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Hey Mr!

05 August 2015 | Debut, South Moluccas Indonesia Rally Stop #1
Heather
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Wow! We're in Indonesia. Its been such a long time coming. It has started out fantastic. The first stop on the "Wonderful Sail 2 Indonesia Rally", sponsored by the Indonesian government was Debut in the Kei Islands. I read that Indonesia is as wide as the USA, has 13,466 diverse islands and even has glaciers! Debut was our easternmost point in Indonesia, so we're not visiting Papua, home of the glacier. Most of the fleet arrived very close together so we all filed into the large, protected anchorage in the town of Debut. There were several official escort boats that came out to guide each boat in which made it very easy. Once anchored, several kalulis (local transport boats) filled with singing kids meandered through the boats acting as our welcoming party. They would call out what English they knew and often it was the "Hey Mister" and "I love you" that would stand out. The officials had their hands full checking us all in but by the end of the next day, most everyone had their paperwork done and we all had many rubber stamped pages to hold on to. They were friendly when they boarded our boat, curious about everything. One of them had a cold though... and one used our head like it was a bidet.....

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

The morning after we arrived, after a great night's sleep, we started right off with a tour with 4 other cruisers so that we could get out and see some of the island while waiting for everyone to get settled and festivities to begin. The Kei Islands are primarily known for their beautiful white sand beaches, pearl farming, and their hospitality. Half of Debut is Catholic & the other half Muslim. We were based on the Catholic side but the anchorage was more on the Muslim side so we had a good taste of the prayer song coming from 2 mosques on shore nearby. It added a unique feel to being here. I read that the Indonesian coat of arms bears the motto: Unity In Diversity, so hopefully the religious violence that has troubled this country in the past is gone for good.

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

There were also 2 pearl boats that had come in for I presume servicing of some sort- they're usually anchored off in groups- and these boats were like nothing we'd ever seen before. Large, wood platforms with nets underneath that hold the oysters and towers supported by long lengths of wire or line, it was just very picturesque, set against a mosque in the distance. We visited a cave, then a local swimming hole which is also the start of the spring that forms their water supply, we visited the veggie market which was a good eye opener that we are back in the islands!! And we struggled, like everyone else to get our phone/internet working (not much luck with that!), had a lunch prepared for us and then went to the beach. They cultivate seaweed here, and dry it on large racks on the beach. It is then exported for use in agar (for petri dishes), beverage conditioners and cosmetics. It was a nice day and while we didn't visit any amazing sites, it was nice to get out and see some of this new place. We came away feeling very welcome by extremely friendly people, relieved to see that the villages were tidy and full of colorful flags, arching over cute concrete roads lined with cared for homes and flowering plants.

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Then the next day, the festivities for the rally began- a marathon of sorts with very full days but so much fun! It started out with an official welcome ceremony on the wharf where we were to get the first cue that we were a little like movie stars. There were so many officials there it was hard to tell who was who, there were dance performances, a band, food, a large tent, fabric draped chairs for us to sit in. We were led through town to the schools to visit the kids, down to a waterside fair for lunch that was filled with special stalls selling local food treats. We've never had our picture taken so many times but it was so much fun to see the big smiles of the people and the kids in all their fancy costumes. In looking at our photos, we notice that we're quite a bit taller than most Indonesians! We sat in various classrooms in the school and sang songs, practiced English & Bahasa and just enjoyed being together for a bit. On subsequent days, we were bussed (with white satin covered seats) to more performances, places of interest and we were even IN a parade! Every time we sat down for a performance, we were given individual snack boxes of treats to eat & water to drink. We're thinking that the performances are mainly about the costumes rather than the dancing itself. We received gift bags with info on Indonesia and another t-shirt and the town put on a gala dinner for us. I don't think there was anyone who didn't feel a bit overwhelmed, very thankful and surprised at the warmest welcome one could ever ask for. By the end of the 3 or 4 days of events, we were all tuckered out and ready for some quiet time to process it all. It would appear that every time we move to a new stop, it will be a at least a couple of days to get there. It was 200 miles to stop 2- the Banda Islands, which is where we are now, so I guess there's even down time built in!

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Our initial impressions of Indonesia are firstly a sense of relief that we made the right choice doing a rally. Our paperwork, at least for stop 1 was smooth and easy. We like the people we're traveling with and have made many new friends. Whatever hardships we encounter will surely be made easier by having strength in numbers. On shore, there were numerous rally staff waiting to help us- from tying up the dinghy, arranging a tour or guiding us to the next event. The village was clean & spiffy and you could tell that there was much anticipation of our visit. The kids come running out of every corner yelling "Hey Mr!" because that is for some reason one of the first words they learn... There were banners all over the island announcing the rally and there was no question that they rolled out the red carpet for us. While its always hard for us to leave the manicured beauty & ease of the first world countries we visit, we do get rich experiences from traveling to these faraway places that are still developing. So I think this rally helps fill in the meaningful parts that broaden our thinking and give us more understanding for how the rest of the world lives while still buffering it somewhat. I am now aware that stops outside the rally might not be as tame since some people we know tried it out.

The Muslim religion is all new for us. Hearing the "music" from the mosques is unusual- not quite like bells! We were told they don't use prayer mats here and the wearing of the jihab vs not is about half. It's another first to see them being sold in the stores- in all sorts of colors and styles, displayed on mannequins!

We're still getting used to the big numbers it takes to use the Rupiah currency here. 100,000RP is about $7.40US so you can see where all the zeros can get complicated. For anything of any value, you are in to the millions for RP. Not good for someone who isn't good at math!

So far we've had a couple of meals out that we've really enjoyed (and a few others that were just OK in our opinion) and I can see how people would rave about the abundance of food when you eat out since it is often served buffet style and there are many dishes to sample. And with the exchange rate, it is very inexpensive. We're enjoying it, we do find it salty, just like we do elsewhere, and we like the meals we cook onboard too. And we're still learning about how it's prepared.

What would be REALLY good is if the rally could insulate us from GI issues, colds & tropical illnesses too! After about as many handshakes as poses for pictures in Debut, we were all exposed to a hum dinger of a cold virus that one by one, has gotten nearly every one of us! It was such great timing too since we had a 200 mile passage from Debut to the Banda Islands so it could incubate during that time and then nab us once we got here! What's worse, some poor folks went ashore to a local dinner on the last night in Debut and they came back with a case of GI distress. Then they got the cold! We had one of those onboard meals and were safe! I figure we made it out of Australia without getting stung by a jelly, bitten by a shark, dingo, snake, spider or croc & no toes were lost to the terrible toadfish. But I have a feeling we won't be so lucky here. Our general motto is if it doesn't kill us it'll probably make us stronger, but I don't really feel like testing it out.

We're now in the famous Banda Islands, rally stop 2, rafted to Slip Away in front of a dive shop. Its a primo spot. We can't dive of course, because our heads are still full from the cold, but we're hoping to be healthy by Friday. Meanwhile, we've done lots of really fun things here. And, we're learning to speak Indonesian! Will report on the Bandas soon!
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Comments
Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Hello! We are Heather & Jon Turgeon of S/V Evergreen. We started sailing in 1994 on our first boat, a Cape Dory 31, then sought out a Tashiba 40 that could take us around the globe. It has been our home for 19 years. We've thoroughly cruised the East coast and Caribbean and just completed our [...]
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