Monday, 16 September 2013

Kittani in drag !

We arrived into Gili Aer around lunchtime and it looked an idyllic place - despite being exposed to the rather strong winds which had developed. We picked up a mooring in the little bay and settled back to watch the hive of activity that was going on all around us. Indonesian speed boats were the local ferries taking people back and forward to Lombok - only a 15 min trip. Tenders were taking divers and snorkelers every which way. The beach was littered with little bars and restaurants so after a quick power nap to keep the energy going after our 2 night sail, we headed ashore. Gemini had been here for a few days already, so over a Bintang we caught up on their travels and got the lay of the land from someone.The only means of transportation on the island is pony and old trap, taking supplies to the local shops and visitors around the island. Dinner was good food, Pete having chicken satay and Mie Goreng whilst I opted for a burger and chips, a couple of Bintang and all for AUS$16 - which was probably a little on the expensive side. Back to the boat for a good nights sleep. I was awoken around 1.00am with a grating sound which I did not recognise. Poking my head upstairs to check around I had to do a double take as we were nearly on the beach (that was that sound !!) and close to hitting local boats. After finally shaking Pete from a deep slumber with the words "I think we have dragged", he flew up stairs to " !@# .... the mooring has dragged!!!!" The wind was still blowing 15-20ks and had dragged Kittani and her mooring past a large catamaran that was moored behind us (luck was on our side that we didn't hit her!) and left us wedged in the shallows on an out- going tide. We had to act fast. Because of all the Indonesian chatter that goes over the VHF all through the night, everyone had turned their radios off so couldn't raise anyone. Pete in the tender raced across to Tintin, Gemini and Tropical Soul wrapping on their hulls - a rather rude awakening. Within minutes we had 6 tenders along side attaching ropes to pull, then around to the other side to push and after 20mins of this finally we were afloat again. We got rid of that lousy mooring line and dropped anchor ourselves back were we had started. After a cup of tea and reading until about 3.30am, we finally fell asleep again, though we did ruin sleep for a few of the other boats - they were all doubting their moorings. This morning a dive under Kittani has showed no damage, just some of the anti-foul has been taken off. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse.

Farewell to Labuan Bajo

Farewell to Labuan Bajo.

The president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has arrived in town and all the podiums, bunting and preparations were still being put in place minutes before he arrived. We had gone ashore to do last minute provisioning and school children were lining the streets in the hot sun (and had been for hours) awaiting his car and entourage. All of a sudden they were spreading out along the roadside with little Indonesian flags in hand, loud speakers were heard everywhere and security were just as plentiful as the spectators. We joined the kids and next minute he was there in front of us, window down and waving to us - behind his dark glasses. Closest I will probably ever be to a president! In the afternoon, we were taken on a tour to a local village where we watched a performance of 'Whip Dance' - the aim is to try and draw blood from your opponent which is a form of initiation. Sounds rather brutal but very entertaining.

                                                      We flew the flag for September 11

                                             The participants of the 'Whip Dance' ceremony

That evening was another gala dinner a few minutes from our moorings. Great food set around the beautifully lit pool area of the LaPrima hotel, fantastic band doing all western music. Some of the other boats put forward volunteers for the Karaoke and we found some great voices amongst our own. It was Sam's birthday (the representative from Sail Indonesia who has been with us since Darwin) so it became one big party and one of the best evenings had so far. With about 25 yachts from the rally still in town for the sail past, it was well attended. The following evening was the big formal dinner with the President (SBY as he is affectionately known). We all dressed up for the occasion and were taken to a large government building for the affair. The dinner itself was a bit of a non-event as he ate in another room next to where we were all seated, eating our meals on our laps. Oh well - at least we got to see him.

 SBY arriving with wife Ani & entourage

Pete standing in front of SBY's car - with guards
closely watching


The next day the Sail Past was expected to start at 9.29am with SBY sounding a horn (or so the proceedings stated). As per Indonesia, things don't always go exactly according to plan so we sat and waited for the start. Soon after 10.00am, it got under way the naval vessels leading the way. It was quite an impressive sight as they made their way down the channel towards the podium with all the dignitaries waiting. The yachts then took up their position at the end of the line, all with our flags and bunting flying and sounding our horns on cue. It was good fun.

Tintin looking good with her flags up

                                      Some of the various naval vessels - all shapes and sizes

Looking behind us to our fleet of yachts following
That was the end of Labuan Bajo, 3 visits there for us in the spate of 8 days. We sailed out of the harbour heading West with Tintin close behind. We said farewell to our friends on Equilibrium II as they were heading back to Maumere, Kupang then Oz. Sad to be saying goodbyes already, strong friendships made and we will miss them. Maybe our paths will cross again some day. It is some night sailing ahead of us now - 200 miles to Lombok and we are opting to go in one hit.

There be Dragons!

It was a 3 hours motor sail to Rinca (Rin-cha) and anchoring in a cove right next to the Rangers Station. Arriving around lunchtime, we went ashore to organise a tour for early the following morning, as we were advised this is the best time to see the beasts. They are much more active at this time and often on the move, as when the heat of the day starts, they become very lethargic and just lie in the shade. Kittani and Tintin teamed up with Inspiration Lady and the 6 of us were back ashore at 6.30am the next morning for the earliest tour. We didn't have to go very far as the first sightings were just outside the rangers office. We had 2 guides who spoke very good English and learnt a great deal about the Dragons.  We opted for a 2 hour hike up through the hills where we saw more in the wild, the largest being nearly 3 meters from nose to tail.  They are an animal to be respected and cautious around. Last year a ranger was bitten by one and they have now marked that dragon with a big dot to identify it as being potentially dangerous.

   Park Entrance                 

                                                             How's that for a big lizard !!!

                                                 Smelling the air for potential food - us !!!

                 The view from the top of our 2 hour trek - Kittani moored in the distance

Next day we headed off for Pink Beach, again only a couple of hours away. We are slowly making our way through the book '101 Anchorages' and they are often 1/2 day hops between. Pink Beach gets it's name from the abundant amount of red coral in the reef which eventually breaks down and gives the sand a pink hue. Very strong currents were running between the island where we chose to anchor,  but with plenty of chain out and good holding, we weren't going anywhere. Back in the water for some snorkelling and then sundowners again on the beach - it has become a ritual.

             Sundowners at Pink Beach - Kittani, Tintin, Inspiration Lady and Thylocines

Next day was back to Labuan Bajo for a couple of days including a gala dinner for the rally participants. It was a long evening with 13 different dances being performed. It was actually a competition between local regencies - hence a very long programme. We met up again with the local dancers from Belu (Guerita Bay) and they treated us like long lost family. It was lovely to see them perform again, such beautiful girls and lovely personalities. They took second prize for the evening and were over the moon with their result. We have taken quite a liking to LB, it's easy to get in to town, get provisions, good cheap food and lots of bars with cold Bintang (brewed by Heiniken).

Pete & self with the dancers from Belu 
 The view from 'The Sky Bar Lounge'

              Jacqui and self at "The Sky Bar'

The atmosphere in Labuan Bajo is building for the arrival of the president on the 14th and the naval craft assembled so far number about 10 and many more to arrive. In the harbour were we left the tenders, there were IRBs belonging to the Kopaska (frog men) one with a 50 calibre machine gun mounted on the bow. The surrounding metal shield was painted with the words "don't piss me off". Of course Pete had to get his photo taken with that, and they were more than happy to oblige us.


                                     Pete aboard with IRB behind the sign "Don't Piss Me Off"

There is a high police and military presence making the supply of fuel to us from the locals somewhat precarious as they are not permitted to transfer fuel in drums. It is all done under cover of dark and we had a knock on the hull at 4.30am to say our solar (diesel) had arrived. We have decided to head off to Komodo Island tomorrow for a few days but return to LB again, as we have been invited to join in the 'sail past' with the naval fleet for the president. It should be a once in a lifetime experience and not to be missed. A half day sail to North Komodo island where we anchored in a beautiful bay where the snorkelling was just as good as the day we had paid for the trip. Early next morning, Pete was feeling energetic and thought a mountain climb was in order. Rather steep but well worth the view from the top, though  by the time I had returned to the bottom, my legs were liken jelly. Another few hours of snorkelling that day - it is keeping us both fit !!!


      The view from the top of the mountain - Kittani & Tintin anchored at the far end of the bay.

 Massive schools of fish
   Fan Corals

 Not sure what this big fella was ?

 Clam shells
Amazing colours and size.
 Little critters

White Nemo amongst the coral
 Soft coral
More photos taken on our snorkelling trips but the photos don't really do justice to what we see.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Maumere onwards:
The gala dinner was memorable if only for the tropical downpour half way through the proceedings. Caught unawares, there was a mad dash in the tenders back to close hatches - it was the first rain we had had since Portland Roads north of Cairns (middle of June). It didn't dampen the spirits too much - it was a fun evening.
Kittani and Tintin headed off the next morning for Batu Boga where we tucked into a secluded cove amidst reef and had drinks on Juliana 11 - just the 3 boats in the anchorage for the evening.  The next day was another early start just after sunrise and our destination was Riung, though we had heard anchoring could prove difficult with much fringing reef around the town. Again we motor sailed as the winds were only light but we made good time to Riung. After poking our nose in towards town, we decided against it and went another 2 miles on to Monkey Bay. It was a long winding approach through the mangroves but good deep water and eventually opened into a beautifully secluded well protected bay where we found 6 other boats anchored. Sundowners on 'Thylacines' that evening, a large catamaran that hosted 20 of us comfortably. It was such a peaceful spot that we decided to stay an extra day and enjoy sound night sleeps. The second day we headed with Tintin in our tenders to a couple of the outer islands, which we had seen on arrival in Riung and had beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters. We spent a couple of hours snorkelling then made our way into the town in search of lunch. On the way we passed a rice field with a resident water buffalo taking a bath - he looked so cool.

The islands where we snorkelled near Riung   

                                             Jacqui and Kevin in their tender off the beach

                                      Such lovely white soft sand and the clearest of water

                                        How cool does this guy look - and the smoothest skin!

My view through the port hole as I cook dinner
Our next stop was Lingeh Flores, where on anchoring, we were inundated with locals in fishing boats selling vegetables, fish and even lobster. We tried to explain that the lobster they had caught was female (she was carrying her eggs) and that they should throw her back. They didn't seem to understand, however, after we declined, they moved on to the next boat but washed off the eggs before they got there. They understand more than they let on!!!
From there it was on to Gili Bodo which we had heard was a lovely spot. Arriving just after lunch, we dropped anchor in 12ms just off the reef and could see clearly through to the bottom. The coral looked fantastic so it was in for another snorkel and we weren't disappointed. The fish life was amazing as well as the coral colours. We could see monkeys on the beach a stone throw away. Word went over the VHF for a beach bar-b-que so we delved into the fridge and freezer to see what we could rummage up. Supplies were getting low as we were only a day away from Labuan Bajo, our next major port for provisioning. I had found some rump steak tucked away which cooked up nicely on our 'bar-b-que plate' (an old plough disk courtesy of Gregory) Everyone pooled what salads they had and we had a great meal watching the sun set yet again in our little part of paradise. Again we decided to stay an extra day and snorkelled morning and afternoon the following day, playing with a couple of cuttlefish nearly 2 feet in length. Amazing animals that change colour before your eyes depending on whether they are feeling threatened. Pete was thinking grilled calamari, but these gentle creatures mate for life - couldn't possibly hurt them. Tomorrow it's off into Labuan Bajo and Internet to Skype with family again. Looking forward to that. As well as getting supplies - fuel, water, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables.

                                   Pete and self on the top deck of our dive boat

                                       Jacqui and self getting ready to snorkel
Kevin and Pete suited up and ready for 1st dive
LB (as it is commonly known) was a great couple of days. Nice to get ashore and have a choice of restaurants again. We are obviously getting closer to Bali as the influence of tourism is more apparent. Boutique shops are appearing, and for a small town there are 30 dive shops!!! Obviously an area famous for its dive sites. And a bakery with real grain bread (not the airy white stuff you can purchase pre-wrapped in cellophane that has no substance to it) - what a treat. I think their business is booming this week with all us yachts in town. No sooner does it come out of the oven it has been purchased, and we even have to put in an order to ensure getting some. A small Roxy supermarket but enough to get the basics we were needing. Yesterday we headed off with Jacqui and Kevin for a day trip of diving and snorkelling. What a day. The guys comments were the best dives they had ever done (3 dives in the day). Jacqui and I snorkelled each time and were amazed at the coral and fish life that we saw. By far and away a highlight of the rally for us.

 Lion fish

                              Blue Fan coral

  More amazing coral

This was one well camouflaged fish