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Heaven & Hell in Indonesia (standard:travel stories, 5694 words)
Author: John AhernAdded: May 19 2010Views/Reads: 1868/1502Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Rough Travel from Australia to Borneo via The Spice Islands & Sulawesi 2008. See photos here:


Copied from various emails sent to friends over nine weeks. As you read
this in comfort just remember ‘Be careful what you wish for'. 

It's 3am in the Timor Sea, and the boat is running fast over the smooth,
black sea. The crew are asleep and it's my turn to be captain. The sky 
is ablaze with stars and the first bit of a bright red moon is peeping 
over the horizon. At dusk a whale came by to have a look and the 
dolphins followed us for an hour, playing on the bow-wave below my feet 
as I sat on the bowsprit. Now the phosphorus is rushing by and the 
flying-fish are jumping ahead...... “SO WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YA 
MATE?”  (Aussie tourist slogan). 

Ambon Everything Cheryl said about Indonesia is true, it's just
fantastic and like being in a nation of children, but what Con says is 
also true; dirty, hot, sweaty, rainy and the food is no good if you 
just want fish/chips or steak. The city of Ambon is utter chaos and as 
much 'third world' as anywhere I've ever been. The people are 
desperately poor but everyone's got a mobile phone with calls charged 
at about one tenth of a cent.  The honesty of everyone is remarkable. 
The only sad faces are the sailors! Maybe they have reason because 
every one of them has a boat problem of some sort and the locals are 
just not equipped to deal with them - they just smile and say yes to 
every question but nothing happens! Simple sailing would be the best 
option here as many boats are already having to wait for the various 
bits of complicated equipment. Con and I could easily have won this 
race on his Hobie18  as the weather and seas were perfect all the 
way—except for a wind dropout the first night when we started  the 
motor (as most of the others probably did but didn't admit it). We 
arrived at about 4.30pm Wednesday and were third over the line behind 
'Helsel' and a fast catamaran. The last ones arrived in on Friday night 
as they were left in the doldrums around Bathurst Island for two days. 

The Darwin/Ambon race is so appreciated by the locals that we've been
attending some sort of welcoming function every day or night since we 
arrived  - a bunch of ragged ass tinkers such as us (the others are 
mostly retired, rich, grumpy old farts) being feted at such  lavish 
ceremonies like the banquet at the lord mayor's marble palace where I 
got to play harmonica with his big (mostly karaoke) band and exotic 
local babes singing such inappropriate songs (lyrics) as 'Honkytonk 
Woman'! The top song here is 'Send me the Pillow (mattress) That You 
Dream On'   - Ray Charles is king. We have a police escort each evening 
to go ahead clearing the trikeshaws with sirens and flashing lights, 
just as well because the bus windscreen wipers don't work! 

Trying to hitch a ride on a yacht east to the Banda Islands to see the
best coral reefs (reputedly) but in the meantime I'm hanging out with 
the locals and trying to learn the Bahasa Indonesian. No possibility of 
sending pics but 'Google' Darwin/Ambon 2008 and you may find some 
info/photos. I'm sailing on 38ft 'Diva'. CatchYasLater - if (as Con 
says) they don't put me in the pot in Sulawesi! 

It's 5pm in the Banda Sea and there's a 40 knot wind singing like a
banshee in the rigging. The sails are flying in tatters and we are 
running on a reefed mainsail and the diesel engine which is poisoning 
us all with it's fumes. There are just two of us ‘active' out of five 
on board the 40ft Lexen Olympic, that the new owner now realises was 
probably not meant for these conditions: it has sharply sloping decks, 
little or no rail and no grab-handles anywhere so going forward is more 
than a bit risky! The yacht is pitching and rolling like a mad bull and 
the ‘crew' are all on the floor below where they've toppled out of 
their bunks, amid the chaos and mayhem of all the stuff - books, 
phones, magazines, cameras, cushions, clothing, pots and pans that flew 
out of the lockers. Water is coming thru the main hatch and everything 
is soaked and every time we go under a roller the sea pours through. 
Add to this is the beers that have popped their seals with the crashing 
and thrashing of the boat. 

This 24 hour trip to the Banda Islands will now take 48 hours (if
nothing else goes amiss.) No auto-pilot and I have to watch the compass 
closely. I did 11 hours on the helm last night and the headsail blew 
out with a bang at about 2 am. The skipper is the only one who can 
sleep and he relieved me at dawn and I got down for a few hours, now 
I've been on since noon. I've had to lash myself to the rail behind 

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