Selamat Siang, Hello/Good Day! (Said between about 11am and 3pm only!)
We have been very busy since our arrival in Kupang, West Timor, Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia about three weeks ago on July 28 from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia as part of the Darwin-Kupang Rally. We were treated like royalty by the Organizers of the Rally! They arranged our Clearances with Customs and Immigration, fuel delivery directly to our boat at 2500 rupiahs per liter (.29US), dinghy security and assistance for our beach landings. On a day tour of the island, we visited the King's House in the mountain village of Baum for an ikat weaving demonstration, the National Museum, a beach, with lunch provided back at Teddy's before an afternoon tour of the monkeys and their cave. English students at the local university were guides and translators, since very few speak English in Indonesia, besides "Hello, Mester! Hello, Messus!". We attended several gala dinners where we were the guests of honor and welcomed by local dignitaries, where we enjoyed delicious dinners of local Indonesian cuisine and dance presentations from groups from around the island. We were given gifts of ikats, and we also purchased several from locals on the streets, where bargaining is the norm. Aloy, one of the guides, accompanied us to the local mall on a "bemo" (Trinidad "maxis" scaled down for Asian- sized travelers, but with the same sized boom boxes with huge base speakers) to assist in my purchase of three outfits for Muslim cities, all that is exposed are my hands, feet and face! We never once felt threatened or anxious. A smile from one of us was always rewarded by a larger one from them!
We sailed overnight to Kalabahi on the island of Alor on August 1 to arrive to watch their cultural Festival to begin on August 3. We were one of the first of approximately 35 boats who traveled there to see their Festival as part of the Rally. Festivities were not as well organized for these events as they had been in Kupang; however, these were their festivities, and we were simply there to observe. Unfortunately, the afternoon when we watched all of the villages walk into the stadiums, David, Jason and Eric were not feeling well. We missed the Gala Dinner at the Governor's Regent House. Jason, Eric and I attended Welcome Speeches from the Governor, after they had boated around the anchorage welcoming us all with their dances. We were able to get more diesel and finally all of us went ashore in search of a bank, but no one would give us money on our card, so we will have to spend less money! We purchased several ikat and watched some of the weaving demonstrations. We were not able to attend the farewell dinner on August 5, since the guys just did not feel up to it.
We left Kalabahi on August 6, heading west! We have been day hopping through the islands. We anchored on the Islands of Pantar, Kawula, Andonara, Flores at Hading Bay, Batuboga, Teluk Dama, Teluk Bari, and Labuan Bajo, Crocodile Bay on Rinca Island, and Banta Island. We spent August 10 enjoying a day of relaxation and snorkeling, and August 17 & 18 in the Southeast Bay of Banta Island, where we cooked bread and muffins, cleaned, snorkeled for hours in crystal clear water with fantastic coral and brightly colored clams, but very few fish. Unfortunately, we have not caught a fish since we arrived and in many places dynamite is used to fish, which completely destroys everything: fish, coral and the environment... forever. We also had haircuts, in fact, two fishermen sat and watched David give Eric his haircut. On Banta (which is uninhabited) we had several interactions (all through our Lonely Planet Phrase Book and pointing and hand signals) with the fishermen. Some are from Sumbawa and others from Labuan Bajo on Flores. Some are more polite and friendly than others. We did purchase a lobster for $5US from one. (It was delicious.) We have been approached by fisherman, who asked for everything: fins, masks, wetsuits, watches, ropes, but we usually give them school supplies, or we have given water and sugar. At the town of Teluk Bari, we gave out almost our entire stock of school supplies that we had purchased at Woolworths in Australia. We must have had 20+ children (all boys, no girls as this was a Muslim village) paddle out in their dug out canoes. Many spoke excellent English and they all looked like they had cleaned up, combed their hair, and put on their best clothes to pay us a visit. They were all very well behaved, polite, friendly and genuinely delighted with our gifts of exercise books, pens, pencils, crayons, erasers.
We arrived in the fishing/port town of Labuan Bajo on the Northwestern coast of Flores to find that several boats at been boarded the night before while the cruisers were ashore having dinner. Two boats were only slightly damaged when they tried to gain access. Unfortunately, on *Sea Fever II* a hatch had been left open, and they stole his computer, GPS, digital camera and some other items. Hopefully, he will be able to retrieve them. We contracted with Abul Bakar and his two friends to bring us 200 liters solar (diesel) for 2500rp/liter plus bemo charge of 25,000, so for 525,000rp (US$60)we saved ourselves 5 trips to the petrol station 5km out of town! Also, many cruisers were refused and they would not fill their cans even at the petrol station. We were not overly impressed with this town, and actually wondered why anyone would want to eat out in a place like this? We did purchase pineappples, carrots, and some bananas. We were not able to find a bank. We bargained for over an hour to purchase 3 pearl necklaces and 2 carved komodo dragons from Abul and his friends. Bargaining is definitely hard work!
We sailed to Crocodile (? this name) Bay on Rinca Island, which is part of the Komodo National Park Preserve with Komodo Island. We dinghied ashore to make arrangements for our guided tour at 3pm. After we had paid 138,000rp(US$16) for four of us for park entrance fee for three days for both islands, insurance fee, guide fee, and boat fee plus we purchased several post cards. When we walked back to the dinghy dock there was a dragon walking on the jetty! We were so sorry not to have either camera with us! What an experience we had that afternoon! We were greeted at exactly 3pm by Delatus Dala, very smartly dressed in his ranger uniform, carrying his large dragon stick! He showed us the trails on a large map, where we would hike to the water hole and back across the island to have an incredible view back to the boats at anchor in the bay on the long walk of 5km. We saw all the wildlife possible, except for feral horses. We saw komodo dragons, water buffalo, wild pigs, monkeys, and deer. We must have seen 20-30 dragons of all different sizes. The largest was underneath their kitchen cabin at park headquarters, where all building are built on stilts for obvious reasons. They do have a few guest cabins, if anyone is interested. We were also informed that San Diego Zoo researchers periodically come there to study. It is interesting that the first place where we ever saw a komodo dragon was at San Diego Zoo in 1980!
The komodo dragon, actually a monitor lizard, known as "ora" to the locals, may grow to 10 ft and weigh 100 kg dining on water buffalo, deer, and goats and are known as Varanus komodoensis in the scientific community. They are ambush predators, which means that they lie and wait for their prey to stroll by and then bite. They are almost impossible to see in this very dried up grass/bushland. The bite does not immediately kill a large animal, it could take a month to kill a large water buffalo, like the one that the dragons had feasted on the morning of our tour. A small animal would succumb to the bacteria in the saliva immediately. Our guide told us that a small child had recently died in Komodo Village, and a school teacher was now crippled after a leg bite while he was out collecting wood. There are only two villages on these islands, where the houses are built on stilts, near the water (although komodo dragons are excellent swimmers) to lessen the chance of an ambush. We did not visit either village. We hiked to the water hole, seeing many deer and a few dragons along the way. We were amazed at the size of the water buffalo. We could see only a few bones (ribs and skull)remaining from the water buffalo, which had been witnessed by the cruisers on the morning tour. Nothing was left only 4 hours later! We counted many dragons up the hill from the water hole, simply lying on rocks, just as far as they could muster after their enormous feast! They looked like they had just consumed the entire turkey on Thanksgiving. Actually, it was excellent for us, since we did not have to watch the grisly devouring of the water buffalo but there were still many dragons out and about, and they definitely were not hungry so had no interest and were not a danger for us. The view from the top of the ridge (all of these islands are volcanic) was very spectacular with the boat safely tucked inside the bay in a nice quiet anchorage with three other boats. We thanked Delatus, while we discussed our mutual belief in God and Mother Mary, (He is a Catholic from Labuan Bajo) for a wonderful tour of this incredible Dragon Island as the sun was setting into the sea, and we were trying to figure out how to get down from the high dock to our dinghy before she settled into the mud at low tide. We are sure that this island will remain very high on our list of Top Memories of our Sail around the world. We consider ourselves greatly blessed to be out here.
We are presently sailing from Banta Island, actually sailing, instead of motoring. We have found that there is either no wind, wind on the nose, or wind directly from behind here in Indonesia. We have also found that the current which is very strong in these waters is always against us, no matter what time of day, tide range, or direction of travel. We have caught no fish. Most of the anchorages are small, full of coral, and steep-to since these islands are all volcanoes where the bottom goes from 200' to 20' when you are only 60' from shore. Even though sailing and anchoring have been difficult, we have enjoyed the people immensely, the snorkeling and the dragons, and we can't wait to experience Lombok, Bali, and on and on.
That will bring you up to date on our travels. Please send us your news. We hope that you are all safe and well and enjoying the final days of an enjoyable restful summer. Take care. Keep in touch. Be safe. God Bless.
Sorry to take so long to send out all these updates! Please remember not to send this email back when you reply. Also, if you do not want to continue receiving our updates, please write and we will remove you from our address book.
With Love, Peace and Aloha,
Ellen, David, Jason, and Eric
August 19, 2004
S/V PEACE AND ALOHA
Banta Island, Nusa Tengarra, Indonesia
08 Deg 26 South 122 Deg 46 East