Posted 5th August 2012.
We left Saumlaki this morning and are now anchored off a small island just around the corner about 8nm from town with two other boats, Lizzie and Avant Garde. It was great to have our first swim and snorkel since Lizard Island on the Queensland coast exactly two months ago. We’ll spend a few more days exploring the Tanimbar group before heading offshore again for the 200nm passage north to the Banda Island.
Well now for the hard bit, attempting to describe our first taste of Asia without the aid of pictures as we still don’t have internet coverage restricting us from emailing attachments.
The Sail Indonesia rally seems to have morphed into Sail Morotai 2012 which apparently is a government sponsored event intended to promote tourism in the region. Morratai is in the north of Indonesia and on 15 September a maritime event is planned to coincide with the Allied landing there 68 years ago. The president will be there and different nations naval vessel will attend. To encourage the rally yachts to make the extra 560nm trip an extended 3 month visa and 200ltrs of diesel is on offer. Although this sounds like it may be a great experience it would mean us missing out on other activities so we probably won’t go.
The welcome we received in Saumlaki was tremendous bordering on over-the-top.
A free Island bus tour started at 0900 and finished way past happy hour at 1700. By lunch time we had reached a village on the East Coast. Our visit, about 60 boaties, closed the school and had most of the villagers joining in the activities. Once again religion seemed to rule their lives with Dutch missionaries having god like status. A procession walked out of the village to visit the stone boat lead by woman singing and banging bongo type drums or in some cases plastic jerry cans. Then it was more speeches by the village elders before a hungi style lunch of yams, sweet potato and bits of chicken before more dancing that I somehow failed to avoid participation. The villagers were so friendly and the kids great, just wanting to try out their English and get their photo taken.
After being dropped back at the wharf we walked into town to get dinner at a local hotel. Incredibly the roadside was littered with cardboard snack boxes from our trip. Obviously as soon as the bus had started heading home they cleaned up by heaving all the rubbish out of the window. The boxes will join all the other trash in the concrete drains on the side of the road where they will stay until washed out into the harbour when the rainy season arrives. It may sound awful but in a strange way it is part of the character of the place along with the cockerels tied up by one leg and the pigs lying bound up on the roadside. You pass the fish market , the veggie market, the street food stores and hundreds of stalls selling cheap Chinese rubbish.
Did they design the building architecture to fit the atmosphere and does next to no maintenance help the ambiance? Where are all these people going on their motorbikes? Who’s he hooting at? “Hi mister”, I think he means me. However, we’re not hassled to buy and never feel threatened. It’s so poor yet the people seem happy. I really don’t know what to make of it all, maybe I’m suffering from culture shock. And then to confuse me further we eat and drink at the hotel, best value beer and scoff I’ve ever had. Bintang beer, great or is it just after all that aussie crap, and then gorgeous Nasi Gorang for $3.50, so good that Colin and I order another dish each and this is all at the best hotel in town.
Great entertainment the next morning as we watch and listen to a French boat being told by the Harbourmaster that they can’t clear out today as the weather was “not good”. All the gesticulating in the world wasn’t going to sway this harbourmaster. The locals had gone to great lengths to put on tonight’s function and nobody was going to miss out, fair enough.
So that night it’s the Gala Dinner hosted at some hall at the back of town. Boat taxi to pick us up as the tide is on the way out and the dinghies would be stuck in the mud if left at the wharf. Taxi drivers, having waited until dark, read lists of who to pick up and chose to do this sequentially resulting in numerous trips around the anchored boats with crews waving at them as they look for the next boat name. With the boats overloaded by at least 100% we head for the commercial wharf hoping we don’t hit a swell and end up swimming. Then it’s into the minibus for a 0.5k trip to a collection point, wait there 1/2hr then get back into the same minibus and head for the venue, nobody can work out the logic. So Kiwis, Aussies, Germans, French, Swiss, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, Americans and Canadians out to party with Indonesians. Following more speeches we watch impressive local dancing and then it’s into some pretty good renditions of classics, Frank S would have been impressed. Gala chicken served with rice and a nice cold water before the dance floor is cleared and the gang of nations is ordered to dance. All a bit of a laugh but maybe went on a few hours too long.
The Indonesian officials are desperate to increase their tourism but I have to think that promoting the place to a bunch of yachties ain’t going to make a big difference. Why not spend a little money on encouraging a cruise ship into the place, surely the culture here would make a change from the staged locations they currently visit. Maybe not such a good idea as it then wouldn’t take long for this place to lose it’s charm.
Now for the big news, the band has played it’s first gig. Maybe this is stretching things a little but we did go public, open mic over the VHF, as we played happy birthday to a fellow cruiser. The forward bookings are looking a little sick, time to get a manager?
Paul & Glor – SV Scallywag
PS: We’ve moved on since I started the above dribble, had a great sail today and caught a big barracuda which we happily gave to a local once we’d dropped anchor this evening.
07 38’04.62 S, 131 07’12.06 E
12-08-05 18:56:35 +1000 +0000