Saturday, August 27, 2011

Call of the mosque and the joys of karaoke

Finn getting down to his school work
I am sitting on the boat at night in the small harbour at Jayapura where the lights of the bay spread up the hill. It is not quiet, though I would imagine that many locals will be sleeping. It is the last week of Ramadam and the largely Muslim population cannot eat or drink between 5am and 6pm. They get up at 4 in the morning to eat before their day of fasting begins. In every town in Indonesia and Malaysia that we have anchored in over the past year, the sounds of the mosque or 'masjid' have been our companions. Each mosque is surrounded by its own village, and each town has any number of mosques. Each of them has a number of loud-speakers fixed to the roof and the imam's call to prayer rings out every four hours through the day and night. There have been many nights when we've woken at four to this call and though Scott grumbles about being woken, I think that the sound of the mosque's song will be something that I will miss. When I am lying awake in the early hours, the sound is exotic and reminds me of how far from home we are. I have no religion of my own but I like the idea of people rising to devotion because they have been called – the people of the village going together to worship.

The other songs that come across the water at night are those of another kind of song. In each country that we've visited, karaoke is a serious business. Amateur Indonesian Aretha Franklins and Frank Sinatras gather at restaurants to sing. We've eaten in a few restaurants here in Jayapura and each of them has a karaoke stage set up, so we've had some interesting entertainment whilst we eat our noodles.
Having dinner at Mutti and Ridho's house

The past few days have been spent wandering around Jayapura looking for all the things that need to be bought for Papua New Guinea – new fishing line; rice, sugar, fishing hooks and soap for trading; LPG gas and 500 litres of diesel. I've spent literally hours in the depot at the post office waiting whilst the clerk sorts through his meticulous lists to see if our mail has arrived (it hasn't). Finn has proclaimed the town 'not too bad' as there has been very little pinching and grabbing and Scott, Captain Number 7, has allegedly been wolf-whistled by a bus load of girls. His only witness was his eldest son, who is prone to exaggeration, but has had his fair share of female attention over the past days....
Seth with our friends in Jayapura

We are checking the weather and waiting for the right day to head North East towards the Ninigo Islands, a couple of days' sailing. As we probably won't be able to buy fuel very easily in PNG as we'll be avoiding main towns, we have to conserve diesel so will have to – shock horror – even do some up-wind sailing where possible. Will hope to find internet at Kavieng in a couple of weeks' time.

I have dragged what feels like hundred of kilos of food onto the boat – sacks of potatoes and rice, watermelons, cabbages and a whole basket of onions and garlic. These have been bought from the local markets, which take place mostly at night. Today I had my hair cut at a salon run by a transvestite and staffed by an army of nice gay guys who made a fuss of me, gave me a great shoulder massage and were keen to practice their English – learnt entirely from listening to Radio Australia. They also pronounced that 'your husband is SO handsome!' I really need to get Scott out of Indonesia.

Jayapura's harbour is filthy and the sewer empties directly into it. Everyone throws their rubbish straight into the water and at low tide the bay is a mess of plastic bottles, every kind of discarded item and slimy stuff that we don't want to identify. The family that we have been befriended by live right on the water in the photo. Their house is spotless but they live with the filthy river splashing next to their walls and rubbish drifting against their makeshift walkway. They are part of the village community surrounding the mosque, with a maze of neat swept laneways overhung by baskets of flowers and drying washing. They are the kindest people, who have helped us in countless ways over the past week.
Waterfront living, Jayapura style

And so we leave Indonesia and head into a new country. Watch this space – and will be in touch as soon as we can. Remember you can track us on :

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jayapura at last

Pulau Dawi, the Padaido Islands

As suspected, the opportunity to update our beloved blog have been few and far between. We are sending this from Jayapura, our last stop in Indonesian Papua before we head into PNG for the last two months of our trip. Jayapura looks like an interesting sort of town and we plan to spend a week here filling the boat with food to last us the next couple of months – plus plenty of items for trading in exchange for shellfish and bananas. 
Thankfully, we have been having a far better time over the past few weeks than when we wrote from Bitung and Sorong. Papua remains somewhat of a mystery to me, however – it feels nothing like Indonesia and yet is part of that country; its people as we have come East are uniquely Papuan and the link to the administering country seem weak. There are periods of huge civil unrest and instability and the 'free Papua' movement has an large international voice. In the islands where we have been spending our time over the last couple of weeks, however, the people are gentle and friendly and seem to continue their simple island lives without much in the way of external influence. But then what do I know? Here in Jayapura, it feels like Indonesia again, with many people having been encouraged to settle here from Sulawesi and Java. The people are SO friendly - every walk down the street requires several stops to chat and many handshakes - plus deft sidesteps to avoid the projectile spitting of betel nut. 
The sundowner tree, Dawi
So, when we last wrote we had arrived in Manokwari, where we spent 24 hours and had another sleepless night on anchor watch due to feeling uneasy about the attention the boats were drawing. The Lonely Planet described Manokwari as 'mellow' and described a few restaurants that suggested the presence of tourists and the possibility of a trip to shore. In the event, the town was the usual dusty mess of small shops and motorbikes and the locals stared at us like we had a few too many heads. The prolific use of betel nut may have had something to do with this...The Harbourmaster was only willing to let us stay overnight as Manokwari had not been listed on our cruising permit, and only allowed us to stay at all because the gear box on our port engine had finally given up the ghost earlier that afternoon. Oh the joys of boating. We were then running on one engine, therefore, meaning that we would be able to cover less miles until we managed to find somewhere to beach the boat and have access to the sail drive.
Refuelling - again!

We crossed the top of the Cenderawasih Bay to the island of Mios Num where we were glad to find an anchorage just off a palm-fringed beach. There were reefs to snorkel and even a perfect 4-5' right hand reef break, which Scott had a ball on and named 'Scott's Break', after we all agreed that it was unlikely that it had ever been surfed before. The locals came past in their canoes on their way between villages but nobody bothered us – we stayed a few days. Our friend on Unicorn went to have a look at the next bay and reported back that it was the perfect spot to beach the boat. An inspection by dinghy confirmed this and so last week we were able to go up at dawn on the high tide. Scott, Seth and I worked to replace the dog clutch in the gear box, install the new propeller and clean the hulls and by the time the tide came back in we were tired but all the work was done. A few local guys came by with their machetes to have a look and nod sagely at Scott working under the boat. We gave them a spark plug and a litre of engine oil and they were off into the bush. Later that night they came back to the boat to bring some cooked fish and 'bread' to trade. They watched whilst we tried the food. I hope I am not required to eat Papuan bread again. It was a mixture of dubious raw fish and a bready mixture made from palms. You can imagine. We were also offered their local moonshine made from nipah palms, but this we refused, having been warned that it smelt like paint stripper.

Seth and local guys at Mios Num
From Mios Num we went across the North of Pulau Sonorawa (also known as Yapen) and then up to the Padaido Islands South of Biak. They were heavenly and very hard to leave. We divided a week between the islands of Nusi and Dawi. In Dawi, we anchored in a lagoon surrounded by reef, next to the beautiful island. The small fishing village on the point of the island was deserted when we arrived but over the days its residents returned from the larger islands to the North and began their routine of fishing from their hand-dug canoes and sleeping the afternoons in their hammocks under the trees. The island is mainly inhabited by women and children; we didn't discover where the men were, but assumed them to be working elsewhere. As they got used to us, the women would come by for a chat but generally waved from the shore. We made sure to use the beach to the other end of the island, so as to not to invade their peace. Over the last couple of days, we were visited by a couple of the older women with their grandchildren, to trade shells with us in exchange for kids' clothes and some food and to ask for paracetamol for their headaches and back ache. Must remember to buy more in Jayapura. One little boy, Martin, who had been out with his grandmother, came back to the boat for the afternoon after watching the boys snorkelling and sat quietly on the back steps until we invited him on board. Seth replaced the rope on his very leaky canoe and he spent a few hours drawing with Seth and Finn and eating his way through whatever was put in front of him – anything that had sugar in it, anyway! He was a lovely little guy and when the sun had gone down he smiled and waved and was gone, stopping several times across the bay to bail his leaky canoe. 
One of our visitors at Pulau Dawi
After this week we will be largely blogless for the next two months. I'll get my sister to put a brief message on to let you know where we are and those of you who follow the tracker can see where we are from that. We plan to head out to the Hermit Islands and Kavieng in PNG, which sound heavenly and mean we can avoid the mainland completely. Then to the Louisiades and then home – more thoughts on that later. In the meantime, there are more toilet rolls to buy and the joys of eating a plate of nasi goreng that I haven't had to cook!Tonight we were the guests of a local family for dinner - fanastic food eaten on mats on the floor and such fine hospitality. 

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Thanks for the comments by the way - we love getting them! Oh, and those of you in Aus will find more Anui adventures in the Multihull World magazine coming out in September and November and our friends in the US check out Bluewater Sailing also coming out next week! Plug over - more soon....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Plodding through Papua

Finn and his protector, Gebe Island
A brief internet interlude in the town of Manokwari, at the top of the Cenderawasih Bay in Papua, before we are out of range again - so a quick hello to all our blog friends. Hmm, what to say about Papua? Well, it is not the kind of cruising ground that makes you want to buy a boat and head off into the blue. Coming here as a land-based tourist would probably be quite different, with the few people that come here mainly taking dive tours with everything organised for them. Coming here on our own boat brings some administrative challenges and we haven't felt comfortable to leave the boat unattended so that limits how much we are able to see. Papua certainly has a wealth of beautiful islands and the interior sounds fantastic and untouched by the Western world, but if it doesn't come with a good anchorage, we can't see it! We are still heading East and are optomistic that PNG should be far more fun than Moluku and Papua have thus far been. 
Boy and bird, North Moluku

Papua, as you will know, has seen its fair share of unrest and part of the outfall of this has been a lack of tourism - makes sense. Coming here on boats, we are the only tourists to be seen and whilst people are generally friendly, it really is unknown territory. Due to the problems that arise when we anchor near villages, we try to find places to stay that are isolated but inevitably word spreads and someone comes to find us and ask us to see the 'kepala desa' or village head. This is no problem if we want to stay a while but if we arrive at 4pm to eat and sleep and then leave again it is hard - we're going to be asked for money and it's going to take all our free time. In one location a few nights ago everyone but me - on all three boats I think - was in bed when a light shone into the boat and I went out to find six men - one with a rifle - on the back steps. They spoke no English; I could have used our Indonesian phrase book if it hadn't been stolen in the backpack with the alternator .... Scott got up and we tried to figure out what they wanted. The one wearing a hat saying 'Polisi' was apparently the local bobby and they wanted us to go to the  police station at the village some miles away. Right then, in the middle of the night. We managed to convey that we had kids sleeping, showed them our paperwork and were told to come at 8 in the morning - we weren't going anywhere in the dark in a canoe with six men and a gun, even if one of them did have a nice hat. At 5.30am we had our anchors up and were heading as far away as possible. 
Scott at the petrol station at Gebe

As I write, we are in Manokwari and I am standing anchor watch. After our Sorong experience we're just extra careful in towns - am sure that the locals are friendly and not bent on crime. When we went briefly to the town today the local people were very interested in us and there was a lot of smiling, with clear evidence of the local Papuans' liking for betel nut. 

You will have picked up by now that I am not really the adventurous type, unlike my never-give-up husband, who just gets on with what has to be done - and that is plenty. I look back longingly and Borneo and Thailand and the Southern areas of Indonesia where we never felt insecure and didn't have to lock the boat - ah well. Anyway, were Scott writing this he would give quite a different account. He says that we just have to make the best of it and get to the islands off PNG, where he will catch me all the crays I can eat.  I will be holding him to that. 

From here we head East to Jayapura. There are rumours of nice islands along the way. With a bit of luck, this rumour may be correct. Please be reminded that I do have a good imagination and am easily alarmed. I also like to tell a good tale. So don't worry about us out here - we are all fine and at least there are no head hunters. 

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