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Cruising on Diomedea
Diomedea is a Van de Stadt Tasman 48
Labuan Bajo
27/09/2014, Komodo National Park

How embarrassing. I cannot believe we have not updated the blog properly since Maurole. Been too busy I suppose, finally having a good time. From Maurole we had a pleasant sail/motor to the famous Riung islands. There are about 17 islands in this small group (08 23.727’S 121 04.822’E), and they are generally quite attractive. Our anchorage was just off a nice white sandy beach with a small fringing reef. We were able to swim and snorkel, and we met up on the beach for drinks with a few other yachts. Strange things happen at sea of course and one of these was a young lady whose chosen profession was pole dancing. She decided to exhibit her talents on the beach, not with a pole but with a sort of cloth bag/sling suspended from a tree. Quite athletic with emphasis on core musculature â€" sort of like display gymnastics. Not particularly sexy though, but she would be able to get a role in the excellent Star Wars burlesque show, “The Empire Strips Back” which shows periodically at the Vanguard Theatre, King St Newtown (highly recommended). At dusk, the resident rat population appeared near our food so it was definitely time to go back to the boats. One boat may have actually unwittingly brought a rat onboard with them here. Trapping failed to kill it and eventually they were forced to poison it. Naturally it died in some remote and inaccessible bilge space where it remains to this day. Yuk. From Riung it was a long motor and sail dodging a thousand fishing nets and boats to Teluk Levilia (08 20.607’S 120 10.86’E). Here the electronic charts really showed some significant error with the actual landforms being displaced well to the SW on radar when compared to the chart itself. This persisted all the way until Sumbawa island, including Komodo. At Levilia, we anchored off the village of Bari and enjoyed impromptu serenades by youngsters in dugout canoes. We gave them small koala bear toys as well as some writing materials. It was nice that the kids actually did something for the gifts rather than just demanding handouts as we have experienced elsewhere. It was here however, that I had to take an unplanned scuba trip. I managed to throw overboard the 97mm diameter o-ring that seals one of our desalinator water filters. A crucial item to our health and well being I watched as it disappeared, and my subsequent seabed sortie failed to recover it. During the dive I was somewhat conscious of the fact that the bay had a lot of mangroves and thus possible crocodiles. A short glide took us to the pretty anchorage of Gili Bodo (08 22.182’S 120 00.909’E) with its clear water and good snorkelling. We had drinks on the yacht Moonbeam but I was developing a mild URTI so did not feel so great. Then it was off to the big smoke of Labuan Bajo. We had a lovely sail around the NW tip of Flores and then down to the anchorage outside the Laprima resort just south of the Bajo township (08 30.330’S 119 52.450’E). The first superyachts of the trip also appeared here with the rather nice 167 foot tinny Sapphire and a private Indonesian flagged ship, converted from its previous life as a coastal tramp steamer. Probably about 200 feet. Bajo itself was filthy, as we have learned to expect. The markets were disgusting but we did still get some fresh produce. Amazingly, we also managed to source a new o-ring from a Pacific Motors hardware. Even more amazingly we were able to purchase good quality cheese and salami and not-quality alcohol. Bajo is a developing tourist destination for the exploration of the Komodo National Park. There are many restaurants, most being Italian for some odd reason, and a plethora of dive operators and boat tours. We negotiated with the outstanding dive company Manta Rhei (mantarhei.com) for three days of diving and the Advanced Open Water dive course. Dives were about $35 each. Accomodation can be had for as little as $8.50 per night if you are budget minded. Internet access was very patchy, with some Ausaid conference chewing up all the bandwidth. We stomped up and down the high street looking at pale young puzzled European tourists and at the teak coloured locals. It was here in Bajo that we had a compulsory visit to the Dept of Immigration to get Andrea’s visa extended. An arduous opaque process which generated a staggering amount of paper. Whilst there were a few computers they were all switched off. Most of the staff seemed to do very little but it still took us 3 days of effort to get the tiny green stamp.

Indonesia
27/09/2014 | BARBARA
Dragons do not have to breathe fire and smoke to scare the populace. How do villagers manage to live with them?
Diving and Dragons
27/09/2014, Komodo National Park

Naturally we were keen to cast off from Bajo so we headed out to the gorgeous anchorage of Sebayor Kercil, where we stayed for about 4 nights. Each day the dive boat Tree Bucca Dua came by to pick us up for our scuba trip and we returned fatigued before sunset. The diving was stunning to say the least, with many highlights. One of these was the Cauldron dive near Gililawalaut. It is a narrow shallow channel strongly affected by currents. Inspection from the surface revealed nasty overfalls which would normally make me hesitant to go anywhere near it in a boat, let alone in the water. Nonetheless, we plunged in and soon found ourselves in the 20m deep bowl of the Cauldron. The exit is a short ascent to 16m where the current really gets a grip on the diver. We rocketed along at about 7 knots over a coral/rock shelf known as the Shotgun. A drift dive on steroids!! Andrea saw a manta during this dive whilst I saw the obscure pygmy seahorse, as well as many other wonders. Other great dives included Batu Bolong, a small rock pinnacle in the middle of the Selat Lintta. Strong currents rip around this spire creating dangerous conditions but we were well guided by the dive team. I did my deep dive to 32m for the course here and watched as the dive master cracked a raw egg at this depth. The yolk sac stays nicely intact at 2-3 atmospheres of pressure and you can chase it round with your hand â€" sort of like water droplets in zero gravity on the ISS. The fish species here were prolific thanks to vigorous efforts by dive operators and National Park rangers to prevent dynamite fishing. At Makassar Reef we had an excellent view of an eagle ray feeding on the bottom as well as sting rays and finally a massive manta ray. (Manta is Spanish for blanket, which is quite apt) After the dives we needed a rest so it was over to Gililawadarat, just south of the Cauldron site, then down to Rincja island for our dragon experience. We had an enthusiastic local ranger give us the guided tour. We saw a small juvenile within five minutes of landing, but it was the large adults that really get one’s attention. They were clustered under the elevated kitchen hut in a small community. We found this quite intimidating, particularly if you wanted to enter or leave the kitchen. These adult Komodos are up to 2.5m long and 125kg in weight. They are monitor lizards and are directly related to the goanna as they are still on the Australasian side of the Wallace line. They feed on goats, deer, water buffalo, chickens, humans, other Komodo dragons, and anything with blood. They can smell blood from miles away. Their bite does not cause death immediately. The bitten animal dies a slow death of sepsis due to the bacteria and viruses in the saliva of the dragon. Once the animal is dead, the dragons begin to feed. And they don’t leave much on the table. Entire skull bones and other long bones are easily digested by the dragons, leaving only a telltale white smear of calcium in the scats. They can disarticulate their mouth or gullet in some way to permit swallowing hole of suitable creatures such as pigs. Apparently they can even regurgitate them if challenged, with the successful opponent getting to chow down on the predigested pork. Females can lay up to 50 eggs at a time but only about 17% survive the transition to independent life. Once hatched the baby lizards live in the trees to escape predators, particularly the adult Komodo dragons who cannot climb trees. We found these goannas-on-steroids to be remarkably frightening and when encountered in the bush their camouflage was excellent making them look like fallen timber. One yacht encountered a dragon swimming next to their small inflatable tender. Yikes. We enjoyed the tour immensely but were glad to move on. Just before we left I asked the guide whether the dragons flew and breathed fire as depicted in Game of Thrones. He looked incredulously at me, presumably thinking I was nuts, and replied authoritatively in the negative. Just as well, I say.

Indonesia
28/09/2014 | Philc
I am very glad you made it to Komodo, it is one of the best dive areas I have visited. The Cauldron dive near Gililawalaut was such a buzz we did it a couple of times. At the end of the second run we came face to face with two feeding mantas.
The Komodo Dragons are very interesting. Keep having such a great trip.
Pictures
David and Andrea
19/09/2014, Maurole

This photo was taken by my father circa 1960 from the deck of the Sitmar line ship Fairstar on passage to the (still) United Kingdom. I was there and saw the magnificent Komba volcano, depicted here in the Flores Sea, at the time as well. We saw it again recently as we cruised west along the island chain, 54 years later. Thank you to Al for keeping a fantastic photo archive.
I have also added more photos CLICK HERE.

Indonesia
Maurole
12/09/2014, Maurole, Flores Island

The local pronounciation is: ma â€" oo- rolay, as we found out whilst listening to speeches at an unexpectedly well organised gala dinner for the fleet. Diomedea had arrived at this unpromising location, primarily to receive our passports with the new visa extensions. To our pleasant surprise, we found an excellent local tourist operation run by Vincent and Ferdinand of Flores Adventrip (+62 813 34330155, HYPERLINK "mailto:floresadventrip@gmail.com"floresadventrip@gmail.com) . A stall with information brochures was manned and ready for business. They organised local tours including up to Kelimutu lakes and some hot springs, as well as a short trekking tour to a traditional village followed by a walk through various plantations. We did this walk and enjoyed every minute of it. We were enthralled by stories of a two-faced Portuguese sailor, drowned on this shore centuries ago. His bones were said to be contained within a structure that appeared like a bird house in the traditional village. Indeed, inspection revealed some human like metacarpals. The structure had enormous animistic significance for the village. There was also an elaborate meeting house with carved human, fish and animal figures. Some locals also demonstrated their climbing talents and taut six-packs by scaling a palm tree with a machete to send down some fresh coconuts. Small notches are cut in the tree to allow purchase with the feet and the hands grip the trunk. There are no safety devices of any sort. The climber wields the exceedingly sharp machete with the sword arm at 25m above the ground, hanging on with the other hand. The water from the coconuts straight off the palm is excellent. We are shown coffee beans drying in the sun, cashew nut trees being harvested, rice paddies about to be harvested and being harvested, cocoa trees, kapok trees and others. The cashews are roasted for us and we eat them. Yum. The amount of labour required to fill a packet in Coles with cashews is really staggering. We are also treated to roasted Plantain bananas served hot (would have been good with Nutella dipping sauce though). As the heat of the day builds we move back to Maurole for morning tea at a small resto and then seek the shade of the boat. The gala dinner is a lot of fun. It seems as though the entire village is there. All the senior political figures and leaders of the Ende regency, and their wives have also come over the mountains from Ende on the south coast, an arduous three hour drive. Interesting speeches from the bupati (village chief) and the vice regent are followed by good quality food. Bintang beer is available. Afterwards come the dancers from the school showcasing traditional themed stories from the region. Finally it is our turn. We join the mob on the dusty arena and whirl around with colourful cloths. In a rather surreal moment, I find myself dancing in this way with a heavily built chief of police, wearing an equally heavily built pistol. Nonetheless, he has a cherubic face and a nice smile so we sashay around for a while. The celebration draws to a close, having been a complete success for all concerned. A column of headlights preceded by the flashing and wailing of a police car disappear up the hill on the road back to Ende and we fumble our way in the light of the full moon back to our boats. Our last engagement in Maurole was an educational session with 15 year olds from the high school in Ende. Accompanied by their very enthusiastic teacher it was a time for the meeting of cultures. We tried to reinforce the notion of rubbish control in villages as an important concept in improving the tourist potential of Flores. The region has plenty to offer we feel but it does need to meet at least the minimum standards of cleanliness that modern tourists expect. Overall we had a great time in Maurole and would recommend this as a stop for yachts in the future.

Indonesia
14/09/2014 | Peter
David, a bit worried you might be thinking about batting for the other side with your choice of dominatrix dance partners. How does Andy feel about that?
The Flores Report Number One
10/09/2014, Maumere, Flores Island

The wind remained light for the trip around the scorpion’s tail. The first supposed anchorage was at Tanjung Gedong, right at the northernmost extent of the tail. It proved to be substandard and so it was on to Teluk Hading at the very tip of the tail. One yacht went in there and dragged around, also commenting that there was not much room. As the day began to ebb away we became increasingly apprehensive about finding a spot for the night. It was a relief to arrive at possibility number 3, which was “just right”. The fairly open bay at the village of Waimalung (08 25.353S,122 35.328’E) was very comfortable, with good holding and plenty of swing room. It is not far from Babi Island. Several yacht crews went ashore to visit and were mobbed by the usual crowds of kids all shouting “mister”. We gave some of them self-adhesive heart stickers, other baubles and trinkets. However, there was little to hold our jaded western attention for long. A nine mile trip to another anchorage on the southern shore of Dambilah island, next to mighty Pulau Besar (about 900m high), was made and we anchored in 12m with poor holding inside a fringing reef system. (08 28.621’S, 122 28.631’E). A channel about 75 metres wide was easily negotiated with good light. Generally, the Navionics Gold chart of this region is completely unreliable and bears little resemblance to reality. There is virtually no useable information for this coast and the chart can be more or less ignored. The list price for this chart when purchased in Micro SD card format for a chart plotter is over $600 and is a complete rip-off. Increasingly we are downloading Google Earth images of planned anchorages to allow for accurate plotting of courses around coral reefs. This and the Mark 1 Eyeball. Our trip to Dambilah took us past a village built on a sandspit which must have been wiped out in the 1992 tsunami which also devastated large areas of the Flores coastline. One crew visited the village found that the beachfront doubled as a sewerage system and graveyard. Vast plumes of plastic rubbish streamed out into the sea from the village. This is perhaps one of the worst aspects of Indonesia: rubbish. It is just everywhere and cannot be ignored. Streets, canals, rivers, gorges, national parks, beaches, domestic front yards, markets, and just about every bit of water are all heavily polluted by garbage. The plastic load being introduced into the Flores and Java seas must be beyond measure. The environmental catastrophe is evidenced by the decimation of fish stocks and virtually complete absence of bird life. Burning off the rubbish on land is a universal phenomenon, causing toxic smoke to drift out to sea. Diomedea receives a nightly deposit of soot and ash. There is no structured waste management to be seen anywhere. I tremble to think what the island of Java must be like with its 140 million people. It looks to be no bigger than Tasmania or perhaps Victoria. After Dambilah it was only a hop, step, and a jump to Maumere, the largest town on Flores island. (08 37.982’S, 122 18.573’E) The island’s name comes from the Portuguese in the 16th century and refers to flowers of course. Not on land though, more likely pretty coral heads underwater. We anchored off the Seaworld Resort some 15km east of the town. This proved a good choice. Generally the ports are disgustingly dirty. The resort had a volcanic black sand beach, reasonable swimming, a nice sunset bar, a good restaurant, boat boys bringing all manner of commodities, and an efficient limo service. The resort is reportedly run by German missionaries. There are no water slides or performing sea mammals. There is a small swimming pool full of an alarming green liquid. The crew of Diomedea availed themselves of the chauffeured hire car for the run into town. A SIM card top up, a visit to the Roxy supermarket, and finally shopping in the produce market were the items on the agenda. The produce market was vile. Back to the boat for a shower, the water was brown running off our bodies. Being suckers for punishment, we opted for the trip to the Kelimutu National Park the next day. The park is noteable for its three coloured volcanic lakes in the summit craters. The lakes change colours on a monthly basis. For our visit we had a stunning tourquoise, deep red, and muddy green. We theorised about the origins of the colours with the favourite hypothesis being varying sulphation of minerals extruded from the magma chambers. It was a pleasant cool temperature at the high altitude but this did little to negate the arduous nature of the 6 hours of driving required for the round trip. If you look on a map of Flores, you will see Kelimutu not far north of the town of Ende on the south coast. You will also see the exceedingly winding road from Maumere on the north coast. Our car driver commented that if one were to drive from Maumere to the town of Labuan Bajo on the western end of Flores, it would require 24 hours of driving spread over 5 days. The distance by sea is only 300km. However, we did see all sorts of interesting things: churches bulging with worshippers, pillion passengers doing saltos off motor bikes, cows slaughtered by the roadside, cloves drying in the middle of this highway, buses with crowds surfing the roof tops, buses with goats surfing the roof tops, no fear motor cyclists on the wrong side around blind hairpins, monkeys on chains, and so forth. Our party collapsed into the sunset bar in time for bottles of Bintang beer.

Indonesia
10/09/2014 | Barbara
You should sail to Byron Bay where the sharks might eat you but there will not be any rubbish on the shore. Plastic is the shame of the world.
More Photos
David and Andrea
08/09/2014, Maumere

Came across some further Queensland photos of interest. CLICK HERE
Also more photos added in the Indonesia section.

Indonesia

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