Saturday, October 23, 2010

Neptune comes to call

We are at the end of our three months in Indonesia, and today arrived in Singapore for a few days before we head into Malaysia. Clearing in was an interesting experience. We had to cross an 8-lane shipping channel and then anchor at the Quarantine anchorage and await Immigration. They fired towards us in their orange metal boat and held out a fishing net for us to drop our passports and paperwork into! We're at the One 15 Marina - very flash indeed - pool, club-house, gym, steam room, games room, playground and many restaurants that we can't afford. We'll go into the city tomorrow and see what there is to see. The air-con is cranking away - first time we've used it in 5 months.

We travelled to Belitung after Kumai and had a lovely few days there, swimming and eating. The local people had put on a festival in honour of the rally and there were great services for us – dinghy 'boys' ready and willing to drag the dinghy out of the water and watch it for us, free transport into town with helpful guides to accompany us and translate and the friendliest people yet. I'm sure I've said that before. Every time we went down to the beach we were accompanied by hundreds of locals who wanted to have their photos taken with us or just talk.

We had our last overnighter from Belitung to the upper islands of Nangka, Bangka and Lingah, all of which are close to the coast of Sumatra. A couple of days ago we crossed the equator for the first time and were visited by the strange apparition of King Neptune, wearing a sarong and silver crown. Something about him was vaguely familiar. Young princes Seth and Finn, also crowned, were waiting for their initiation ceremony, which consisted of loud incantations and being covered in a foul mixture of porridge and soy sauce. Neptune seemed satisfied with these offerings and disappeared to his watery home. Our friend Gary on 'Spirit of Sabroan', who were sailing close to us as we entered the Northern hemisphere, jumped over the side for a hasty dip but was quick to jump out as the current dragged him away. That night we had an equator party on the beach with all the other boats.

We've been looking back on our months in Indonesia and talking about the high and low lights. It's a country of contrasts – Bali with its predatory traders and sunburnt Westerners, its rice fields and lush hills; the cities – chaotic, filthy, overwhelming; the amazing friendliness of the people; the poverty of people on the islands and in the fishing villages; the lack of any clear infrastructure; the minefield of floating rafts, stilted huts and invisible nets that make night sailing such an invigorating experience. We've had some wonderful anchorages – spotting komodo dragons, monkeys and deer, swimming in clear water, snorkelling with the kids. We've made some lovely friends that we know will stay in our lives. We've also had lots of little things go wrong – disappointing anchorages, rocks and coral to snag the anchor, various boat bits breaking and needing replacement. Not enough to stop us having had an amazing first few months. We've got by with our very limited Bahasa, in places where nobody speaks a word of English (and why should they?!) and Seth has become very adept at understanding the figures thrown around in the market place and elsewhere. We've all become confident bargainers and have had fun haggling over prices.

Wonder how Malaysia will compare.We love knowing that our friends are with us, reading the blog and letting us know that they have.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Kumai River - Seth's blog

On the 8th of October 2010 me and my family went on the experience of a lifetime visiting and living among the Orangutans, the great apes of Indonesia.

We left my boat at about 9:00 am with 13 other people including Jeremy, Natalie, Indigo, Shae and Tanzi all from a boat named Suspence. Our other friends on Red Boomer 2, owned by Bill and his large merry crew of Jane and Andrew and their sons Connor and Troy. Andrew’s sister Yvette and her husband Ole and their new crew member Mark whose girlfriend we know from years back in the marina in Sydney.

We boarded the Klotok from my boat and set off for the national park known as Tanjung Puting. When us kids got onto the boat we were amazed by the space. There were 4 bunk beds and 2 single beds. There was also plenty of space for luggage. We had a look and were impressed by the amount of space. There was a decent sized kitchen and flushing toilet. The upstairs area was a plain green floor and next to it was the captains quarters and then a back area with benches and seats and a ladder down to the kitchen and bathroom.

The time that we were not on shore was playing games and making cubby out of the mattresses and blankets. The first few hours were spent playing downstairs and getting used to the boat.

We arrived and station 2 and stopped there for lunch and then continued on to station 3. When we got to station 3 we got off and went for the first walk to the orangutan feeding place where we sat and watched the orangutans. On the way there an orangutan got Connor’s bag and opened it and Connor had all of his Pokemon cards sucked on and chucked in a puddle and then started reading his comic and put his undies on its head and then when it lost interest it walked over and grabbed onto my mum’s leg. After that experience we proceeded to the feeding place.

When we got to the feeding place we found that there was a platform covered in bananas. When we got there we saw about 10 orangutans surrounding us and they were just walking among us and holding onto your hand.

We saw 3 orangutans with babies and 2 grown men, 3 kids about my age and 2 fully grown ladies. Personally I liked the babies the best.

We left to go back to the boat and then we went back to station 2 and had dinner there and stayed the night there.

In the morning we had a nice wake up from 2 orangutan kids about 6 years old and we got onto the wharf and managed to get it to come closer and fed both of them and Finn fed the first orangutans and I managed to feed 1 of the orangutans 4 bananas and the other orangutan I fed it 3. After that we had a really nice breakfast of banana pancakes and pineapple and then went onshore for station 2.

We got to the end of the track and saw the king of the orangutans hanging from a branch above us with cheeks like plates, he was massive.

I fed 3 different orangutans and fed them 7 bananas each. When all the orangutans left we started to head back to the boat. We headed off and then on the way to station 1 we had lunch and watched for orangutans. When we got to station 1 it was raining so we could not go onshore at station 1 which was a shame so we set off again back home.

Even though we didn’t go to station 1 it was by far the best experience for all of us!

Written by Seth Armstrong

Photos by Seth, Sarah and Scott Armstrong

PS. Comment from Sarah

Great blog Seth.
We are currently in Belitung on the last leg of our Indonesian voyage. In just over a week we'll be in Batam, on the Indo side of Singapore and after that will enter Malaysia and have a week or two at a marina there to wash everything on the boat and enjoy the delights of air con for a little while. Did I mention that it's hot??

This unspoilt end of the archipelago is so friendly and welcoming - every time we land on the beach there are 100 people waiting to take photos and shake our hands. I think Scott is getting the idea that he is a rock star. Ah well, must be the news of the sarong has spread.