Indonesia, Kupang, West Timor to Kalabahi, Alor Island.
07 August 2012
Tipperary Waters Marina, Darwin, was all go the morning of Saturday 28th July as the Lockmaster, Rodney “Rocket”, tried to get 25 boats through the lock in time for the 11:00 start. It wasn’t helped by the first boat sitting on the bottom in the lock; oops there wasn’t enough water for the depth of its keel. However it was all sorted and a process worked itself out and we cleared the lock at 11:00 and were on our way to Kupang, Indonesia. During the first 24 hrs the seas were confused and not the most pleasant, but the next 48 hours was almost perfect sailing, who said we would be motoring most of the way, we think most people arrived with full fuel tanks. On the passage we passed an oil rig in the dark with its burn off flare lighting the sky, had a pod of about 50 dolphins playing in our bow wake for almost and hour and during one of Gail’s night watches she observed 2 strobe lights approximately 75 miles out from Indonesia, and one of them turned into red, white and blue strobe lights. Luckily we had been warned of the non conventional lights on fishing boats in Asia. At daybreak on Tuesday 1st August, we were at the channel between the islands to head into Kupang harbour; passing many small fishing boats with lots of waves and smiling faces. We had the anchor down in Kupang harbour at 10:00.
Shortly after we anchored; customs came aboard for clearance; as the inflatable approached the boat they asked where to board and when we pointed to the back of the boat they shook heads, ‘no, no’, they didn’t like the look of the boarding platform, admittedly the sea was a little lumpy! However they came aboard with no issues and one of quarantine ladies was promptly sick over the stern of the yacht. They love the paper work in Indonesia and after signing about 10 forms we went ashore for immigration, port clearance and health clearance. This was an interesting experience, with lots and lots of paper work, at least 10 copies of everything (passports, boat registration, crew lists, previous clearance certificate, CAIT (cruising permit), social visas for Indonesia), at every point we were asked for our boat stamp, which we didn’t have, but now do. The officials were all very friendly and cleared a lot of boats in a short period of time.
Thursday night was the Welcome dinner with speeches and traditional dances, followed by karaoke, a good night for socialising and getting to meet everyone in the fleet.
Our first walk around town was almost overwhelming; there was so much to see. Gail has never been to Asia before and was blown away by the number of cars and motor bikes, each bike rider with their own plastic whistle blowing continually, the dilapidated state of the buildings crammed closely together, street vendors selling everything from veges to hardware, but everywhere the people are very friendly, welcoming.
Going ashore in the dingy, there are a team of guys, who for a small daily fee, meet you at the water’s edge, take your dingy and place it up above the high tide line, when you return to the dingy they launch it for you. It is the first time we have seen anyone lift our dingy up onto their shoulders, there were 4 of them, and carry it down to the water. You can go ashore as many times a day as you want and only pay once. The ‘dingy’ boys will also take your rubbish and dispose of it for you.
Friday we did a full day tour and saw monkeys, visited an orphanage and were entertained by the children who were happy to show us around, gave us a concert and invited us to sing and dance with them, it was then onto lunch and fresh water springs followed by rice fields.
Saturday was a quiet, relaxing day on board the boat; Brian repaired a torn batten pocket on the mainsail and we did some housework, followed by sundowners on ‘Blue Heeler’ with Wayne, Ali, Steve and Anne. At 7:00 Sunday morning, 5th August, we lifted the anchor and sailed 42nm around Timor Island and anchored at Tg Gamuk for the night.
After a rolly night we left and started to motor 45nm to our next planned anchorage. After approx. 20nm we spotted some of the other yachts anchored and called them on the radio. After speaking to them, we decided it didn’t make much sense to motor another 25nm to save 10nm on the crossing to Alor the next day, so we turned the corner and joined them, anchoring in the bay. We had a quiet day, caught up with the washing and generally relaxed in preparation for the early start the next day.
02:45 am, Tuesday 7th August, we were up, lifting the anchor and off to Alor Island, wanting to get there for the incoming tide. We motored most of the way to Alor, arriving just before half tide rising. The entrance through the islands was interesting, there were lots of eddies and whirlpools, one minute there was 3 knots of tide with us, the next 3 knots against us, with confused seas and big tide rips. The path through the islands to the anchorage at Kalabahi was interesting with many local fishing boats in the channels, high hills and deep water, 150 – 200m deep, reminded us of Fiordland or the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand.
We have enjoyed our brief stay in Kalabahi, where we attended the Gala Dinner hosted by the Island’s Regent and his officials, refueled and obtained fresh provisions. It is now time to go and find some isolated islands with swimming, snorkeling and diving, and get away from the calling to prayers, motorbikes, crowded streets and general hustle of the towns.