11 September 2012 | Indonesia
Sometimes it seems that no time at all has elapsed since you last saw good friends. So it is here in Indonesia with Michael and Gloria on Paikea Mist. It feels as though Fly Aweigh is anchored just around the corner, we've dinghie'd over for sundowners to congratulate ourselves on the latest passage and our arrival in a new country.
In truth, they're the ones who have transited several huge and moody spans of ocean, navigated the complex upper right-hand corner of Australia, dodged the crocodiles between Cannes and Darwin, and made it all the way to exotic and crazy Indonesia, We're the ones who arrived in a relatively civil way, with inflight meals and movies and no rollicking seas or wild winds or dangerous reefs or mud flats or sharks.
We arrived yesterday after 3 plane rides totaling about 21 hours in the air, a lovely night in Bali with a cool swim in the pool, a traditional Balinese meal in a romantic garden with glowing lanterns hanging from the trees and mopeds buzzing by on the busy road. The flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo (La-ban ba-JOE, or LBJ) took 90 minutes, flying over some of the many islands that dot the Indian Ocean, the Bali, and the Flores Seas. One island had a perfectly formed volcano gasping wisps of brown-grey smoke from deep in the Earth, looking very primal, as much of the area does. The landscape seemed to dry out as we flew east, and arriving in LBJ felt like landing in Africa, with brown dirt and dried-up trees. The one-carry-on-per-person rule on the Fokker 50 was loosely enforced, and we deplaned behind passengers with string-wrapped boxes and bags of things procured in Bali, including one guy with a big box of Dunkin Donuts. Outside, among the throng of dark-skinned, slender Indonesians waiting for arriving passengers were our Canadian friends, looking rather Indonesian themselves with those deep tans. It was so great to see them smiling from the other side of the fence.
We spent the afternoon in town, a small and rustic one-street sort-of paved collection of wood and corrugated metal buildings with crazy high sidewalks you have to constantly clamber up and down as you walk along, avoiding uneven pavement and random construction, and trying not to be run over by the zooming cars and mopeds. As in most third-world countries, OSHA would have a coronary here, with potential danger in every step. We had a great lunch overlooking the bay and then Allan, Gloria and I headed off for $15 ninety-minute massages, a delightful way to start a vacation, to be sure!
Transport between Paikea Mist and the shore was via a long, rustic traditional Indonesian canoe of sorts, deftly piloted by a man named Indero, who hails from Komodo Island. The sound of the engine and the tropical air were completely reminiscent of The African Queen, the motor rattling along with no muffler, started by hand crank and controlled by a looped string to the throttle. Indero and his crew took the opportunity on the short transit to entice the newcomers (that's us) with hand-carved Komodo Dragons and pearl necklaces, so we did a bit of haggling and ended up with one of each.
Gloria and I went ashore this morning for produce. Although we made a pretty good haul - lots of unidentifiable fresh greens, onions, garlic, melons, teeny-tiny sweet bananas, mango, pineapples, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, and apples (from Washington State!) - it was the dirtiest market experience I've had in any country. We had to be careful not to set our burdens on the filthy, muddy ground as we dug through pockets to come up with the correct change, shifting bags with one too few hands. We added 30 eggs to the collection, considered ourselves maxed-out, radioed for pickup and met Allan on the grungy dock. We'll eat well for the next week on stir-fry and salads and maybe some good soup, not to mention all that fresh fruit.
The money is tough to get used to: 4 cucumbers and some onions can cost 25,000 of their currency, which is about $2.50 US. We bought some more hand carved things from one of the boat guys and paid 1.35 million whatevers!
As I write we're leaving ... where we had a lovely dive, the first since we left New Caledonia in November 2011! Friends of Michael and Gloria's graciously loaned us their tanks, BC's and regulators so we have a week planned with lots of diving. It felt great to get back in the water, I felt like I was reuniting with all my little fish buddies. Same but different, varieties of fish I've seen for years but in different colors, larger, or smaller; and of course lots of things we haven't seen before. It's always a good dive, as far as I'm concerned.
We were joined at the dive spot by Brian, Captain of the motor yacht Futhur, who we met in Mexico almost 3 years ago, wandered across the South Pacific for a season with, and said goodbye to in Tonga two years ago. Many of you may remember that Furthur is the party boat. As a 48-foot motor yacht she has lots of space to accommodate a crowd, and Brian is the consummate host. We're looking forward to joining him and his crew aboard Furthur tonight for dinner and catching up with his adventures since we last met. It feels great to be part of the cruiser community again, an experience that never leaves you. It's a family -- a growing, shrinking, growing family of wonderful, adventurous, happy people. Out here, nobody cares what purse you're carrying or whether your roots need touching up. Aaah.
Tomorrow: Komodo Dragons!