Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Yeah, this anchorage is cool!"


It was time to get in to some proper cruising so we decided to get off the beaten track and divert from the path followed by many of the Sail Indonesia boats. Teluk Hading is a bay nestled under a big hook on the island of Flores. (Check it out on the Location tab). I studied our charts and found a smaller bay tucked right in the eastern most corner, guarded by a big reef that stretched right across the entrance. It looked like there was a channel on the north side about 80 metres wide. The charts of Indonesia are not that detailed in the more remote places and they can be quite inaccurate. They are often based on surveys done by the Dutch in the 1800s, so navigating must be done with extreme care.

It did look clear and deep on the chart so we gingerly approached the bay. Our hunch was correct, the channel never dropped below 20metres in depth and the reef could be seen clearly as a change in colour from dark blue to light green. It was a perfect bay with a huge reef protecting it from any wind direction. A couple of fishermen in canoes gave us some guidance as to where to anchor and we dropped anchor in 18 metres of water. Yes, we are getting used to these deep anchorages now. We have 60 metres of chain attached to our anchor and we often have to put all of it out.

The anchorage was perfect. It was surrounded by dense mangroves backed by high mountains and it was so still and quiet we felt like we were tied up at a marina. We got busy and did a few chores that we had been putting off, such as replacing missing sail slides, readjusting the reefing line and a few loads of washing. The locals obviously not used to many visitors, kept their distance. We couldn’t see any village but there was a tell tale wisp of smoke wafting through the coconut palms. We asked a passing fisherman if it was OK to visit the village and he pointed in the direction of the mangroves. We were running very low on fresh vegetables and hoped to be able to buy some. We soon had an escort of kids in two canoes. One joined us on our dinghy and acted as our guide. The others we finished up towing behind us, as their paddling was no match for the outboard.
The entrance to the village.

We snaked our way through a narrow passage in the mangroves and eventually landed on a muddy bank where other canoes were beached. On shore we were greeted by a throng of kids and we asked a woman who was processing sugar if it was OK to go to the village. We made our way along a rough muddy path to the village, called Mata, where we were adopted by a woman who had a tiny bit of English. She had worked in Malaysia for a while and picked up a little English. With her tiny bit of English and my halting Indonesian and extensive use of my phrase book, we managed to communicate reasonably well. She confided that she had lost four baby girls.
Processing sugar

We were guided around the village and admired the cute houses, the pigs with piglets, the goats, chickens and tethered cows all the time surrounded by a throng of kids. Rob looked like the Pied Piper, the kids adored him. We visited our guide’s brother who was the leader of the village and sat in his house for a while and gave him our address and phone number. A stop at our guide’s house was a little concerning as she gave us a glass of water each. Every guide book says “Do NOT drink the water” but what can you do? It would be so impolite to refuse. She must have picked up on our exchanged glances and said “Everything OK?” “Sure, no problems” we said, as we drank down the water and wished each other adios.
Rob, the Pied Piper

We were followed back to the boat by two canoe loads of boys, our new friend and her brother in an outrigger canoe. . We returned their hospitality and invited them on the boat where we gave them iced tea and the boys, cordial. They looked a bit wide eyed and said it was like a house. It was probably something right out of their realm of experience.
Our guide outside her house

As the sun set on another adventurous day we were exhausted but happy as we toasted this amazing cruising life. Diana.

PS. No ill effects from the water!
Kids fare welling us from the mangrove driveway.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stories from the trade route

The Village Traders
Trading has been part of the Indonesian way of life since before the birth of Christ. The Indians were trading pepper plants and spicing up Indonesian cuisine as early as 600 BC and then followed the Chinese, Muslim traders from Arabia, the Portuguese and the Dutch. The latter founded the famous or infamous Dutch East India Trading Company and their impact was huge. Indonesia had an abundance of three particular spices: nutmeg, cloves and mace and these were sought after by people around the world for the simple fact of improving the flavour of food. I suppose anything that enhanced the flavour of salted beef, dried beef or partly rotten beef would be worth sailing half way around the world for. Interesting that it was only the rich who could afford these spices.  So, the simple act of selling and buying is inherent to Indonesian culture and to their psyche.

kids size dugout made from one log (this is the biscuit man)

Now, let’s fast forward to 2012 and there is a new trader on the scene and these sailors have travelled up from the south aboard the famous sailing vessel, The Doctor, 12 months out from the port of Fremantle, somewhere on the Indian Ocean. They don’t have much in the way of gold, silks or ceramics to offer but do have fine pens and clean white exercise books from exotic K Market and newish garments from selected Op Shops that seem in hot demand.
sometimes we trade English lessons (notice dudes just chillin on The Doc)
We dropped anchor in a bay outside the village of Sagu and it didn’t feel good. The boat sat back on her chain, the depth was 5 m and you could see coral bombies looming up from the sea bed. Two young fellows in a dugout came over shaking their heads and with a few Tidak Bagus thrown around (no good) we decided to move to where they were obviously paddling. Anchor down we paid them back with a cap for one and a fishing line and bag of hooks for the other. Two young boys appeared on the scene and the spirit of generosity took over and I handed them each a near new OP shop shirt which fitted and probably would for the next few years. So, our trading extended to no more than a safe anchorage in exchange for a few small items. But this, dear readers, was only the start.
sunset Gedong
 Two young chaps silently appeared a little while later and we heard the plaintive Booku, booku rising from somewhere on the waterline. They wanted exercise books and it was now time to get into serious trader mode. Bananas we said, book for bananas and with looks of despair( yes we have no bananas we have no bananas today)  hanging from their once smiling faces they paddled off. They were back a bit later with a bunch of bananas that were so soft they had only minutes left of being edible so we sent them off with new instructions of GREEN bananas. Back they came with a bunch of green bananas and back they went with a new exercise book and blue pen tied up in a plastic bag and.........with the biggest smiles you have ever seen.

anchorage at Gedong

A little while later we hear the same soft chant of booku, booku and there, on the water line, paddling solo in a junior sized dugout and being no more that 5 or 6 years old was another young trader holding up a bag of home cooked biscuits. Over went another exercise book and pen in a plastic bag and as he paddled back in he held up his loot like some kind of trophy.
 The next day we anchored in another bay in front of the village of Gedong and this is real tropical hideaway. You anchor quite close to the steep sided mountain that is a thick jungle of vegetation and the water is crystal clear. Coconut palms line the shore and lazy tendrils of smoke rise up from random spots along the shoreline. We went ashore in search of a market but there was not much on offer apart from a steep climb up a rocky path. Diana did the climb and while there were no fresh vegies in sight she did get invited into the house of a villager who, after introducing her to his father, went out the back and harvested what paw paw he could from his own trees. The same fellow appeared later that day with his son in their dugout and this was a no trading moment, just a father proud to show off his young son.
here they come
We were leaving the next morning, early, and had just started the ritual of departure preparations when the same bloke appeared in his dugout alongside the boat. He held up two paw paw and we couldn’t really take any more. Then he quietly handed over a pair of reading glasses with a broken frame and one lens missing. These people live on 1-2 dollars a day and you had the feeling he wasn’t really in the position to duck down to his local Amcal and buy a replacement pair. I had bought a pair in Darwin as a spare and thinking I lose these things with painful regularity I had a dilemma. I eventually handed over the $27 pair of reading glasses and those paw paws will go down as the most expensive we have ever bought. But the look of joy on his face as he tried them on was priceless and to be able to give the gift of sight, a real Fred Hollows moment, was equally joyful.
a perfect fit...our friend with his new reading glasses
So, while we didn’t come bearing rich silks and fine ceramics we did have things of value for which we received payment in kind. And, as our friend paddled back to shore with his new glasses safely  in hand, I had a feeling it was the givers who came out on top in that deal. Till next time, Rob.




Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding Nemo - Kroko Island


Finding Nemo

 Teaching film study to Year 8 students always presents the problem of finding the right film,  one they haven’t watched to death but can still provide enough teaching content to make it worthwhile. You go through the list of possibilities: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Nightmare on Elm  Street desperately seeking something they haven’t seen that may even hold their wandering interest. And then you have a light bulb moment! Finding Nemo it has to be. A film that has it all: humour, wit, compassion, acceptable Christian morality and no surprise sex scenes.

Think then, what joy it was, to finally meet Nemo’s parents (pre attack) in the underwater aquarium that stretches around the delightful Kroko Island, just a 10 mile hop from Lewolewa, a biggish town on the island of Lembata. Having taught Nemo to countless Year 8s I feel a familial bond with the cute little clown fish and their perky attitude. So there I was, floating over the scatterings of coral when all of a sudden, Nemo’s parents come swimming up to my goggles with that “What do you want?” look in their eyes and trying desperately to be intimidating and failing hopelessly.
Nemo's Dad says hullo

 The anchorage at Kroko Island goes into the top 5 all time best and I know I’ve used that list already on our Indonesian journey. A live Volcano gently puffing out white smoke provides the backdrop that then cascades down to coconut palm fringed beaches complete with pristine white sand cay all surrounded by crystal clear water. We sat and stared thinking there were elements of Parker Point here but this was way beyond what Rottnest could offer. No active volcano to start with! The anchor was buried in soft sand some 25m below and, believe me when I say, you could see all the way down to the grey shank.
the clarity .......the clarity
coral and fish

Fall off the back of the boat and paddle over to the reef and spend an hour or two drifting over what was pretty average coral but a spectacular variety of tropical fish with colours so vivid they could have been freshly painted. This was our first taste of the wonders of Indonesian sailing and it was such a pleasure to be free from the packed and often dirty harbour anchorages that had dominated much of the Sail Indonesia rally so far. Indonesian fishermen were meandering through the anchorage selling their produce which included fresh coral trout and medium sized crayfish (20,000 rph or about $2) It became a tradition on Kroko that 4 o’clock meant yoga on the sand cay followed by drinks and nibbles as the sun set to the west. This was an Olympiad sun downer with Americans, Canadians, Dutch, New Zealanders, English and French all engrossed in the business of sun downers which is pretty much yacht talk.
People gathering on sand cay for yoga followed by drinking
Yoga on the beach

 We went ashore to the village to check out what was supposed to be a market day but was actually 3 women sitting on fraying plastic sheets selling lollies and some strange fruit. The town was rough and untidy and it looked in need of strong hand to get it shape. We had visited a similar fishing village south of Lewolela and were amazed at the concrete paths swept clean, the bamboo fences around the houses and the overwhelming sense of order and pride that enveloped the village. This village was more like a camp. We did meet Efron, a student of English  who offered to take us around the village and the tour included the school. Imagine 4 classrooms of rendered brick with a veranda and next to it a smaller toilet block. In the middle sits the school bell, a weathered and beaten artillery shell hanging from a piece of rope between two flimsy sticks.

Efron me and the kids out the front of room 2

 The buildings are dirty and worn down and the school yard is nothing but baked dirt. But it is a school and it does what all schools do and that is educate and enlighten. This is third world existence and coming from the painted, glossy and ordered world of Australia makes the gap hard to fathom. What is more amazing is that the kids are full of the joy of life and want nothing more than a smile, a shake of their hand and of course a photo taken.
classic school bell

 Walking back to the dinghy I seem to have collected a conga line of kids who were all singing their best Head and Shoulders as they ran and giggled their way behind me. We had done an impromptu lesson back at the school  and it had proved a big hit. An old lady came to the door of her hut as we passed and her instant smile of approval was a sight I’ll never forget. These kids occupy and amuse themselves and it brings back memories of my own childhood when we would come home from school, dump bags wherever grab our bikes and not be back till  it was dark and dinner was ready. Not an adult to be seen and so it is here. The result is this joy of life that you see plastered over their smiling faces, in their unbounded energy and in their lack of fear and doubt. I read about the plague of “helicopter parents” emerging in Australia and I suggest they do a tour of remote Indonesian villages to see what childhood is really all about.

Our tour guide sort of invited himself back on our boat to practice his English and Diana obliged with some practice of her Bahasa thrown into the bargain. We gave him an exercise book  and a pen for his studies and the first thing he wrote in it was the song Head and Shoulders. It was a song we sang till we wept when teaching English in Japan and he dutifully wrote all the verses. He was going to be the master of this song and I felt  deep pity for the poor kids who were about to be Head and Shouldered. I took him back to the village and all the way back he was singing:

Head and shoulders knees and toes

Knees and toes, knees and toes

Head and get the idea...............but he was chuffed. So much so that he appeared the next day and went diving with us. It must have worn him out because he fell asleep when we got back and it was only when we said that we might have a little nap that he politely got the hint and said Salamat Tinggal....and off he went. The Indonesians are the most polite, humble and gentle people I have ever met and to be around them is a joy. After 5 days in this top anchorage we decided to make the arduous journey down to Teluk Sagu, a perfect horseshoe shaped bay a whopping 7 miles away and there we became expert village traders...more soon. Rob

sailing Indonesia

Sunday, August 19, 2012



Our visit to the orphanage was one of so many mixed emotions. About twenty cruisers were taken in 4WDs to the orphanage that was in the hills above Kupang over bumpy and rough unmade roads. Our guide was Alfredo, who is the son of the couple who run the orphanage. It is privately run and they have little support from the government. He told me that after many pleas for support the government gave a onetime payment of 3,000RP for each child. That is about 30c Australian. There are 90 children there between the ages of six months and twenty years, and being a family run affair the older children look after and teach the younger kids.

The children singing a welcoming song

Firstly we were shepherded into a small hall where Alfedo introduced the children and they performed for us. This sounds very banal, but when Priska, a little three year old took the big microphone in her little hands and sang solo, there was not a dry eye in the house. Her parents died in a car accident only two months ago. For the first two weeks she was inconsolable and didn’t stop crying, but gradually she has accepted the orphanage as her new family. I think every one of us wanted to take her home. But really she is so lucky to have found herself in this loving environment. In fact there were many children who would have found homes that day if it were possible. Their beautiful big brown eyes were so friendly and open. I just felt like hugging them.
Little Priska winning our hearts

The facilities are unbelievably basic. The children sleep in two dorms, boys and girls, four to a bed and some on the floor. The kitchen is only a bare floor with two camping fires under big pots. They do have however, a vegetable garden, pigs and lots of chickens. After school, each child has chores to do and they are taught to tend the garden, clean, cook and wash. There was not one toy, book or game in sight. When I think of how much we have, and our children and grand children have, in Australia, it is very sobering.

The girls dorm.

After school chores
Vegetable garden

Religion (Christian) is a very strong element in the orphanage and prayers and songs are a part of every day. They have a strong belief that God will provide for them. Of course the whole idea of the tour was to gather support and we all put in what we thought we could at the time. I have copied part of Alfredo’s email and you can contact us if you require any further information.

The day left me feeling sad for all the children without parents, sad about the struggle they have to obtain even the basics that we so take for granted, but also content that these children have a loving and supportive environment that gives them a better chance in life. Diana

Dear Mrs.Diana and Mr.Rob...
Thank you so much for your kindnness...
And thank you for your advice, the girls did not disappointed
This year from the rally we got $300, we would like to use the money to pay for the hospital,
because some mounts ago some of my children are getting sick, so we are still collect money to pay the hospital.
Well if you do not mind i would like to send you our complete address and some general information..

this is our complete address and my bank details..
Am sorry,because am using my own bank details, because until now we are still earn collect some mony to make the license in the name of our orphanage.
I hope we could get some donation to buy the land and build our own building in for the children in and also we will have the license in the name of our orphanage, because until now we are still rent the place that we are staying now...

I know that we have many shortage,
Right now important thing for me it is :
1.Make the license in the name of our orphanage
2.We will have own land and own building, so we do not need to pay the rent every year
3.We need mattress for the children, because some of the children so often getting sick because they have to sleep on the floor beacuse we do not have enough mattress.
4.We need a medical person in our orphanage, because when the children are getting sick, and if we haven't money we have to pay credit and some times it is hard but we believed God never live us alone.
Now one of my children, she is studying to be a nurse i nurse university, i hope i will get some donation  to continue her education at the nurse university.
5. I want all of my children are growing up with the brightly future with the enough education so, when they grow up or finish from their university they will get good job for their self and of course i need sphonsor to help me to continue all of my children future and good life for them....

Well, i hope you are always in good...
and please tell your friends about us, and hopefully they seen us also like your kindnness....
We could only pray for you and we are hopping that you are always in good and protecting by God and thank you for caring my children and thank you for everyhing...
I will continue this job, to care all of my children even i will get more children in my orphanage because i know one day God will gives me everything when i am in heaven...

If you do not mind please send us your picture
and also if you do not mind would you like to help me?
Please pass thin general information from us to your friends

Well thank you so much for everything,
on behalf of my children i would lie to say thank you so much for carring us..
Please say hi to your family...
have the great journeys and God bless you....

Best regard

Alfredo and Children

The well
The kitchen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We're published!

Before setting off towards SE Asia we set a goal to have our book about our sailing voyage around Australia finished and to the publisher. We did it by the skin of our teeth, actually handing the final version on a USB stick to a friend (thanks Lyn) to post to our publisher on the night before our departure to Timor.

Thank you to our friends that have kept nagging us to get on with it and to my Mum (dec) and Nicki who read through our draft and gave us suggestions and encouragement. Here it is at long last. We hope you enjoy it.

Diana & Rob

It is available on line through the following eBook publishers.


Tell Tales - The Sailing Adventures of Norlee



After a fairly painless clearing in, in Dili, we were in for a bit of a surprise with the complicated system used in Indonesia. Our arrival in Kupang coincided with the arrival of the huge fleet of 130 Sail Indonesia boats that left Darwin two weeks after us. The local officials from customs and quarantine visited each boat to start the complicated paper trail. Tempers got heated as cruising boats thought they were being missed or people were being seen out of turn. It got interesting when the official boat broke down and requested that cruisers fetch the officials in their own dinghies. Of course any order was lost as those with dinghies took the officials to their own and their friends’ boats first. Ah, cruising with large numbers of boats!

When our turn came SIX officials came on board. There were two doing the work but the others just came along for the ride. Multiple copies of ship’s documents and port clearances had to be produced. A friend who had cleared in before us gave us the heads up on having to have a list of all medications carried. I hurriedly hand wrote out the contents of our medical cupboard, but of course they needed two copies, so I pulled out the printer and copied out another. The quarantine person asked to look through the boat and said hello to the cat. Luckily we had a letter in Indonesian from the Consulate in Darwin requesting clear passage for her, so there was no trouble there. He looked at the toilet and noted “Clean toilet”, which seemed to be important for some reason. Surprising really when you see the condition of most of the toilets ashore. Each boat had a different story to tell depending on which official they got and what their requirements were. Some had to list the content and types of meat that they were carrying, others had to account for alcohol and some had every cupboard opened and searched by more than eight officials. We got off pretty lightly. All they asked for was beer, which we politely refused on the advice from Sail Indonesia. The checking in procedure would be even more long winded if everyone gave them beer!
Working through the technology and communication maze.

Once the officials left, we could drop our yellow quarantine flag and go ashore, only to do the whole thing again in an office set up with desks for the various departments. After a couple of hours we felt quite exhausted, but luckily nearby was a great open air bar which soon became the regular meeting place for our friends.
The kids love having their photo taken

Kupang is one wild city. Imagine a party where everyone is having a great time, the music is cranking and the noise level goes up and up as everyone tries to be heard above the cacophony. Kupang is like a party in overdrive. There are hundreds of scooters and motor bikes and every one of them is constantly sounding their horn. They beep to get people to move out of their way, they beep to let know that they are about to overtake on the inside, and they beep just because they can. Add to the bikes the mad Bimos that are small vans manned by a driver and a spruiker that arranges the passengers and fares (20c to anywhere). With Bimos there are only two speeds, stopped and full tilt. Forget about any road rules, they push their way through impossible gaps and overtake with gusto giving scant regard to oncoming traffic. Imagine San Francisco car chase, but in a rattly Bongo van with bench seats. Apart from enjoying the adrenaline pumping ride for your added enjoyment, under the bench seats there are huge boom box speakers fitted. These are often played full blast and with the bass set as low as it goes. The Hip Hop or whatever is not so much heard but felt as your diaphragm rocks in time. We are operating in overdrive here. As soon as we go ashore our senses are overloaded with noise and the crush of people and traffic and after any excursion we need to recover to the quietness of the boat.
Learing traditional dance
Our cruising buddied from Tipperary Waters, Darwin

There were two official functions hosted by the mayor and governor of Kupang, complete with speeches, traditional dancing that we took part in, and a feast. As is the Kupang way, the load speakers were on full volume. The noisier it is the more fun we must be having!
Dinghy parking area

Kupang Harbour wasn’t a great anchorage, being notable for the floating parade of plastic rubbish and also open to the afternoon sea breeze. We did have some great service put on for us though, with dinghy boys launching and taking care of our dinghies for $4 a day. They also took care of our rubbish, which I noticed they carefully went through looking for recyclables, and arranged for our laundry and fuel requirements. It’s great having the laundry done. It comes back beautifully washed, folded and ironed. Ironed clothes? Amazing.
Night street market

The highlight was the discovery of a night market that we often went to for dinner. A major street was blocked off at night and stalls were set up with their coal burning BBQs cooking fish, chicken and lots of other delicious foods, all for only for a few dollars. I think I am in heaven here. No cooking, great food, no laundry chores, dinghy boys, so no dragging the dinghy ashore. I can really get used to this.

Monkey Cave tour

Friday, August 10, 2012

Oecussi Timor Leste

Oecussi, a taste of Portugal

Oecussi is about 90 miles south west of Dili and it is a strange little enclave of Timor Leste that sits out on its own buffered by Indonesian held land. It is the site of original Portuguese settlement in Timor and our first sighting was an intriguing mix of faded red tiled roofs and white washed arches hidden behind coconut palms and massive banyan trees. The Portuguese influence is strong and I half expected to see some dozing hombres asleep under wide brimmed sombreros and maybe even a donkey shuffling along the dusty streets. Too many Westerns! Instead, what greeted us as we pulled the dinghy up to the beach was a flood of smiling faces and excited giggling from school kids who were wandering along the foreshore on some kind of school excursion, apparently. Couldn’t see any person who resembled a teacher amongst the 100 or so kids and as a teacher myself, kind of marvelled at that the fact that A, there were no iPods, smart phones stuck in ears, B, exercise books were being written in and work was being done and C, there was no silly behaviour I could see.. Try sending students off to the beach unaccompanied in Australia and the outrage would be deafening.
Our first view of Oecussi

Oecussi has a number of places to eat, according to the Lonely Planet Guide, so we set off in search of Aries, a cafe frequented by locals. Diana was putting her newly learnt Bahasa to good use we eventually found it and ordered Nasi Ayem, rice and chicken, both precooked and both sitting in glass cabinets, no refrigeration. I wolfed mine down but Diana was a little more cautious. I think the pile of blackened chicken sitting behind glass didn’t help. We met a UN worker who was helping with the recently held and mostly peaceful  government elections and told us about the Saturday market just up the road. We hailed a Microlet, a kind of mini-bus-taxi and headed off. The entrepreneur at the wheel demanded 5 US dollars for the ride and our UN helper got him down to 2. A local Timorese on board who had good English told me he only paid 10 cents, the usual price! Ah well, you win some and you lose some. To picture the markets,  think Freo markets but then put everybody and everything on the ground , in the dirt and under bamboo shelters. An amazing sight of piles of clothes, simple hardware, fruit and vegetables and all sorts of sellable items lay before us. A true village market.

Putting on my orthotics was a big hit with the locals!!!

  Villagers from the mountains come down with their produce and find a place in the dirt, spread out their few tomatoes, limes and beans and collect maybe a dollar or two for the whole effort. The old women all chew beetle nut and their smiles are broad but blood red. I kept seeing splashes of red on the ground everywhere and thought a cracked gear box or nasty foot wound until I realised it was beetle spray. We couldn’t get a microlet back so we jumped on the back of a motor bike and bounced our way back to the boat (50 cents each). A first for Diana and something I thought I’d never see.

The cotton thread is used in traditional weaving of tais (photo of the year award to D)

Sometimes you set out for a day not really knowing how it’s all going to work and our trip up to Oesillo was exactly that. It was a two hour journey up to the mountain village and then a short hike to an active volcano complete with bubbling mud pools. Now, where do we get a microlet for 7 of us on a Sunday morning and, more to the point, one who is willing and able to negotiate the maze of hairpin corners and four wheel drive conditions up to the village. Not easy as church goes till 10 am and sorry, its compulsory in this very Roman Catholic town. Sitting on the sea wall, next to his Nissan Dual cab, is Laurenco Adelaide, a conflict resolution worker who happens to be on his day off. Diana has skilfully charmed him into helping us find a microlet but really, once the confusion clears, it is he who will take us all in his car if we fill his tanks with diesel. This was done at the local servo, about 5 miles out of town. No gleaming self serve pumps and hot chips on offer here my friends. The deisel sits in plastic jerries and the pump is of the human kind, that is, hose in the mouth and then a quick suck and into the tank she goes.

The personal touch at the bowser

 Half of the crew opt for the open air tray ride and the other half don’t take much persuasion to gab the seats inside. How they survived the trip up and back is a miracle. The bubbling mud pools were nothing more than a cow pat size splash of mud but you sensed this lava strewn crater was just the tip of a sleeping monster.
A baby volcano

On our way up and down the mountain we were greeted with smiling faces and waving hands from the villagers as we flew past in the ute. A smile and a wave or a shake of your hand is the immediate response from strangers in this part of the world and it seems such a civilised way of being.  Peace and pleasantness  surround you here and it makes such a change from the angst and wariness that stalks a lot of western society.
Just two of the beaming smiles we were met with in our time in Oecussi

 We pulled anchor next morning as the sun rose on sleepy little Oecussi and the faded red tiles and white washed arches slowly disappeared from sight.  Rob

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Autoro Island Timor-Leste


We were thankful to leave rolly and dirty Dili Harbour and were quite exhausted by all the rally festivities and functions, great as they were. A beautiful and isolated anchorage was beckoning.  
Dinghy landing area. Black sand, rubbish and diesel in the water.

Dili was a great initiation to sailing and cruising in SE Asia. It wasn’t too crowded and although noisy and dusty the people were gentle and polite even when I struggled along with my very shaky Indonesian. We started to get into the swing of bargaining and as the currency is US Dollars at least the numbers were easy. We ate great food for $5 for two, and both developed an appreciation for Bintang beer that comes in huge bottles for only $3.50.

Atauro Island is only a 25NM sail north of Dili and as we sailed along its steep sides we could spot white beaches, coconut palms and even some palm thatched huts. I felt that we had made it at last. , We were now actually cruising and exploring foreign lands.
Sailing up to Autoro Island

Anchoring was pretty tricky as the island, being volcanic in origin, has a narrow shelf of rock and coral fringing it which then plunges into a huge drop off into over a 100 metres. After two attempts we dropped the anchor in 6 metres of water over rock, and drifted back into 40 metres. We were hanging over a deep dark abyss, a vertical wall that plunged away into darkness. Ross on a Freedom Express used his bathescope to view our anchor and came back to report the journey that our anchor chain took, meandering around rocks and boulders. He declared that we were secure even though the anchor was just lying on its side over rock. Bringing up the anchor might present some challenges, but we’d worry about that later!

Kokomo and Babar joined us, and together with Freedom Express and Nefertiti we all perched precariously on this fringing little ledge. The water here is famously clear and the seabed can be made out even at 30 metres.

We had the first swim off the boat since Broome and did it feel great. The water was the perfect temperature and the clarity was amazing. There was often quite a strong tide running so you had to be careful to not be whisked away. Much of the time I just hung on to the swim ladder with goggles on, admiring the coral. You could stay in the water all day without getting cold.
Landing party

We dinghied to the white sandy beach with the crew of Babar, and were met by some local fishermen who were lounging around in the shade by their dugout canoes. Language was difficult as they spoke a mixture of Tetan, the local Timorese dialect, Portuguese and Indonesian. We were taken to see their village which was a mixture of tin and palm leaf huts linked by meticulously swept and stone bordered paths. There was an orchard of fruit trees and we were presented with an orange each. A great mob of kids came to stare at us with their big brown eyes. They dissolved into shy giggles when we spoke to them and I felt sorry that I didn’t have anything to give them. They looked wonderful though, healthy and well dressed. The fishermen asked if we had any swimming goggles as they use them for fishing. We had a spare so returned to the beach with them.
Greeting our guests

Three boys wearing wide white smiles came to visit The Doc on their outrigger canoe. They sat on the back of the boat looking at The Doctor with big eyes as we struggled along communicating with a smattering of Indonesian, English and lots of gestures. We did find out that they went to school on a neighbouring island, that their mother had passed away and also that 200 people lived on their island. We gave them another set of goggles and they paddled off into the growing darkness. Hours later they returned with their canoe filled with fishing net and snared fish. They proudly handed over three of their catch and it fed Rob, Motley and I. It was great to see that the goggles that we had given them were on their heads and put to good use straight away. I wonder what the fishermen would have thought if they knew our cat had partaken of their catch. The concept of a pet would be a foreign one over here. When we cleared in to Timor-Leste the immigration officials were told about the cat on board and their response was “To eat?” They are used to the local boats taking animals on board for eating purposes.
Village at Autoro Island
Carefully manicured paths in the village

We spent a couple of days at Atauro, and although beautiful beyond words we felt uneasy due to the precarious anchorage and also the strong bullets of wind that came hurtling down from the steep sided island. We pulled anchor, and luckily it came up without a hitch, and we set sail westwards towards new adventures. Diana