Nearly there smile!
Here we are, still in Bandaneira! It is a very hard place to leave, life is so easy and the surrounds just beautiful. We say, "Maybe tomorrow we will move on" but we still don't feel quite ready! The people are incredibly friendly and to top it all off, Indi has her friend Ayu come to the boat every day to just 'hang out'. It's fantastic, they don't need any looking after and will just jump in the dinghy to take themselves to land for a play or they will paddle the kayak around the boat. We met Ayu on our first day here when she introduced herself with the customary "Hello Mr and Mrs, welcome to Bandaneira, let me introduce myself..." Ayu is 12 years old and a delight to have around. I have never felt so comfortable leaving Indi to play so independantly with anyone as I have seen how closely Ayu looks after her.
Banda is such a small Island, very easy to get around. We have been getting use out of our pushbike, having found a terrific road leading out to the tip of the Island, passing a few little villages along the way. It's only about 6 kilometres return with a couple of steep hills thrown in. Along the way are wells where we will see people doing their laundry out of their wash tubs and men carrying buckets of water from the well back to their home. There are chickens roaming the street and it's hard to get that 'camp dog' idea out of my head, even though they are only chickens! There are no dogs on this Island but plenty of cats. Everywhere people are busy doing things, whether it be carrrying a load of coconuts on their shoulders, building and maintaining their homes, cooking and selling their produce at the markets. Above all this, we are always greeted with a friendly smile.
We have climbed the volcano, Gunung Api, which is 666 metres high. It last errupted in 1988 and is expected to errupt every 200 years. The other day we felt a small tremor. The climb up took a few hours and the view was magnificent (photo's will come....) We went snorkelling below the lava flow from the last erruption, the coral was so rich and abundant fish. Indi independantly swam around for a good couple of hours enjoying the great visibility. She then went and explored the volcanic rocks with Rene from Anima.
There are plenty of spices available here, being part of the Spice Islands. We have enjoyed dinner at Muthiara's a couple of times, eating under a nutmeg tree. The meal was so fantastic I then went and spent an afternoon learning recipes and how to cook some Indonesian dishes with Dilla. I felt fortunate to spend this time with Dilla. While there their resident White Cockatoo would come into the kitchen saying in Indonesian "I'm hungry!" It was quite funny! Aba runs Muthiara Guesthouse/Restaurant, I recommend it to anyone coming to Banda.
This morning we went with Ayu to her school. Her Teacher is Mr Chinta and we took Indi's preschool song (thanks Peddie!) the 'Wombat Wobble' to do with the Class. It was lots of fun and the students all got really involved. We also had a book with the different animals from the song. We spent some time there while the students practiced their English. I now have a few of them, including Ayu, standing here while I update this blog! They are helping me to get spelling and information correct.
We don't see to many cars around here but there are certainly plenty of motor scooters. It is small enough to walk around and is very safe. We thought we would leave tomorrow but at this stage we still don't feel ready to leave this beautiful paradise and the friends we have made.
08/06/2011, Banda Island
It is already over two weeks that we left Darwin! Leaving midnight on the Friday was a good decision, by sunrise the following morning we were already passing the Vernon Islands. Going across the Van Deiman Gulf was slightly bumpy but not too uncomfortable. We decided to continue through to Saumlaki rather than anchoring around Cape Hotham as the weather seemed to be OK. By late evening on the Saturday the swell was quite big and with the wind a few breaking waves. The trip across was quite bumpy and uncomfortable but Molonga handled it all exceptionally well. We were very happy by Monday morning when we saw our first Indonesian Island in the distance!
To escape some of the swell we took the approach to Saumlaki from the Western side. As we entered the harbour we saw longtail fishing boats and bamboo fishing huts along the way. It made it all very exciting!
We were in by Sunset and enjoyed a hearty dinner of 'bangers and mash' on the boat, followed by a really good sleep. The next morning Customs and Quarantine Officials came on the boat to clear us. This process was made a lot smoother with some of Nanna's Slice on offer! It was then into shore for further processing - taking about an hour by the time just about every official in there had their photo taken with Indi - at their requests! Indi was quite over posing by the end of it.
We wandered around Saumlaki a while, it is a very busy little place, the streets a bit grimy with the smell of fish and scooters hurrying by. After sorting out a phone we then found a hotel selling Bintang and settled in there for the afternoon. Bintang is now our beer of choice!
While there we met a local called 'Mathias' who became our friend. He had a little shop front which we spent a lot of time sitting at. He also had a four year old daughter so Indi enjoyed a new friend to play with. Mathias makes a whiskey out of Coconut water which turned out to be really good. A few days were spent exploring Saumlaki, mostly with Mathias taking us to his special places. Anyone visiting Saumlaki, we recommend meeting up with Mathias.
After Saumlaki we ventured around the Western Side of Tanimbar Island, stopping at a smaller Island for a swim in clear water and play on a white sandy beach, our first since arriving in Indonesia. It was just beautiful.
Enroute to Banda we discovered a little bay at Selu Island. It was protected, a good anchorage and a few local villagers living in a couple of small huts on the beach. We anchored then went to shore to ask if they would mind us anchoring for the night in their bay. They did not speak English and were very friendly and welcoming, sitting us down while they cut down coconuts and then cut them open for us to drink the water and eat the flesh. Our one night there ended up being four nights as it was so beautiful. There was a small surf break which Youngie went on with the Stand Up Paddle Board and Indi and I enjoyed exploring the coral beach and swimming. A couple of times the local man and his son came out to the boat to sit and practice conversation. They were easy company to have.
It was about 190NM to Banda from where we were. We expected to have two nights at sea but managed to cut it down to one night and two days with reasonable winds and swell going mostly our way. As we approached Banda the volcanoe stood out and coming close to the Island we could see how green and lush the it is. It was amazing coming into the harbour here, the volcanoe just to the side of us. The anchorage is protected, we are tied up to the wall and there are a few other boats here. It is a bit like being in a Marina. Banda so far is lovely and we will spend a week or so exploring this beautiful Island.
On Saturday 21st May 2011 we departed Elcho Island. The morning started with coffee on the boat with a few close friends coming down to bid us farewell. Also out there was a 4 metre croc cruising up and down main beach in knee deep water! There were tears shed as we said our "See Ya's" to good friends. Besides the friends we left behind, we were also emotional leaving the Community that had been our home for the past 2 1/2 years. Galiwinku was such a wonderful experience and Elcho Island a truly beautiful place. As we sailed away a large turtle poked her head up and we are pretty sure she was waving her flipper at us! I still miss Elcho now and Indi talks about her Pre-School Teachers being the best she has had!
We had a relatively easy time the first couple of days heading towards Darwin with not a lot of sailing, mostly motoring. By the Tuesday we had word that there were strong Coastal wind warnings so we sat out in a bay near Cape Don to see what would happen. This would usually be OK, but we had a very important wedding to get to on the Friday! Not wanting to miss the wedding of our wonderful friends/extended family, Jen and Keoh, we pulled up the anchor at 7.00pm on Wednesday night and started to head across the Gulf of Carpentaria. The winds gradually picked up and picked up until we were sailing along at 8 knots with water coming right up over the bow at times. It was complete darkness and at times I felt like we were suspended in the air before coming down off a wave. I was very relieved when morning came and we were going through the Vernon Islands, getting pushed along nicely by the tide. All night Youngie had been moving around the boat - checking sails, lines, motors. I was of no help at all as I sat clinging to the seat. Indi slept away in her cabin stirring only occasionally!
We arrived back in Darwin on the Thursday and were well rested for Jen and Keoh's absolutely beautiful wedding on Friday.
Following that I was back at work on Monday while Youngie and Indi started preparations on the boat so she would be fit and comfy for our travels. Heather came to visit for 3 weeks and we enjoyed having her here and knowing that Indi was in good care when Youngie and I were busy. This week Anne has travelled up to spend time with us before we leave so we are now enjoying her company.
Molonga is mostly ready to set sail on Saturday. We now have a water maker, warm showers and a home brew on the go. We will be sad to say "Good Bye" to our friends once again but are hoping some will come and spend time with us in a beautiful location somewhere!