Monday, December 11, 2017

'Ere there be dragons...

We had an unexpectedly nice time in Dili with its friendly harbormaster and lovely foods and then stopped in along the coast at Oe-cusse. Whilst looking this area up, we stumbled upon a guardian article about their political and economic situation titled 'Timor-leste's big spending: a brave way to tackle economic crisis or just reckless?' Which really helped us understand what we then found there.

Oe-cusse is part of East Timor but in a separate enclave further west along the North coast of the long wriggly Timor island. This place really stands alone under the surrounding mountains and has a very strange air about it. Wandering around, it appeared mostly deserted. We couldn't find a veggie stall or anyone to chat to; but as the tumble weed blew, after it scuttled a uniformed worker diligently trying to sweep it up.

The busiest scene we found. A construction worker handing out raw meat from his handlebars at one of the many government investment sites. Out of shot is the big billboard saying what it cost and the security guard looking on. As you can see the streets were overbuilt and well maintained; quite different from neighbouring areas especially Dili. The orange people are the ever lurking ninja Street sweepers.

The cafe bar on the beach appeared frequented only by a few Europeans sipping their espresso with their heads deep in paperwork. They hardly raised a smile when Ravi went to town removing and replacing rocks from the fountain, creating quite the mud bath.

The less said about Kupang, our next stop on Western Timor the better. We were continuously hounded by touts with their 'hey mister' wanting to arrange everything for us: Fuel, water, taxi, clearance, drugs, women... By far the best policy was to give them all a wide berth and arrange things ourselves. We have since heard many stories of rip offs and bad experiences so our instincts served us well. Some form of transport was unavoidable since the offices we must visit were a long way. Taxis were cheaper as we walked away from the Anchorage and bartering was a must.

After long and tedious complications we managed to come out with not only the visa we wanted but it extended too. Customs, quarantine and the harbormaster were all easily done without interference from the agents who were unpopular with the officials we spoke with. They are trying to reduce corruption but it suits the touts and agents to encourage it so that visitors will feel that they need their services to negotiate their way through. So at the end of a day and a half of beaurocracy we were the happy holders of clearance and three passports stamped with 60 days worth of visa.

Duncan did many water and fuel runs both of which were much cheaper going in person to the vendor rather than through the offers of the touts. We caught a 'bemo' (minivan transport) to the mall, stocked up and let Ravi play in the ball pool as a reward for his patience at being dragged around all those offices then happily we could leave Kupang behind.

Kupang definitely looks better from the boat where you can't make out the heaps of rubbish, traffic and chaos...

Flat calm again we had to motor the whole way to Flores then were able to sail on to Rinca our first Komodo national park island. There, it wasn't long before we saw not only wild boars but the famous Komodo dragons prowling amongst the plastic. This one was about 2m but they can grow to three metres and 70kg. We saw at least two if not three different ones whilst at this beach and not again in the rest of our time within the national park.

The plastic on the beach, local boats buzzing around and unusually cold water conspired to make us disinclined to dive where our guide book said was good. I wish we'd been braver but we thought there would be many more opportunities. Of course we can only dive one at a time these days so our already conservative adventuring has gotten even more cautious. There are so many considerations when diving without a local guide; currents, depth, other boats, getting to and from the dive site without an outboard...

Our next stop was an enormous bay/inlet area with many little coves and long mangroved cut throughs called Lehok Ginggo
where we had a lovely time. We explored by kayak and saw lots of unusual birds and monkeys. Ravi found his ideal beach; accessed through a cave usually by kayak it was shaded most of the day and had beautiful sand and modest waves.

We then met up with friends we'd last seen in Fiji. Two boats, a trimaran with a kiwi and Dutch couple and the other a family from Belgium, Scotland and London. These guys on the catamaran Rehua (link to their blog) are still with us now and going the same way. Ravi loves having two big boys to play with, the space to scamper about and what we'd never realised; a lovely shady space to swim in the sea under Rehua's belly. We think they're fun too!

Pink beach, Komodo

Makassar reef, Komodo, too deep to anchor and possibly prohibited anyway so we drifted whilst snorkeling one at a time. (Photos by Rehua)

Gili Air, Lombok has no motorised traffic so was a great place to introduce Ravi to the joys of cycling. The Rehua crew hired some very cheaply too so we regretted putting ours through the wear and tear of the salty sand loose paths. The island is a popular backpackers haunt so our cycle ride inevitably turned into a pub crawl; half the gang preferring the cycling and half more focused on the the next establishment.

From Gili Air, we had a safe distance view of the volcano rumblings of Mount Agung on Bali. With an eruption forecast as imminent we thought we'd edge forward after checking we'd always be just out of the evacuation zone. Nothing came of it as it happens so we carried on unscathed.

Mount Agung, Bali from the Lombok strait with a fisherman from Gili Air in the foreground.

So on we've been sailing together, through the Komodo islands, along the top of Sumbawa, Lombok and on to Bali. We've been having much more difficult weather than expected, more about which in the next blog.

Sailing with Rehua between anchorages in Bali we had a rare nice easy trip and they were able to snap some photos of us in full sail with our big Genoa out for the expected light winds. We were going from Lovina to Teluk (bay) Banyuwedang, a lovely enclosed bay on the north west tip of Bali to avoid some more bad weather that was on its way.

Nappies flying and getting the odd salty splash, Ravi was inside having a doze.

Ravi is turning into the inevitable water baby he was always bound to be. This was a resort pool you could use if you bought a few beers.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Lovely photos of you all, boat looks fab in full sail :-)