Saturday 24 August 2013

Buton Island

We are certainly falling in Love with Indonesia! We even adopted two lovely university students that were our guides for a day while in Baubau city. Baubau has one of the largest old forts in the world, Keraton Fortress, built by the locals several centuries ago to fight off the Dutch and other invaders. Our girls lead us all around that and through the maze of markets, negotiating the best deals and finest produce. We love you, Pipin and Inang.

A handshake in Indonesia is gentle, followed by raising your right hand to touch your chest. It means I welcome and greet you today, may not remember your name, but will keep your face in my heart always. I think that says it all, not to mention all the smiling faces and everyone wants to have a picture with you. “Mister, one more picture please”. :) Indonesia is chaotic at best, everything is done by consensus, and of course everyone wants to be involved, so the result is that any agenda is constantly changing, right up until it actually unfolds. But it is done with such great heart, so a little patience goes a long way. In that light, it truly is a “Magical Mystery Tour”.
The relatively small village of Pasarwajo put on the “Colossal dance” performance like nothing we’ve ever seen. Can you imagine 12,500 dancers (we kid you not), mostly all students, all at the same time, performing traditional dances? We were completely awestruck! Then try to imagine what it must have took to pull this together, all in two months, on a large island that is geographically dispersed. Unbelievable, particularly when you know that it was done just for us, 11 boats, ~26 people, not to mention the wonderful ceremonies, dinners, a personal guide for each person, transport, a diving trip to see Mandarin fish, etc, etc. And that’s just the “planned” activities. Then there’s all the little things, the friendly fisherman everywhere, the boys that paddle out to visit with you to practice their English, the yummy food, the beautifully designed fishing boats and homes, the diverse culture from island to island, even the mosque loud speaker chanting (calls to pray) at 4:30 in the morning. And the mountainous, jungle clad, tropical islands themselves are beautiful and the seas crystal clear.

Indonesians like to tell stories through dance, there’s a dance for everything. One particular one was lovely on Buton, which every Butonese knows, the story of the mermaid. The short version is that the children were misbehaving playing in the water where they weren’t supposed to, they got into trouble, swallowed up by the sea and became fish. The mother, heart stricken, jumped into the sea to search for them, became a mermaid, forever searching for her children. And so it goes, that children should always obey their mother. :)

When we first arrived, we had to dress in their traditional costumes which included sarongs, tops, jackets and belt. We thought this was solely for the ceremonies, but they insisted we keep them for when we come back. One ceremony was called the “Doli Doli” to strengthen the immune system of babies. There were about 1000 babies all being rubbed in coconut oil and rolled in banana leaves, all crying and making a fuss. :) Then after the welcome ceremony, there was the “1000 trays” where we were fed lovely morsels. After the feast, we were shown to other tents highlighting local handcrafts, eg, weaving baskets, mats and cloths. They insisted Sherry get in front of a weaving loom to learn how it was done. Once strapped in, there were about 75 people all trying to give her instructions (in Indonesian) and showing by example. Great fun, though not sure she wants to be a weaver!

After a car trip across the mountains to Baubau, for another ceremony with the Sultans and King, a lunch, the tour of the Keraton Fortress and then another lovely dinner overlooking the bay, we were whisked (wild one hour ride) back across the mountains to Pasarwajo. We were exhausted and ready to climb into bed, only to find the mayor of Pasarwajo had ALSO planned another dinner , music and dancing. After midnight, we slipped away to the dingy and back to the boat to FINALLY climb into bed. Phew! And so it goes, another lovely day in Indonesia. :)

With Equanimity and Joy

Saturday 17 August 2013

Wakatobi Indonesia

After the lovely Spice Islands, we did a 3-day/3-night passage to Wakatobi in Sulawesi. Lots of great ceremonies and a wonderful warm reception from all. There was a welcome barge with dancing and they encouraged the Sail Indonesia folks to participate. We got up there with them (no one else was having any part of that) and danced around... great fun! :)

We enjoyed a few days there and then headed out yesterday to anchor and spend some time diving. Wakatobi area and then Taka Bone Rate, just south of Sulawesi are supposed to be some of the best diving spots in the world with the most diversity in coral types. I think they have over 700 of the world's 850 varieties. We did a wall dive yesterday and are planning 2 dives for today.

Last evening a tiny local fishing boat pulled up to our yacht and we bought some little local lobsters from them for dinner... don't think maine lobster... not even close, but still a nice treat. We enjoyed a walk on the small Hoga Island followed by some Mie Goreng (fried noodles) on the beach with our friends Ruthie and Neal from Rutea.

with Equanimity and Joy

Friday 9 August 2013

Indonesia, finally!

Well, it's been a whirlwind of activity, no rest for the wicked... we finally did leave Darwin, with good feelings in our hearts and adventure in our smiles. We checked into Saumlaki a couple of days later after a good passage. The people in Saumlaki were incredibly friendly and welcoming, with a big welcoming ceremony, dinners, a tour about the island, fishing competition, dancing competition, cooking fesitival, etc. all ending with a big "Gala" farewell dinner. Everyone in our gaggle of about 14 boats was awestruck at how well we were treated and made to feel welcome, literally treated like royalty.

Then we were off again to the "Spice Islands" of Banda, with big smiles, adventure again, finally getting to these remote islands dreamed of for many years. And arrive we did, some rain just before landing, but cleared out to reveal stunning beautiful islands. The harbor is very deep so we all dropped our hooks on the steeply sloping bank and backed to the wall in front of a hotel, where again we were greeted by friendly faces and guides of all types (diving, mountain climbing, plantation tours, city walks, etc.) to help us enjoy our time here. And that we did!

The nutmeg plantation and village on the southern island was a real treat. Nutmeg is grown in the shade of banda almond trees, as big as the towering redwoods or firs of the pacific NW in America. We learned all about how it was processed and the different parts of the nutmeg nut (all used!) We did some dives and snorkeling in stunningly clear water, climbed to the top of the volcano "Gunug Api" (Fire Mountain - 600 meters) with very sore legs the next day. We had a "city" tour today and got lots more info on the history, including a tour of the old Dutch fort. The European world fought fiercely over these little islands in the middle of nowhere for several centuries.

Internet has been dismal so far, but we haven't had time for that anyway, having too much fun being in these lovely islands with happy friendly people. But we are off again tomorrow headed for Wakatobi, in Sulawesi, for more diving, some of the best in the world, friendly faces and wonderfully yummy food.

Pictures coming soon (when we have a better internet connection!)

With Equanimity and Joy