An early start from Gurita Bay at 2.00am - all 11 of us within an hour strung out like ducks in a row. An hour out, our smoke detector alarm went off giving us a hell of a fright. It turned out to be the main engine alternator belt slipping because of the large amperage being drawn. We turned off the recharge and continued on our way, keeping a watchful eye on gauges. No more issues it appears for now. As we got closer to the island of Alor, some boats headed up the middle of the channel whilst we opted to hug the coast of Alor closely (sometimes less than 100m and still in 100m depth). The deep water was very obvious. The boats that had headed up the middle were going nowhere with strong current against them and soon opted to move to the side and follow us. We were heading for Kalabahi - the main town and our next rally destination.
Kalabahi is located at the end of a 10 mile fiord and we made our way towards town zigzagging FADs (fish attracting devices). There were already many of the main fleet anchored so parking was at a premium. It took us 4 attempts to finally find some good holding in an area where we knew the breezes would get up. The locals had put together a floating dingy dock for us, though managing to stand and hold your balance on it when the wind and waves got up was quite an art! A welcome ceremony was held the next morning but after what we had experienced in the two previous anchorages, it was very underwhelming. It did involve everyone following a traditionally decorated local boat around the harbour, all of us in our tenders. Thankfully it was held early morning and the wind hadn't got up. Soon after that, the wind got up and all hell broke loose again with the catamaran Kularoo drifting onto the fringing reef. Pete and a few other tenders raced over to help firstly trying to pull her off, only managing to move one end. It was enough to get around the other side and push her off into deeper water. We decided then not to stay any longer and headed off early next morning to a small island off Alor - Palau Kumba.
The man made dingy dock at Kalabahi
The traditionally decorated welcome ceremonial boat
Early morning sunrise at the anchorage at Kalabahi
We headed off next morning just after sunrise and made our way back up the fiord and had dropped anchor within a couple of hours at Palau Kumba. Here we stayed for 2 days enjoying the best snorkelling we had found so far. It was like being in a beautiful underwater garden with the coral and fish life amazing. Even saw a scorpion fish! The water was so clear with 30ms visibility. The only down side was that another yacht Kialba had their kayak stolen one evening by the locals. The local police were called but we knew nothing would be done about it.
The clearest of water with visibility of 30 meters
Next stop was a little village of Kabir where Kittani and Tintin anchored with Zoa for the evening. 3 local kids paddled out to us in a kiddies inflatable boat and went away happy with muesli bars, Kit Kat and Minties. Their smiles said it all. Off early in the morning aiming to get to Adanara Island and meet up with Gemini. The wind was up and we were able to have a great days sailing, however, mid afternoon the direction changed coming right on our nose and made it very uncomfortable. We decided to head into Telok Lewoling (Telok meaning Bay) and found a lovely village nestled at the base of a smoking volcano. The water again was crystal clear and dead calm. A quick dip off the back of the boat and Pete headed ashore to see if he could purchase some fruit. He came back with a bag of bananas (about 30) for AUS$1. Bananas and custard for desert that evening. The noise from the village was a cacophony of clucking and crowing which apparently went all through the night - we obviously drifted off to sleep. This was such a pretty anchorage, so glad we made the unexpected detour into it.
Next morning it was a short hop to Adanara Island and lucky for us the wind enabled us to sail as the fan belt was definitely needing attention. That would be the afternoons job. As we approached the anchorage, Craig and Lachie from Gemini came out in their tender to guide us to a good spot to drop the pick. We had made them aware that we weren't wanting to use the engine any more than necessary, but the fan belt made the distance and we were anchored quickly in aqua blue water with nice sandy bottom. This anchorage was listed in the '101 Best Anchorages' guide and lived up to its reputation. What a beautiful pristine spot and even had a small sand cay exposed that would make a great sundowners location. The day was spent catching up with Gemini and their travels through Roti (the southern route of the rally). Fishing boats came out from the village offering to sell fish. Pete negotiated (with the help of our Indonesian phrase book) for one to return tomorrow with fish and pawpaw. Let's see what turns up. The afternoon Pete, Craig and Lachlie headed off in the tender with the spear guns to see what they could catch. They returned a few hours later with an Indonesian flathead - dinner. There were lots of laughs regarding how it was eventually caught, 3rd time lucky or unlucky for the fish. Soon it was 5.00pm and time for sundowners on the cay. 6 tenders gathered and we watched the sun go down then the moon come up in our little part of paradise.
Our anchorage at the base of the smoking volcano
F.A.D - fish attracting devices - nightmare for sailors especially at night
Gemini anchored at Adanara Island - our sand cay
Myself and Jacqui enjoying a glass of champagne at sundowners
After a couple of days spent swimming, snorkelling and generally relaxing, it was time to up anchor and head west along the coast. 2 days later saw us nearing Maumere, the next rally stop. We were to anchor out the front of The Seaworld Club resort and could already see quite a few boats there as we made our approach. Other reports had listed Maumere as a rather dirty town with not much on offer, so we had planned maybe a days stop to get fuel and some provisions, then head on. The anchorage was actually 22ks south of the town and we were able to use the resorts bar and restaurant. This, combined with having Internet signal after a week without enhanced the stopover and we have now been 3 days. We did a day trip to see the 3 coloured lakes of Kelimutu, hiring a car and driver and setting off at 7.00am for a 3 hour drive up into the mountains. Spectacular vistas as we climbed up and over mountains winding through terraced rice paddies and thick coconut plantations. Kapok trees bursting with cotton used in the ikat weaving, through villages with coconut drying on the road side along with cloves, cocoa beans and peanuts. We followed a motorbike with a large pig strapped on the back, laying on its side, squealing with every bump in the road. The motorcyclist had one hand on the controls and the other rubbing the pigs belly every time it squealed. Our Indonesian driver was in hysterics throughout the whole episode. We were wondering if it was a family pet or their next meal ??? The lakes were amazing colours, turquoise, milky blue and emerald. For the last 2 months, the emerald one had been red, turning back to emerald a few weeks ago. They are located in the top of volcano craters and the colour are meant to result from the minerals contained within the soil below. Locals believe each lake represents a spirit and change according to season and mineral content. We have another welcome ceremony this afternoon and a gala dinner this evening ashore, then we will head westward again in the morning.
Family pet or dinner - we couldn't quite tell
View from the mountain ridge on the way up to the lakes
Two of the lakes - the turquoise and the milky blue behind it
Pete in front of the smaller milky blue lake
Another beautiful sunset from in front of the SeaWorld Club