Sunday, May 28, 2017

Loh Buaya, Pulau Rinca – 08° 39’11”S 119°42’47”E

Komodo National Park..  this is officially cool!

We bashed across the Sape Strait into the Tradewinds to a group of very different islands.  Gone were the dark greens of the lush tropical forests, the soaring volcanos and rugged coastlines.  The Komodo Islands lie in a rain shadow and their rounded and surprisingly low forms are golden with dried grasses and orange clay soil.  A few brave trees cling in the valleys where what water there is must run.

Loh Serau at Komodo Island
Twenty metres of chain down

interesting coral

lots of fish, too.

Sunsets ... volcanoes ... ho-hum.
We anchored for three nights off Komodo Island and, with the exception of a dive Phinisi as a neighbor one night, we had the bay to ourselves.  We snorkeled, kayaked and explored the beach, keeping a good eye out for the famed Komodo Dragons.  We saw deer and pigs on the beach in the mornings and evenings and enjoyed stunning sunrises and sunsets.  Ponder just how many photos of sunsets we actually need, we resolved to continue taking them just in case we missed the very best one!  So, be warned, you may have to suffer a slide show on sunsets alone.

Our next stop was Rinca and the ranger station at Loh Buaya.  We wiggled our way through the Komodo Islands into this fabulous fjord-like anchorage surrounded by mangroves and golden rolling hills.  We eagerly scanned the hills, trees and waterline for its famous resident but to no avail.  Heading into the dinghy dock, the locals, and a large sign, warned us of crocodiles.  There goes our evening swim!

Dragon statues - not far off actual size.
As the dragons are most active in the early morning, we arranged a guided hike for 6am.  Our guide, Ramley, was a wealth of knowledge and had worked with both David Attenborough and Steve Irwin when they were there filming.  He is also a Rinca local and walked five hours each way to volunteer at the ranger station.  He worked 10-days-on/10-days-off as a volunteer ranger then walked home and fished for 10 days to earn a living.

Can you spot the dragon?

How about now?

How about now?

... and that's why we stay behind our guide.

Komodo Dragons are huge!  Think crocodile rather than goanna!  They will eat a pig for dinner and take down a buffalo for a banquet with a couple of mates. Fortunately for the other wildlife on the island, they need only eat about once a month.  They swim, they climb and they can reach speeds of 20km/hr over a short distance when motivated.  There is no escape!  AND, they don’t actually have to maul you to death.  One good, hearty bite will transfer lots of nasty bacteria into your blood stream and you will die, slowly and painfully of septicemia.  The good news is, they do have an antidote you need to take daily for about 20 days.  We stuck pretty close to Ramley!

... but the phone got closer than we did.
Arid savannas ... in Indonesia!

 The hike took us up through the rolling savannas with stunning views out over the islands.  We saw water buffalo, pigs, long-tailed macaque, deer and, of course, Komodo dragons. 

And to add just a small amount of excitement, I watched a Komodo dragon swim past the boat and disappear into the mangroves.  The swim platform stayed firmly up!

Popeye in the mangroves at Rinca - swim platform up!

Well worth a visit.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Loh Serau, Pulau Komodo (Komodo National Park) – 08°26’46”S 119°27’03”E

Sean: Man, I can’t get that song out of my head.
Kate: Totally, I’m going again….

I love volcanos
I love the sandy beach
I love the palm trees
I love when monkeys screech
I love the whole world
So many things to see

Boom De Yada
Boom De Yada
Boom De Yada
Boom De Yada

I love the Trade Winds
I love our #4
I love Navionics
I love our crew rapport
I love the whole world
And being part of it

Boom De Yada
Boom De Yada
Boom De Yada
Boom De Yada

volcanoes ...

sandy beaches ...

monkeys ...

Navionics ...

Number 4 headsail ...

(with kudos to our  favorite Discovery Channel theme song for inspiring our little ditty)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Were Bay - 08° 17’ 37” S 118° 55’ 50” E

Blue sky ... nice sand ...
you get the idea.

Western Lombok was marvellous.  The island of Gili Air is blessed with a deep channel (over 2,000 metres deep at some points) and strong current close by, which keeps the water clear and largely rubbish-free.   We picked up a mooring on the east (windy side) and went ashore to find that this motorized-vehicle-less island was navigable by foot, horse-cart or bicycle.  We opted for the latter and made our way to the western, wind-free side of the island to enjoy a rest day ashore.  Sandy beaches, fair snorkeling and a quiet packed lunch rounded out our day ashore. 

We had our evening scrabble game interrupted by a honking dive boat that returned to claim its unmarked mooring ball ... well after dark.  This could have ended in confrontation as they insisted we move (even though it was dark and we told them we wouldn't be able to safely put down an anchor), but we negotiated beautifully.  We had them find us a new, available mooring that was close by, pick it up with their RIB, pass a line through it and hand it over to us when we moved Popeye.  The relocation went smoothly, with them checking in on us 30 minutes afterwards and also the next day.

Great anchorage, but ...

Moving on after two days rest, we pushed all the way across Lombok, anchoring at the base of a volcano.  We had a few days to cross the next island - Sumbawa - and were going to explore the island at our own pace.  Our first stop was Potopaddu, a sheltered cove on the furthest west side of Sumbawa.  We made our way into the idyllic bay and were almost immediately descended upon by the local fisherman.  All through our Indonesian trek, we had been expecting the locals to come to Popeye to meet us and we would ‘respond’ with a gift to the village’s representatives.  We also knew that Sumbawa is one of the poorer islands and were not surprised when we had fisherman hanging on our gunwales before we had even secured our anchor.  What did surprise us was how quickly the fishermen were present when we arrived, and the six or seven boats that rapidly appeared after we arrived, began demanding SOMETHING before they would let go of Popeye.


They obviously had become habituated by other cruisers.  They knew to ask for (in order of preference) beer, cigarettes, t-shirts, hats, books, sun glasses, CocaCola, pencils and if you can’t or won’t hand over any of the former, then a bottle of water will do.  I found myself uncharitably thinking of Canada Parks rangers talking of not feeding the bears that became so used to getting handouts that they would approach Parks visitors’ cars and beg for food.  After the sixth boat to visit was recognized to contain two locals that had already been given ‘gifts’, the novelty of handing out stuff quickly wore off and I began to feel used.  I began to get to work on a freshly torn sail that needed mending, having to constantly tell the approaching visitors “Tidak lagi rocco, kosong,” (no more cigarettes, all gone) as I worked to finish sewing before darkness set in.  They kept at me as I worked.  It quickly soured my Sumbawa experience.

We were eventually offered some fish
from one of our visitors

We woke to calls from the stern of the boat, as fishermen had arrived to get their morning packs of cigarettes. We quickly pulled up anchor and I vowed we would make our way across Sumbawa without interacting with any more locals on this island.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Gili Air - 08° 21' 49" S 116° 04' 53" E

Today, we crossed the Lombok Strait.  With Bali and Mount Agung in our wake, we headed due east towards Lombok and the towering Mount Rinjani.  With 25kn of wind on the beam and a timid half-heady out, we scooted across the mere 25nm in four hours.  In doing so, we have crossed:
  • A strait that experiences some of the strongest tidal flows on Earth
  • One of the main channels for the Indonesian Flow-Through where water from the Pacific flows into the Indian Ocean
  • A body of water that has ocean transport rates of between 2-4,000,000 m3/s
And we have crossed the Wallace Line which separates the ecozones of Asia and Australasia.  So it is farewell to the monkeys, deer and squirrels and hello to possums, cockatoos and wallabies!

Image result for The Wallace Line

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Amed - 08° 20' 30" S 115° 38' 49" E

Kate: It never gets old, huh?
Sean: Nope.
Kate: it kind of makes you want to....
Sean: Break into song?
Kate: Yep

I love the ocean,
I love the clear blue skies,
I love the dolphins,
I love when fishes fly,
I love the whole world,
It's such a brilliant place,

Boom De Yada,
Boom De Yada,
Boom De Yada,
Boom De Yada ...


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Banya Wedang (Bali) - 08° 08'10" S 114° 33' 42" E

We had a smooth 224nm trip from Bawean to Banya Wedang Bay on the NW end of Bali.  Other than a short stint of 10kn on the nose with a steep chop due to current, we had smooth motoring for the journey.  Crossing the Bali Sea, we were treated to whales surfacing and pods of dolphins playing allowing Heather to tick of a couple more items from her bucket list!

The anchorage is in a beautifully protected bay surrounded by high-end resorts tucked in behind trees.  We were anchored of the gorgeous Menjangan Dynasty Resort which offers an eco-firendly, glamping experience.  We planned a two-week stopover to arrange visa extensions.

We are here!
Heather and Charlie 'jumped ship' and parked at a resort complete with a bed that doesn't rock, hot shower and foo foo drinks!  Being weekend, we arranged to all go sight-seeing.  Heather organized a driver who picked us all up and took us on tour!

Our driver Nyoman (balidriverhire) was fabulous.  Between Nyoman and Heather, an itinerary was organized and we explored northern Bali visiting temples (watch out for the monkeys) and waterfalls, took in the beautiful vistas with terraced rice paddies and even sampled Kopi Lukaw.  This is coffee made from partly-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet! (a little bitter - I've had better coffee ...)
Gitgit Waterfall
Monkeying around at the monkey temple
Monkey Temple
Hiking to Gitgit Falls
View from the ridge above Danau Buyan
The main reason for our stopover in Bali was to extend our 60 days visas for another month.  It was quite the convoluted process, which involved three visits to Immigration in Lovina.  We managed to extend this to four visits by not knowing exactly what documents we would require to make the application.  So the process went:

Visit 1:  Pick up forms to complete
Visit 2:  Drop off forms, interview with Immigration agent (because we were traveling by yacht)
Visit 3:  Finger prints, photographs and payment
Visit 4:  Pick up passport duly stamped with extension

Definitely room for some efficiency gains.  With a public holiday thrown in for good measure, the whole process took us a week. 

Nyoman and Budi aboard Popeye

With all the running backwards and forth, we became good pals with Nyoman.  He had never been aboard a yacht so we invited him and his wife, Budi, for a visit.  Budi is an absolute hoot.  They brought traditional Balinese cakes for us to try.  Wonderfully exotic, sublime colours, some wrapped in banana leaves, they were also fabulously tasty.

Budi was thrilled to be on a yacht.  She thought it looked just like a hotel - although she has never stayed in a hotel but imagines this is what it is like.  Such a different world.  We are constantly humbled by the generosity of the Indonesian people who have so very little yet will open their homes and hearts to us.

Rice paddies
 Beautiful Ria - Nyoman and Budi's daughter
Aling-Aling Falls
Following our next visit to Immigration, Nyoman and his daughter, Ria, took us to Aling-Aling Falls.  Peaceful, meditative, awe-inspiring. We could have stayed all day. Such a beautiful place.  After the touring, we were invited to Nyoman and Budi's for dinner.  A wonderful meal of traditional Balinese food, many stories told and a friendship cemented.

Stunning colours of the foliage
Budi and Ria preparing dinner
Ria cooking satays
Dinner - Balinese style - on the floor and eating with our fingers!
The view from Budi's kitchen
Being anchored off the Menjangan Dynasty Resort, we have popped in a few times for dinner and to use the wifi.  The F&B Manager, Kama kindly offered to drive us into Lovina for one of our visa visits.  He took us to a produce market and to a fabulous warung, serving babi gulang - suckling pig!  Again, the food was fabulous.  Following this was a tour of Popeye.  Kama took great delight in waving to his staff on shore!

Produce market in Lovina
Kama aboard Popeye - straight out of GQ!
With all this activity and excitement, let us not forget Heather and Charlie.  They are living it up in a fancy resort - upgraded themselves to a cabin on the beach and have been spending their days drinking foo foo drinks, snorkeling, beach lounging,  pool lounging, and spa treatments. Sadly, it is time to go.  We all bundled into Nyoman's car for the long trip to Denpasar Airport.  Never let it be said we do not fill that unforgiving moment - we visited the Ulundanu Temple and ate yet another fabulous meal at a warung along the way!

Heather and Charlie are like-minded souls and spend a great deal of their lives traveling.  When we invited them to join us, there were a few things we did not fully appreciate  Although they are extremely well traveled, they have never been outside first-world, English speaking countries and they have never sailed. Oh my!  Not only did they sail across the South China, Java and Bali Seas, notching up over 700nm aboard Popeye, they did night watches and landed on remote islands where we were the only 'bula'.  They slept in the homes of locals; caught speed boats in the dark down malarial, crocodile-infested rivers; ate all kinds of strange foods; coped with sanitary conditions well below what we are used to; navigated the mandi bath and squat toilet with aplomb ... and all without a grumble or complaint.  We loved sharing adventures with you both and look forward to many more in the future.

Ulundanu Temple
Obligatory selfie spot
More exploring was on the agenda with the next trip to Lovina Immigration.  Nyoman took us to the multi level falls above the Gitgit Falls. 

beautiful but questionably safe bridge
ten degrees cooler here due to waterfall mist
meditative spot - lots of spirits here, we are told

With our visa extensions in hand, it was time to do a little boat maintenance. We changed the oil and oil filter, fuel filters, cleaned the traps, unblocked the cockpit drain (it is amazing just how much hair a couple of almost bald guys can shed.  It could not possible be the girls!) packed the 370 litres of fuel we have in jerry cans into the lazerettes and lockers ensuring they are securely tied down, cleaned the topsides and made some water.

Cockpit - exploded view!

With all our jobs done and a few days of leisure stretching out in front of us, we did what any sensible person would and checked ourselves into the Menjangan Dynasty Resort for a couple of nights of five-star glamping.  This also gave us a chance to catch up on the 'blog, Facebook, etc..  Ah, the rigors of travel by yacht.

Really? This is a tent?
Looking out from the tent
We could keep an eye on Popeye from the pool

Pasir Putih, or 'white sand'