Sunday, August 23, 2015

Alor, Lesser Sundras, and Flores

This is a long post.  We covered over 200 miles and went to around 10 villages.

The kids from Pantar
The Market at Balaurin

We made an early morning departure from Alor and pushed tide for the entire day.  At one point we were actually going backwards.  Well, we were going forward at 5 knots but the current was stronger than that so we were going nowhere.  We anchored in a nice protected bay on the island of Pantar and were swamped with kids wanting handouts and they were starting to become a bother.  We stayed an extra day to do some engine maintenance and were bothered that whole day also.  The next night was a neat little spot by the town of Balaurin.  We went to visit the town in the morning and we think that the school was let out, and a national holiday was made just for our visit.  We had easily 50 kids in school uniforms walking with us through the streets just wanting to be in our presence.  It's as close as we ever felt to being a 'Rock Star'. 

Some school girls in Balaurin

They made a Local School Holiday for us

Pretty simple housing

Very creative way to bundle two coconuts for sale at the market

We were going to do the standard 30 mile day to the next little bay but instead opted for an easier 10 miler and went to the town of Lewaling.  The anchorage was calm and protected.  The village was small and lacked the normal plastic trash strewn everywhere.  We opted to stay an extra day and made the plan to try to have some town ladies make a beach barbecue for us.  Ray from PARLAY speaks some Indonesian and was able to locate the town chief who then arranged with the ladies.  This is a good way to help the local economy, have a nice evening on the beach, and eat what the locals eat.  This turned out to be one of the best things we have done so far.  It was so original, the towns people were thrilled to do this for us.  The cost was $7 per person and we think the proceeds were going to help with construction costs for the Catholic Church. 

We left the following morning and opted to anchor at the town of Sagu on Adonara Island.  Our anchorage of choice would have been Gedong but it has limited space for about 4 boats and there were already 6 in there.  Sagu was a little choppy but turned out to be fine. 

The next day we had great wind and made some good distance to anchor on the island of Pulu Besar.  This is a small Muslim fishing village, quite protected and cute.  The prayer caller did not even have a microphone.  Just used his voice.  Go figure.  The fishing fleet of Put-Puts, as we call them because of the loud air cooled one cylinder diesel engines, left at sundown and came back in at sunrise and hopefully caught their catch on the reef that night.  They seemed to be quite loud and happy about things that morning on the beach.

Preschool in Lewaling
We then headed for Maumare and the anchorage in front of the Sea World Resort (no relation to the Sea World Park).  This was supposed to be a great anchorage.  We arrived around 1PM and found the anchorage to be one of the worst we have seen in Indonesia.  Folks reading this, THERE IS NO ANCHORAGE THERE, AVOID.  Unfortunately we didn't have a backup plan, the winds were not too favorable and our remaining choice was to get out to sea, spend the night underway and head west.  The big problem with that plan was not being able to see the oil barrel size fishing buoys at night.  To keep the wind in the sails, we had to transit an uncharted coral reef cape so I went online and while using Google Earth to see the coral, I saw what looked like a possible anchorage in a bay by the town of Kolisia.  We arrived just in time at sunset, anchored in 10 meters.  The town was simple, cute, clean, quiet, and calm.  If it was 1/10th as good, I would still have been ecstatic to not have spent the night off the coast.  Instead we found a real winner of an anchorage not referenced in any of our guides.  

We invaded the old folks Blood Pressure Clinic

Our little buddies

The Catholic Church

The Lewaling Beach Barbecue
A great local meal.  Check out the coconut spoon to eat it with.

Kolisia to Labuhan Bajo

Volcano by Lewaling
From Kolisia we made a 10 mile hop to Batuboga West.  This beautiful coral lined bay had the clearest water we have seen so far.  We dropped the anchor in 3 meters on a little sand ledge by the coral, drifted back a boat length and dropped the other anchor in 15 meters off the shelf.  We traded some girls in a canoe a pound of sugar for a papaya.  As it turns out, the local fisherman also like this anchorage.  About 10 Put-Puts anchored next to us shortly after sunset but left around 3AM to make their rounds of their fish traps.

Fishing Village on Pulu Besar
The waterfront of Kolisia
The next day was a 30 miler to Ciendeh.  It was August 17th.  This is the 70th Anniversary of Indonesian Independence from the Dutch just after WWII.  We went in to town to find out what events might be planned and scope out a restaurant.  The event underway was a football (soccer) game and there was no restaurant worthy of eating in.  The amazing thing was that we once again were treated like Rock Stars.  Kids just swarmed around us wanting their pictures taken and to take selfies with us.  We must have been the only tourists to visit in a year.  Our restaurant search got us pointed to the school English teacher for information since nobody spoke much English.  Amazingly, we were the first English speaking people that he has ever spoken English with.  He was thrilled by that and didn't do too badly with his English.  Ciendeh, an incredibly friendly place.

Beach House at Batuboga

All lined up at anchor

Independence Day Football Game in Ciendeh

The next anchorage was another 30 mile leg to the town of Riung.  We anchored in nice hard sand in front of town by the floating dock and ended up staying 2 days.  We went to dinner the first night with the usual suspects from LUNA BLU, ALUA, and LAZY LADY.   I had the dingy tie up all figured out and knew that we would lose a meter of tide before we got back from dinner.  Well, nothing happens fast in Indonesia and dinner took four hours and the poor dingy was high and dry at 8PM.  Accomplished a little electrical work the second day and took the dinghy out to some islands and went snorkeling on the coral.  Dagmar and Christoph from FLOMEIDA arrived and we went to dinner at Murah Muriah, the best Indonesian restaurant we have found so far.

The next leg was another 30 miles to Lingeh.  We were apprehensive about going here because other sail blogs had written about mobs of aggressive children and adults coming to the boats wanting handouts.  As is more the rule than not, don't believe everything you read.  The children were very polite and came with things to trade.  A much better situation than we encountered at Pantar.  We ended up with 3 coconuts, 30 bananas, 5 eggplants, and a bag of tomatoes.  We traded away some solar sidewalk lights, a few old catalogs, fish hooks, and my hat.  The catalog went to a kid named Ricky.  He spoke the best English of all the kids and probably has a much larger vocabulary now thanks to Whitworth's Marine.

We then went 39 miles to a highly praised island anchorage called Gili Bodo.  Once again, don't believe everything you read.  The anchorage was real deep, the 
These were our 'fans'.  The football game was secondary

The dinghy dock in Riung.  Tortuguita on the right
anchor just bounced along the coral bottom and never stuck in.  The winds were blowing hard into the little bay, and the island was on fire.  Like really on fire.  Wind fed flames, smoke, and ash were blowing all over.  With all these things working against making this a good place to spend the night, we left and headed to Labuan Bajo.  Fortunately we had enough daylight and good wind to go another 16 miles and arrive before sunset. 

A 'Spider' Boat in Riung.

The usual suspects at dinner in Riung

Gotta have that Satellite Television


Kids in Riung

Labuan Bajo is the biggest town since Kupang.  We saw a few jets arriving and there are quite a few resort/lodge places on the beaches as we headed toward out anchorage at Waecicu.  We grabbed the last of the moorings with help from Peter and Nelly on ALUA, and went to dinner at the Sylvia Resort with the usual suspects plus DANA FELICIA and FLOMEIDA.  The rest of the Rally fleet is 2-5 days behind us.   

The 5 Star Restaurant Murah Muriah

The ubiquitous Fish Trap Buoy

Ricky (front) and his brother.  He thanks Whitworth's

I traded my hat for tomatoes.

Boat kids in Lingeh eating the last of our Australian chocolate cake

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kota Kupang, Indonesia

Beach Road, Kupang

From our spot in the Kupang anchorage, town is not readily visible but you know it's there by the sound and smell.  This place is not like anywhere we have ever been.  The air smells of smoke from the thousands of wood fires used for cooking and the burning of brush on the hillsides.  The mosque loudspeakers announce the call to prayer 5 times daily with their rhythmic chanting and humming.  There is American Country Music blasting from some guys backyard on the hill right in front of us.  And the sound of scooters buzzing like a swarm of bees almost drowns out everything else.

Great market


Kupang is the largest town in East Nusa Tengarra Province.  Captain William Bligh (the same guy we kept crossing paths with in Australia) landed here in 1789 after being left in a lifeboat with his loyal crew members of the Bounty for 47 days.  His 3618 mile journey took him through Tonga, Fiji, Australia, and finally ended up here when this was the Dutch East Indies.

Being part of the Sail Indonesia Rally is having alot more benefits than we originally thought.  We have met up with 3 boats we crossed the Pacific with in 2013.  (ALUA, LUNA BLU, and SPRUCE)  We have met just about everybody else and are all having fun just trying to figure things out.  The Rally organizers have worked with the local tourism board to provide events for us.  Foreigners are a rarity in Kupang and the locals are so happy to be helpful.  The most amazing thing about the Indonesians are their smiles.  Everybody has a smiling mouth full of teeth and laugh at everything.

Muslim Mosque in Kupang
Prayer Rugs in the mosque
Another thing so out of the ordinary from other Third World countries we have visited, such as Latin America, is the absence of bars on the windows of their buildings.  All through Central America and Mexico, ordinary and ornate 'burglar' bars are ubiquitous.  We could not see any here even though Kupang had the feel of places like Managua, Nicaragua.  The sidewalks had holes in them.  They were not level and you always had to watch where you walked.  Vendors selling everything from sunglasses to chickens.  But, no bars on the windows.  There was not a big police presence either.  We usually saw a handful of police sitting at a table on the beachfront just talking.  Never saw a police car or even a cop on a scooter.  Our 'travel with caution' attitude was a little hard to shake but after a few hours in town, we felt like we could go anywhere without being bothered.  Crime seemed non-existent.  We went to a mosque and the oldest Christian Church in Indonesia.  Central Indonesia is 75-85 percent Christian but the Muslims sure have the loudest speaker systems and nicest buildings.

Inside the Christian Church

Christian Church in Kupang

Inside the Bemo
Transportation around town is obtained by flagging down a 'Bemo'.  These minivans have no headroom, fit about 12 passengers and have rows of booming speakers lining the underneath of the bench seats.  If you are lucky enough to have a window, the scooter fumes are a welcome relief from the 100 degree temperature inside.  The Bemo's drive fixed routes denoted by their paint jobs and a ride costs 25 cents but it may take 2 or 3 to get you to your destination.

Typical Bemo

The Chief of No'ne
We rented a small bus with the folks from ALUA, LUNA BLU, LAZY LADY, OSCELOT to take a day trip up to some villages in the mountains.  Turned out to be quite a long day but the Traditional Village of "No'ne" was interesting and a side trip to the waterfalls was nice.

Waterfalls.  (Indonesian Water Park)

The Rally had two dinners arranged for us.  The first one was put on by the Provincial and the second one was by the Local governments.  Both had traditional dancing exhibitions and super loud amplifier systems to the point of being uncomfortable.  We think Indonesians have an affinity for everything that is loud.  They even talk loud.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Stamp

We heard that Indonesians love to stamp documents.  When we cleared in, we had to fill out 5-6 forms for every agency.  Everywhere we had to sign, they asked for our stamp.  We didn't have one so we were told to just print our name and boat name.  We will have to fill out forms at every port we visit and the stamp thing seems like a good idea.  
Different documents from our clearing in.  All kinds of stamps.

 Our first mission for Kupang:  Find a Stamp!  We asked around and found a guy who makes stamps.  We had a huge communication problem as neither one of us spoke the other's language.  In the end, sign language worked and we had a deal for a $20 stamp by tomorrow.  After we left, I had the feeling that this was going to be a disaster.  My drawing of a turtle was horrible and not this little shop did not have anything except a guy with a chisel carving signs.  I thought we could have done better carving the boat name into a potato and using that as a stamp.

When we went back, what a surprise.  He made this beautiful stamp for us. Far exceeding my expectations.  Thanks Stamp Guy.

Darwin to Kupang

Kupang, Indonesia is our port of entry located 450 miles from Darwin.
Sunset in the Timor Sea
That's a little less than four days depending on the wind.  The winds were forecast calm for three days and then in the 20-25 knot range.  We could wait in Darwin another two days and would end up using less diesel but could end up with a rougher passage.  After what we just went through getting to Darwin from Cape York, we were actually looking forward to motoring in calm water.

Turtle spotting in calm water

We left on the outgoing tide from Darwin and sailed for a couple hours.  Then the winds went away.  Most catamarans have two engines.  One in each hull.  This is great for redundancy as we have had engine issues leaving us on a single engine more times than I like to think about. It also allows us to use only one engine at a time which reduces operating hours and fuel consumption while keeping the diesel running at a nicely loaded RPM.  We used 2 liters of diesel per hour and run an engine for 6 hours then change to the other.

On the 4th day the winds picked up as forecast and we used the spinnaker for almost the entire day.  We pulled it down just in time as the squalls popped up around us and the wind started to exceed 20 kts.  Kupang is on the north side of Timor Island.  The island of Roti is to the west and the channel between has very strong current.  There was alot of talk on the radio about what time the current would be in our favor and it seemed like midnight was when the tide was filling in and that would then put us in Kupang at sunrise.  Well, we now had to slow down.  That is easier said than done in 25 kts of wind.  Even with no sails up, Tortuguita still wanted to do over 4 kts.  We hit the channel with tide against us at midnight and never had a favorable tide.  Just goes to show that things sometimes are more complicated than expected.

When we started up the channel, we could see small blue and red flashing LED lights along the shore.  These were fishing boats which seem to have upgraded from the candle in a jar lighting we heard about from prior years.  Further up the channel, what looked like a shipping port because of the bright lights were masses of large fishing boats with super bright white LED lights around their edges.  It was a little difficult to get any depth perspective against the black night and the intense lights.  We later found out that the lights are used to attract the fish and not really to help other boats see them although that was a great benefit.

Customs and Quarantine
Immigration, Port Captain, and more Customs and Quarantine
We arrived and anchored at Kupang at sunrise and slept for 3 hours.  We awoke just in time for the customs and quarantine inspection boat to board us for our inbound clearance.  We then headed to shore for more clearance formalities and a welcome speech by the vice-governor of the province of East Nusa Tengarra which covers all of East Timor, Alor, and the Lesser Sunda Islands.  What started a month ago on the Gold Coast has finally come to fruition.  We finally made it to Indo.

Welcome speech by the Provincial vice-Governor