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.