Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bali to Flores

So we finally got the heck out of Bali.    We made one quick foray into Kuta, the premier and crazy tourist beach.   It basically is just a beach with redundant shops and more shops, restaurants, shops......general tourist stuff. 

Our plan was to get up the Lombok straits by crossing beneath Nusa Penida hopefully catching a swift current up to the northwest of Lombok.   The currents here are nuts.  The tides do not match the tide tables but we kind of had it figured that you add 3 hours to the table and that would more accurately reflect the state of the tide.    It was a bust.    Once we were past the bottom of Nusa Penida the current was still raging southwards but hitting a flooding tide causing stand up waves.  It was like being caught in a surf and not a comfortable feeling at all.   After a few hours of that, we were going against a current that dropped our speed down to almost 0 at some times.    It took 20 hours to do the 60 miles up to the NW corner of Lombok.     Over the top finally, but now no wind and we really needed to sail as we had used quite a lot of fuel in the straits.    By the time we reached Komodo, after 72 hours, we had only sailed about 12.

This area, Komodo National Park, is gorgeous.   The islands remind us of California and the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.    Green, rumpled hills, valleys dotted with trees, waving grasses in the sea breeze and Timor deer, wild pigs, beautiful birds and dragons.   Yep, dragons.   Fishermen double as shopkeepers in this area and we were visited by several boats wanting to sell us carved dragons, pearl necklaces, t-shirts, you know the drill.  Before I knew it the boat was crawling with dragons.

Cruiser Notes:   Anchor  at Teluk Gili Lawa, Komodo  (08 29.5S; 119 32.0E)

We stopped off at Loh Liang to visit one of the park stations and saw one large dragon by the watering hole, another fat dragon relaxing after getting fed from the kitchen at the park station and a smaller dragon wishfully eyeing the deer who were oblivious of the dragons which would almost certainly kill them and eat them once they were hungry.  Our guides delighted in telling us stories about those unfortunate tourists and villagers who had been eaten by dragons.   They also let us know that the dragon can move at 18km per hour, much faster than us, so I was looking for a tree I could climb as we continued our trek.   Pretty much decided that if a dragon was going to select me for dinner, I was  toast.  Or, would that be roast?  This is our guide, Yona.   He was very well trained and pointed out cockatoos and wild fruit trees along the way.

As usual, exit through the gift shop!!

Before leaving the anchorage, we were visited by young boys out fishing in their dugout canoes.    I usually hand out a few small penny candies.   One boy asked for a pencil, so I gave them each an exercise book, pen and a pencil.    The two boys told me the middle boy did not go to school as his mother could not afford it (the kids here have to pay for school after 6th grade) and he had no papa.    Oh boy, that tugged at my heartstriings.  That was not their intention, they were just being matter of fact.  Anyway, I popped back out with a small bag of rice, a bag of sugar, some spaghetti noodles and a bar of soap to take home to his mother.

Cruiser Notes:   Anchorage at Koh Liang, Komodo  (08 34.23S; 119 30.05E)  Park ranger charged us each 20,000 rph for park fee, 50,000 for guide, 50,000 for anchoring and another 50,000 fee for something ???.  All legit, we got tickets.   He also wanted to charge us 50,000 for snorkelling but I told him we would go snorkel for free elsewhere.  He was o.k. with that.  Keep your tickets, they are good for 3 days.

We anchored for one night on a reef which is noted for attracting manta rays.  When Jim and I snorkelled we saw a lot of flattened coral, a sign of blast fishing, but a few nice bombies.    You had to be really careful about the currents here as you could end up miles from your boat before you knew what was happening, so we dragged the dinghy along with us and started up current from the boat.    Only after getting out of the water (it was actually cold here, due to the swift current) later in the day did we see that our boat was surrounded by manta rays.    I just didn't have enough time to get my gear back out and jump in so had to enjoy watching them from the boat.

Cruiser Notes:  Anchorage at Batu Batong (reef) (08 39.9S; 119 35.8E)

Our next stop was at Loh Buaya, another park station.   This time an official greeted us and informed us he was from the harbormaster's office at Labuhanbajo.  Unbeknownst to us they extend their coverage to the park islands so we didn't have our documents with us when we went ashore.   A guide translated between us and the official seemed to be pretty nice and let us go into the park for our trek.   Before that, though, he whipped out paperwork and stamps and cleared us out of Labuhanbajo for Ternate.   Now we had 2 port clearances for Ternate!!! 

Our guide here was Rambli who likes to be called Rambo.     He was a very good guide with good English skills.    He was educated until the 6th grade, and then like so many Indonesian kids, just couldn't afford school after that so he went fishing with his father.    He dreams of becoming a teacher one day, but this position at the park came open so he jumped at the chance to improve his skills.    He virtually learned English by conversing with tourists.   He is a volunteer!!   He gets only 25,000 RPH a day (about $2.60) stipend for food.   He works for 10 days, then goes home and fishes for 10 days. 

This dragon got up and moved when too many tourists crowded him out.   He made a little warning lunge at a group and they scattered in a hurry while the guide poked at him with a forked stick.

Can you spot this dragon.   They are so camouflaged in the jungles you really have to look to see one.,    You can even trip over one on a trail as they look like a log across the path.  This one is just a few feet from her nest.

The nest.   There are probably over 100 eggs here from a couple of different females.    They protect their eggs for 3 months, but once the little darlings hatch, they are on their own.   And it is kill or be killed.  Even their own parents are waiting to snack on the little critters as they poke their way out of the eggs.

So enough of dragons.     They aren't cute or cuddly.  I like orangutans exponentially better.

Cruiser notes:   Anchorage at Loh Buaya Rinca (08 39.45S; 119 43.05E)   Park ranger charged us 50,000 for the guide and another 50,000 each for government fee of some sort.  Legit....we got tickets.  

We meandered over to Labuhanbajo and anchored behind an island just off of town so we could be away from all the tour boats and local fishing boats.    We no sooner were dropping the anchor when we were visited by Jackie and his father who offered to help us with just about anything we would need.   The big thing was fuel.   Fuel in Indonesia is government subsidized so we cannot just march up to a pump with our jerry jugs and fill them up.   We might get away with filling up two, but that would be the limit.    These guys can go to the pump and get much more, however, even they are limited to a few jugs at a time as the line behind them gets impatient if they are taking too long.     It is also illegal for them to do this but it is commonly done.    We would have to get a permit, order a barrel and deal with it that way.    Since we do not have enough tankage for a barrel's worth of fuel, this is not a viable option for us or very many cruisers unless traveling in groups.   Jackie and his father couldn't even take our jerry jugs as they were too conspicuous (clean and new) so they cobbled together a bunch of their old ones, some from friends, and the few large detergent containers we had got for extra fuel to be carried on deck.

Ronnie is driving and pumping the bilge all the while.    They gave us a ride into town.   Later they came back with fuel and brought Jackie's little sister's along, Noor and Marta.    Marta was pretty happy with a toy I gave her and Noor liked getting a bar of soap and some nail polish.

In town we saw this little carousel operated by pedal power with real carnival music!!

I bought some fruit from this sweet old lady whose smile kind of disappeared amongst her toothless gums.    What am I saying?   She's probably no older than me!!  In any case, I've never been accused of being a sweet old lady anyway.

Later, on the dock, I watched these skinny, naked, brown boys spearing up urchins.   They were having a blast completely without the aid of high priced sports gear, video games, whatever.    Just enjoying the day as it came.

Then it was back home for the evening.

Cruiser Notes:   Anchorage at island off Labuhanbajo (08 28.54S; 119 52.10E)  Jackie charged us 6,000 rph per litre for the fuel.   That's a good price as it included delivery.    He also took our laundry so his sister would have something to do that day.     And, they provided us a taxi service into town for 50,000 round trip.  Not bad as it was a good distance and would have used some gas to get back and forth for us.   Town has one bank with an ATM about 1 kilometer walk south from the pierMarket is to the north of the pier but grocery stores and hardware stores, restaurants and bakery are on the way to the bank.

Visas and such

Oh dear.  We've got ourselves into a pickle.    We had heard it was so easy to get the visa extension so we didn't give it much thought.    When we were about to leave Bali, I decided to walk over to immigration in Benoa to ask about the visa extension and found out you can't just get that done at any immigration office.  Only Class I (Kelas I) offices can do that.   There was one in Denpasar so I jumped in the cab and got over there to find out that they wanted our passports for 7 days.    Oh no.   This was a bit of a calamity as we really needed to get moving if we were going to visit all the places we wanted to visit.   There wasn't enough time to get to the next Class I  office (Maumore, Flores) as you had to turn in the passport 7 days in advance of the expiration date of the visa.    You can't count on weather or really anything when you cruise, so we decided we could not possibly make it and besides, Maumore was pretty far out of our way.   So begrudgingly we turned in the passports and waited for the 7 days, only to find out it wasn't really 7 days, it was 8 as you had to go back on the 7th day, pay for the visa extension and then return the next day to pick it up.   Buggers.    When I went to pay, I asked as nicely as possible if they would please give me the passport that day as we were in a boat and had to get going.    Believe it or not, it worked and I got them back that afternoon.

We had considered the idea of joining the Sail to Indonesia Back to Down Under Rally which started in Morotai in Maluka.    We could sail there, join up and then sail with others along the coast of Iryan Jaya to Biak and then make for PNG, hoping that being with the rally would help us to get fuel.  So we contacted the organizers, Raymond and Dewi and asked if that was possible.   Dewi was in Bali on business and invited us over to the Bali Yacht Club in Serangan to talk about it, only when we got there, no Dewi.   Instead we were in the hands of Isle Marine services, a nice couple Nathan and Ruth, and all of a sudden they were pulling out paperwork for a Temporary Import Permit.    There is no longer any bond in Indonesia, but supposedly you still need to get this TIP.   Up to now, no harbormaster even asked for it and Nongsa Point Marina didn't act as if they knew what we were talking about.   Asking other cruisers about it, some did have it, some didn't.   In any case we had to up with over $150 for this permit and after doing that, we discovered that to get the export permit, we had to cough up another $150.   Also you have to list your exit point, which we thought would be Biak and supposedly you can't change that.

So the paperwork got rolling along, we were visited once by a customs officer who just sat in the cockpit letting Nathan do all the work and that was it for formalities.    Ruth informed us that the TIP would be in the hands of Raymond when we meet up with him in Ternate in the Malukas.   So would our new CAIT.    And now we are month to month with visa extensions.   You can get 4 extensions, but each one takes several days to acquire, a little bit of money, and you have to be at a Class I immigration office.   There is one in Ternate, but we might not make it in time and our new CAIT will be with Raymond and I'm sure they will want to see that.  Keeerap!!  

Just ask us if we are sorry we signed up for this stupid rally.    We would have been much better off on our own.   And now we have decided to go up to Palau as we have a generator problem and need parts before we make our way out into the wilds.   Also, PNG has had some violent robberies on cruising boats and has me a little unsettled as to whether or not we should cruise there.    In any case, Palau is beautiful and a No. 1 destination for cruisers coming across the Pacific.   

Never before while cruising have we had this issue.    My rant is over.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


The second inland trip we wanted to make was to visit the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.  We took a flight from Denpasar airport to Yogyakarta which was pretty painless since the airport is very near the marina (the planes fly overhead on their approach pattern). 

Borobudur is an ancient Buddhist temple.   Recently it was covered completely in ash from a volcanic eruption.  You can see by all the nooks and crannies this temple has that it must have been a nightmare to clean up the ash.

We arrived early in the morning and the dawn mists still wrapped the temple giving it an ethereal quality.  Later the sun burned off the mists so we had the temple in two completely different lights.    Again, this is not high season here so we enjoyed the temples without dealing with tourist mobs.

The temple is stacked in 7 layers.  The lower layers show humans in their lowest state, preoccupied with material goods and wealth.    Then as you ascend the stairs and walk (always clockwise) around each layer you approach a more enlightened world until at the top you reach Nirvana.    The place was beautiful with the carvings and the buddhas looking out over the plateau.

Later we rode on to Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex, dedicated to Shiva.

 We had a nice little losman to stay at in Yogyakarta on Sosrowijawan Street.   Its always fun to meet other backpackers while there on these side trips.

This is a father daughter team from Holland, Henni and Melissa.

 We were pretty close to the Sultan's palace from our place so we walked the mile or so to the palace.   You get stopped by touts all along the way wanting to take you to a batik exhibition (which will close that day, last chance to see this).   Yeah, right.   We dodged about a thousand of them and their pedal taxi counterparts all the way.

The Kraton, or the Sultan's Palace, occupies a lot of space in Yogykarta.


The attendants all wear traditional clothes.   At certain times during the day, performances of gamelan orchestras, dances and puppet shows are free of charge on the grounds.   

 What are the chances the sultans are related to Spock, a Vulcan?

Last, we stopped at the Taman Sari, the Sultan's water palace, built for his relaxation and pleasure.  Here we met a group of students who were on assignment to speak to foreigners and learn something about them.   Their subject of study was English so this was to practice their skills.

Back at Benoa and the marina, we are preparing now for the rest of our trip through Indonesia.  Most likely we will not be making any more in land trips.   There's plenty to see right from our boat, including the Komodo dragons and beautiful diving and snorkeling spots.    This will be our last stop with civilized shopping so we have to do another stock up to get us through to November when we will probably be in New Zealand.     Some pretty big boats have come in here.   Here's a picture of  Ghost owned by a obviously wealthy New Yorker who spared no expense except as to where he registered the boat.   The hull is carbon fiber and all the fittings are titanium.  Guaranteed to set you back a few zillion.


We left Kumai with the idea of a nice sail to Bali with maybe rest stops at Bawean and Kangean before tackling the currents in the strait.     The Indian Ocean floods into the Java Sea through just a few small openings between the Islands in the Indonesian archipelago.    The currents are intense and they can stop your boat dead in its tracks, even sending it backwards if you sail against the flood. Planning is required.  

Before we even had to face that, a cyclone had formed in the Indian Ocean, drawing the winds in the Java Sea into it.   The first of many daily squalls hit us just after leaving the Kumai river delta.    The squalls were vicious, whipping the sea up and making life a little bit miserable.    As we continued south, it got worse.    On the third day the seas were up over 4 meters and the winds were hitting 40+ in the gusts.    No fun at all.

We had to get out of it so we pulled in on the morning of the 4th day into the lee of Kangean Island.  Soon we were joined by several local fishing boats and behind us, farther out, were two tugs and their barges seeking shelter from the high seas.   We would be stuck there for 6 days waiting for a good weather window to get the rest of the way to Bali.  In the meantime, we watched the local activity as the weather improved, including these guys sailing across the bay using leafy branches as sails.   Never saw this before.  And we read a lot and baked.   Something about fresh cinnamon rolls when  you're holed up........

Against our better judgement we pulled out of Kangean in the morning to sail to Bali, which would make a night arrival off the coast of the island.     Besides missing the absolutely awesome view of the volcanoes from the sea,  we had to deal with UFO's (Unidentified floating objects) in the pitch dark.   At one point we missed by a centimetre a large, rickety platform used by the fishermen.    Then as the wee hours of the morning approached, hundreds (no exaggeration)   of small fishing outriggers left the shore in the dark under sail, no sound, we could only see them from a few feet off and they made little attempt to avoid our boat.    It was like being in a pong game.    We had a little fun calling out Selamat pagee (good morning) to them as they passed.   Sometimes we would get a "yo" back.   Wish I had a picture of them.

We attempted to get all the way to Bali Marina in Benoa at the bottom of the island but we hit the current about 20 miles short of our goal and went down to .3  miles per hour.    So we turned back to a small bay behind us, now making 10 knots with the current.    It took us 20 minutes to go back over the ground we had sailed in 2 hours.    We anchored next to a workboat off a resort and just enjoyed watching tourists on their snorkeling excursions.    In the morning we tried it again, this time going farther offshore, towards Nusa Lembongan, but still hit nearly a wall with the current.   The rips were everywhere and we were pretty sure we were in the right spot as there were local vessels also heading south with us.

Eventually we made it in to Benoa and headed for the Bali Marina.   This is a poorly maintained, small marina but the only game in town, and as we wanted to make a couple of trips off the boat, we had no choice but to go in here (Jim won't leave the boat unattended at anchor).    We were looking forward to a meal out and some ice cream when the dock hands informed us that the next day we could go nowhere, only stay on the boat and be quiet.   It was the celebration of Nyepi, a Hindu practice for their New Year and involves a day of meditation without the influences of the outside world.    Bali is the only place in Indonesia that actually practices this to such an extent that everything shuts down for the day and usually starts the day before.   ATM machines were even unplugged, no cars operated, no stores, restaurants, businesses were open, electricity was to be used only sparingly so most of the lights were turned off.   Even the airlines were forbidden to operate in Bali on this day.   Believe me it was very quiet here.

We arranged then to take a car up to Kintimani to view the volcano and its crater lake.   Then we took a boat ride across the lake to the village of Terunyon and a burial site where the bodies are placed in baskets above ground in a crude cemetery.   The bones are later stacked up nearby.    The boat ride was ridiculously expensive.   It was an obviously corrupt business as the rates were clearly posted at the ticket window, but a tout waylaid us and wanted $75 to make the 20 minute journey.   I'm sure the ticket taker would get a cut out of this deal as well.   We balked and then I pointed to the window and the rates, so he finally came back and halved the rate.   Still way too expensive but we wanted to go.

Then we stopped in Ubud for a couple of days.    Ubud is known for its arts, yoga, and local culture.    Besides that it is a real touristy town with a million shops and restaurants.    It has a nice feel, though.   We stayed at the Pradha homestay which was a very nice spot across from the Lotus Pond temple.

 There are temples, statues, carvings everywhere in Ubud.    And lots of souvenirs to buy if you have a mind for that (or the pocket).

We took in a dance performance at the Lotus Pond Temple.   The performers were mostly young girls and the gamelan orchestra was made up of seasoned musicians.  Jim thinks the gamelan music sounds like a bunch of wind chimes.  I like it.

All throughout the day, the Balinese would make offerings at their little temples, which were everywhere.  Some of the private homes or businesses have several temples on the property.    And as you walk along the street, you avoid the small leaf trays containing flower petals which are laid in front of doorways.

And, as usual, we made some new friends.    These girls wanted to approach us, but were kind of shy about it, so we made the initial contact.