The map

Last Days on Cocos – 16-17 May

Monday 16 – Home Island

Caitlin and Matthew live on West Island. I didn’t visit Home Island last time I was there, just after Link was born so I really wanted to visit this time. As usual, Matthew and Peter set off on the jet ski, and Caitlin, Link and I crossed the lagoon on the ferry, incident-free this time!

Matthew’s Jet Ski
Jetty and paved roads

Caitlin had arranged to hire a 4-seater battery-powered golf buggy, which was the ideal way to get around the island.  The town area is Bantam Kampong. The streets are paved with brick pavers done in a herringbone pattern. The Malay houses are set out in neat rows with white picket fences in some areas.

There are a couple of restaurants, a supermarket, two or three touristy and clothing shops, and the administration for the islands is based here. There is also an interesting memorial to the people who died in the Japanese air attack during WW2. The most interesting place we visited was the museum that showed the history of the islands and why they were initially inhabited, etc.

War Memorial to Japanese air attack – WW2

Let me tell you a little potted history of Cocos Islands –

Captain William Keeling is believed to have been the first European to sight the islands in 1609 on his return from Bantam in the Dutch East Indies, on behalf of the East India Company.

On 6 December 1825, Captain John Clunies Ross, a Scottish trader sailing past, made a brief landing on the islands and he returned, with his family, in 1827 with the intention of commencing a settlement on the Islands. The Clunies Ross family, who became known as ‘Kings of the Cocos’, owned/occupied the islands for more than 150 years, for five generations. In 1955, they became a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, and in 1978, Australia purchased all of the lands, except the family home, from the Clunies Ross family.

5 generations of Clunies Ross men

In 1984, through the United Nations supervised Act of Self Determination (ASD), the Cocos-Malay population voted to integrate with the Australian community. The Territory is now administered by the Australian Government.

Today, there are about 470 Cocos-Malay people living in the kampong on Home Island. The population of Home Island is predominantly descended from the Malay workers brought to Cocos to work in the coconut plantations established by the Clunies Ross family in the 1830s. These Cocos-Malays have developed a unique culture based on Muslim beliefs. Across the lagoon, on West Island, live about 140 people, mostly associated with various departments of the Australian Government.

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are an archipelago in the Indian Ocean about 1000 km west of Indonesia. The archipelago consists of 27 islands.

Back to our visit – After breakfast at the Seafront Café, we drove out to the northern end of the island.

Matthew showed us the Muslim cemetery right at the northern tip. It was very interesting, like nothing I have ever seen before. The headstones were carved out of timber and where I presume, husband and wife’s ashes were buried, one headstone was dressed in a material hajib. The grave is surrounded by a wooden picket fence. I presumed, because of the size of the plots that they must be cremated, but it appears I was wrong. There are four very contrasting Anglo-style graves on one side which apparently are members of the Clunies Ross family.

Pulu Gangsa Cemetery is at the north end of Home Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Muslim cemetery and Direction Island from the drone

Around on the lagoon side, we stopped for several hours at this beautiful beach called Turtle Beach. We swam, we relaxed, we swam some more, Matthew and Peter played with the drone, Link slept and altogether it was a beautifully peaceful and relaxing time together. The weather was kind to us.

A wonderfully relaxing day on a beautiful beach
Turtle Beach and the Border Patrol Ship

We packed up and went back into town to the café, via a touristy shop for a few coconutty bits and pieces and had a light lunch and a visit to the museum.

We still had some time so Caitlin decided we should drive as far south as we could. As we started out it started to rain slightly. As we went further, away from civilisation, it started to belt down. As we went further down the road, the buggy slowed down, then stopped! The battery had run out. After some discussion, Matthew set off to see if he could find help. The rest of us waited for a while, then Caitlin suggested pushing it.

Peter and she got out in the pouring rain and gave it a go. With a huge effort, they got it moving. Of course, the direction we needed to go was up a slope but you’ve got to give it to them, they got it on the move. Link and I were passengers, which, of course, added unnecessary weight to the procedure.

Matthew eventually returned without success. By then we had reached the outskirts of the community and, to cut a long story short, we found a Malay guy who was mowing the grass at the school (yes, in the pouring rain) and Peter asked him if he could help. He drove off and the other three continued to push. After a few minutes, the guy returned with towing strap in hand.

He hitched us up and with Peter, Matthew, Link and I onboard (Caitlin decided to walk back to the terminal at this stage), he very generously towed us right back to our parking spot n the jetty, at which point, it stopped raining, of course!

On the return journey, Peter came on the ferry with Link and me. Caitlin rode on the ski with Matthew and managed to catch a beautiful coral trout. Matthew filleted and cooked it beautifully for dinner. A tasty end to a wonderful day.

West Island across the Lagoon from Home Island – not too far!

Tuesday 17 – Last Day

So the Cocos part of our journey came to an end.

A typical Cocos morning from the back verandah

Packing up, swimming at one of the Cocos famous beaches – Trannies (more to do with transmitters than anything sexual) – lots of hugs and playing with Link, a visit to The Barge Gallery,

and a beautiful sunset with bubbles and nibbles on the foreshore at the front of Matthew and Caitlin’s home. These all made our last day there memorable.

Our flight was delayed which gave us a little extra time and some farewells from people we got to know on the island. Tears and hugs then back to Perth, arriving at 1.20am then a drive back to Erskine.

Matthew’s clever shot of the sunset in the lens of his sunglasses

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