|Heaven & Hell in Indonesia (standard:travel stories, 5694 words)|
|Author: John Ahern||Added: May 19 2010||Views/Reads: 1687/1314||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Rough Travel from Australia to Borneo via The Spice Islands & Sulawesi 2008. See photos here: http://www.johnahern.net/page21.html|
HEAVEN & HELL IN INDONESIA – WALKABOUT 2008 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 Click here to read the rest of this story (431 more lines)
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