lead up to leaving Oz.
22 July 2009 | Saumlaki Indonesia.
The After negotiating the infamous Clarence Straits with its strong tidal rips, Darwin was in site, our final stop in Oz. Having rushed across the top end in order to replace an electronic display (its always nice to be able to read them) we were keen to get started. The first week in Darwin was taken up with arranging spares to be delivered, finding local tradesmen to do the jobs I couldn't do myself (stainless steel welding is not in my portfolio) and generally getting the boat into order. Our trusty bikes, although a pain in the neck to store on board are a real bonus when it comes to quickly getting across town to shop or buy spares etc. No waiting at bus stops, no taxi fares. In the five pannier bags we can carry so much food that it is almost impossible to lift the rear of the bike. Once riding along we don't notice the weight except on hills. With the repairs situation organised in the first week we had time to relax and work at a more leisurely pace, taking pleasure in crossing items off the 'to do' list each night. If this sounds all too arduous it is not; almost every evening before the 2km dinghy ride back to our boat, we would be easily enticed into the yacht club bar by rally participants we have met along the way. Many a pleasant evening was spent watching the sun set over the sea directly behind the anchored boats, the sunsets made all the more spectacular by the smoke in the atmosphere from grass fires on the nearby aboriginal lands.
After a being in Darwin for a week or so Pete our younger son, arrived from Victoria for a well earned rest in the warm climate. During that time we all just chilled out, Pete fitting well into the cruising life, playing guitar and singing at a barbecue on the fore shore (we do miss the boys musical talents). During his stay we took the opportunity to visit one of the national parks close to Darwin, Kakadu is the more famous one but we chose, on the recommendation of others, to visit Litchfield NP, about 100kms South of Darwin. Quite often it can be disappointing visiting at a place when all there is to go off is the tourist brochure. Litchfield was a pleasant surprise with its many crystal clear swimming holes being an invigorating respite from the salty atmosphere in which we spend most of our time. On the other hand we went to Humpty Doo with a banner emblazoned across the front of the pub "The world Famous Hotel". We think it was used as a set in a Crocodile Dundee film about 20 yrs ago. Our opinion was Humpty don't bother.
Pete was getting used to wading knee deep from the beach to launch the dinghy even though crocodiles are regularly seen there. In fact over 200 a year are trapped in this vicinity. His visit was over all too soon and it was sad to see him leave, even though we know he is enjoying his life in the defence force
Our weeks after Pete left were taken up arranging visas, visiting customs, stocking up the lockers with items that cannot be bought over seas, it was quite funny to go into the supermarket with a the shopping list and find that half the items on the list had all gone, some other damn yachties had beaten us to it. Dried peas and milk powder being the popular items. Everyone takes advantage of duty free, whether it be diesel at 85c a litre or gin at $16 a litre. The difference here is that most travelers are used to buying the odd bottle or two at the airport, boats, however were buying multiple crates of spirits, each containing 12 bottles. We are allowed to carry so much as it is classed as ships stores and so long as only one bottle is taken ashore at a time there is no problem. Wine is also in short supply in Indonesia so most of the cask wine around town was sold out and special orders placed for more. Our friends in a smaller boat than ours bought 44 x 4 litre casks to last until Christmas time!!! We carry about 60 litres of wine which should last a month (only joking ) and enough pills, potions and concoctions to supply a third world country. I would hazard a guess that most boats carry more alcohol than food.
In the last week prior to departure, we could see the stress levels rising with everyone rushing to complete their job lists and keen to get going.
The day we have all been preparing for eventually came, the start of the rally (or should I say melee ) was 11am on the 18th July with boats converging on the start line from all directions. As we are cruising yachts we don't really give a damn for racing rules so it was a free for all with many boats jumping the gun and heading off Northwards. After a day or so the field were widely spread and we would occasionally catch a glimpse of another yacht on the horizon. There were a lot of boats out there but even more sea to swallow them up..
During one of the many briefings and information sessions, Indonesia was summed up as being "Total Hospitality and Total Chaos". I am writing this sat at anchor awaiting quarantine and customs clearance along with all the rest of the fleet, some of which arrived a day before us. On the radio schedule we found out that there had been delays processing yachts yesterday as the Immigration officer didn't turn up. The one that did arrive today was expecting to process 40 people not 400. - Total Chaos. Patience has never been one of my virtues so this could be testing.
Best Wishes Dave and Jean WdthW
Photos to follow when I get an internet connection.
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