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The Adventure ....

 
  
 
 
 
 
ships log
Wednesday 12th November 2008
Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, Singapore

Hello everyone! If you were starting to think we'd got lost - fear not ! We'll always turn up somewhere ! Reason for the lack of communication and no updates to the webpage was because our trusty laptop computer and the mobile phone, gave up along the way - seems to be some sort of tropics / electronic imbalance (our CD changer and depth sounder also died). As you can see from the dateline, we're now out of Indonesia, and as we reflect on the 3 months we spent there we realize just what an awesome experience it was. Overall, the warmth and hospitality of the people was just amazing, and we had some wonderful anchorages - some great diving and snorkelling, spectacular volcanoes, fascinating wildlife. On the other hand, some of the towns were an assault on all the senses - not always peace and tranquility! But it all adds up to what makes Indonesia what it is - unique. We were privileged to experience it the way we did. So herewith a bit of a 'catch up' on the last 2 months, Ill try and keep it to a summary, since the full story would fill a book!

Since our last report from Labuan Bajo, we continued travelling westwards, next major stop was the Komodo & Rinca Islands - very different scenery, rugged rocky mountains, lower slopes covered in grasslands and dotted with palm trees, lots of great bays to anchor in and explore, plus the famous Komodo dragons which look just like lizards, but grow to the size of large crocodiles and eat anything including buffalo (wild) and occasionally tourists (pretty livid I would think). One afternoon I took a walk across Rinca Island, which had well defined paths worn across the headlands between bays, and I was idly wondering who or what had made the paths, when I came face to face with a large dragon coming the other way. Armed only with an oar from the dinghy, I yelled fiercely and waved the oar threateningly - this caused dragon to pause for about 5 seconds, during which time he looked at me, blinked a few times, probably thought "you've got to be kidding", then continued his march. This left me with no choice but to turn around and retreat at a good clip ! It would seem that each dragon has his own area which he patrols everyday, looking for food, and hence the paths and us seeing them on the beach regularly.

The water in this area was spectacularly clear, one of the overnight anchorages we did was at 'Gili Lawa' where the tidal flow between the 2 islands made a spectacular snorkelling spot, we drifted with the current through the passage, swimming alongside with manta rays and turtles, finally coming out the other side to get a dinghy ride back to the start to do it all again - like a mother natures amusement ride!

From the Komodo/Rinca area, we sailed right across Sumbawa without stopping and arrived at 'Gili Air' just off Lombok Island, which has a well deserved reputation for diving, backpacker style accomodation and beach restaurants. We loved the simple and relaxed beach lifestyle, prices were very reasonable as it's not yet a major tourist destination. We spent a further 4 days exploring Lombok, hiring a car and guide to visit the traditional weaving, pottery industries. We also found our 1st 'real' supermarket since leaving Darwin, plus the dreaded McD's, which of course we had to have. Our overall impression of Lombok was very good, it's still very unspoilt, and they have good facilities for tourists, without being hassled like the full-on tourist destinations (read - Bali).


Komodo Dragon

champagne sailing around Komodo Island
Komodo dragon
champagne sailing around Komodo Island
baby manta ray cruises by
Destiny at anchor -peaceful at Gili Lawat
baby manta ray cruises by
Destiny at anchor -peaceful at Gili Lawat
Taxi - Lombok style
Pretending to be locals
taxi - Lombok style
pretending to be locals


Next came the 70 mile hop across to north Bali, where we anchored off Lovina Beach. As usual, we got an incredible welcome - a stage had been constructed on the beach, and every night were performances by the local gamelon orchestras and traditional dancing. The Balinese have a diifferent style of dance, and the costumes are spectacular. The local village is well geared up to tourism, and we enjoyed the local restaurants, with competition being very fierce, resulting in excellent marketing initiatives like "All Day Happy Hour" ! The pubs and restaurants are substantial buildings here, many in the balinese style which is very attractive and interesting, unlike the previous islands were bamboo structures with a palm frond roof was the norm. On the downside, we didn't like the constant pressure to buy something - everywhere we went in Bali we were hassled. Sure, we understand that things are tough for the locals, tourist numbers are still down after the Bali bombings, but we were so bombarded by people trying to get our attention, that we just automatically said "no thanks" to everyone and the end result is we didn't buy a single t-shirt or souvenir. Sad really, because some of the stuff looked quite good, but if you show any interest at all, it's like a feeding frenzy of all the stall holders in the street trying to compete for your dollar.


Entrance to a Lombok Temple

Balinese dancers
entrance to a Lombok temple
Balinese dancers


The anchorage in Lovina was very secure, with lots of other boats around, so we left Destiny for a few days and took a side trip, flying from Denpassar to Yogyakarta in Java. Our main objective was to visit Borobudur temple, which is a huge, pyramid shaped stucture -built around 800 AD, it was abandoned fairly quickly and lay forgotten for centuries, buried under a pile of volcanivc ash. It was 're-discoverd' in 1815 and has been restored to it's former glory. It is an awe-inspiring place, not only an engineering marvel, but it also had a very spritual feeling. It was hard to take photos that do it justice, there is so much inticate detail in the carved stone panels, and something like 475 Budha statues, and sheer size of the temple wouldn't fit in the picture frame! Here's a few pics to hopefully give you an idea.


Borobudur Temple - view from the hotel restaurant

Borobudur - near the top
Borobudur Temple - view from the hotel restaurant
Borobudur Temple - near the top
the lower level - our attempt to provide some scale
very steep stairways provide access to each level
the lower level - our attempt to provide some scale
very steep stairways provide access to each level
very detailed stone carvings
very detailed stone carvings
very detailed stone carvings
a row of budda's
very decorative turrets and alcoves
a row of budda's
very decorative turrets and alcoves
lion guarding an entrance
elaborate drainpipe
lion guarding an entrance
elaborate drainpipe

Yogyakarta is also said to be the artisic centre of Indonesia, and we went to a night performance of the Ramayana ballet which we thoroughly enjoyed - the costumes were stunning, dancing was at times very acrobatic, a full gamelon orchestra doing their thing - the result was an all action show, even if we didn't quite get the plot (sort of a Romeo & Juliet story). It was a nice treat for us to spend a few days in a hotel, and we thoroughly enjoyed taking a 'holiday' from sailing. We went back to Bali, found Destiny to be safe and sound, and after a very pleasant week in Bali we pulled up anchor and headed north east for Kallimantan on the Borneo island.


Ramayana ballet dancers

making shadow puppets
Ramayana ballet dancers
making shadow puppets


This involved a fairly long passage of around 370 miles across the Java sea, with a stop about halfway at Bawean Island, arriving at Kumai River after 5 days. Kallimantan (Borneo) is yet another face of Indonesia - from the south, it's very flat, featureless and shallow, with a number of huge river estuaries along the coast. Kumai town was about 25 miles up river from the sea, and we anchored off the town in the wide river. The main activity here was timber processing, with many sawmills and ships transporting it away, all sourced from the immense jungles of Borneo which have been disappearing at a great rate (whilst sailing in these waters, we were always on the look out for submerged timber planks and at times, whole trees - sailing into one of those at 5 knots would've caused serious headaches !). Another large industry is the processing of swallows nests for the ever-hungry Chinese market - millions of swallows build their nests in large multi-storeyed purpose-built barns, which are then collected, with the swallow 'spit' being extracted for weird concoctions such as bird's nest soup and cold drinks.

There are some very dedicated people in this part of the world, who work for non profit organisations lobbying government departments to protect the forests, and perhaps more importantly, to educate the local tribes about alternate, sustainable farming methods. The tribes are the traditional landowners, and of course it's very tempting for them to sell vast tracts of forests to the timber companies for cash, but happily, they seem to be realising that they need to keep the forests for future generations to survive. (visit www.yayorin.org if you're interested to learn more). Here's a scary statistic - even though much of the Borneo jungles are now "protected", they are still legally cutting down ancient trees at the rate of more than 4 soccer fields per second. One of the inhaitants of the forests is of course the orangutan, and there are some excellent research and re-habilitation centres in the jungles.

Together with the crews from 3 other boats (Purnama, Crasara Cruzin, and El Misti) we hired a local wooden river boat for a 3 day trip up river to visit our 'cousins'. The beauty and majesty of travelling these narrow rivers through the jungles is hard to describe. We were reminded of the old B/W movie "The African Queeen" - the boat had no cabins, no kitchen to speak of, no electricity. We slept on the deck of the boat on roll up matresses and under mozzie nets, listening to the sounds of the jungle. Food was provided for us by a very talented cook and assistant, who produced excellent and numerous dishes of local delights from a very basic kero stove. Showering was by bucket and river water. So, all very basic, but somehow it seemed fitting for the remoteness and isolation of the jungle, we felt like it wouldn't be right to visit this location in opulent luxury, and result was we had a brilliant trip. Besides orangutangs we also saw brilliantly coloured kingfishers, hornbills, wild pigs, squirrels, gibbons, probiscus monkeys - the latter giving us great entertainment on our first evening as we'd stopped for the night below what seemed to be a few probiscus monkey families - the large dominant males of each family constantly whooped and crashed around the jungle protecting their harems and chasing off other males.

The orangutans are fascinating creatures, their facial expressions can be so like ours, and they seem to have quite individual characters, some are comedians and play around, most seem to have a very gentle nature - with all of them you can make eye contact and see intelligence in the way that they look back at us. At the research station, there were some apes not fully re-habilitated into the jungle and prefer to hang around the camp, while deeper in the jungle there are feeding platforms that offer a daily meal of milk and bananas for those animals who are back in the jungle but maybe not always finding enough food. Also there are of course fully wild animals who have never interacted with humans - these tend to be very shy and disappear quickly into the jungle. We spent hours just watching the orangutans - they are fascinating creatures and our trip up the Borneo rivers will certainly be a highlight of our Indonesian journey.


heading upstream - Kumai River

The Gang and the boat
heading upstream - Kumai River
Kumai river boat and crew, and "The Gang"
onboard kitchen (courtsey of Crasara Cruzin')
sleeping arrangements
onboard kitchen (courtsey of Crasara Cruzin')
sleeping arrangements
heading upstream - Kumai River
The Gang and the boat
magnificent orangutangs
onboard kitchen (courtsey of Crasara Cruzin')
sleeping arrangements

"butter wouldn't melt in our mouths" gibbons

dominant male probiscus monkey
"butter wouldn't melt in our mouths" gibbons
dominant male probiscus monkey


Next major stop was the island of Belitung - we didn't know much about this place as it's not mentioned in the Lonely Planet nor in any other guide books that we've seen, so we weren't expecting much. We were totally amazed at the reception we got, the whole island turned out to see us, and we felt like Brad & Ange as everyone wanted to take our photos, school kids wanted to interview us, and at times it was hard to walk around as we were mobbed by lovely, polite families who just wanted to say 'Hello' (what a contrast to Bali !). Belitung is an undiscovered gem, the water is crystal clear so great snorkelling and swimming, the beaches are all fine white silica sand, with spectacular giant boulders forming the headlands. Ashore, the beers were cold and cheap, with delightful seafood restaurants right on the beach. There is a plan to build an international airport, which will create lots of employment for the locals as tourists pour in, but you can't help thinking that development, though inevitable, will somehow spoil the island.

Throughout our Indonesian travels, we were entertained by the locals, who are always keen to display the traditional music, dance and costumes. Often a dinner featuring the local speciality dishes is laid on, hosted by the local Regent or similar. Many of these evenings have been incredible, the trouble the local people go to for us was fantastic, and each location seemed to be better than the last. Belitung was no exception - we definitely got the most lavish entertainment and hospitality here - a fitting finale to our Indonesian adventures. We officially cleared out of Indonesia here in Belitung, even though we were still about 2 weeks from Singapore.


graceful & colourful dancing at Kumai

Horse Dance at Belitung
graceful & colourful dancing at Kumai
horse dance at Belitung
Indonesian children just love having their photo taken
Belitung beach restaurant chef
Indonesian children just love having their photo taken
Belitung beach restaurant chef
things you see on motor bikes
things you see on motor bikes
things you see on motor bikes - fish and live chickens


We crossed the equator on 25th October 2008 (00.00N 104.45'013 E) in company with Purnama, El Misti, Crasara Cruzin', Pier de Mere, Keishi and Te Wai Paunamu - in dead calm conditions, so much so that we stopped at a reef right on the equator but in the middle of nowhere, where we all snorkelled and then got together for a "crossing the equator" celebration - we even spent the night here, even though it's an anchorage as such. We've covered 5465 nautical miles between our start in Sydney and the equator, and as we moved into the northern hemisphere it was a good time to reflect on all the amazing experiences we had in Indonesia. Although we spent 3 months there, we haven't scratched the surface - it's such a vast country. The overwhelming lasting impression is of the people. They have to be amongst the most friendly people on the planet.

Which brings us to Singapore, where we've had a 2 week spell in the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club - a 5 star joint with pools, gym, choice of restaurants and so on, and we have to say we're enjoying the luxury, plus the shops have everything you could possibly want, and Singapore as usual is a demonstration of efficiency in organisation. Quite a contrast ! Modern Singapore is amazing - lots of things are still the same from when we lived here in 1991, but there has also been alot of rebuilding - we were blown away by the Barrage built across the mouth of the Singapore River and the new_esplanade - great spot for strolling around as well providing a venue for showcasing South-East Asian and international arts, a floating football stadium, Formula 1 track (held for the first time in September this year - damn, just missed it !).


approaching Singapore, horizontal to the shipping lane - all visible ships are moving!

barrage across the Singapore River
approaching Singapore - every cargo ship ahead is moving!
Singaporean children
old style and modern architecture
old style and modern architecture
old style and modern architecture side by side
Singapore's eye
barrage - viewed from the eye
new esplanade - viewed from the eye
barrage - viewed from the eye
new esplanade - viewed from the eye
vintage clan house
Republic of Sinapore Yacht Club
vintage clan house spared from demolition
Republic of Singapore Yacht Club

Here's this month's video_clip_link.

And now we're just about to start our next adventure up the west coast of Malaysia, with the Sail_Malaysia_Rally. We hope to get back into the routine of monthly updates so here's hoping that internet access will be easier, and touch wood, we don't have any more computer problems. Stay tuned for the next instalment :-)

As Malaysian is similar to Indonesian (which is great, as we don't need to learn another language) it's still “Selamat tinggal” from Destiny III
B & G