Monday 26 September 2016

Riung, Komodo and Lombok

Indonesia 28 August – 12 September

Riung 28 August – 1 September

Our first impression of Riung was not positive. A long hot walk into town, a couple of restaurants that did not seem particularly inviting, a small fruit and vegetable market  - but they did have an ATM and we were running short of cash. You can get 2.5 million Rupiah from the cash machine each day, that is £150 but few places actually have one, so you need to stock up while you can.  The maximum note value is 100,000 Rupiah (about £6) and most ATMs dispense 50,000 Rupiah notes - a good few inches of notes to try and put in your wallet.

We arranged a trip to see the remote village of Bena which is high in the mountains with animistic rituals that carry on today, despite most of them now being catholic. We went with Beez Neez (Pepe and Bear from England) and Matilda (Bruce and Debs from Australia), setting off at 7:30am. Well we would have done if the car had been big enough. After half an hour the guide and the driver turned up with a larger car, one that we could all fit into. On route we agreed we would go to the hot springs for a swim although it would add an extra hour to the already three and a half hour journey to Bena.

The mountain scenery was beautiful as we relentlessly climbed higher. The roads were not so beautiful with  repairs were still in progress after the last monsoon season so we dodged pot holes like you have never seen (we will never again complain about the roads in the UK) and heaps of road building material blocking almost the entire road. We often had to slow to 5 mph so the car was not shaken to bits on the road.

A puncture high in the Mountains

The "garage"
Two hours after we set off we were on the road side while the driver changed a punctured tyre. However the spare was in an even worse condition and itself punctured. To our surprise a passing motor cyclist stopped and said that there was a garage 200m down the road – all we could see was a farm building. Nonetheless when we got there, we saw a small wooden hut and a couple of people with a crow bar. 

First attempt at removing the tyre
If all else fails!
An hour later while we watched them unsuccessfully try and get the tyre off the rim with their crow bar and the use of some small stones, they stopped a passing car to help. By placing the tyre in front of the car and driving onto the outside of the tyre, they finally managed to get the tyre off the rim. The inner tube from the spare was mended using a rubber patch literally melted onto the tube over a hot flame and they got the puncture mended and the car back on the road – 2 hours after we arrived at the garage!
Patching the inner tube

When I remarked how lucky we were to have a puncture outside the garage, our guide was less surprised, not because there are lots of garages but the nail that punctured our tyre was doubtless put in the road by the garage themselves – a common practice by some less scrupulous places.

The Hot Springs and Lunch

Six hours after leaving the boat that morning we finally arrived at the hot springs and indeed the water that bubbled up from deep inside the earth was very hot. We all looked like lobsters when we got out and plunged into the slightly cooler water further down the stream to cool off. A very pleasant interlude but we still needed to get to Bena which was a further couple of hours drive.

The quick stop for lunch on the way was anything but quick. We should have asked what they could prepare quickly and had that rather than wait for an hour for them to cook the curry our guide recommended. During lunch we had two minor earth tremors when the windows and tables rattled for about 30 seconds – a little disconcerting but no-one took any notice and carried on as normal.

Village of Bena

The village of Bena
The skulls
The village of Bena is made up of nine clans who live together in We could only stay an hour or so before it got dark but well worth the effort.
One of the weavers
groups of traditional wooden houses with high thatched roofs on either side of one street. The houses have the skulls of water buffalo and jawbones hung outside that
Commeration of past battles
signifies the wealth of the family. In the centre of the village are ngadhu (male) and bhaga (female) structures which are miniature houses built to commemorate ancestors killed in battles. There are also and megalithic structures where they ritually slaughter animals which is part of their traditional belief systems. They are famous for their weaving but also now are a tourist attraction, making money from intrepid tourists with enough time to make the journey up the remote mountains.
The drive back was on the direct road but still took another four hours on slightly better roads, but only slightly. At 10pm we arrived back at Riung and thoughtfully the guide had phoned our food order to the local restaurant (where he also happens to be a chef) so it was waiting for us when we arrived.  Along with a good few beers.

Chicken delivery for local restaurant
The next day we walked back into town, which by now was growing on us, and we bought the fruit and vegetables in the market for the next few days. We stopped at the café on the way back for some fruit juice where the local policeman who owns the café wanted to have a photo taken with us and almost made it back to the dinghy before being waylaid for a beer at the waterside café with some of the other rally boats.

The welcome ceremony was ironically planned for the last
Traditional fighting
afternoon we were there with a display of dancing and their traditional fighting – one man using a whip while the other defended himself with a shield. The locals whooped with joy when the man with the whip caught his opponent and then they changed weapons and carried on. All quite exciting.

Despite our first impressions, we had grown to like the town but we had to move on.

Bari Bay 1 August

We stopped at Bari Bay because it was the furthest we could sail in one day,and night sailing along the coast is fraught with problems – ships without lights and heavy wooden structures (fish attracting devices) anchored off shore. We anchored about half a mile from the shore at Bari Bay and soon as we arrived we saw the first children get in a canoe to come and say hello. It took them a long while to paddle out to us and we went through the normal dialogue – our names, where we were from, their names etc.  also giving out pens and books to them.

The first two canoes went back to the village and then the next lot came out in the same canoes. All this took a long time because of the distance so the number of children coming out was moderated by the oncoming darkness. The last canoe was full of girls, probably because there had been the call of prayer and the boys had gone to the mosque leaving the canoes available.

Gili Bodo 2 August – 4 August

We keep in contact with the other boats on the SSB radio each morning at 8am to find out where they have been and which places are worth stopping at. We were recommended to go to Gili Bodo for the clear water and excellent snorkelling and as it was only twelve miles away we decided to have a look. We did not leave for two days!

Other rally boats joined us and we spent the days exploring the reef in a perfect setting and a calm anchorage. The final night we had a drinks party on the beach and Michael and Ginny invited us all back to Wishful Thinking for something to eat. With great excitement we saw some squid swimming at the back of the boat and Ginny grabbed the casting net to try and nab a couple.

The net is about one metre in diameter and five metres in depth with weights at the bottom so that once cast it sinks over the squid. The art is to throw the net while spinning it so that the net lands on the top of the water in a wide circle before it then sinks over the squid.  Despite some good instruction on how to fold the net and how to cast it, I made it look difficult and failed to catch anything -others were more successful and caught a couple of squid. However, we then lost the net when Michael let go of the recovery line and it sunk in 7m of water. It was his boat and his net and I think we were all relieved it was him and not us that lost the net. It was all good fun and reluctantly we left the next morning to get to Labuan Bajo.

Labuan Bajo 4 – 6 September

Some of the other boats were already in Labuan Bajo when we arrived at lunchtime and we as soon as we anchored we received a call on the VHF to meet in one of the restaurants for lunch. The town was much busier than any of the other towns we had visited and had some good restaurants and bars to cater for the backpackers exploring away from the main tourist centre of Bali.

After lunch we explored the town and we were persuaded to have a quick drink before going back to the boat.  This ended up with us all staying the evening on shore and eating in one of the two Italian restaurants. We had our first bottle of wine with the meal which was a real treat- restaurants that have served alcohol only served Bintang (the local beer) and we had our first steak since leaving Cairns which was actually very good.

Komodo Dragons

The boat trip
The next day we had arranged with five of the other boats to take trip to Rinca which is one of the five islands where the Komodo dragons live. These are huge lizards that eat deer and water buffalo, and people if they get the chance. We were picked up at 7am to take the local boat across to Rinca for the hour and a half journey, arriving before the main tourist rush on the island.

Dragons at the base camp
Ranger with his stick
We opted for the two hour tour of the island with a couple of rangers who carry sticks to fend off the dragons should they attack. Five guides have died from attacks by the dragons, the last one was just two years ago so we were pleased to have the guides with us (and it is obligatory). The dragons live out in the wild and all that remain of their prey is the skull – they eat all the bones as well as the meat. Disappointingly they did not breath fire or fly.

Female guarding her nest
We came across a couple of nests where the female dragon buries her eggs and then spends three months protecting the eggs from predicators. Once born, the young dragons live in the trees to avoid being eaten by other dragons for the first five years, surviving on geckos mainly. Only when they are big enough to fight back do they live back on the ground, by which time they are too big and heavy to climb trees anymore.

Dragons can move at 30 KPH!
The typical tourist picture
A small number of dragons live at the base camp where the guides live, attracted by the food but we are told they do not feed them. We had our pictures taken with these dragons, protected by a couple of guides with their sticks in case of attack. It was a well worth while trip, seeing ancient animals still living in the wild and something you cannot see anywhere else.

We arrived back in Labuan Bajo in the afternoon and took a final trip into town to stock up on vegetables for our trip to five days sail to Lombok. The best part of the town was the night market which sold fruit and vegetables and had lots of stalls selling food freshly cooked over a wood burning BBQ. It was very lively with many locals eating at the tables but we were running out of time and needed to move on so did not get the chance to eat there. Ideally we would have liked to spend more time in Labuan Bajo but we needed to get to Bali by 13 September to get our visas renewed and we still had a long way to go to get there and places to see on route.

Komodo Island 6 -7 September

We had planned to spend three days in the Komodo National Park, renowned not just for the dragons but also diving and snorkelling. At the first stop we looked for a buoy so we could snorkel with the manta rays but they did not exist. Some local boat were at anchor so we did the same. That is until the dive boats started to turn up and we were all told to move on as we were anchored illegally. We saw the manta rays as we left but were unable to get in the water and swim with them.

One of the other boats who had anchored in another bay were approached by five uniformed men checking passes which none of us had. They were charged 450,000 Rupiah for a day pass which they would have to renew each day. Another boat was approached by another group, two of whom had sub machine guns and again were charged for being in the park. Fair enough you may think, if a little heavy handed, but none of them had identification and could not provide a receipt for the money.  Also the charges seemed arbitrary and we were well over the official charges made by the park so it looks as though it was a scam. Not that the boats were in a position to argue but everyone (apart from us) decided that they would move on out of the park.

We stayed another night and found some excellent snorkelling in the fast moving water between two of the islands. We took the dinghy up-stream and then enjoyed an exhilarating drift dive at some 4 knots over the coral, holding on tight to the dinghy painter as we drifted. Swimming back in shore enabled us to get out of the current and swim back to the start to do it over again. After a couple of hours we went back to the boat and slept well that night.

The next day we sailed 12 miles to the next island which was out of the national park. The current between the two islands was fierce, with wind against tide producing dangerous standing waves in parts. The anchorage was calm but very murky with the sand stirred up in the fast flowing waters off shore.

Travel to Lombok 7 – 10 September

The next morning we left at first light to sail the 60 miles to the next anchorage. Out of the quiet of the anchorage, we were back out in the main tidal stream between the two islands which was against us and we spent three hours covering 6 miles before we finally escaped the four knot tide. We managed to sail for about 6 hours, the first time we had sailed rather than motored for the last couple of weeks but then the wind died again.

Arriving at the next place at 6:30pm, we anchored in the twilight which was too late for the children to canoe out to us. We headed off two hours before sunrise since we had 80 miles to cover before dark to arrive in Lombok. Catherine spent an hour and half on the bow with a torch looking out for the wooden fish attracting devices before it was light enough to see and we could once again relax. It was a long day and we finally arrived in Lombok at 6pm and anchored in what was called a marina – basically a jetty, a marina office (an open area with a roof on) and a restaurant.  We would call it an anchorage in England.

Lombok 10 September – 12 September

We met up at the restaurant with about 15 of the other boats for a few drinks and dinner ashore only to learn that we had only one day there before we had to head off to Bali for our visa renewal – everything had been bought forward as there was a holiday in Bali the following weekend and they needed extra time to process the extensions. We would be fined if our visas run out before they were renewed.

Lombok still has a lot of horses and carts
Waiting for the peanuts
We joined with a couple of other boats the next day to take a tour of Lombok by taxi. Lombok is a developing tourist island and so has good infrastructure. The relative wealth on the island was in stark contrast to all the other places we had visited in Indonesia and there were a lot more white people there. We drove through “the monkey highway” where the road is lined with monkeys encouraged by passing m
Monkey's party trick
otorists throwing peanuts from their cars. We stopped to take some pictures and they were very friendly monkey and one even demonstrated opening a bottle of water and drinking from the bottle to our amazement.

After we paid our entry fee for the Hindu temple, we were given yellow sashes to wear as we walked round and refused a guide. However, the guide was not going to take no for an answer and corralled us to walk round with him while he explained the significance of each part of the temple. One of the more interesting points was that the temple is used as a meeting place for all the religious leaders of the island every month – the Muslims, Christians and Hindus. The purpose of the meeting is to maintain the harmony and tolerance that exists between all the religions on the island.

We arrived at the pottery village later than planned and after some hard bargaining we bought a couple of candle holders and a clay cooking pot which could be used on the stove and in the oven which they demonstrated – all for less than £15. I am sure we will find a use for it! There was an extensive range of pottery on offer and is one of the main tourist attractions.

After lunch we took a drive through the main tourist area which is a very attractive coastal route with many resorts, hotels and markets. We would have happily stayed in one of the resorts for a few days but we had no time to spare. In fact we could have easily spent a week in Lombok and felt a little short changed in having only one day there. It is probably like Bali was 20 years ago – still unspoiled but with some very upmarket places.

We decided to walk into the village that night to find a local restaurant along a very dark road with lots of traffic. After 30 minutes a car stopped and asked us where we were going, informing us that all the restaurants were closed as it was a public holiday. However the “Quick Chicken” place was open and he took all six of us in his car in two trips.

The food was quick but made Kentucky Fried Chicken look good. Our benefactor stayed in the restaurant with us and gave us all a lift back to the marina in his car. He was Irish, married to an Indonesian and had lived on the island for the last 12 years. He was now retired, at the age of 35, and was keen to learn of our exploits on the high seas in return for the lift. A fair exchange.

The next day we set off for Bali.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Wanci and Flores 4 Aug - 27 Aug

Wanci and Flores 4 August – 27th August 2016

From Banda Neira we sailed directly to Wanci on Wangi-Wangi missing out Namrole which should have been our next stop. The three day sail was again a little rough but at least we had no more rain after we had just managed to dry out the boat from the last deluge. We arrived at 10am in the morning. 

Wanci 7 August -10 August

Wanci can be a difficult anchorage to get into and we were met by the harbourmaster Gino who guided us in. In the evening was our first welcome ceremony, with speeches in Indonesian without an English translation. They provided some traditional food and some dancing but it seemed to be a celebration for something else (not sure what) which we had been tagged on to. We were still tired after our sail and broken sleep for three days but I did catch up on some sleep at the ceremony despite my best efforts to keep awake (and Catherine nudging me every two minutes).

Girls awaiting their suitors
Parading round before the start
I attended the Match Making Ceremony with the other rally boats the next day while Catherine stayed in bed after putting her back out lifting the dinghy engine. Traditionally, the ceremony is held once or twice a year and the unmarried girls dress up and sit in a big circle while the boys walk around, deciding who they want as a future bride. A boy shows interest in a girl by buying a drink from her (coke or sprite nowadays) and if she likes him she gives him a gift – then it is a match. To signal that they are now a couple, they sit on a big swing in the middle of the festival which announces to every one of their intentions.

The Mothers
While the festival carries on to this day, it has become more of a day out than a serious attempt at match making since boys and girls do now mix at schools. Nonetheless, there were about 2000 people attending the festival with the mothers enjoying the event as much as the girls and boys who still acted out the ritual. I managed to get engaged five times during the event, as the girls were very keen to come and offer drinks to me (for a fee it has to be said) and we were all treated like celebrities with everyone keen to have their picture taken with us.

The following day I went shopping while Catherine was still incapacitated on the boat and I took one of the young guides with me. Her English was very good and she acted as my interpreter, selecting the fruit and vegetables and agreeing the price. All I had to do was hand over the cash - easier than shopping with Catherine.

In the evening we had Mike and Sue from Lusi over for drinks before we all headed to the night market to find something to eat. There was only café open and only one item on the menu - a chicken broth with an option of rice wrapped in palm leaves and a hard-boiled egg. We sat with the locals eating the delicious soup. £2 well spent.

The next day we set off for Hoga, one of the top diving sites in the world.

Hoga 11 August – 14 August

Hoga was not on the itinerary but is supposed to be one of the best dive sites in Indonesia if not the world and only 30 miles away from Wanci. So like many of the other boats we sailed there just to spend one night and do some snorkelling. We arrived too late to swim that night but the next morning we took the dinghy round to the main reef. It was probably the best place we had snorkelled for the variety of fish and coral anywhere we have been. Huge schools of fish and many that we had never seen before including a large Lion fish. The water was very warm and clear and there was no way that we could leave the next day so missed out the next official stop on the rally and spend the time there.

Part of the Scientific Centre
Jetty overlooking the Scientific Centre
We walked around the scientific centre on the island where mainly British scientists and marine biologists spend 3 months each year studying the reef. I can see the attraction for the scientists, an idyllic island in Indonesia, fantastic diving but not quite why it should be a British site - when we left England we did not seem to have many coral reefs.

In the evening we had drinks on Soul, one of the large catamarans in the fleet, and all the 10 boats in the anchorage enjoyed a night together. This is where Cats are ideal and 20 people on the boat did not seem crowded. As is customary, each boat takes some food to share and their own drinks which makes for a good variety. To cap it all, as the sun set we saw the green flash just as the sun set and it drew a large cheer from all those on board. A rare event which very few people had seen before including us.

The next day we arranged for the three remaining boats to go snorkelling  and then to the resort on the island for lunch. With no guests in the resort we took the kitchen staff by surprise with eight people for lunch but they turned out a great lunch with noodles and fresh fish. We did however drink them out of all their beer but then they only had six bottles in stock.
Backdrop to Kroko Island

We set off the next day to go to Kroko island, another non-official stop but one the pilot guide suggests as a must do. We arrived the next morning at a very scenic anchorage with towering volcanos providing a backdrop with isolated sand spit just in front of us.

Kroko Island 15 August – 18 August

The first day it was just us and Max, a 54 foot Amel, and we joined Herve and Corinne for a coffee in the afternoon after an abortive attempt to find some good snorkelling. Herve is a born story teller with a common theme – bru  A very entertaining afternoon.
shes with Customs Officials in various countries. The French seem to be targeted by Customs since it is assumed they must have lots of wine on board – which is true of course.

Playing Finska
Arriving at the sandspit for the BBQ
The next day, we were invaded by another 10 rally boats in the anchorage which the pilot guide suggested had a limit of four boats. All anchored without any problem and that evening we had a BBQ on the sand spit together with a game of Finska (a sort of skittles) which by co-incidence we had played in Belgium with our children a few months earlier. We lined up a girls vs boys team which has to be said was won by the boys by a wide margin, mainly by a few lucky throws rather than any skill. After being treated to raft of songs accompanied by the ukulele and guitar and salad with sausages cooked on the fire we finally left at midnight to go back to our boats under the full moon. What a great night.

Dacing the night away
Once we found the right spot for snorkelling it was very good although you had to put our experiences of Hoga out of mind to appreciate it. It was such a lovely spot we stayed another night and were invited over to Wishful Thinking the next day both to celebrate Mike’s birthday and play some competitive Crib. After Ginny and I had been beaten by Mike and Catherine we were treated to home-made bread and fried squid for lunch bought from the local fishermen.

We all met on the sand spit for drinks that evening and with a certain reluctance left the next morning.

Maumere 20 August – 24 August

On the way to Maumere we stopped at two anchorages -Tanjung Gedong and Pulau Besar. As is usual we attract a lot of attention from the locals. As soon as you anchor, or even before, wooden canoes will be paddling out to your boat to see what you have on offer. They are mainly children and some will have something to barter even if it is only shells but others just looking for a gift. At Tanjung Gedong there was a lot of this and our supply of pens and notebooks (highly prized gifts here) was severely depleted.

We had stopped at Palau Besar, a small island, expecting to see a small stilted fishing village as is fairly common along the coast. However a few years ago they had been struck by a tidal wave and most of the village had been damaged. A new village had been built further inland by the government and we could see it in the distance. It was a ghost town they had not taken into account that these people were poor fishermen and it was too far from the sea. Most villagers had moved back along the coastleaving a ghost town behind them.

Maumere 20 August – 24 August

Provisioning in the market
We arrived at Sea World, a resort 5 miles from the town of Maumere which hosted the rally for three days. With rumours of a supermarket in the town, the next day a group of us took taxis to the supermarket and then onto the local market. It was the best stocked shop we have seen since we arrived in Indonesia and managed to stock up on a few things but our expectations did not match the reality – long time since we had seen anything resembling a proper shop. The market however was better and we managed to buy all the fresh fruit and vegetables we needed for the next week.

Dining on the beach
Local dancers
The gala dinner and welcome ceremony was very well done with tables laid out on the beach and a buffet of delicious local food. This was accompanied by traditional music and dancing where once again we were encouraged to join in. I have never let a lack of rhythm stop me and that night was no exception but Catherine did well. There was also a parade of traditional costumes from the different areas around that regency. Stunningly beautiful as were the girls although I was later told that they were lady boys. Not sure if I believe that.

Cruisers joining in with the dancing

No idea what day of the week it was but the next day we decided it would be a Sunday – no boat jobs, no provisioning, cleaning or sorting out the boat. We spent the day on the boat, relaxing and reading until the evening when Peter and Kim joined us for a drink - we had last seen them in Port Douglas in Australia awaiting parts for their autopilot and had only just caught up with the rally again. They are great company and it would  be the last time we would see them as they are staying in Flores and leaving their boat there. They will be sailing in Indonesia six months each year over the next 4 years, spending the rest of their time back in New Zealand. What a great idea and it set us thinking about how we could do that – leave the boat in Thailand and spend six months in the UK and six months back on the boat, maybe completing our circumnavigation in six month chunks. It has given us something to think about.

Maurole 24 August – 27 August

Quite a smart shop
Main street in Maurole
Maurole is a large village but interesting, mainly small shops and a traditional market. The following day we took a trip to Kelimutu National Park where three coloured lakes are formed in the cauldron of a volcano starting at 6:30am for the three hour drive. We declined the offer to go with the first group leaving at 4am which was just as well since we had to re-anchor the boat before we left as the wind had changed.

We drove along roads that were good in places but with big pot holes and unmade sections which made it slow and very bumpy at times. It was good to be able to explore the interior of the island and as we got higher so the rain started. We arrived at entrance to the National Park at 9am and it looked like the rain had set in for the day and we could not walk the final 800m up to see the lakes. However the group of 20 of us decided we had come this far and we would take the risk that it might clear and by the time we set off on the walk, the cloud had lifted and we had sunshine.

Two of the lakes
One of the more inquisitive monkeys
The lakes are supposed to change colour, depending on the amount of oxygen in the water but all we saw was two lakes with green water with some steam rising out from the heat of the volcano and the other darker blue lake. Unfortunately not the red lake that was in all the literature. Pretty enough and we also saw our first close up monkeys who showed little interest in us as we walked past. Just before we started back down along the track, the clouds once again descended, obliterating the view and it rained all the way down.  We were in high spirits since the journey had not been wasted and we stopped on the route back for lunch in a restaurant nestled among the hills.

We arrived back at 5:30, exhausted after our day of travels and I had to change the gas bottle to the one I had bought in Australia to make some tea– in theory all I had to do was changed the connecting lead since the new bottle had a different fitting - a two minute job. Two hours later we still did not have any gas after I had fixed two of the three gas leaks in the new hose accompanied by a lot of bad language.  It was late by this time and I gave up, too tired to do anymore or go to the final gala dinner. So with no gas we had cheese and biscuits for dinner.
Final provisoning in the market

Refreshed in the morning I remade the final connection with the aid of a jubilee clip and it sealed. By this time the anchorage was becoming a little rolly, just like its name, and the next morning many boats upped anchor at dawn as it definitely had become “Maurole”.

All that was left for us was to go ashore to the market for a small amount of provisioning and we were off to Riung