Ted and Sue left the US in 2000 on a "round-the-world" voyage in their 41 ft. sloop Blue Bell which was replaced by a 48 ft. Tayana, Tandem.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sail Indonesia 2007

Since July we have cruised the islands of Timor, Alor, Lembata, Flores, Komodo, Sulewesi and Bali, around 1,000 mi. of windless water and fascinating scenery. The Indonesian govt., in cooperation with the Australian govt., sponsors this trip yearly for cruising yachts in hope of encouraging tourism so they make sure that each island welcomes us with elaborate meals and dancing. special tours inland and, best of all, laundry service picked up and delivered to the boat! Some of the locals are creative and pack their dug out canoes with fruit to sell or bring fresh water and fuel. On many of the islands we are the best show in town and the locals come from miles away to see all the yachts in the harbor. The children approach us with school notebooks and want us to sign our names and country of origin, or rush from their houses to shout "hello, mister" as we pass by. In the beginning of the trip the islands we visited were untouristed and we were able to explore the interior regions on 15 hr. bus trips that tested our stamina but allowed us to see some amazing villages and sights. Now that we have arrived in Bali we feel somewhat overwhelmed by the heavy tourist influence and it is a bit like going to Disneyland. Our trips in the outer islands were on a grand scale with as many as 20 buses (every vehicle available on the island) and usually followed by two ancient white ambulances. After traveling over unpaved paths for so many hours we were more in need of a massage! Many of these villages are very isolated and the only transportation is by boat and the landing and offloading of supplies is not always easy. The island of Lembata has one of the last whaling villages in Indonesia where they actually paddle out in large wooden craft adorned with eyes painted on the bow and Latin slogans for good luck, and then plunge a harpoon into the whale.

The islands have regencys, much like our states, and the leader of each, the regent is comparable to a governor. After driving for 6 hrs. into the forests of Timor we were welcomed at a large open field by thousands of people that had walked for miles to see this large collection of yachties and as they photographed us we were photographing them, dressed in their wonderful Ikat fabrics and other garments. Our travels took us past beautiful rice fields, smoking volcanos, stilt villages along the waterfront, and hills that reminded us of Calif. Weaving of ikats in the traditional fashion with handspun yarns and dyes made from plants occupies a large part of the day for the women.

Favorite spots, so far, and not in order: (1) the KOMODO ISLANDS, off Flores a short distance and which are national parks with large, 6ft. lizards known as Komodo Dragons. They reportedly can kill and eat a water buffalo quite easily so we gave them a wide clearance when hiking. (2) SULEWESI, where we anchored in Makassar and then traveled to the highlands of Tana Toraja, an area where the dead are kept at home until the family has saved enough money to kill several water buffalo and have a large feast for the entire village. The architecture of the area is very dramatic and the rice fields are especially beautiful. Returning to Makassar we traveled further south to Tana Beru where huge wooden ships are built on the beaches without using nails and in a style that hasn't changed since the days of Ghenghis Khan. (3) Tiny little GILLI AIR, a small island off northern Lombok that resembles Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville with horse-drawn carts as the only transportation and restaurants lining the beaches and cushion covered platforms for lounging and sipping your favorite beverage, getting a massage, watching a movie or just watching the world go by. Great spot!(4) The KUMAI RIVER area in Borneo where we traveled up a river on a slow-moving boat not far removed from the African Queen to see the Orangutans in the wild. This part of Borneo, is known as Kalamantan, and the govt. has established a national park where food is left for the orangutans when the supply in the wild has been affected by drought, etc. Twice a day the rangers show up with a backpack stuffed with bananas and a few of us trot along behind to watch to see who shows up to eat, mothers with babies, old males, teenagers--quite a show. But the best was when we were hiking along a trail and through the brush you see a flash of red and there is an orangutan peeking back at you. Surprise turns to anger that we are trespassing in his territory so he throws branches at us to scare us off and makes noises intended to be threatening.

Traveling with large groups of sailboats affords some security in an area known for piracy and graft, neither of which we experienced. Most of our anchorages were patrolled by the Indonesian Navy.