Monday, 26 September 2011
Friday, 23 September 2011
The nearest town to Lovina Beach is Singaraja. which has the honour of being the regency seat of Buleleng. The name incidentally means "Lion King" in Indonesian. It has an area of 27.98 km² and population of 80,500. Singaraja was the Dutch colonial administrative centre for Bali and the Lesser Sunda Islands until 1953, and the port of arrival for most visitors until modern development in the south.
We needed a new diesel filter, so we took a taxi into town. Our driver proved to be a really jolly and interesting man who asked if we would like to see a couple of extra highlights. “Would we ever!”
Our first sight was of field workers paddling in muddy water planting the young rice. We had been told earlier that two or even three crops of rice can be produced in one year, so planting, ploughing and harvesting take place side by side – although I’m not absolutely certain that mud of that consistency qualifies as ploughable.
At this point we were only yards from the coast and our driver took us just a little further on to an old and obviously well established fishing port. It doesn’t appear on our charts, but the vessels here were sizeable and wonderfully exotic. The colours brilliant in the sunshine and being packed so closely together, the effect was visual overload!
As I mentioned earlier, Singaraja is significant. We drove for several miles through the outskirts until we reached an enormous statue of the bulls in a sled race. A wonderfully impressive structure, doubly so as we had witnessed the races ourselves only a short time ago.
Our driver was determined that we would see the highlights, so we were taken to the pride of the port. A refurbished walking area with various levels and a massively impressive Yudha Mandala Tema monument celebrating an Indonesian freedom fighter in their struggle against the Dutch colonialists in the 1940s. A bit like ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ on Lewis’ corner …but with clothes.
Just opposite was the Ling Guan Kiong Chinese Temple. Always worth a visit as they are so exotically painted and the architecture is just so incredibly different to our western eyes. I’m sure there is a symbolism, but we walked over a bridge to enter the temple area and were met by an official who had English sufficient to point out the main features. One of which was a brightly painted bell – with the casting mark ‘Kent’ on the outside.
Leaving the city and travelling further east our driver took us through more rural rice growing areas and we saw – albeit from a polite distance – a funeral procession with mourners carrying umbrellas. Sorry about the hazy picture – it was zoomed quite a lot.
Dedicated to Dewi Sri, the Hindu goddess of agriculture with particular emphasis on irrigated rice fields.
We also visited the nearby Pura Dalem temple Always good for a photo opportunity, the temple is locally renowned for its carvings.
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Thirty miles across the Selat Lombok [the Lombok Strait] and we are lucky with the currents. We had identified a shallow bay with sandy shallows offshore at a place called Ambat. Not much information was available about the spot as an anchorage, but it looked suitable. Apparently several other folks thought so too, because we were the seventh boat in the line-up nose on to the shore-line. As usual there was a small town nestling in the bay complete with mosque, and we even saw a couple of tourists!
The view looking towards the shore was very pleasant; mountainous and giving a dramatic backdrop to the tiny village. We were not planning to stop here as the ‘event’ was starting in Lovina Beach and if you want anywhere safe to anchor, it is better not to be the last one in!
Another easy, light airs sail from Ambat to Lovina Beach. There were an enormous number of the unmanned rafts [shown left] which apparently provide a form of shelter for young fish and therefore a food source for larger fish. Fishermen are ingenious. Approaching Lovina Beach there was an invisible avenue in the coral reef through which we had to pass to reach the anchorage area. The GPS co-ordinates should be reliable, but we have found that some charts that folks use have slightly different off-sets and ‘invisible avenues’ are a bit nerve wracking. We need not have worried, the fleet was in and clearly visible and soon we were at anchor.
The dinghy launched, we rowed …yes rowed …too the shore (we need the exercise) and were so impressed with the preparations that had been made for us as a Rally. For a start there were young men on the beach just standing by to haul dinghies up onto the dry sand. Then looking around, there were rows of marquees; a reception tent housing the Rally officials and a row of kiosks displaying local foods and handicrafts.
We did come to appreciate that we had to run a gauntlet of keen salesmen (and ladies) each time we came ashore. We need not have worried about a lack of necklaces, bangles, paintings etc. or even the availability of tour operators or laundry services. They were all there throughout the daylight hours. Plus there was a choice of very reasonable restaurants that were pretty much ‘open air’. They are called Warungs and seem to be like a restaurant only more informal. The food however was delicious.
As it came to late afternoons, then numbers of people increased, the stage areas became crowded, and this happened virtually all week, local performers took to a temporary stage and we were treated to Balinese Dancing accompanied by various Gamelan orchestras.
Before one of the shows, Liz made contact with a few groups of dancers waiting for their calls to go on stage. They were delighted to be photographed and struck wonderfully complex poses as she snapped away. All with a smile and a laugh.
Another day, another experience. We were invited to visit the Bull Races that were being held nearby. I confess that many of us, with our very western wariness of anything to do with cruelty to animals, were a little curious an reluctant. However, when the format of the event was explained (and the history checked out on the internet), we signed up for the trip. Well, it was a walk actually, and a good one at that. Probably only 2 or 3 miles, but the sun is strong and the roads are busy, dusty and without continuous pavements.
Reaching the stadium, complete with tiered stands and a band, we walked past the competitors. The bulls are chosen for their colour and their elegance, they are all light brown, immaculately groomed and their harnesses and sleds decorated using traditional colours and designs. As usual, there was a great deal of waiting around before the main event got going. Then, because the announcements were being made in Bahasa, it all started without warning. The bulls race in pairs pulling a sled and two sleds compete each time. Just one length of the field – turn about and race back. The bulls carry their tails high like flagpoles and even their noses are in the air like snooty ‘upper class’ bulls.
After the main events, which took an hour or two, foreign visitors were offered the chance to have a sled ride – well it would be churlish to refuse, wouldn’t it!
Friday, 16 September 2011
Leaving the resort required a bit of walking, but it was interesting. We first passed through a very small local community then walked a quite major road which led to Tanjung a bustling township with adequate provisioning and plenty of interest. We paused for lunch on our first foray to the town at a family run rumah makan [trans: eating room]. It was one of those spontaneous successes that just happen. The meal was simple and the family serving and cooking it were so very friendly and welcoming, a really enjoyable event.
The Rally organisers laid on a coach trip to see some sights of Lombok and it proved to be an enjoyable day. Our first call was to a traditional community near to Tanjung (our nearest significant town). Inhabitants were demonstrating weaving, basket making, rice preparing and just outside the village boundary, paddy fields stretched to the distant mountains, a lady wearing a picturesque hat beamed a wonderful smile.
We did much re-provisioning and re-fuelling of course (we always have to) – and it is so labour intensive. There are no pumps on site, so trucks have to deliver jerry cans in the required number, which can take an entire day.
However, and more interestingly, there was a cookery demonstration that I attended and learned how to make Indonesian satay
and also a basket making class that Liz attended and succeeded in making a very credible container.
There followed an afternoon and evening of traditional dance and music. A superb performance ending with a childrens’ choir coached by Aki, the manageress of the resort.
Jeremy and Kathy from Sal Darago were still in need of a replacement dinghy after suffering a burst seam whilst on Savu. Bali, it seemed was a place where a dinghy could be obtained. It all made sense, Bali is a popular tourist and sailing location it has a marina, a sailing club and perhaps more than one chandlery. Fired up by this opportunity, Jeremy and Kathy set off for south Bali.
We stayed and signed up for a trip to the Gili Islands off the Lombok shore. Three tiny islands, tourist spots all, that are pretty and have good snorkelling. Aboard a power launch the Gilis (islands) Air, Meno and Trewangan were only an hour away and were indeed lovely, if slightly wacky. We snorkelled on Air, then moved round to Meno in time for lunch and a break for exploration. The lunch venue was exotic, bordering on the hedonistic!
After lunch a walk. Liz teamed up with a couple of friends, but I thought that a circumperambulation would be fun. It was further than I thought – I should have taken some water!
Returning to Medana Beach it was time to prepare to leave. Next stop Bali.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Leaving Gilli Lawat meant a 40 mile journey, which doesn’t sound much to those used to car travel, but it is about as much as we enjoy tackling in one day. It took us to a sandy shelf about 5 miles short of the offshore island of Satanda. It was shown on the charts as merely a shallower part of the coastline without any offshore rocks. It was not on the list of anchorages, so both Sal Darago and ourselves were a little leery about staying, but as is frequently the case, the ad hoc anchorages that feel ‘chancy’ work well in practise. In fact it turned out to be a very peaceful night. Calm weather and light seas.
A glorious sunrise over the mountains was followed by an equally fabulous sail passing by the small volcanic island of Satonda and westwards to Pulau Medang, yet another small island with a deeply indented bay on its north coast. We were not alone that night. ‘The boys’ from Cheetah 2 were there, another rally boat manned by 3 young Kiwis, one of whom plays the guitar and we could hear the pleasant strains across the water as the sun went down.
Another 44 miles west saw us safely tucked inside a reef fringeing a small island offshore from Lombok, one of Indonesia’s major islands. Actually, that makes light of what was a rather freakish approach. We plotted a course over the western end of the island, but there are reefs there and the current was doing its best to push us onto them. However, we triumphed of course . The island was named Gili Lawang and it was a very secluded anchorage, calm and peaceful with no sign of significant habitation, save for a tiny fishing boat, a small fire and a man tending the fire.
The next ‘event’ was based at Medana Beach and that was our target this time. A gorgeous light wind sail took us right into the narrow channel through the reef and into the ‘sort of’ protected moorings area. There were about half the number of mooring balls than there were rally boats, so there was going to be a bit of competition. We were probably the last to arrive for whom mooring balls were available, but ours was unbelievably close to the shore. At first we thought it was simply not possible, but after trying it out and with the added benefit of being tied to a big concrete block on the shore as well (courtesy of the management) it was fine and our preference for our spot grew as we watched those who were in apparently more spacious locations being twizzled around by the changing winds and currents.
…but with a difference, tripper boats taking tourists to the ‘Gillis’ (offshore islands), traders with trinkets waited at the jetty
…also the beach was home to an incipient resort, the new apartments were built and party furnished but as yet unoccupied.
There was however a bar and restaurant offering excellent bar prices and reasonable food. What more could anyone ask?
Monday, 5 September 2011
There are several small islands lying to the north of Komodo Island and a choice of anchorages. The fleet by this time was thinning out, many had already left and some were still in Labuan Bajo. We chose to set sail and made for Komodo Island. A beautiful inlet on the north coast called Gillilawa Bay. Sailing a mile or so down into the head of the bay revealed two mooring balls – one each for Sal Darago and Ellida! Absolutely blissful.
The next day was just right for a little snorkelling. Taking the dinghies to the mouth of the bay, there was an outer island and a pass between the two land masses. [You have to understand that Indonesia has tides and currents that are strong and are difficult to predict. There are rules and guidelines that are well documented involving the seasons and the state of the moon’s phase, but basically it’s a crap shoot, you find out when you get there].
We dropped into the water and discovered that the current was taking us out through the pass. Towing the dinghies on long lines we had a wonderful, no …better than that …fantastic, drift snorkel. Just let the current take you past all the under sea gardens and brightly coloured fish. What an experience. Arriving at deep water on the outside of the islands, we hopped (I hope that doesn’t make it sound like an elegant process) back into the dinghies and fought the current towards our anchorage.
A sail of less than 10 miles had us in Batu Monco (Batu Montjo) another deep indentation on the northwest point of Komodo. Another idyllic spot; a sailfin leapt out of the water as we sailed in and we picked up an anchoring spot – ahead of Sal Darago for once! Only one other occupant in the bay, a small catamaran called Decoy, who we had seen before and we made contact. It proved to be good snorkelling before lunch, then a walk ashore in the afternoon. No dragons.
Time to make the last of our island hops before heading to the much larger island of Sumbawa. This time it’s another offshore island named Pulau Banta (Pulau means island) and the recommended spot is a very deep indentation in the southern coast. The chart shows shallows on either side and as we have learned not to trust the charts completely, we keep a fair distance from both shores as we enter and watch the depth gauge very closely. Finding a suitable place did involve a fair bit of trial and error, but eventually we settled and were quite happy with the location. The real drama came the following day when we tried to leave.
Obeying all the rules and guidelines as well as checking a few goat’s entrails, we calculated that the tide would be taking us North as we crossed the pass in a northwesterly direction for the northeast tip of Sumbawa. Thus is was with confidence that we set off and rounded the south coast of Pulau Banta to meet a south flowing current of sufficient speed and set that we were facing north, but travelling south! Aaaaaarrrgh! Turn about! We returned to a tiny bay close to our original anchorage and regrouped.
The night proved to be eventful as the wind and current changed at irregular intervals and we were anchored next to a catamaran. I friendly Australian couple that we had met before, but catamarans tend to lie in accordance with wind conditions and are less affected by current, whilst the maxim for monohulls like us is, ‘when tide competes with current, current always wins’. We very nearly collided with our neighbour in the darkness, but as we were both up on deck, a little judicious line twiddling and he was kind enough to lower his daggerboard which made him more responsive to the current and it all settled down.
The following morning we did visit Sangiang and we invited to look around the boat building project. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a joy to see them working in the old traditional manner using adzes to shape the timbers and making pegs, boring holes and driving in pegs to hold the planks instead of bolts, rivets, screws, nails whatever is the modern equivalent. And of course there was an army of workers assigned to the task – a jolly bunch.
We then walked the village just taking in the sights; the neat streets formed of hard packed earth, the large and geometrically precise drainage which probably meant that they have severe water problems when the rains come. There were of course mosques, and other public buildings, small shops that were more like kiosks which to our eyes all seemed to offer the same goods for sale; biscuits, benzene, cheap brightly coloured fizzy drinks and sweets.
It was wonderful to see the laundry being done in communal fashion around a water supply and animals sharing the proximity of the family home. People were friendly, eager to exchange works and eager to be on our photographs. We had a wonderful few hours just wandering the town before returning to our dinghies to find that they had been guarded by the harbourmaster and his friends.
Time to resume our journey and a perfectly reasonable sail of just over 18 miles around to the township of Bima. Which was unexpectedly huge. We found an anchorage not far from the town quay, cheek by jowl with a variety of local boats and not too far away from GOSI and HAVEN two friends from the rally who had arrived earlier and chosen a spot further out (where it was a bit windy).
I woke early the following morning. No particular reason, I sometimes do when on board and never regret seeing the dawn.
The sights of Bima coming to life were wonderful and mystical, but before long the silence of the early light was broken by the arrival of workers by ferry from nearby communities. Health and safety regulations don’t apply around here and the way little boats are overcrowded just amazes us. We did notice that the ladies seem to have the interior accommodation whilst the men-folk take the roof. Are the men letting the ladies have the shelter against the sun or are they grabbing the seats that are most easy to escape from (in the likely event of a capsize) for themselves. We wondered.
Budi arrived and made himself known. He had some English – well lots of it actually – but not all easy to understand. He was quite a small and slight man but was accompanied by a large and silent friend, his aim was to assist in any way that he could. He could supply diesel, petrol, water, arrange for laundry, offer guided tours and anything else that we could possibly need. His charges were very reasonable and we availed ourselves of a top-up of diesel to be conveyed to and from shore by him using jerry cans. This arranged, we went ashore to explore.
Bima was just a stopover – we thought. But a brief foray ashore and we were all convinced that it deserved more attention. It is a very large town – in fact a city, the largest city on Sumbawa with a population of just under 150,000. The language is not Bahasa Indonesian like most of the country, but uniquely Bahasa Bima (or Nggahi Mbojo in native language) it is clearly a Moslem majority and like all Indonesia in our own experience, amazingly friendly.
It was a long hot walk into town, but we wouldn’t have missed the experience, life was going on at breakneck pace all around us, but with such colourful variety. Motor repairs, a flour factory, schools, horse drawn taxis a veritable feast of experiences.
In the centre of the town there were shops galore, of course. But we also found a highly complex set of markets, a fabric market, a fruit market and a meat market all large and all separate. Hundreds of temporary stalls covered with low hanging sun (or rain) covers which both Jeremy and I found awkward as a ‘safe’ height was deemed to be about 5’6”.
The Sultan Salahuddin of Bima left his name to the city mosque and also to the sultan’s palace, an impressive stately pile which by dint of good timing we were able to visit and har a demonstration of drumming. Then a return to the boat by horse drawn cab. Not the very best of experiences as we felt the poor animal was overstretched by our weight.
We could have spent longer at Bima, but we chose to keep up the pace and headed off to Kilo, just 28 miles to the west. An awkward anchorage, either too shallow near to the tiny village’s shoreline or too deep outside the shelf. However we found a limited patch of rock flecked sand and dropped the hooks, it was fine for an overnight anchorage. We did get a visit from children in boats. It was a good paddle in their dugouts, probably over a mile, but they were all smiles and so we obliged with a few small toys that we kept for such an occasion.