Friday, October 22, 2010

Komodo Island, Indonesia

A definitive must see in Indonesia is the Komodo National Park, which is the one place in the world where legendary Komodo dragons can be found. The 2 meter lizards lay here and there on the five islands forming the park and, accompanied with a guide, we were able to have a look at these large predators whom, although not as dreaded as the crocodiles in Australia, call for a certain respect. We were lucky enough to see four of them during our visit as well as deer, birds and red ants.

Seeing the dragons was surely a treat but other than being big fat lizards lying very passively on the ground they were not much of an interest. However, the local people of Komodo were by much more interesting to see and to deal with. Upon arrival at the Komodo village we were immediately surrounded by local fishermen who, when the small fishes found in the area gets less abundant, go after the larger fishes sailing around the world on a catamaran to sell them some Komodo souvenirs! We usually don't buy tourist stuff like that but when we saw Komodo it was hard not to encourage them a little bit. Other than lizards and giant fruit bats there is basically nothing on this island for the locals to make a living of any kind. We used a free mooring ball for the night and they were all over us to help us with anything we needed and spending a few dollars was just the least we could do really. So after less than half an hour we were the new proud owners of three sculpted wooden statues of Komodo dragons and three tiny fishes that were already half dried after staying too long in the guy's boat under the scorching Indonesian sun but the poor guy had followed us for over half an hour to take us to the mooring ball so I had to buy something from him. I gave him $1 for his three decomposing beasts. There was no way we would even venture thinking about eating them and I just left them on the deck and finally forgot them when we left for our visit at the Komodo Park.

One of the fishermen took us to the park located about 2 km from where we were mooring. The ride in the boat was a treat. This is actually the one with the blue tarpaulin on the picture. You can also see a new cost effective design of a dinghy they use here to commute from one boat to another! Why bother with inflatable boats and outboard motors when a good reliable block of Styrofoam just does the job? The mono-cylinder engine, on the fishing boat, had to be started by hand with a sort of handle while to fuel came from an old plastic jug formally used for water and sitting just on the deck with its hose plunged through the opening. Of course don't even think about glow plugs or anything fancy such as a muffler or a decent exhaust pipe for instance. The exhaust was coming straight out of the engine into the section under the tarpaulin. Thank God, while the boat was moving, the breeze was pushing the black smoke toward the stern just where the driver sat! I don't think I need to mention the kind of noise that was coming out of this machine probably devised before man invented fire. But that's exactly why this was such a treat. For $10.00 they took us to the park, waited during our entire visit and took us back to the boat; all this while being nice, polite and very attentive. For that price in Canada we couldn't pay someone to give us a kick in the ass! As we climbed back on Chocobo we noticed that local birds didn't find the three fishes, I left on the deck, that disgusting and had feasted while we were away leaving of course half of the inner organs scattered all over!

With the help of the locals we were able to do all our visits the first day we arrived allowing us to leave the next day to an anchorage north of Komodo. The place was simply beautiful with clear water; we could see the bottom while the depth sounder indicated 80 feet (25m), and colorful coral everywhere. The only thing though with Indonesia so far is the fact there is no wind enough to make any decent sailing and we are forced to motor all the time. But on the plus side, no wind also means no waves and the rides are extremely smooth so we don't really complain especially since diesel here is relatively cheap.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beginning Indonesia with Kupang.

Since we had to motor all the way from Darwin to Kupang our main diesel tank started to be seriously low and the first thing we had to do after the entry procedures was to fill up. This was especially true since the weather forecasts for Indonesia show this is a windless country. On the left you can see Napa our agent who took care of the entry procedures and provided the fuel. Of course, no fuel dock here with a nice pump at hand so 10 Jerry cans were necessary to carry the 240 liters we required and since we don't know the state of the fuel we had to filter everything to remove the dirt and water that could be contaminating it but to our astonishment it was fairly clean.
A quick note about entry procedures in Indonesia; basically they are very complex and Danielle has been working on this for three months. The language barrier and the administrative cumbersomeness forced us to use an agent who took care of all the local procedures. We still had to search for info, find an agent, contact him and get the visas. For the visas we got them at the Indonesian Embassy in Darwin. In all, the fees for the visas, the cruising permit, the bond waivers, the agents services and the lost in currency changes sum up to about $860.00, which makes Indonesia the most expensive country in our trip to get in.

There is nothing better to commute than buses. Indonesia not being a car country there is a bus every other minute to take us for a $0.20 fee. Quite a contrast with Australia where the fees were $2.00 and we had to wait sometimes up to 1½ hour for to bus to show up! As expected people here are very nice and patients with us. However, there is something different with the other countries we went. Normally people are used to see white tourists walking the streets and for them we are like the trees; of no interests unless they want money from us. But here people looked at us with a certain curiosity. Some, usually older, would smile at us and say hello but most of them seemed not to know how to behave went crossing us on the street. In those cases all we had to do is to give them a nice smile and say ''Hello!'' to startle them and so they realized we are simply normal human beings. Every time their face would burst into a huge genuine smile indicating their relief. In one case though a group of men behind their street counters gave us the strong feeling they were making fun of us but since we didn't understand anything they said it was hard to get upset. An interesting fact is that even if most of them gave us the impression we came from Mars they all seemed to know how to say "Hello mister!" even the youngest one who had barely learned to talk. We will probably solve that mystery during the month and a half we plan to stay in Indonesia.

As a routine for us now our walks in town usually are aimed at replenishing fruits and vegetables. Kupang being a city of 300,000 it's not the hardest thing in the world to find someone to sell us some. Prices are relatively low but we got tourist priced at some point and, the language barrier not helping, we seriously have to refine our dealing skills.
By the way, for those who are a bit more awake, you may have notice that we are now in Timor, which is a large island in Eastern Indonesia. Timor made the front page of the newspapers at the end of the last century due to the quasi genocide unrolling here. This was in fact East Timor the other part of the island while we are in West Timor who seems to live in peace as part of Indonesia. As for East Timor, if I understood the story correctly, it seemed to have had lived some very sad days when a regime came in place and fought the Indonesian regime with the consequence that 200,000 out of the 750,000 inhabitants of the area got slaughtered by the conflict but mostly by the local regime. East Timor is one of the two places in the world, after the Gulf of Aden, where insurance companies don't even want to talk about boat coverage!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arrived in the Republic of Indonesia.

We arrived in at the city of Kupang, West Timor in the Republic of Indonesia, from Darwin in Australia, on September 27th, 2010 after a passage of 476 nautical miles (885 km) that took us 4 days, 3 hours and 30 minutes for an overall average speed of 4.8 knots. Just a few miles from Kupang we crossed the furthest point from home in this trip and were at 15,880 km as the crow flies. Therefore, we are technically, from now on, going back home. The ride across the Timor Sea was very smooth with virtually no wind for the entire trip forcing us to motor all the way. Motoring might be noisy but it also means infinite electricity and water supply, which we can live with. Down here it is hot and humid so Danielle would take up to three showers per day :-) Ah! We love the desalinator!