10 October 2010 | Belitung
Belitung is our final destination for the Sail Indonesia rally and a fitting place to say "good-bye" to Indonesia. It is a very tranquil, tropical island situated off the east coast of Sumatra. and one of the very few places we have visited on our journey, that has clean, white sandy beaches with very clear turquoise water. The local tourist group are well organized and their thoughtful planning has helped make our visit here a memorable one, with free bus transport to all the festival visits as well as shuttles into the main town for shopping. A team of guides - local teachers of English, seconded to assist with the rally have been on hand to help with whatever is needed. Each time we dinghy onshore, there are a group of uniformed locals waiting on the beach to lift our tender from the water up onto the beach. Such great service! The local villagers have been extremely welcoming and always keen to practise their 'English' on us at every opportunity, especially the young teenagers. On Monday we were bussed 70kms across to the southern part of the island to lunch with the Regent( similar to a mayor) as well as visiting a local museum, watching some cultural performances and visiting a Buddhist temple. The Dutch colonised the island and helped develop the tin mining that in years gone by has made Belitung quite a prosperous island for Indonesia. Unfortunately the landscape is now marred by the tailings of the tin mining which no longer brings in the income it once did. As with many of the areas we have visited during this rally, the local governments are keen to develop tourism within their area and see Bali as something to emulate. The bay we are anchored in at the moment and the surrounding area has great potential as an international tourist destination. Amazingly, it doesn't rate a mention in Lonely Planet at all, this would be a great starting point! We enjoyed our farewell dinner for the rally participants on Wednesday evening and were entertained by local dancers, speeches by dignitaries and an impromptu performance by a British couple in the rally, who both turn 70 at the end of the week! Many of the boats have cleared with customs and immigration here and since yesterday, there has been a constant trickle of yachts departing for either Singapore or Malaysia. We plan to leave tomorrow morning and sail for Johor Bahru in Malaysia, just upriver from Singapore. Bern has been plotting our course carefully, as this passage involves navigating the Singapore Straits which is well known for being the busiest shipping stretch of water in the world!!!! We will travel in company with a few other boats and plan to stopover and get together, just north of the equator, for a 'crossing the equator' celebration! We hope to be in Malaysia around the 24th October.