Saturday 24 August 2013

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

Tuesday 13 August 2013


After heading away from Kupang, we followed the coastline north. The wind patterns here are influenced by the lay of the land, giving us land breezes in the morning and sea breezes in the afternoon. We managed a reasonable amount of sailing, reverting to engine occasionally. Our next destination was Wini. That evening we anchored on the southern side of Tanjung Gumuk, the half way point, along with 7 other rally yachts. Slightly rolly but that settled and gave us a very pleasant evening. Up at 6.00am which we thought was an early start only to find 4 boats had already headed off. Rounding the point of Tg Gumuk we could see their masts about an hour ahead. Winds were very slight and we motored most of the way to Wini. A new rally destination this year so an unknown quantity. The anchorage was 30m deep with a large mound in the centre with only 6m depth, the place to aim for. However only so many boats can fit on a mound. We all tried to get on the outskirts of it, but with strong currents flowing all around, it was tricky. Then the wind decided to get up and boats were swinging every which way. Oh what fun!

                                   Arriving into Wini - nestled at the base of the mountains

Not exactly a modern guitar but it works           The girls about to start the beetlenut ceremonial dance

Jacqui dancing in a woman's only dance, done when someone dies.

Cheeky faces who just love having their photo taken.

The following day ashore was a tour to a cave used as a church, then on to the King's palace for a welcome ceremony and lunch. We headed off in 2 minibuses with a police escort, along with sirens and flashing lights for the entire 2 hour drive to the first stop. All other approaching vehicles must get off the road for our little convoy - rock star treatment. At the cave, the entire village had turned out for our arrival with dancing, singing and blessing for our safe travels. 20 minutes on from there we arrived at the palace.  We were treated like royalty ourselves with much pomp and ceremony (Indonesian style) and met the King and his family inside his house. After a Beetlenut juice ritual which we accepted with a smile and promptly left on the tables, we headed outside for a number of traditional dances and ceremonies. This included the killing and bleeding of a cock which Jacqui and myself could not bear to watch, having a drink of their homemade alcohol which we also declined with a smile. We planted some sandalwood trees in recognition of our visit, watched local women weaving, lunch followed by lots of dancing and singing then home.

On arriving back to the anchorage we discovered one of the boats - Mokisha had come adrift and disappeared - your worst nightmare. The call went out for everyone to turn on their radars to see if we could pick her up. We immediately detected something about 1.5nms straight out to sea so we offered to up anchor Kittani, with a few other volunteers on board and Mokisha's amazingly calm owners Tom and Colleen and headed off into the dead of night. With spot lights scanning ahead of us we found her - silently, slowly drifting nowhere. It was such a relief. Once boarded, both boats headed back to Wini for undoubtedly a sleepless night. Nothing like that to raise the fear factor that it can happen to anyone. These guys have been cruising for 12 years and it was a first for them.

From Wini, Kittani and Tintin headed further NE along the coast to the very picturesque anchorage of Gurita Bay.

Looking down into Gurita Bay - a total of 13 yachts anchored together

Looking from Kittani across to the village 
This is a village that few if any tourists ever get to. As we were the only 2 boats yet to arrive, we persuaded the organisers to postpone the start of the ceremony from 6.00am until lunchtime, knowing that another 10 boats were following us from Wini. Just after 11.00am, the fleet rounded the head and entered the bay. We spread the word that everything was on hold so everyone quickly anchored, tendered ashore and into a bus to whisk us away. About 500 children had been waiting since 6.00am to perform for us. It was jaw dropping, amazing - words can't express the welcome we received. These beautiful people never cease to amaze me with their warmth and friendliness. Again a Welcome ceremony that left us speechless.

                          Hundreds of children in traditional costume dancing to welcome us
Bamboo flutes - the sound was so pure  

          A lovely elderly man watching on
Me surrounded by young girls all wanting to take a photo
The farewell dinner and ceremony was more singing and dancing, then we were presented with a scarf and traditional drum. Sad to be leaving this piece of paradise. All 11 boats had decided to head off in the early hours of the morning (1.30am - 3.00am) getting us up to the straits near Alor in daylight, so if was off to bed as soon as we had said our farewells. They love their karaoke here and the locals remained after we had all retired to our boats. The volume was cranked us and even wrapping a pillow around my ears did little to drown out the often off-key notes from shore. They eventually wrapped it up at 1.45am - and our alarm was set for 2.00am. Oh well, we will sleep well tonight.
Me with our guide/interpreter Ivan at local food markets


One of the young girls who performed our welcome dance

Pete amongst some local villagers

Couldn't get this young guy to smile

The face of innocence

The group photo at the traditional village

Our police escort whenever we did a tour

Receiving scarf and drum as souvenirs at the Gala Dinner (Gurita Bay)

Sunday 4 August 2013

Welcome to Indonesia

First day saw us hoist our yellow quarantine flag and wait for customs/immigration to board us and start the arrival procedure. We were not sure just what to expect however had been advised by Sail Indonesia to expect maybe 5 people to come onboard and if at any time asked for a bribe, be firm, say no and SMILE. We watched them board Gemini first, then after about an hour we saw them heading our way in Gemini's tender. We started by asking to take their photo sitting down with us - they love being photographed and thought it would be a good way to break the ice. So I sat upstairs with 3 of them, Immigration, Port Authority and another one ......? while Pete was downstairs with Customs and Health representatives.

                                Customs & Immigration arriving with Lachie from Gemini

                                      Me with big cheesy grin - hoping all will go smoothly

I was boat stamping and signing my life away, page after page when Pete says to me "are you reading each page before you sign it?" Was he kidding - it was all in Indonesian. Below deck they were inspecting our alcohol supply and slid in a quiet request for a bottle of Bombay Sapphire (our first bribe). Pete stood firm, SMILED and told them they were parting gifts from our family - we couldn't give any away. They seemed to accept that answer and no more was said. Phew ......... thankfully that was easy. So after about 3/4 hour of paperwork, we were told we could bring down the Q flag, raise the courtesy Indonesian flag and head ashore to complete customs and immigration.
This we did and then had another hour of forms, stamps, questions and paperwork. A room with 4 desks and at least 4 people at each desk - 1 to fill in the paperwork, 1 to hold the ink pad, 1 to ink and use the stamp and 1 to hand it back to us. What a process!! At least it keeps them all employed.

As we were coming to the end of all of it, chanting started outside and the official welcome ceremony had started. I wandered out to catch the action and was immediately caught up in the procession. We were all being treated like royalty, presented with woven hats and scarves and shaking everyone's hands whilst the crowd were chanting blessings upon us and our sailing adventures. All quite surreal. Indonesian way of thinking is different to ours - prime example. Darwin to Kupang is 470nms so 4 days sailing for the average boat. 2 days after the official start from Darwin they held the welcome ceremony - hence only 2 out of 85 boats had arrived. They told all the officials, dancers, caterers, spectators to come back the next day to do it again. As we were amongst the 6 boats that had arrived overnight, we were guests of honour for re-run ceremony. That was the only other time they ran it, the other 77 boats were to miss out. That's Indonesia !

Kevin. Lachlie Pete and Craig wearing our presentation hats 

We have now had nearly a week here, the days floating past. Lots of gala events with traditional food and dancing, promotional events for areas we are yet to visit, local hawker stalls and haggling. We have visited a orphanage and given clothes and toys as donations (collected for some time in Oz).
We have had local school children come aboard with their teachers to show them our home, have done some sightseeing and lots of walking.

           School children arriving with their teacher

'Captain America' at the helm

                      The kids sitting in the saloon 

Sitting upstairs with another student and her teacher

                   Sitting with a few other teachers

Bemo rides - always an experience to the local markets (ugh..... enough to make anyone a vegetarian) and found a bakery with a good selection of European and local pastries. We drew the line at chicken or chilly flavoured doughnuts. The Indonesian people have been so friendly everywhere we have gone. Even local police have flagged down buses for us to catch and EVERYONE asks if they can have their photo taken with us. Just lovely people.

This morning they held an official leaving ceremony, again with dancers and lots of officials, blessing the fleet and releasing 80 balloons in our honour. It's time to head on and tomorrow will see us up anchor and head north. The fleet splits here and some have headed south for other islands all of us meeting again in Komodo in about a months time.

                   Pete hoping to be arrested !

  Myself and Jacqui with some traditional dancers  

                                                                                      Sunset from out the front of Teddy's Bar

                                 Bunting along the shoreline. Mobbed with locals every day
       Pete found Kupang's equivalence to Bunnings 

Walking through the food markets