Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Off to Belitung

It was another 2 night sail north to Belitung. Had we had good winds all the way, we could have probably made it in 2 days, 1 night but as usual any winds we have throughout the day usually drop to nothing as soon as the sun starts to set. We headed off with 4 other boats early around 8.00am and had a good sail for most of that day. Being larger than the others, the winds pushed us ahead and we were soon on our own. It is amazing how through the day you only pass the odd fishing boat, but when it becomes dark, their lights appear everywhere. So it's that constant vigil again through the long night.

Our arrival into Belitung was pre-dawn so again we hung off a short while waiting for the light. It looked like a rather exposed anchorage, which usually means rolly seas, but the option of going across the bar into the harbour was out with the tide only giving 1.9m clearance and that's what we draw. Once ashore, we were guided to the Information Office where we were given vouchers for free diesel, water and beer. We were introduced to Franz and Arthur who were terrific in giving information about the area and nothing we asked was ever too much trouble. Once again we were treated by royalty - it can become addictive. This anchorage has always been a very popular one on the rally and reputed to be the friendliest. They were right about that. Everywhere you go, people say 'hello mister' and the children gather around you asking our names in their broken English.

The beach was littered with Katers - the traditional fishing craft of this area that are also used for racing. They are brightly painted and make quite a picture against a turquoise backdrop of ocean. Races had been planned as part of the celebrations so they were practicing all around us in the anchorage. Ashore we found a great choice of restaurants, not a bad meal to be had. The main town was a 5 mins drive away and each time we started to walk the distance, we were stopped and offered a lift. One trip was by the local ambulance so Pete and I rode in to town sitting on the bed in the back. It would never happen in Oz.


                      The brightly coloured Katers - local fishing/racing boats that filled the beach


               Pete and a few others went for a 'practice run' in a Kater - said they were great fun

Belitung is known as the town of 1001 coffee shops. With a population of 100,000 - you do the math! It was obvious that the area was more affluent than some of our previous stops. We visited open tin mines, batik factories, durian plantations and were invited to the Government Guest House for dinner where we sat cross legged on the floor and had a traditional dinner without cutlery. It is an acquired art !!!!We attended a 'Rainbow Festival' where the costumes were amazing - considering this is 3rd world Indonesia. The colour and enthusiasm that went into each and every float was amazing. Our last night was the gala dinner, held at a restaurant overlooking an inland waterway where the Regent was very hopeful it would in the near future be a marina suitable for rally stops. After quite a few rolly nights anchored off the beach, that news would be music to the ears of any yachties.


          Myself and Karen (Tropicali) amongst some of the local kids


        Belitung - 1001 coffee shops                Pete sitting back at one of our favourite restaurants


                   Sitting on the floor at the Gov. Guest House for a traditional dinner

   Amazing colours, fabrics and imagination that has gone in to the costumes for the festival

                                                           The spider and his web

On one of our day tours, we stopped at a beach where one of the local kids had a home made motor bike. Its basis was a 44 gallon drum fully motorized, painted rainbow colours with big monkey bars in the front. He headed off into the distance with a roar and 30mins later we came across him in peak hour traffic still going strong. Amazing that he could get away with riding it on the road.

                                     The home made bike that went like the clappers.

Jacqui, myself, Pete and Kevin with our friend Franz. One of the nicest people you could possibly meet and one that will always remain in our fond memories of Belitung.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Karimun Jawa - Central Java

We completed our 2 night passage arriving at Karimun Jawa just before daylight. We put the boat into neutral, dropped the sails and pottered around for about an hour until there was enough daylight to show us the way through the channel into the anchorage. With Catamini out in front and advising us of the depths, we crept slowly in and dropped the pick in a mill pond of water. There was hardly a ripple and great for getting a few hours of shut eye.

After a few hours sleep, we could see ourselves in a pretty little anchorage with the village and harbour not far away. The shiny gold domes of the mosque dominating above this Muslim town and the mid morning call to prayer may have been what woke us. Our 2 days here was going to be all our own time with nothing scheduled. One of the main issues we, and many other boats have had with the rally, is that there is not enough time allowed to get from one rally venue to the next - a point the Indonesian event co-ordinators don't seem to grasp. The activities for this spot had finished the previous day and out of 85 vessels that started the rally, only 5 were in town for the gala dinner. Very disappointing for the locals and their efforts but it has been this way year after year and still they don't 'get it'.

                              Our arrival into the sleepy township of Karimun Jawa at sunrise

The first day was a rather lazy one as always after a 2 night sail. It was a chance to clean the boat and get things back to normal after the crossing. As there wasn't much in the way of restaurants ashore, we were eating on board that evening. As the sun started to set, the winds dropped off again to nothing and the anchorage once again became like a mill pond. So as the evening call to prayer was heard drifting across the water, Pete fired up the bar-b-que and put on our pork fillet. Ooops....! Probably not the best choice of dinner but hopefully they couldn't smell it. We enjoyed a lovely meal with a bottle of champagne, watching the local fishing boats returning from their day of work. From a distance some of them looked like a crayfish approaching - very basic craft but they scoot along quite quickly.

The next day was to be an adventure. Pete had talked me into getting on the back of a motorcycle and heading off around the island. Actually the road doesn't go all the way around, only so far in each direction, then you head back to town. So with trepidation I climbed on the back of our 1200cc Harley Davidson ...................yeah right !!!! Anyone who knows me knows that I have a paranoia of motorcycles. Actually it was a 50cc automatic Honda 'Scoopy' - and off we went. The roads are so bad on the island that it is impossible to go more than 30kms, and that was on the better parts. Other areas I could have walked faster. And being so sparsely populated, very little in the way of traffic. We meandered along the road stopping off for cold drinks and photo opportunities. And of course when the fuel gauge indicated, a bottle of petrol from a road side stall in a Sprite bottle. Maybe they are starting to get the hang of recycling :-)

The view with our yachts anchored in the distance.

Filling up on Sprite friendly

A man made pond out the front of a new resort - filled with Black Tip Reef Sharks


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Gili Air and Bali

After the harrowing experience with the mooring, the rest of the time spent at Gili AIr was sheer bliss - the most difficult decisions were which restaurant to choose for lunch and then dinner. The island was a back packers delight with boat loads of them coming and going between there and Lombok, only a stone's throw away. A dirt track ran around the island which was shared by pedestrians, cyclists and pony and trap, the only forms of transport available. There was much construction going on with new buildings popping up everywhere (Indonesian style....). It is obviously becoming a tourist destination and they are rushing to cater to the growing numbers of tourists arriving there.

Paved roadway around the main part of town - after that it becomes dirt.

Pony and trap - the only form of transport other than bicycle
  Our view from 'Sundowners' on the beach

 Building made entirely from Bamboo

Pete looking relaxed after a hard day on the boat......yeah right!

The beachfront restaurants - so many to choose from !

After 4 days there, it was time to up anchor and head for Bali. We had good winds coning out of Gili Air across the strait but no sooner were we in the lee of Bali, it was back to motoring. A 3.00am start, our little convoy of 4 boats soon met up with others en route and mid afternoon 8 of us arrived at Lovina Beach to join 30 rally yachts already there. This was the main stop to renew our visas which we knew would take a few days to process, so we had expected the anchorage to be busy. Locals in their spider boats placed themselves on the edge of the reef at the entrance to the anchorage guiding us into safe water. This boat then became our contact for fuel, water, laundry etc. After dropping anchor, we went ashore and gave our passports to Sam to get the ball rolling for the visa extensions. The smell of incense everywhere was truly Balinese, along with the offerings of food and flowers at the front step of each house or shop.  "Looking, looking .... Come look my shop" "You want massaaage.......?" "Transport - you want taxi?" It is so quintessential Bali.

The next day Pete decided to surprise me with an overnight stay at the Puri Mangga Villas, about 10 mins drive from the anchorage. Along with our friends Robyn and Craig from Gemini, we packed our overnight bags and headed up into the mountains. The resort was set amongst rice paddies, though being the dry season they were not under plantings. The rooms were spacious, the queen size bed (hm after my single bed) was covered with the most beautiful frangipanis, the colour of which I have never seen before. An outdoor pebble shower completed each villa. One night was not going to be enough. The view from the infinity pool was back over the anchorage and out to sea, breathtakingly beautiful. After checking in, it was straight down to the pool to swim in fresh water - what a novelty. The afternoon was spent lazying around, catching up on emails where we discovered our darling grand daughter Taylah had taken her first steps. Soon it was time for dinner - a lovely 3 course meal accompanied with 2 bottles of champagne (which we supplied - they did not mind, nor did they charge us corkage) for AUS $22 per head. A wonderful nights sleep in a big bed, a scrumptious breakfast the next morning and then back to the pool until a lunchtime checkout where the resort car offered to drive us back to the anchorage. The whole 24 hours was sheer bliss - I could have stayed a week easily.

I have never seen such lovely coloured Frangipani before

Relaxing in the spa at Puri Mangga with our friends Robyn and Craig (Gemini)

Lovina was a lot of fun with a great many of the rally boats anchored. Good to catch up with people that we haven't seen for a few weeks and swap stories over a COLD Bintan or two. The only negative comment about Lovina was the late evening entertainment along the beach. Local singing from the festival clashed with the disco music coming from the hotel and that continued on sometimes until 2.00am in the morning. Someone needed to tell them us sailors need our sleep!!!

 The next leg along the top of Java to the island of Karimunjawa was a long one - some 260nm. At Lovina we split from Tintin who were heading north to Borneo to see the Orangutans (we plan to see them next year on the way back). We headed off making our way west knowing it was about 60 hours of sailing ahead. Locating an anchorage from Totem's notes, we did stop for the first night at Gili Yang and had a reasonable sleep. Up early next morning we met up with Catamini who had left Lovina later on the day we departed and kept company with her for the rest of the sail. It is comforting to have another boat along the way, to chat with on the VHF and see their lights nearby in the dark of night. Night sailing in Indonesian waters needs constant vigilance - along with Radar and AIS, you need MK1 - EYEBALL! Many boats have no lights, some only turn them on when you get close - a big surprise and then there are the unlit FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) .......... It is exhausting and you are always glad to see the sunrise where you can see things more easily. The days are therefore spent catching up on the sleep that you didn't get at night. First night out from Gili Yang just on sunset we hit some solid bamboo poles sticking vertically out of the sea. There were  4 of them lashed together and obviously attached firmly underwater, though to what we have no idea - we were in 65ms of sea. They scrapped down the side of the boat making a horrible noise and catching us off guard. Heaven knows what damage they could do to a catamaran if they hit in the centre :-(