Sunday, August 28, 2011

I started off my birthday playing Mexican Train while we waited for vehicles to be arranged to take us to the event that was planned. Everyone loved the game and caught on quite quickly inspite of the language barrier.
Barry once again wowing the crowd with his Fiji moves mixed in with a sort of war dance from the movie Wind, the crowd just howled with laughter.
Dancing with the locals, having a great time.
The boys in the band!
After the initial welcome and demonstration of traditional games, we were treated to a culinary display. Here a women is making fish cakes, I know think I could make them as well as a delicious fish soup, although I would cut down on the amount of chilies I would add to the soup. They love their hot spicy foods here.
This was a demonstration of dancing, I think, but there is definitely a sense of martial arts in these actions.
The Indonesian women are always beautifully dressed, and everyone here is photo crazy. We have our picture taken a minimum of 10 times at every event we go to and when we walk down the street kids are yelling at us wanting us to take their photos.
There ended up being three people born on Aug. 27, another cruiser, Chris, the harbour master Geno and myself. I had baked a cake and asked that all the guides get together so I could share some cake with them. Geno found out when we were on Chris's boat for sundowners and he arranged a party with gov't officials and presents for Chris and I. Chris got a hat which everyone signed. An impromtu band was formed with a guitar and empty plastic water jugs being used as drums and we danced the night away!
This is the present I received from the Indonesian gov't, a lovely hand woven purse. These are some of the guides that have interpreted and shown us around while we have been here in Wakatobi.
What a super day, I don't think I have had such a memorable birthday since Jen and Barry organized a surprise party for my 40th, wow!!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Indonesian woman put white on their face to make their skin look lighter, I am not sure if this is the case with this woman or she is just protecting her face from the sun.
The Bajo tribe were nomadic fisherman that settled in Wakatobi. They live in villages built out over the water. Their settlement here has become more permanent, they have built foundations for their house out of lava rocks that they dig up on a neighbouring island. The walkways between the rows of houses are lava rocks, that have been paved over and they have wooden bridges between the rows of houses. seems that almost everyone has a motor scooter and this settlement is no exeption, the only thing is that the small wooden bridges are not engineered to hold their weight so often the bridges have boards missing and the scooters slow down and bump across a 25 cm gap, unbelievable if I hadn't seen it.
Kids in the Bajo village playing in a coiled water line.

Liya village men welcoming us to a display of their traditional game where 2 men held hands and then attacked another couple of men using kung fu type roundhouse kicks. It was a game played to practice war moves and to ease aggression.Members of one village would attack another and after the games were over they would all go home happy.
If you don't have a motor scooter here you own one of these to transport your farm produce. I saw one fellow pulling a generator in one of these.
A picture of contrasts. A Bajo canoe with a sail is made out of heavy plastic, a tarp material, her boat is loaded with rocks!
At the underwater marriage ceremony which Barry would not participate in, the mascot for Sail Wakatobi showed up, she is a pygmy underwater seahorse. The fellow on the left of the picture is a policeman, dozens of which have been imported to Wangi-Wangi to make sure that we are safe! They seem to be very nice and spend hours sitting a talking with us at the office where we dock our dinghies.
Kids playing football amoung the coconuts near the beach.

Visiting our guide's family on a scooter journey around the island. Her mother and her grandmother are in the background. We had a fresh coconut to drink and they served a green mango with salt, quite yummy.We stopped at a beach which was called the 100 springs beach, the springs were fresh water running down into the ocean.
We were honoured to be invited to one our guides homes for supper. Here is her husband. squatting down as he gets our supper ready. He is on a bamboo mat and he smoked the fish over a fire of coconut shells. We had smoked fish, rice, Wakatobi sushi and battered fried bananas for dessert, the banana dish is called pisang goreng.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Notice the sail rolled up on the canoe that is behind.

We are headed back to Wangi-Wangi island today. I would have liked to stay in Hoga longer but with the tides if we want to be close to festivities which are planned for tomorrow we had to leave this morning. The first patch we put on the dinghy failed and we have reglued and reclamped it. We are going to wait until we get back to Wangi to inflate it giving the glue almost 36 hours to cure. If that doesn’t work Barry may put epoxy on it, not sure if I like that idea, it would be terrible to clean off if it doesn’t work.
We managed to get in 2 dives while we were in Hoga. They were both terrific, the first dive was a night dive and we were picked up on the boat just at sunset. The boat was NOT your typical luxury resort dive boat, this was a local fishing boat. The motor is hand cranked and it just goes forward, no reverse, no idle just putt, putt, putt. Needless to say this makes for some precarious off loading with our boat and at the mooring bouys were they tie up to dive. Last night the fellow came downwind towards us and handed me long bamboo pole in which to pull them over with, the guy in the stern did the draw stroke with a paddle and the boat edged over so we could climb in. When we returned from the night dive the guy forgot to take us to the boat and we ended up strolling down the beach in our wet suits, with someone with limited English, along a very high pier and then hopping down onto a big boat, transferring to a slightly smaller boat and then into a local canoe with the same type of motor. Remains of a red snapper we purchased from this family, he filleted it for us in his boat and most likely took the remains home to make soup.

It is a good thing Barry has a new hip because 3 years ago he could have never managed it! Oh and since we took a local boat instead of a nice roomy regular dive boat, we had to put our dive equipment on in the water. It was interesting, I managed okay except for the weight belt, you put it on last after you have your tank and BCD on, there is a current running and the dive master is warning you not to float away., so I was trying to hold on and then use 2 hands to get on my belt, that did not work, I finally asked my dive buddy (Barry) to hang on to me so I wouldn’t float away. Barry has had a case of the dropsies the last 3 dives. In the first instance he dropped his weight belt (but he was hanging on to the underwater grid so that was fine) The second instance he dropped his flashlight on the night dive, (but that was okay because it wasn’t deep and someone else went down and got it), the third thing he dropped was his snorkel, it somehow became unattached from his mask and I saw it floating down and away. We had surfaced with very little air left and so I was not sure I would have enough air to go down and get it and reinflate my BDC so I just watched it float away. They say things happen in threes so we will see whether he drops anything else in the water!

Coral Research Centre

The coral is fantastic here, they call Wakatobi the heart of the coral triangle, the triangle being basically the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia. There was a superb mix of soft and hard corrals and on our daylight dive we saw schools of yellow fin tunas darting about. The night dive was quite different, seeing lots of Christmas tree worms, in various colours, a walking sea urchin, shrimps who scooted along with eyes that glowed a wonderful reddy pink colour in our dive lights, a metere long sea cucumber and something that was red and white striped that may have been a barber pole shrimp. Hoga island also has a big coral research centre on it where volunteers come from all over the world to do scientific studies. It was a bit of a slog motor sailing upwind to Hoga but I am really glad we went. Local boat
Yesterday morning we spent most of the morning marveling at the locals fishing. There is a combination of smaller boats with a single paddler and big boats with the unidirectional motors which have 2 fishermen. The schools of fish feed along the surface and make a rippling splash and the fisherman chase them. The guys with the engines have the advantage being able to swoop down and drag their lines through the schools. The single fellows paddle like crazy here and there, mostly upwind against the waves. When the schools take off down wind, the fisherman hoist their triangular plastic sails and away they go. Some of the big boats also fly kites, we are not sure what they do but I think perhaps it is to help them turn more quickly, these guys are amazing, fishing, manning the motor and steering with a kite, we were fascinated. Our buddies from Calgary on Cop Out have joined this section of the rally and we look forward to spending some time with them in Wangi-Wangi.
Fisherman setting sail, not a great pic but he was moving so fast it was hard to get a good picture.

Friday, August 19, 2011

They say a picture tells a thousand words. We managed to puncture the dinghy, not just a small hole but a puncture about 5 cm long, ARRRGG! It happened when Barry was swinging the motor down off the boat like he has done a thousand times before. This time the boat zigged when it should have zagged, or perhaps it was the dinghy….anyway, the prop sliced a hole on the inside of the pontoon. Luckily we had a patch big enough to cover the hole and clamped it with an old plastic cutting board, something for the clamps to hold on to. We have not re-inflated the dinghy yet, but we did everything by the book so are really hoping that the patch holds. I am very positive that it will and for once Barry agrees with me.
We are at the island of Hoga at the moment, position 05.28 N, 123.45 E. ( I have been having a great deal of trouble hooking up to the internet through the HF radio so I apologize for there not being more position updates.) We arrived a few days ago after bashing to weather with the motor on for about 10 miles, and then not such bad winds for the next 10 miles. We had to go through a reef to get to the anchorage but it was no worries, wide and 6m deep. We set the hook and stayed there the night, the next morning the only other sailing vessel in the area left and we took up the only available mooring outside the reef, but in the lee of the island. It was shortly after that we punctured the dinghy, so we were alone with our problems. After we had fixed it, 2 more yachts showed up but they are anchored about 1 kilometer away inside the reef, so it feels like we have the place to ourselves. It is so nice and quiet here, no feeling of obligation to attend planned activities, no chanting for the mosque at 0400 hours, and some space to have some privacy. We have been giving some of our old line away to the locals that approach the boat but they are not happy with just one thing, one fellow through sign language asked for a hat, a ring, binoculars, goggles and fishing line. We gave them some fishing line we could afford to part with but they didn’t look too happy because it was not very strong. They will not barter for fish though they want hard cash for the fish and Barry ended up buying a lovely snapper, 5 meals of fish, for what he thought was $3.00 CND but was in reality $30.00CND, this is after he paid over $5.00 more for laundry than anyone else so he is not allowed to bargain anymore!!!!!
This island is a world class diving site, it is quite difficult to get to, so there are not that many divers around. I am anxious to get ashore and arrange for some equipment. We are planning on going back to Wangi-Wangi for other festivities which are being held starting Aug. 23rd. The activities include some local games that sound really interesting, I am sure we will get a chance to participate if we choose. I am quite excited about getting to watch some traditional Indonesian games in different locales around the island. We will also receive 100 litres of free diesel before we leave, bonus. I will let you know how the dinghy works out.
The patch has a small leak so we have put Sikaflex 4200 around the edges of the patch to see if that works. If it doesn't I guess we will have to go begging to the rest of the fleet for patching material and glue.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

tWe have had the most interesting, exciting and fun filled two days, it has been a blast. Yesterday in the morning we went for a tour of a seaweed farm. Tour is not quite the correct word because it was more like a family visit. One of the guides befriended us and offered to take us to visit her husbands family who lived in a village a ways north of town and were seaweed farmers. We jumped at the chance, rented a motorbike again and off we went. One the way we stopped to watch a pair of gentlemen shape the prow of a traditional boat, they did it by hand with very elementary axes and hatchets, all by eye. There was a little girl there, she may have been about three and she was busy cutting up a lime with this huge knife. Her younger brother, just barely walking had a hatchet taken away from him and he was very mad!!! Ade‘s (the guide) family make their living seaweed farming, fishing and selling sand from their ocean front property. The seaweed grows on long lines that are strung in the water with little pieces of Styrofoam to hold them up, you apparently need good moving water for the seaweed to grow and now is not the best season for growth because the sea is too hot, it is better from Nov.. to March. We were able to watch as they brought some seaweed in , there was a huge pile of it all attached to lines. A father and his son had brought it in a huge pile of it and then the mother and all the daughters stripped the seaweed off, fertilized it and then restrung the healthy seaweed back on the line so it would grow some more. We were told it would take a month before it would be ready to harvest again. The seaweed that was not going to grow again would be put out on long platforms to dry and it would be sold. It is necessary to turn the seaweed over in order for it to dry uniformly. Not a way I would choose to make a living.
Then we got to go for a boat ride in a very narrow, tipsy local boat. It had a very temperamental motor and there was paddling involved as well. Barry and I sat in the middle of the boat and tried not to fall out. The boat would seem to wobble at will and at one point Barry accused me of trying to tip it but honestly I was sitting as still as I could. We stopped and the fellow in the front hopped out and swam around until he found his fish traps and he swam down to get them, from a squatting position he quickly stood up and then just jumped up and over the edge. When he got back in, the boat hardly wobbled, it was amazing. The fish traps are all made by hand with traditional materials.When we got ashore Barry told them he would like to buy an old paddle, they were a bit mistified by the request but they found one, it used to be our guides husbands when he was a little kid. Barry was pleased as punch to get it and told them that everytime we looked at it we would remember them. To finish off an incredible morning we stopped at the guide’s sister-in-laws house and she peeled some fresh bananas and fried us up some delicious banana chips. She was expecting so it was okay for her to eat during Ramadan and the children were able to snack as well so we didn’t feel so bad about eating in front of them.
We had signed up at the gala welcoming ceremony for a free dive to celebrate Independence Day and we were told that we would be picked up at 4:00 in order to participate. We were in the process of thinking about getting ready at 3:10 when we were called and told our ride was here. Rush, rush, rush and off we went. It was incredible. There were over 40 divers there from all over Indonesia and we were the only white folks in evidence. The plan was that they would raise the flag underwater and they had a huge rectangular grid that had three levels. Divers hung on to the grid and an underwater microphone shouted out directions and the ceremony in Indonesian. We just followed suit, saluting when they did and smiling when the underwater photographer came by. Once the official rehearsal was over with we swam around and marveled at the gorgeous coral. This morning, Aug. 17th being Indonesian Independence Day, we were driven off to the real thing, once again without a cost to us. We got there and all the divers had kerchiefs on with the red and white colours of the Indonesian flag. The officials were in place and we were given a Canadian flag, Barry actually carried the Australian flag because there were no Aussies that chose to participate, man did they miss out!! The male officials sat on one side, their wives on the other. The women were dressed exquisitely, one in particular had a beautiful pink dress on with a veil and over top was a bright lime green garment with intricate lace, she really smiled when I told her that she looked very beautiful. Everyone wanted a photo with us, the divers, the military guys and the head dude and his wife, they all shook our hands as well, it was something I WILL NEVER FORGET!!
We are pretty tired because last night after the diving rehearsal there was a cultural dance presentation. It was so much fun, Barry was invited up to dance and he did his Fiji moves and everyone killed themselves laughing, what a hoot. The Indonesian crowd got into it as well and everyone was having so much fun. We did not get back to the boat until 2230 hours. Tonight apparently we are invited to dinner at the head dude’s house, at 8:00 P.M. I must go and have something to eat, it is almost 5:00 P.M. or I will die of hunger if I have to wait until 8.

Make sure you check out the blog just before this one because I posted 2 at once.

We are continuing to enjoy our Indonesian experience. The people of Wangi Wangi are very welcoming, everywhere you go little kids yell out “Hi,Mister!”. My mission is to educate them to say “Mrs.” I have succeeded with one little girl, I recognized her dress and the second time I saw her she said “Hi, Mrs.” ah the little things in life! The officials are very organized here, every time we go ashore there is an interpreter to accompany us and show us where to go. It was very helpful the first day but when there are three people following you around and then sitting in the restaurants not eating when you do, it becomes a bit much. This morning I went ashore for a few errands and then spent the rest of the day doing boat chores, partially to avoid smiling for pictures and trying to learn Indonesian. Also the question of compensation is very hard to figure out. Are we supposed to tip them, do they do it so they can practice their English, are they being paid by the government, we are not quite sure.
Yesterday we lit out on a motorbike and did a tour of half of the island. We went with two other couples and had a blast. We stopped at a nice beach and went snorkeling and because of Ramaden the Muslims can not swim, so the usually crowded beach was empty but for us. Barry and I saw a sea snake and spent about 10 minutes watching it’s antics. The creature was white with black stripes and its body would undulate through the water with a fluid grace. The snake would poke it’s head into a hole in the coral and then slowly his body would follow and it would reappear up through the branches of an adjacent coral head. It was fascinating to watch and Barry said he saw it surface to take a breath. We got back on the bikes and toodeled off to the fancy resort (where we are headed tonight for the OFFICIAL WELCOMING CEREMONY {I am in agony trying to figure out what would be appropriate to wear}) to have lunch., apparently when Obama came to Indonesia he stayed there! (Sorry that rumour was false.)
We next toured the airport which had two huge pillars with a massive sign to announce that you had come to the facility. There was an entrance and an exit road but they were not paved yet and the rest of the airport was definitely a work in progress. Under one tree were huddled about 6 mini vans and Barry commented that it was the rental car return lot! Heather just so you know we saw some goats running around free as we left so perhaps they have a problem with goats instead of dogs on their runways!!
As we arrived back we met our buddies from the West Coast, Gavia Artica, which have 3 doctors on board and one of them announced that the leading cause of death among cruisers is motorcycle accidents. I was very pleased that I had my very cautious husband driving me around the island.
Well I must go and get dolled up for dinner, what to wear, what to wear!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Azzwur, Fitre and I standing on the runway with the volcano I climbed in the background.

We are safely in Wakatobi. It was a good voyage, but we timed it slightly wrong, we had planned on good winds so timed the voyage for 6 knots per hour average. The winds were lighter than we had been experiencing so we were only able to maintain 5 knots. As a result we had to motor the last 20 miles to get to Wakatobi before dark or we would have been another night at sea. I had not been sleeping well so did not want to spend another night especially close to land where there could be fish traps, fish boats and other weird and wonderful Indonesian craft flitting about possibly without lights. Anyway we had the wrong co-ordinates for the anchorage and with the motoring we thought we would get there at 1700, as it was the true anchorage was 11 miles further so we ended up coming in after sunset, fortunately there was a full moon so we had enough light and the officials for Sail Wakatobi came out to help us find a mooring ball. There was a cultural dance thing at 2100 but we were too tired and cranky so just stayed on board and went to bed. We are now swinging on the mooring ball awaiting high tide and the port captain to come and guide us through the reef so we can anchor in the lagoon.
Here are some other thoughts and observations about Banda. This picture shows cinnamon being stripped from a old cinnamon tree. Our understanding is that they usually take the bark off a live tree and it will regenerate the bark, but that may not be correct. This tree was apparently old so they chopped it down and were in the process of stripping the bark. They score the bark and then they use a hammer to loosen it and then a screw driver to pry it off. After they just dry it in the sun, it rolls up as it dries.
We met this American couple and the Captain was an astronaut. He is also a cardiac surgeon and he went up in space on the Columbia and was up there for 9 days. His stories are very interesting. One of the fellows I walked up the volcano was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British army who was stationed in the far east so he has had lots of experiences here and he wants to go back to a mountain he climbed when he was 25 and he named. He wants to find out if they still call it by the name they gave it and he wants to climb it again!!!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Yesterday we went on a day trip out to two islands which were are about 5 and 7 nm away, they are named Ai and Run. Ai was the island that the English held in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds much to the chagrin of the Dutch who wanted a monopoly on the spice trade. The English encouraged insurrection and the illegal trading of the spices and were a thorn in the side of the Dutch for a long time. On our tour we first went to three snorkeling sites and I would say that the last site we visited was absolutely fantastic. it was probably the best snorkeling we have experienced, the combination of the numbers and variety of fish and the outstanding soft and hard corals were awesome. Barry said to tell you that we found Nemo, there he was hiding in the anemones, I wished I had taken the camera.

We went ashore on Ai island and saw the fortifications the English built to fight off the Dutch. The village was beautifully kept and the houses ranged from beautiful homes from the colonial era to subsistence living in traditional grass or bamboo huts. The old fort and the mansions have been overgrown and seem almost at the point of collapse. In an old sixteenth century home someone had put a door on the opening and was obviously living there. We found an old cannon at the top of the fortifications just lying there amid the pumpkin patch.
We were transported over to the islands in a traditional island craft. Other boats we have been on have motors that just have forward gear, so it is really tricky to land and offload us onto our boats. The driver has to cut the engine and coast up to the boat and then they fend our boat off and we clamour off as quickly as possible. Since they don’t have reverse they take a big long bamboo pole and push themselves off the bottom until they are in a position to start the motor and go forward. The boat we took over to the island had three 40 hp outboards on it and he could reverse without a problem. We had been contemplating taking our boat over to the islands but we are really glad we didn’t. There may be sandy beaches but the coral leads right up to shore, and it is about 1 and ½ meters deep. When you get to the edge of the reef it just drops off to more than 40 meters, leaving the only possibility of anchoring to throw out your anchor on the beautiful coral back up and hang out over the 40 meter section, not something we would ever contemplate.
We plan to leave for Wakatobi today, it is a marine park that is very difficult to get transportation to and is supposedly one of the top dive spots in the world. Wakatobi is the name of the area which is made up of 4 islands, Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko and it is located just south of the large island of Sulawesi. It should take us about 3 night to get there so hopefully I will be able to connect through win link and give you some updates on our position while underway.