Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Half Way Treat!

When we reached Bali, we had traveled 15,047 miles since leaving Madeira Beach in April 2016, and which for us, marked a slightly over half way point in our journey. The total miles we will travel once we reach Florida again, will be around 26,000 miles or more. The Captain decided the crew deserved a treat (as did he!) and checked us into The Menjangan Dynasty Resort, that was nestled on the hill in Banyu Wedang, where we were anchored, for 2 nights! The kids were beyond excited (and I’ll admit both Dave and I were too!). The thought of long, hot showers, or even a bath (gasp!), a bed that didn’t move, and no cooking for 2 nights had me quite giddy with excitement!! We checked into a 2 bedroom villa (tent) with our own little pool. This wonderful upgrade was made possible by a donation from generous Aunty Kimmy, who contributed towards the stay, otherwise we could not have afforded to do it. Thank you SO much, Kim!!

The resort from above.  Cool Runnings is the closest boat on the top right hand corner of the picture.
Checking in!  We are very excited!!
As mentioned before, the rooms at the resort are all upscale tents, imported from South Africa. They are beautifully done. The resort is brand new, it only opened in October 2016, so it is only 8 months old. Besides us, we think there were only 2 other guests, a couple and a family with a small child. We did meet a nice German couple, Wolfgang and Monica, but they checked out the day after we checked in, but we enjoyed their company at an afternoon wine tasting, and a chat after dinner.

Another drone shot of the resort.  Our "tent" is the furthest on the left with the little pool in front

Enjoying the good life!
The problem with cruising is always what to do with your boat when you want to leave it for a short while, so this was perfect. We could keep an eye on the boat that was anchored in the bay, we could keep an eye on the dinghy that was tied to a tree outside the restaurant, and we could enjoy the resort without worrying about our floating home! 

We could keep a close eye on Cool Runnings from the resort

Here we are, with the resort in the background!

We just relaxed, swam in the pool, watched movies, made use of the free internet and generally just did a whole lot of nothing! Because there were so few guests, we were waited on hand and foot. The resort is very remote, so not a whole lot was going on, and there was nothing to do outside of the resort, but it was exactly what we needed, and it was a wonderful treat for all of us!

Our villa - Ben gives the thumbs up!

No caption needed!

The kids room

The living area

Second bedroom adjoining the living area

The main bedroom

The bathroom - it was all open (there were flaps on the outside of the tent that could be lowered for more privacy!)

The chandelier hanging from the tent "ceiling"

Ah yes...morning coffee on our private patio relaxing in my resort-provided Bali robe!
After reluctantly checking out on Thursday, we went back to the boat and, since unfortunately none of us were feeling very well (we think we picked up some form of food poisoning!!), we just slept for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Dave was hit particularly hard, and was not well at all! By Friday he seemed to start feeling better, so we spent the morning getting the boat ready to go, cleaned the hulls and pulled up the anchor around 2:00pm. (If you wonder why we always clean the hulls, the reason is that the cleaner they are, the faster you go. Any dirt, algae or barnacles act as a barrier to the water moving smoothly over the hulls and it affects your speed. Plus, it’s easier to keep up with it if it’s done regularly!). Our plan was to sail around the corner, where we saw a possible anchorage at the point where the local ferries cross between Bali and Java. We had to go to Denpasar, in the south of Bali, for official check out of the country. The distance was about 90 miles. Too long for a day, but we thought if we could cut off about 15 miles, we could do a very long day the following day.

Sunset from our patio.  The mountain is a volcano on neighboring Java

At its narrowest point, the strait between Bali and Java is only a mile wide, and as we’ve learned sailing in Indonesia, the current in the straits can be severe! We knew there would be a strong current here, but didn’t quite expect it to be as strong as it was! As we rounded the corner into the strait, we could see the white caps and standing waves. This is formed when there is wind against current. And the wind came up from about 6 knots to 18 knots directly against us as we rounded the point. Luckily, for once, the current was with us, and although we were doing 3 knots boat speed, our speed over ground (how fast we were actually moving) was about 10, sometimes 11 knots!

In the thick of the current:  18 knots wind against an 8 knot current

On the left, 10 knots is Speed over Ground (SOG), and on the right is 2.9 knots, boat speed!

We got to the spot where we thought we could anchor, but it proved to be impossible. With the strong current and tons of ferries, there was just nowhere we could park for the night, so we continued, making the decision to just continue through the night. Just before sunset, neither Dave nor I were feeling particularly great, so we found a spot on the charts that we figured would work for the night, and we just dropped the anchor. We hoped that the bottom would be sand or mud, and not coral as it often is here. We seemed to get an almost too good of a bite on the anchor (suggesting rock or coral), and Dave was worried it was caught on rock/coral, and had nightmares about it all night as it is potentially very hard to retrieve, or even worse, could be permanently stuck, in which case the only option is to abandon the anchor, as it would have been too deep to dive to retrieve it. It turned out to be a worry for nothing, because, when we got up the next morning at 4:00am, the anchor came up without a hitch, and we were on our way again. It wasn’t too bad of a trip. We had to motor the whole way, as we were going straight into the wind, but we knew this from the outset, as the south easterly trades are blowing steadily every day. Dave spent most of the day sleeping, still trying to get over his stomach bug, and by this time, he’d started taking antibiotics to help speed up the recovery.

Around lunchtime we were close enough to be able to see AIS signals, and I zoomed in on the chartplotter to the marina area where we were headed. I saw a sailboat AIS signal (they have a different shape to a ship), and I clicked on it, just hoping and praying it was who I thought it was….and it was!! I saw “Moby” was safe and sound in the Bali Marina! We had been tracking them almost every day since they had left Thursday Island in Australia 9 days previously! We had also been in touch constantly regarding the possible roadblocks we all faced about checking in and out due to the Ramadan holiday, and the possibility of customs and immigration offices being closed. By around 4:00pm we entered Benoa harbor amongst the myriads of watercraft entertaining the tourists of Bali. We dodged paragliders, boats pulling rafts that flew into the air, jetboats with screaming occupants and ferries returning for the day. It was a crazy scene, especially coming from the isolation in the north we’d just left!!

Not a good example to show the craziness, but this is all I had for entering Benoa Harbor!

It was a very happy reunion on the dilapidated concrete dock of Bali Marina with the crews of Cool Runnings and Moby! This reunion should have taken place in Kupang a month ago, but we were happy that Moby was all repaired, and had made it safely to Bali. We also met up again with Aerial IV and the 3 boats will sail together to Cocos Keeling.

Moby on the dock behind us in the Bali Marina
The concrete dock with Moby behind us

This is the electricity hook up in the Bali Marina...no thank you!
The last 2 days have been spent cleaning, fixing and shopping. We found a huge “Carrefour” supermarket, a brand we were familiar with from French Polynesia, and found everything we were looking for, except, to our children’s dismay, marshmallows for the bonfires on the beach in Cocos and Chagos. Oh well….Benedicte (aka Moby’s mom) has assured me she has a good stock on board, so I bought extra corn for popping, and sausages for grilling! We couldn’t buy too much fresh produce, as it will be confiscated in Cocos Keeling when we check in there, as they have the same strict quarantine procedures as Australia (it belongs to Australia), so I could only really buy enough to last the passage there. I was also still fairly well stocked from Australia, but was glad to be able to top up on the food we’d consumed since we left there, since our next chance will really only be in the Seychelles in about 2 months time!


Fixing (we had to patch a few small holes in the spinnaker...)

Everybody helps!  The spinnaker is a huge sail to handle!

Getting the boat ready...Dave secures the dinghy
Today we have spent another frustrating day checking out. Due to the holiday, the immigration only stays open until 10:00am. By the time Dave was done with immigration, he had to go to customs, but they decided to close for lunch. So we had to wait. And what in theory could (and should) have taken maybe 2 hours in the morning, has once again stretched into a full day. The bureaucracy is frustrating to say the least and we long for the efficient check in and out procedures of some of the other countries we’ve visited! 

Our overall impression of Indonesia, of the area we’ve seen (East and West Nusa Tengarra and Bali) from a cruiser’s point of view, is that as a cruising destination it still has a way to go. It is not really set up for cruisers, there are limited anchorages, diesel is difficult to get, and our biggest disappointment is that the water is so polluted. Even for miles out at sea we’ve seen plastic bags and plastic bottles, cans, tires, sacks, cigarette boxes…almost any trash you can think of, it’s floating in the water. In harbors and beaches, or anywhere there is a catchment area, it is even worse. The litter is also really bad on the streets, but we’ve noticed very few rubbish bins/trash cans, so there is nowhere for people to put their litter. It is also completely over-fished, and I’m sure the dynamite “fishing” we witnessed off of Flores doesn’t help the state of the fish at all! We saw very little sea life (save for the pod of pilot whales), and even the few dolphins we saw were small, as if they have adapted to the limited number of fish in the sea. 

So much trash in the water
In Labuan Bajo
And here in Bali
But having said that, we are glad we came, the people (on the whole!) were friendly and welcoming. It was interesting to learn about the different religions and cultures on the islands, and experience the different ways of life from the quiet mountain villages to the crazy hustle and bustle of the cities, with the swarms of scooters all beeping at each other!. On the sea, I will always remember the spider boats and other wooden, carved fishing boats, most painted in bright colors, each island having its own distinct style. But it is the inland beauty of Bali that stands out as a highlight for me…the lush, green mountains with narrow, windy roads; green terraced rice fields and deep gorges with tall bamboo, palms and trees; beautiful waterfalls and black volcanic sand beaches. Huge, towering volcanoes and the landscape dotted with brightly colored temples and shrines, and the intricate, gold painted carvings glistening in the sunlight. It was an experience not be missed, and I’m glad we had our short time here.

Colorful boats - Labuon Bajo

Wooden fishing boat on a black sand beach - Wera

Volcano - Bali

Rice fields outside Lovina - Bali

Terraced rice fields - Bali

Outside Ubud Palace - Ubud, Bali

Hindu Temple - outside Ubud, Bali

Tomorrow morning early we enter the mighty Indian Ocean and head for Cocos Keeling. It’s a 1,100 mile passage that should hopefully take between 6 and 7 days, depending on the wind, but the forecast is good, the wind strength is good and the wind angle is right for the sails. It is the next big passage on our journey across the Indian Ocean, and we are ready and raring to go! See you all in Cocos Keeling!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beautiful Bali

When we left Gili Air on Friday morning, June 16th, our plan had been to sail across the Lombok Strait to the NE corner of Bali, to Amed, and anchor in Ambat Bay. This would have been a relatively short sail, and we had planned to do some snorkeling there, as there are two wrecks: the USS Liberty and a Japanese shipwreck. However, the guide did state, and we could see on the charts, that the anchorage is not particularly protected, and in certain wind directions can be uncomfortable, or not even safe.  We had to dodge multiple FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) along the north coast of Bali.  We had read that there were many, but I was quite amazed at how many that actually turned out to be!  Navigating here at night would be dangerous, as these devices are not lit, and if you hit one, you'd be in trouble!  We were also amazed how the devices differed from island to island.

This is a FAD found along the coast of Sumbawa

This is a Balinese FAD

And this is how close we came to them!

Mount Agung, Bali's highest mountain dominated the skyline the whole way.  We could even see it from Gili Air

The day started off with no wind, but as we headed into more open water, and out of the protection of Lombok and the Gili islands, the wind and current picked up, and soon we had 20+ knots of wind and white horses on the water. As we got closer to Amed, we decided that staying there would not be pleasant, so we decided to skip it, and continue to Lovina, which had been our next day’s destination.  It made for a long day, and we arrived at Lovina after sundown. Luckily for us, a kind fisherman came along side us, and said he would guide us in. He did so, and we anchored safely in a huge, calm bay. We gave him Rp50,000 for his assistance and his gas. The next morning he was back with 2 fish. He said we gave him money, so he wanted to give us fish! It took a while to convince him that we wanted to give him the money because he helped us, and that he should keep his fish for his family. How nice it was to encounter friendly locals again!!

Sunrise in Lovina

Sean and Kate on s/v "Popeye", that we had met in Flores, had given us the name of a local taxi driver in Lovina, whom they had used to get diesel, and to tour. His name is Nyomen, and Sean and Kate had given us his phone number. We called him on Saturday morning, to see if he could assist us with getting diesel. He was very responsive and said he would meet us at 1:00pm at the dolphin statue, which we could see from the boat. He was there waiting for us, and promptly helped us load our 8 jerry cans into his car! Our expectation was that he would take us to get diesel, so what a nice surprise we got when he said he would take us on a bit of a tour!

Soon we were winding our way out of Lovina, and along narrow mountain roads through little villages. Our first stop was “GitGit” where Nyomen wanted to show us a waterfall. We all thought, “Oh, that’s nice…we’ve seen waterfalls, but may as well check it out”, and wow, was it worth the stop! We walked along mossy paths, with small, sparkling pools of water, then the first falls that fell into a stony cavern below. Soon we were passing little shrines where you could leave an offering to the Hindu gods and crossing bridges to get to the main falls. It was a very spiritual place, and maybe because it was so unexpected, we enjoyed the experience so much!

An unassuming sign showing the way to the waterfall

Family shot at Gitgit waterfall

A shrine along the way

The main Gitgit waterfall

After the waterfalls we drove through more villages and saw beautiful, green terraced rice fields. At one of the fields we stopped and were able to plant some rice in the soft, muddy ground. Nyomen also took us to see local artisans carving intricate wood sculptures, ornaments and frames for temples and other works of art. He then took us to his village, and his home, where he introduced us to his wife, Budi. After getting us kitted out in sarongs, Budi took us to the village temple, and explained some of the Hindu customs, ceremonies and rituals. Bali is the smallest province of Indonesia and has a population of about 4 million. It is the home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority, so there are many, many Hindu temples on the island.

A small shrine at GitGit

The green of the rice fields is so beautiful

More rice fields

Newly planted rice

Some of the intricate wood carving - all done by hand

A door that was on display in the little workshop

The men sit on the floor and work with a hammer and chisel

Budi tying Gaby's sarong

The door to the temple next to Nyomen's house

At the entrance to the temple

Inside the temple there are numerous different buildings that have different functions

Statue of a Hindu god

The carving at the entrance is just as ornate as what we saw the woodworkers create

Beautiful red and gold dorrs

In our sarongs at the entrance
The temple is right next to Nyomen’s house, and while we were there (at the temple), we heard beautiful music playing. We didn’t realize at the time, that the music was coming from Nyomen’s house, where his father was playing a musical instrument. We later learned that his father is the village master musician and teacher, and, after being invited into Nyomen’s home, and being introduced to his father, what ensued was possibly the most special experience we’ve encountered to date. Nyomen’s father invited Benjamin to come and play the “Gender” with him. The closest instrument I can think of for comparison is a xylophone. He was the most patient, kind teacher I’ve ever encountered, and Benjamin was totally enthralled! We spent about 2 hours there, both kids getting a chance to play and learn the instruments. Then out came drums, and bass drums and Nyomen’s son also came to play. Soon we had this whole band going, Budi was clapping, and even the granny came out and listened and laughed. It was really very special, and something I think the kids will always remember: I know I certainly will!

Benjamin learning the Gender

Our own little band:  Me on a bamboo instrument (drum type sound), Gaby on drum, Grandpa on drum, Ben on base drum and Anon, Nyomen's son on the Gender

The sign outside Nyomen's family's house advertising the music lessons

Saying goodbye to our new found friends:  Nyomen waving in the background, his wife Budi with her back to us
After we said our farewells to Nyomen’s family, with hugs and kisses on both cheeks`, it was back to reality and finally getting 8 jerry cans of diesel filled! Fuel in Indonesia is subsidized, so they are very strict on how much you can buy and foreigners are not allowed to buy the subsidized fuel. We can buy non-subsidized diesel, but it is easier to do that with a local who can explain to the security why we want to buy 8 jerry cans worth. We drove a fair distance to a “Petromina” (gas/petrol station) to get the diesel, but Nyomen assured us that this was the only one where the diesel was good, so we were happy to do the extra drive (although it was terrifying!) to get it. So all in all, a very productive day, and so much more than we had bargained for!

We paid over a million bucks for the diesel!  OK, Rupiah, that is!!

The next day (Sunday), we headed out at sunrise, to sail over to Banyu Wedang in the very north east corner of Bali. It is on the edge of the West Bali National Park, and is remote even by Indonesian standards! This is another place “Popeye” had told us about and the bay itself is called “Teluk Mimpi” which means “Dream Bay”. And a dream bay it is. It is totally protected and calm and we were happy to drop our anchor, even if it was in 60-odd feet of water! Also on the edge of this bay is a new resort called the Menjangan Dynasty resort, which Popeye had also told us about. No sooner had we entered the bay, when Dave got an email from the F&B manager at the resort, saying “Hello Mr. David, I see a new boat has just entered the bay. Is that you?”. Dave had contacted him after getting his contact info from Popeye to see if we could perhaps get a deal at the resort…

Ben helps raise the sails as we leave Lovina

Arriving in Banyu Wedang - the resort is nestled on the hill

Inside the bay - nice and calm!

We headed ashore for some lunch and were treated like special guests! Kama, the F&B manager showed us the different “rooms” at the resort. I put rooms in quotes because they are, in fact, all tents! This resort markets itself as a “glamping” resort! The tents are beautiful, and we learned that they actually come from South Africa, where they use them in the upscale game reserves. After a discussion over lunch, we decided that as a reward for making it half-way around the world, we would treat ourselves to 2 nights at the resort! The kids were beyond excited!! But before we could check in, we would have to spend 2 more nights on the boat, as we had already arranged for Nyomen to take us on another tour of Bali on Monday, so we decided we would check in to the resort on Tuesday. But more on that later…

Nyomen picked us up early on Monday morning, and we had a long, full day of touring Bali. We didn’t actually realize how far away we were, so it took us almost an hour and a half in the car before we were back in the Lovina area, and within striking distance of any sights. Had we known, we probably would have been better off staying in Lovina and doing all our touring from there, but we didn’t know, and so we unfortunately ended up spending a lot of extra time in the car that day.

This map taken from our tracker shows the marathon drive we took that day.  The blue line is our boat track, and the red is our rough driving track.
When we looked at a map of Bali (above), we drove almost to Denpasar, on the other side of Bali! North Bali is very mountainous, and our first stop, after winding our way through very narrow, windy mountain roads was a coffee plantation. Here we learned and saw how the coffee is picked, roasted and ground. We also learned about Luwak coffee, the rare and expensive coffee that is made from the feces of the civet cats. In the wild, these animals will eat the ripest coffee beans, and then their feces are collected, and the beans in the feces are washed, dried, pounded to remove the skin, sorted and finally roasted. Consumers pay a premium for Luwak coffee, but Dave and I declined, and chose to sample Bali coffee instead!

Luwak Coffee Bali

Coffee Beans

The kids get a chance to roast and grind the coffee!

After the coffee plantation visit, it was a long drive to Ubud, Bali’s center of arts and crafts. We visited the Ubud Palace, which is the official residence of the royal family of Ubud. We marveled at the ornate stone carvings and traditional buildings. More information on the palace and Ubud, if you are interested, can be found on their official website: www.ubudpalace.com, or just google Ubud or Ubud Palace.

Palace entrance

Walking around the palace grounds

Ornate stone carvings

Market at Ubud.  Look at all those scooters!!
After our visit to Ubud, Nyoman took us to a local Warung (restaurant) for some suckling pig! It was delicious, but I unfortunately mixed everything on my plate together, and somewhere amongst all the deliciousness was something very, very spicy, so my mouth was on fire!! But all in all, a great local lunch!

Now it was time to start the long journey back to the north of Bali and to where our boat was anchored. On the way, we stopped at the famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces, but it was so crowded with cars, tourists (we are not tourists, of course!!) and tour buses, that we couldn’t actually get out! And we didn’t want to. The rice fields we had seen on the first drive with Nyomen were just as good, if not better, and free! You had to pay to see these, along with a million other people, and from what we could see from the car, they were not nearly as nice! So we were quite happy to give that a miss.

Gaby managed to snap these pics of the Tegallalang Rice terraces from the car

From there we drove on to the rim of Mt. Batur. Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung on Bali. The south east side of the larger caldera, which measures about 10 × 13 km, contains a caldera lake. The inner caldera (about 7.5km wide), has been dated at about 28,500 years ago. The first documented eruption was in 1804 and the most recent was in 2000. You can still see the black of the lava flow.

You can see the rim of the outer crater in the distance, with the black lava flow in the foreground

Another temple snapped along the way home

We didn’t get back to the boat until about 7:30 or 8:00pm, and after having left at 8:00am that morning, we were all exhausted, most of all Nyomen, who still had to drive an hour and a half back towards Lovina where he lives. However, we were very grateful for his time and for sharing his local knowledge with us. Although we spent a lot of time in the car, I think we saw a side of Bali that not a lot a people see. We saw the villages and its people. We saw their family temples and farms and windy roads and crazy driving! We saw, we learned and we loved it!!