scott free.

We got him back a day after Malacca
And crossed over that quite famous Strait.
We saw lots of ships on their various trips,
But not even one single pirate.

At last on the island, we hit for the highlands.
We had the choice to do one of two thangs:
To Brastagi go for the cultural show
Or head straight to the orang-utangs.

Big orange primates with endearing traits
We found at their feeding-tree stations.
They were so active, so smart and attractive
We knew they were our close relations.

In Banda Aceh, recovery’s been splotchy;
Cleaning up had to be rough.
But the amazing fact is how they’ve bounced back—
My God, but those people are tough.

In 2004, when that wave came ashore,
The extent of destruction was large.
And when it landed, far inland it stranded
A big old electrical barge.

In the Indian Sea, quite surprisingly,
The landings were excellent too…
For who would expect much from places with names such
As Lhokseumawe and Simelue?

You shoulda seen us on the island of Nias
Midst a culture they call megalithic.
Just watching stone jumping will get your heart pumping—
It’s insane, to be more specific.

The Minangkabau made us welcome, and how!
To their system where women inherit
All property. It’s a society
Obviously quite without merit.

Pity the dang fool who was sent to Bengkulu
To serve in the Fort made of stone.
It was crowded in there, and there wasn’t much air—
Why, the swiftlets there have better homes.

Up around Krui, something was screwy
With the coffee and the way that they made it…
Involving a cat, and big piles of scat;
It was costly, but tasted like…uh, coffee.

It still was quite dark in the national park
When we arrived at the corner of Java.
There was so much to see, but we couldn’t be
Late for our date with some lava.

None of us knew what Krakatoa would do,
Till we saw the explosions and piles
Of ash, rock, and steam. It almost seemed
We were closer—a bit—than twelve miles.

Sailors have come to Belitung
For centuries, for provision getting.
We saw its dances and watched performances—
Oh yes, and another wedding.

Through so many firsts, and events unrehearsed,
We’ve come with our trusty small ship.
Met cultures and coral, and if there’s a moral,
It’s not to let protections slip.

There are strange things done in the tropical sun
And Sumatra’s a wild destination
I think you can see, when you get home you’ll need
A vacation from your vacation.