11 October 2009 | Off the coast of Borneo Indonesia.
Indonesia Part 2
OK OK, I know I said I would be updating within a week but life has been very full on. Never the less here goes. From Ambon we headed west to Wakatobi off Sulawesi. Wakatobi is trying to build its tourism industry based on some fantastic diving and snorkelling areas. It took us 2 or 3 days to get from Ambon to the island of Wangi Wangi, we arrived early morning and picked up one of the newly laid moorings the local government had laid for the rally boats. Later that day we were invited to a welcoming dinner at the regent's palace, it was totally unexpected as we were ahead of the main rally. The crew from about 6 boats attended and were treated royally with a wonderful dinner and entertainment. The day after we sat for most of the afternoon in the gutter watching the school kids marching around town for their annual marching competition. Later that evening we were told that Saturday was a day when the families, grannies, grandpas and other groups were out marching. Over too many bottles of the local brew, Peter, Dell (Pacific Express) Jean and I thought it might be a good idea if we joined them. In the morning, before going on a tour we inquired with local liaison people about entering a team and they seemed so excited by the idea that they called the government, before we knew what was going on we were officially registered into the march, at this point of time there were only 4 of us. A general call was put out to all Sail Indo boats and by the time we arrived back from the tour we had a team of about 20 dressed in SI tee shirts and looking like a right motley crew. With only half and hour to practice, Peter and I (both ex military) turned this group into a group that looked like they had had half an hours practice. To put this in context ahead of us in the march was a team of Moslem woman immaculately dressed and marching with military precision and behind us another group of women in a pseudo navy uniform also marching with style and precision. The march lasted a couple of hours through the streets lined with thousands of the town's folk. To cut a long story short we went down a treat and were invited back to the Regents house for refreshments after the march so he could thank us. That evening we were featured on TV and became overnight celebrities. We were invited to be official guests at the Independence Day celebrations, etc etc. We had a wonderful time and were made so genuinely welcome.
After Wakatobi we headed south again to the island of Flores, a 3 day sail and spent a week anchored off the Sea World resort where once again we were treated so well. The owners of the resort put aside tables in the restaurant specifically for the visiting yachts and we were allowed to use the facilities of the resort at no charge. Whilst in this area we took a trip into the interior and had our first view of the intricate patterns of rice paddy fields as well as cocoa trees and other exotic plants. One of the things we have found amusing is the way Indonesians cram as many people as possible onto the available transport. The record so far is a family of 6 on a Honda 125 moped. On our way down from the mountains we were passed by a bemo (mini bus taxi) full of young men and 4 or 5 on the roof holding on whilst the driver negotiated the mountain bends!! Another first was a visit to the local market by ojek (moped taxi). The markets are quite big and full of excellent quality local produce, most stalls sell the same things for around the same price, we were amazed as to how they could make a living.
Continuing along the coast of Flores we stopped at the island capital of Labuan Bajo and anchored 3 or 4 miles south of the noisy main harbour, even before we had the anchor in place we were approached by the local boat boys offering to sell us diesel, petrol, water etc at highly inflated prices. Having negotiated an acceptable price we made use of their services. It was quite handy to have them ferry us into town of an evening in their water taxi and be waiting to take us back at an appointed time. Having said that these were no luxury craft, they were narrow and noisy, driven by a big single cylinder Chinese engine without any silencer. Conversation was impossible and vision became difficult when the engine was cranked up. Jean pointed to something in the water saying can you see that, my response was no as my eyes are bouncing like ping pong balls in the sockets. Labuan Bajo is a major tourist centre being the main departure point for Komodo national park. As a result we were constantly bombarded by hawkers trying to sell carvings of dragons or local cultured pearls etc. I know they are trying to make a living but it does become tiresome after a while especially when you say you are not interested, in the nicest possible way, yet they still persist.
From Labuan Bajo we headed for the Komodo National Park spending a week dragon hunting (camera only) and relaxing in some fine anchorages where the snorkelling is the best we have ever done. We had a guide for a few hours who told us all about the Komodo dragons; he was very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. The dragons are on only three islands and you cannot fail to see them, sometimes however, they are so well hidden that it is possible to trip over them, not recommended. Hence the need for a guide. They feed on deer, buffalo, monkeys and the occasional human who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. When you consider the relative size of a dragon and buffalo you would think it impossible for the dragon to win the battle however it takes only one bite and the deadly bacteria in the saliva does the rest over a couple of days. If a human is bitten immediate hospitalisation is required and the antidote applied within 3-6 hrs. However in typical Indonesian style the nearest antidote is in Bali at least a day away!!!! There are no dragons in Bali.
The snorkelling was superb in our bay were a couple of manta rays which would come up close before gracefully gliding away. When one is heading straight for you with its large oval mouth wide open, the thought does enter your head, "I hope I am right and these are plankton eaters" Around the other side or our island was a drift snorkel where by timing the tides correctly we drift through schools of small and not too small fish lingering over a deep gully and waiting for a feed. We saw giant trevally over a meter long and on one occasion about 10 mtrs down was a large shark. Time to get out as I can't tell the difference between a dangerous shark and a goldfish.
We were having a great time in the national park but because of the time constraints of our visa we had to keep moving. From Komodo to Lombok we had to travel past Sumbawa an island not noted for its friendliness to visitors. At one anchorage we were inundated by local villagers wanting donations of tee shirts, hats cigarettes etc. We did however buy some fish from one of the boats and asked if he had papaya as our friends had bought some from him and were happy with the purchase. The boatman came back 15 mins later and with a long yellow fruit that resembled a papaya. The day after, Jean was preparing it for breakfast and to our disappointment found we had been duped and given an unripe coconut.
Onto Lombok we had a great time at the organised rally events which included the welcome ceremony with its obligatory speeches, local dancing displays and music. Lombok like many Indonesian islands is predominantly Moslem and to see young men and women dressed in robes and headdress, playing a mixture of traditional music and rock music was charming.
After Lombok we sailed onto Bali, a place where I was looking forward to. We expected to stay a few weeks but were disappointed and managed only a week. We hired a motor cycle and rode to Ubud said to be the cultural heart of Bali and indeed there are some very attractive parts to it IF you can see past the commercialism that in my opinion spoils the whole experience. Bali was just one large market place with hawkers and sellers everywhere. We didn't bother going to the infamous Kuta beach on the south of the island as it is meant to be infinitely worse. After a week we were more than ready to leave Bali and set off on the 400 mile trip to the jungles of Borneo to visit the Orang Utan sanctuary. The blog is now up to date as I am writing this in site of the Borneo coast. The water is cloudy, the visibility is hazy, a warm wind is blowing, its hot and sticky, there are flashes of lightening, looks like we are in for an interesting time. Can't wait.
Thanks for all the comments after the last episode it is heartening to know people are reading.
Best wishes Dave and Jean WdtW Have fun we are.
Dave and Jean WdtW
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