Banda to Bali
21 September 2011 | Lovina Beach
Daryl and Carol
Well here we are in Bali, a milestone of our trip. We are updating the blog from the balcony of a beautiful little bungalow overlooking a paddy field in Ubud. We had promised ourselves this when we first started planning the trip and have not been disappointed. We arrived in Bali at Lovina beach from Lombok last Friday the 16th September. We delivered James to the airport for his trip back to the real world in Brisbane. He has been a real asset to us so far and we will miss him but we are ready for the challenges of the two person crew. We spent a night in Kuta and were amazed at the transformation since we last visited there in 1996. The change is for the best but you can’t help thinking you are on the Sunshine coast. The Centro shopping centre would be at home anywhere in Australia. One of the things that we have really been enjoying about Indonesia is the food and Bali is the best so far. We are spending two nights here before we head back to Freycinet for a week at Lovina beach and more celebrations including a welcome to Bali, bull races, dancing etc. Our next destination is Kalimantan and the Kumai river where we will take a boat trip for two days up stream to visit Orangatangs in the wild in the national park. We are well and enjoying our experiences to the max, until next time stay well.
Banda. Lat 04-31.38S, Long 129-53.89E
To continue the story so far, we had over a week in Banda. The Islands have a long history from the 16 hundreds and may be known to most as the spice Islands. They were fought over and occupied by the Dutch, Portuguese, English and others all for the nutmeg. There are two forts, one still intact. The population is predominately Muslim and we were in the middle of Ramadhan. It was interesting to watch how it all works. The Islands also have a political history with some of the early independence leaders being placed here before WW2 by the Dutch to keep them quite. They were released by the Japanese and went on to lead the change and deliver Indonesia to the new beginnings. Banda is a well kept secret as it is difficult to get there so tourists are few and far between. The pace is very relaxing and the restaurants good. Carol and I had our first night off the boat staying in a guest house high on the hill overlooking the bay and we only managed to get ourselves moving by the promise of other good places to see ahead. We departed Banda for Ambon at 0700hrs on the 11/08/2011 and had our first full on motoring leg in flat calm seas, (Carol was over the moon)
Ambon Lat 03,43.53S, long 128,08.54E
We had not intended to go to Ambon because there were stories of dirty port, rubbish and bad anchorages, we are glad that we didn’t listen to that because we had a great couple of days there. Ambon is a large city 50% Muslim and 50% Christian. It is very busy but an excellent cultural experience. We visited the Australian war cemetery which is the resting place of over 600 soldiers from the 2/21 Gull force. It was the site of their barracks and then the POW camp. This was a very moving visit for us.
We stayed an extra day in Ambon with the team on Kelolo and had a great time exploring the beaches further out. Had some fun negotiating with the Bemo drivers who saw us as a new bank account and at the same time hoping we were going in the right direction. The markets in Ambon were an experience on their own which we enjoyed but were saved at one stage by the KFC sign(a surprising but excellent landmark). While we were trying to find the war cemetery we were treated to a ride in a tuk tuk or a rickshaw pushbike. We had to squeeze into the seat and the little Indonesian boy was sweating and puffing. We had an idea that he didn’t know where we wanted to go so we finished up with another trip through the markets causing quite a bit of mirth to the locals seeing the two big Aussies in the little cart. We departed Ambon at 0730hrs for a 2 day and 2 night sail to the Island of Wangiwangi (had some fun with that name) in the Wakatobi group.
Wakatobi Lat 05,16.49S, long 123,33.47E
Leaving Ambon we headed for Wakatobi one of the main events on this leg of the trip. We sailed two overnighters and arrived in at about 11 am on the 16th August a distance of 306nm. We had to wait for the tide as the rally anchorage was inside a reef with a narrow entrance. The man of the moment was Gino, he placed himself on the boat ahead of us and provided a very theatrical version of guiding us all through the gap while screaming at the boats behind on the VHF radio. Safely inside we had a great anchorage for the next week. The town of Wanci was ready for us for sure. They had turned on the welcoming ceremonies and anything else they could think of. There were young high school kids acting as guides and at the same time practicing their English. We were in town for the Indonesian independence day celebrations and were guests of the Regency. The Indonesian people love their uniforms and all the flashy stuff that goes with it. Things were starting to change a bit, the people were not all so poor and a few had goats. We celebrated Carol’s birthday at a little restaurant on the shore with some friends and had a great night. We reluctantly moved on to the southern end of the Wakatobi group of Islands to Hoga. It was a brisk sail (Carol might use other words to describe the sail but I told her she couldn’t swear on the blog) and to date we hadn’t motored much since leaving Darwin. This was to be the case until we left the north of Indonesia for the Flores group of Islands. Hoga, Lat 05,28.85S, Long 123,45.90E was a good destination with a bad anchorage but worth a 2 day stay. White sandy beaches and for the first time we started to think we were in paradise. We snorkelled in crystal clear water with visibility up to 20 meters and drop offs into the wild blue. There were great coral and plenty of fish. The island is a conservation project sponsored by the British and Indonesian governments . Six months of the year it is home to uni students from England who participate in research projects. We had a meal and cold bintangs for lunch, we were very pleased to find excellent hot chips on the menu (simple things excite us these days) and returned to the boats for the off next morning, destination Bonarate’ with an overnight sail planned we all had an early night.
Bonarate’ Lat 07,20.09S, Long 121,04.427E
Bonarate’ is between Sulawesi and Flores and has a history of boat building. The Island across the way has the “number one wood” as we were told. People came from all over Indonesia to have their boats built here. The craft are over 30mtrs long and still built in the traditional way using wooden plugs and no nails or steel fasteners of any kind. There are some photos up on the blog for those interested. Bonarate is off the beaten track as far as tourists are concerned so we were a bit of an attraction with the kids and the adults alike. We were given a tour of the boat building and climbed up inside for a look. The health and safety rules were non- existent. The boats would take over a year to build and depending on the funds coming in from the owners, could take longer. We were adopted by a local guy who spoke good English and there was also a young man who was at school in Makassar studying English just so he could be a tour guide in Bali or somewhere with a tourist trade. He took us on a long walk to his village where we were treated to a drink and some food as special guests of his family. We would struggle walking all the way back to the port so we hired a motorbike with a tray on the back and 7 people managed to fit in. Again a real spectacle for the people of the villages we passed through. There were cheers and other words that we were not sure of. We learnt later that this destination was not recommended because of some unsavoury characters and illegal goings on in the area, I am glad we didn’t hear that because we would have missed a fantastic experience. We headed off first thing for Reo Bay in the western end of Flores island and to join up with the other leg of the rally that had sailed through Kupang in West Timor. We were going to join the tail end of the group as many were well on their way to Bali. After an overnight stay we headed fop Labuan Baju, a busy little city with a European influence, the centre of the Komodo tourist area and dive capital of Flores. We had one more stop on the way at an island called Gilli Bodo, lat 08,22.070S, Long 120,00829E great coral for snorkelling and a protected anchorage, here we saw our first monkeys on the beach.
Labuan Baju 08-29.3’S, 119-52.3’E
LB as it became known on the radio schedules was the first time we started to see other Europeans in the streets. It seemed that the locals and the culture was changing, influenced by the tourism $$$. The supermarkets (we use the term loosely) had more things that we recognised, there was a bakery, restaurants (Italian, Mediterranean, and others, pizza, chickens in the white house with the three red doors, meat at the back of the hardware store and the beer started to get cheaper and more variety (capt happy). We had a good look around the first day we arrived and could see that the poorer side of the city was still there. It is poor in our eyes and we have seen a lot of what we called poor people on this trip but it doesn’t take long to realise that they are existing on what they have and what they know as life. In a way it is a bit of an eye opener to what we need or think we need to survive and how much the $ rules our thinking. There are some lessons to be learned here. Well we are rested and restocked, wined and dined and ready for the next part of our trip through to Komodo Island. We are travelling with John and Pauleen on the Darwin boat, Our Odyssey and really enjoying their company and friendship. Plenty of laughs and good times. We left LB for Subafor Ketjil Lat 08,30.432S, Long 119,42.642E and after a short motor sail we arrived at 11.30am on the 3rd of September 2011.
Subafor Ketjil is an island close to many of the key dive spots on Komodo so there are many big traditional Indonesian boats full of Europeans plying the waters. We spent the day snorkelling and soaking up the scenery, James really enjoying the snorkelling. We discovered a small Italian restaurant/resort on the beach around the corner . We could not resist it and booked in for the following evenings dinner. The boat boys promised to pick us up because the tide ran through very quickly and we might not get back in out dinghies. Seven pm came and went and in true Indonesian fashion we had been forgotten about. Not really true, the boys had become confused when dingy loads of the French contingent from the anchorage turned up and they thought they were us so didn’t come to pick us up. They promised to tow our dinghies behind the boat when they gave us a ride home so we were all happy. Meals were good but the Bintang was warm but we still drank it(that’s commitment for you). We have learnt now that if you want cold drinks you need to give 24hrs notice. Safely back to our yachts courtesy of the boat boys who were still apologizing, we prepared for a new days adventure hoping to see the Komodo dragons in the wild.
Rincha Island, Ranger station Lat 08,38.540S, Long 119,42.92E
We arrived at midday on the 5th of September into a beautiful anchorage protected on all sides with only enough room for a small number of boats. With John and Pauleen’s help we were able to book the tour for 0630hrs the next day and spent the afternoon on some boat jobs and some sleep (hard work this sailing). We were at the ranger station on time in the morning and we met our guide. He explained the walk would take about 2 hours and would cover 5 klms. We “might” see some dragons, monkeys, buffalo, various birds etc. Our guide had a long stick with a fork in the end of it. Hardly the arsenal I think would be necessary to fend off one of those babies. As it turned out we saw a good number of dragons, one monkey in a tree and a water buffalo from a distance. It was the first time we had walked for a long while and it was good to stretch our legs. We finished the tour right on time and headed straight off to an Island known as Pink Beach. We were lucky enough to snag the only buoy. The snorkelling was once again very excellent but you had to keep an eye on the current. Following the advice of one of the local boat operators the next day we followed him out of the anchorage with the promise of the possibility of a swim with the Manta Rays. We were not disappointed, the following evening just of dusk we were amongst a group of snorkelers who did indeed swim with one lone Manta Ray. It would be impossible to know whether it was playing with us or scared of us. I choose to think the lone Manta Ray got as much from the experience as we did.
Bali and Lombok is our next story, we are having a great time. James arrived home safely and we were a bit anxious as we did not hear from him for 3 days. We miss him already, everyone is asking after him so he has made an impression on the group. Until next time DC and Carol