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Cruising on Diomedea
Diomedea is a Van de Stadt Tasman 48
The Jungle Book
David and Andrea
26/10/2014, Central Kalimantan

The King Kong-like figure loomed large in our sights as we turned into the Sekonyer river. The impressive orang-utan sculpture is cast in an aggressive pose, giving the tourist a moments pause. Our sturdy craft chugged happily out of the turbulent Kumai into the more tranquil tributary heading northeast. The jungle encroached into the river beyond the shore, which itself was completely obscured. Soon, we spotted movement in the tall tree tops. Troupes of Proboscis monkeys leapt with abandon from tree to tree. The males had the very large and drooping nose, almost like the worst example of rhinophyma imaginable, whilst the females had the much more petite pencil like nose, reminiscent of Pinocchio or Mr Squiggle. The monkeys were seen every kilometre or so, suggesting a strong population. Standing motionless on a branch just above the river was an amazing Kingfisher, with its massive and very orange beak ready for the kill. We passed small local communities of houses built on rickety stilts, and even a resort, The Rimba Lodge. It had its own boat the Rimba Queen, bringing to mind images of Bogey and Hepburn in the African Queen. Hornbills wheeled overhead. The river continued its serpentine meanderings, and got narrower, and narrower. We reminisced about our childhood readings of Kipling's great grey green greasy Limpopo river. Of course, we were not alone as this river has a lot of glotok traffic ferrying tourists and in fact we spent quite a bit of time in conga lines of boats. Indeed when we arrived at the first feeding station we had to hop across about five other boats to get to the dock. This first station was in the form of a platform strewn with bananas and occupied by a solitary orang-utan, a young male known as Corporal. With his back turned to us in the gallery he was not much of a crowd pleaser but he did turn occasionally to give us facial profiles. The creatures have amazingly long arms such that they can put one arm over their shoulder and easily scratch their natal cleft.
We eventually left this spot and repaired to the boat for the onward journey to Camp Leakey. The river became only as wide as the boat with vegetation brushing the topsides frequently. Chicanes were formed by rafts of material forcing some fancy turns. The water changed from muddy brown to a deep black.
Camp Leakey has a strong history of wildlife preservation but today seems neglected, especially as it has been funded by the World Wildlife Foundation and by the Orangutan Foundation. There is an unlit hut with very dated information on its dark walls. To read this we resorted to a torch. Quite arduous and sad in many ways. The lifetime of work by the research staff was not well represented.
Approaching the feeding station our party was walking along an elevated boardwalk above a swamp, when we were brought to a rapid halt by an angry female orang-utan. She had been grabbing the punters and causing some havoc. Our guide was very familiar her. She ambled past us within touching distance and went straight for his nether regions. In fact, she went for his hip pocket in which he had a large bread roll, specifically placed to pacify her. Once the toll was paid we continued on our way but were of course delighted to have had such a close encounter.
At the feeding station we were held in thrall for several hours. Initially the platform was deserted, but soon a very naughty gibbon appeared. He had a rascally face and was straight out of Disney's animation of the Jungle Book. This creature looked sneakily around before racing up to the platform to raid the banana cache. He scooped up a hand of bananas and stuffed them in his mouth, had another lot in one paw and then shot up a tree to gobble his treasure, raining spent banana peels on the ground below. He was a fantastic lead-in act to the main event.
The first sign of the approaching orang-utans was movement in the tree tops. These primates can be up to 125kg and use their weight to bend entire trees so that the animal can move gracefully across the canopy. They sometimes hung motionless, spreadeagled between the vegetation, showing just how easy it was for them. The trees shook and the audience became very attentive. A male was first to the platform and did not mind looking us in the face. He used a finger/claw to peel the banana before eating it and then chucking the peel away. The gibbon would sometimes launch "stealth" missions to get more tucker. A female called Akmad appeared with a baby clinging to her fur. She had a scarred left eye and was in my opinion blind in that organ. She and her progeny feasted although the youngster looked quite fatigued. Another 6 year old orang-utan appeared and leapt about for our enjoyment. The time between pregnancies is about 5-7 years, the longest of any animal. The females only became fertile at 15 and lose this at 35, thus making the species exceedingly vulnerable. There is only one baby per pregnancy. The young are nursed till about 4-5 and still cared for until 7 or so. Adults and juveniles all liked drinking a milky substance that had been prepared for them in buckets. We saw about 6-8 animals in succession and obtained some good photos. The female finally stomped over to the audience in the bleachers so we had excellent close up viewing.
The show eventually came to an end and it was time for us to return back downriver. A syrupy sunset on the river ensued and the monkeys were still very active. Clouds of giant bats flew on their lines across our path. The night was clear and starry but the darkness of the jungle was total. Fantastic arrays of fireflies appeared on the nearby trees, looking like thousands of tiny LED lights. Some landed on us, like scenes in the Avatar movie. Spirit Aling ploughed on with its big spotlight piercing the inky blackness as each twisting turn came and went. Too soon the loom of Kumai desecrated the nighttime sky and we were once more cast into the industrial riverscape.
PS Our guide told us that orangutans have been used for human prostitution. Not entirely willing to believe such a story I checked on the web and found a credible reference confirming this information, on the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

Kumai, Novel Building Codes
23/10/2014, 02 44.439'S:11 43.974'E

When approached from the river, one’s initial impression of Kumai township is that it is remarkably endowed with high rise apartment buildings. Rather a unique feature in Indonesia. As the weary traveller draws closer, these 4-5 storey buildings reveal some unusual features. They are all unpainted grey concrete, they have no windows or balconies, no downpipes, gutters, or lighting, and they all had defects in the walls into which fly multitudes of birds. At street level the buildings have faux facades to make them appear to be habitable but in fact they are not inhabited by people. They are “bird hotels” and are built specifically for swallows to nest in. Swallows nest could be seen in quantity under the eaves of some of the buildings and the evening air was alive with the creatures. Why? The answer is in the nest itself. The nest is somehow distilled, extracted or cooked to make the Chinese delicacy of “birds nest soup”. Apparently it is gelatinous in consistency, and our local guide informed us it is also an acquired taste. The nests may also be used to manufacture cosmetics or possibly so-called natural remedies. Yuk. Of course there was literally some fallout from this trade. The local pasar (market) had to have lots of tarpaulin awnings to reduce the contamination of produce. Double yuk. In the background lies the memory of the nearby West Kalimantan genocidal slaughter of times gone by. The indigenous Dayak population eventually took umbrage at the transmigration policy of Java that resulted in Madurese communities taking lands and so on. This dissatisfaction took the form, not of political protest but of ultra violence. The Dayaks sent out death squads to hunt down Madurese. The victims, men, women and children, were tortured, murdered and decapitated. The heads were used for show-and-tell in prominent places. In addition the hearts and livers were cut out and eaten. Bags of bloody organs were carried on belts as trophies. The corpse remnants were BBQ’ed on the roadside and cutlets sold to passers-by. All this was a long time ago, right? No. Try 1999. This did not occur here in Kumai but just a bit west. I am told that a reconciliation has been reached but the entire province is alcohol-free to stop unrest. Kumai is a dry town. The reader would be right to ask why one would come to such a place. To see our relatives naturally. Kalimantan is home to the orang-utans (lit. “people of the forest”) and it was for the jungle experience of these magnificent primates that we had voyaged here. Borneo is not only home to the orang-utans but also home to the one of the world’s biggest area of palm oil cultivation. The plantations have destroyed much of the habitat of the primates and their preservation became the life work of Professor Birute Galdikas whose picture graced National Geographic magazine back in my youth. She was inspired by Louis Leakey and is from the same mould as Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. Her child enjoying a bath with a baby orang-utan also got a cover shot in a subsequent issue. Burn-offs of native forest have helped decimate the animal population with 20,000 dying in one fire in 1997. Many of the orang-utans that survived had no food and went into the palm oil plantations in search of nourishment, only to be shot by guards to prevent damage to the precious trees. Our guide for the odyssey was the excellent fellow Zulham (phone +62 85652420580 or email HYPERLINK "" The area of the orang-utan population is more than 20 miles up a tributary of the Kumai river called the Sekonyer river and is only accessible by local boats. These have the onomatopoeic name of glotok, given as a result of the noise their diesel engines make. Trips can vary between 1 and 3 days. For land travellers there is a nearby large airport to allow access. Our craft was called the Spirit Aling and we shared it with the crew of Gypsy Rover for our jungle adventure. We were picked up from our yacht at 6am and so began our trip to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Voyage to Kumai
23/10/2014, 02 44.439'S:111 43.974'E

The island appeared ahead of Diomedea on the horizon. It was dark in colour and had three distinct mountains of fairly rounded form. Not overly large one might say but nonetheless island-sized. The puzzling thing about it was that in this particular area of the Bali Sea there were no charted islands. It is doubtful that this island would have been overlooked in the survey it seemed to us. What was going on? Diomedea had departed Lovina Beach after an enjoyable stay and was on passage to the island of Raas, about 65 mile north of Bali. The trip had been quite boring due to the complete absence of wind. Until now. We checked all our various chart sources and, no, there was no island here. There was another vessel near the island. Eventually, as we came closer we observed that the island was in fact an extremely large barge hundreds of metres long and wide, with huge mountains of something being towed by a big grunty tug. In this day and age the mariner would expect this tug and tow to have AIS or to answer the VHF or to have lights at night. No to all of that. We subsequently encountered many other massive barges being dragged around all over the Java sea. The barges are not lit. The tow line is up to half a mile long so it would be easy to sail across it at night. After the penny dropped, and we took measures to avoid being run over by the island, Diomedea resumed her course and eventually made anchor in the large open lagoon on the NW side of Raas for the night. (07 06.003’S 114 30.724) The next leg was an overnighter to Pulau Bawean with a mixture of slow sailing and motoring, as the course was NW with the SE trades light and aft. The night was quite stressful due to a large number of fishing boats, many of which appeared intent on colliding with us and other yachts in our small fleet, even doubling back on occasions to have a second go. I watched in horror as the radar return of one of our yachts blended with that of a fishing boat. It must have been very close indeed in the middle of the darkness. To add to the chaos were hundreds of FAD’s or fish aggregating devices. These are large or small rafts made of bamboo anchored absolutely anywhere, even in depths of more than a kilometre. Some of them have little faded flags which one may see in daylight from 100 metres. Many of them are flat in the water and are invisible. A few are lit at night. Not surprisingly, many of these FAD’s are attended by equally invisible, unlit or poorly lit, small fishing craft. Generally we have found that Indonesia skippers do not give way to anything. If you intend sailing here, you would be well advised to forget any notion of Rules of Navigation, and plan to avoid every craft in your vicinity, no matter how big or small. Finally Bawean hove into view in the new daylight and we had a well earned rest in a breezy anchorage (05 43.777’S 112 40.140’E). We enjoyed a wonderful soiree on board Southern Star that night and Robbie handed out some steaks from a mahi mahi that he had landed. Yum. The final leg of the trip to Borneo was another overnighter. We left at first light and were soon enjoying a fast broad reach in 20-25kts SE breeze. Thankfully the obstructions were few on this course. It is always amazing to sail in what appears to be an ocean devoid of boats during the day, only to find that at sunset you are suddenly amongst fleets of intensely illuminated squid or shrimp boats. These unwieldy craft (imagine a 50 metre diameter Hills Hoist falling upside down into the middle of a large sampan) have massive arrays of powerful halogen bulbs to attract their targets at night. Hydroponic dope cultivators would love it. The lights are so bright that estimating distance is impossible, with the looms easily visible over the horizon, similar to a coastal city or town when viewed from offshore. The wind held up during the night and by morning we were well into Teluk Kumai for the final approach to the river. The Java Sea is generally very shallow with nothing more than 45 metres. The Kumai bay shoals to 15m then 10 then stays around 4.5m deep for many miles. This bay is still a very major and busy commercial waterway and many big ships transited the area. The Kumai (translation is “come here” apparently as it was thought to be a good spot) river flows out of the interior of Kalimantan and is notorious for its shoals. Our flotilla approached it with significant levels of anxiety but fortunately only a few boats went on the bricks. We used the waypoints in the 101 Anchorages pilot book and found them good. The 10 mile run up the river focuses the mind as one watches the sounder sitting at 3.8m for lengthy periods, and also as the aforementioned large ships and towed mega-barges approach you from upstream. After dodging a final barrier of nets across the river we anchored opposite the town of Kumai in murky water with visibility of about 6 inches (02 44.439’S 111 43.974’E). The heat was oppressive, there was little breeze, the riverbank was mangrove so presumably a crocodile habitat, rafts of rubbish flowed past the boats, muezzins competed with the horns of ferry boats at 4am, and we flopped about sweating profusely.

15/10/2014, Lovina Beach, North Coast

Wet and wild! Diomedea dropped her mooring at 0400hr, leaving the stillness of Medana Bay for the fierce Selat Lombok. We soon found ourselves beam reaching into 25-30 knots from the south with three reefs in the main and only half the jib and still zipping along. The moon laid down a path for us to follow through the spray, swells and waves. By 0550 the sun was beginning to rise over the flanks of volcano Rinjani astern and its red glow brought into view the stunning symmetrical cone of the volcano Agung on the eastern side of Bali. At 3100m high this peak is very sensual in its curves, but of course occludes the wind flow. As we entered its lee it was time for the diesel and in fact we motored the entire north coast of Bali in calms, heading for Lovina Beach (08 09.556’S 115 01.302’E). The anchorage is quite open to the north but holding was excellent in 17m sandy bottom. Mild sea breezes came and went during the day, and the night had some offshore land breeze. Lovina is a tourist destination but is quite understated compared to reports one receives about Kuta beach in the south. There are a number of restaurants including the very excellent Spice Beach Club with its tourquoise and white themed livery and staff uniforms. Su at Shop 7 on the beach successfully relieved us of the burden of cash by selling us some nice batik shirts. Boat boys came out in their spider boats, here made of fibreglass. We were initially greeted by Peter Pan, then his brother’s boat Full Power. Many other fanciful boat names were seen and indeed the fleet was vast, transporting westerners to snorkelling, dolphin watching etc. Our boat boy Daman brought us diesel (solar), petrol (benzin), bananas (pisang), laundry (laundry), and provided a below the waterline scrub for the hull ($50 for 3 guys for 2 hours or so). The town of Lovina beach has commemorated the dolphins in a kitschy monument and there is even a dolphin gate through which traffic enters the town. About 15km east is the large town of Singaraja with a Carrefour supermarket and many other facilities. One always thinks of Bali as being a cheap destination for yobbo Australians but in the north this did not appear to be the case, although admittedly the season was well advanced. We decided to take a vehicle south for a day tour of the island to sample the Australian tourist factor elsewhere. A conscious decision was made to avoid Denpasar and the south coast. Our driver and his nice air conditioned car were hired for $60 for the entire day and it worked out very well. Up and up we went over a pass to a cluster of three lakes probably at about 1000m altitude before we descended toward the large southern plains of Bali. Along the way we stopped at the fascinating Coffee Break establishment to sample a wide range of coffees and teas. This included the remarkable Luwac coffee. The processing of this particular blend initially involves feeding coffee beans to a mongoose. The mongoose eats them and excretes them whole in its faeces. The scats are collected and the beans harvested and cleaned. They are then roasted, ground, and served in the usual manner. Reputedly the pre-processing of the bean renders the flavour exquisite and makes the product the most expensive coffee in the world. Did we try it? Of course. Was it worth $20 for a 200gm bag? No. In fact the flavour was very mild and the caffeine content low so for us hardened Mosmanites it was really anticlimactic. Nonethless, their other coffees were excellent and again our wallets were strip-mined by this effieient organisation. Our journey took us further south to the bustling arty town of Ubud. This place was definitely a tourist trap and was absolutely chockas with western women. Perhaps driven by the eat-pray-love thing or the quest for the ultimate spa or alternative health treatment we cannot say, but they were pounding the pavements in search of enlightenment. We did not linger in the town but did go to the interesting Neka museum of Balinese art (HYPERLINK "" established by Suteja Neka in the late 70’s. Works from local and European artists are on display and it is definitely worth a visit. A Dutch painter, Hofker, was quite taken with the naked Balinese female form and he had produced a real homage to same. One work though, painted by another European chap, featured a naked pubescent girl in a sensual pose. Such works I imagine would not be hung in Australian galleries today, and the artist presumably would be hunted down by the AFP. We left Ubud and its countless wood carving shops behind and headed north toward volcano Agung. The road wound up through beautiful rice paddy terraces to crest the pass at 1600m at the village of Kintamani. We lunched with a clear view of Agung and other volcanos, one of which had had a moderate eruption 9 years ago. A large crater lake some km long was also seen. Kintamani also was home to a fascinating Hindu temple in which devotees were actively engaged in their rituals. A loud 30 strong musical ensemble consisting entirely of tympani provided a noisy backdrop. Finally it was the endless descent down the ridge to Singaraja before heading back to Lovina. All in all a great day. Bali is quite different in its religious makeup compared to other islands that we have visited. Whilst there are some mosques, Hindu temples predominate and in fact every house has some sort of Hindu ornaments, be they simple puja offerings to the gods, or more elaborate private shrines. Some private temples occupied acreages! Little umbrellas and other comforts were provided for the god statues in the temples. The ethos being that if you give something spontaneously to your gods they will in turn give you something back. Our Hindu driver dreamt that one day his sect would dominate Indonesia and presumably supplant the Muslims for whom he definitely expressed some intolerance. Dream on.

Medana Bay Redux
David and Andrea
11/10/2014, Medana Bay Marina of course

Back in Medana we had an enforced stay whilst waiting for a shipment of a new high pressure pump for our desalinator from NZ. However, we were very happy to receive another shipment, this time a $44 bilge blower fan from Whitworths chandlers. The fan was brought in by Aleta, who was joining the yacht Mediterraneo. The fan had been purchased by my sister Carolyn who delivered it to Aleta whose residence is in Charlestown, Newcastle. A big thank you to Carolyn, Aleta, and Meika for making this possible. The fan was installed and works nicely.
The crew of Gypsy Rover joined us for a day trip into the hills to see some rather impressive waterfalls on the flanks of Rinjani. About 2 hrs each way from Medana bay the drive took us along the black sand beaches of the north coast, past countless rice paddies before turning right and climbing up the mountain. The waterfall walk was cool and pleasant with a few short wades through the river to reach the roaring torrents. Even in the dry season the falls were pumping. Following this hike we had a brief tour of a "traditional" village, complete with satellite receiver dishes before we decamped to the fabulous Rinjani Lodge for a long lunch. The Lodge even has a wet edge pool which we were very pleased to use. Then back into the car for the run home via the markets and ATM. One can do a summit walk of the volcano but three days are required so we did not pursue this option.
Internet in Lombok has been very patchy and getting blogs up etc has been remarkably challenging. Access to the internet will come and go from one minute to the next even if one is using a hotel's wifi network. Hotspotting off your iphone is usually even less reliable. Typically all bandwidth disappears during business hours.
Local phone calls can be made but usually there are very few people to speak to in English. Overseas phone calls on the local sim card are quite pricey, so it is cheaper to use a satphone for this purpose. Of course, the satphone drops out quite frequently making this relatively unreliable as well. Generally coms in this country are very frustrating. Having said that we were quite surprised when our pump arrived on schedule after one week from ordering in Opua, NZ. Sadly the tariffs charged to import goods are not for the faint hearted! Peter and his office staff really made the speedy delivery possible and without their support the process would have been a lot longer.
With the pump in our hands we prepped Diomedea for her next passage, 75 miles to Lovina Beach on the north coast of Bali. Before we left we had a final meal at Sailfish with some of the other yachts and then an early night in readiness for a 0330 hr alarm.


Naturally it was time for an oil exchange, having done 180 hours since leaving Cairns. Fortunately the waste oil is recycled here to other engines so not just dumped. With this task out of the way it was time to make Diomedea ready for her guests, Andrea's niece Lea and her boyfriend Simon. They had been travelling by land from Jakarta to Bali and had done a dive course on Gili Air which they enjoyed immensely. We picked them up on this bustling island and headed across to Gili Meno for an excellent lunch on the eastern side of this more sedate cay. They brought with them some fresh fruit and an excellent Balinese table cloth which has supplanted our slightly faded NZ Tui tablecloth in the deck saloon. We had four days in which to explore the region with Lea and Simon and so we turned Diomedea south toward the southern Gilis along the shore of the large promontory at the SW corner of Lombok. 15-18 knots SW breeze in flat water gave us an outstanding sail for 25 miles to Gili Gede. Picking our way around the reefs and pearl farms we managed to find the moorings belonging to the Secret Island Resort on the southern end of Gili Gede (08 45.783'S 115 56.026'E). The resort is sadly in need of maintenance but we were warmly greeted by its owner, expat American Peter. There are other moorings belonging to Ray (Marina del Ray, get it) which some yachts use for extended periods. Generally the trades found their way into these bays keeping the boat cool and the nights more pleasant than further north. We found good snorkelling around the small islands at the north of Gili Gede and we anchored here in 18m sand for the day(08 43.504'S 115 55.151'E). Poor Lea burnt despite applying sunscreen on the back of her legs and other parts north, resulting in uncomfortable sitting for the next 24 hours as a result of the extended swimming session. For subsequent swims she borrowed Andrea's burkini (full length lycra rashy). We did our best to provide liquid analgesia for Lea in her hour of need. Some cortisone ointment was also used! Simon fared better but did not decline the offer of refreshments. We had some lovely meals together on board. For our guests it was something of a relief not to have to haggle over every item during a day of travelling, instead just chilling out on their own magic carpet. For us it was lovely to have some nice young folk with whom one could talk and debate. Our final night on board was remarkable for the appearance of cirrus mare's tails and an ice halo around the moon. Too soon the time came for our visitors' departure. As Lea and Simon had to get back to Denpasar for the flight home, there was a complex sequence of travel required. However, the first step was an excellent beat in light SE breeze past Gilipohl with its Olympic torch lighthouse to the rather nice Cocotinos Resort at 08 43.911'S 115 59.607'E. Both Lea and Simon had turns at helming Diomedea with Simon recording top speed of 8.7kts over ground. After some initial dog-leg manoeuvres, Lea found her form and got the boat in the groove. The resort provided a very good lunch for us all before our guests had a final snorkel. We all dinghied ashore for the taxi to take Lea and Simon to Port Lembar to catch the RORO ferry back to Bali overnight. We hugged and kissed our goodbyes and then they vanished into the dusk. Andrea and I had a sundowner at the resort bar and then a quiet night on board before we too cleared the area for the run back up the coast in good SE flow to the vortex of Medana Bay.


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