Thursday, September 13, 2012

Seventeen Islands Riung


The anchorage off Riung is superb. It’s well protected by offshore islands, not too deep with a soft muddy bottom and it has a rickety jetty to tie the dinghy up to. The locals put on an unscheduled welcome ceremony for the eight or so Sail Indonesia boats left in the anchorage. It was smaller and much more informal than previous extravaganzas and felt more meaningful somehow. The English speaking compare was a shy, young woman who apologised for her nervousness and the head of the region lead us all in the local traditional dance. We were served with a modest cup of sweet black tea and battered fried banana. It was delightful.
Riung village house

Wecolme ceremony and dance

Dancers heading home

Just a few miles off the village of Riung lies a group of islands called The Seventeen Islands. In fact there are twenty one islands but the Indonesians prefer the sound of seventeen islands better and it also coincides with the date of their independence day. So who can argue with that? We motored the 2.7 miles to the nearest island. It wasn’t without a little drama though, as we left at 7am, way too early in the morning, and very nearly collected a reef. In these waters, with the charts all a bit dodgy it is best to have good overhead light to see uncharted hazards. With good light, reefs and shallows show up clearly as lighter shades of blue and green. If you get really close as we did on this occasion, you can see individual coral heads or “bommies”. When the depth suddenly came up from 30 metres to 2.5 metres, it was a quick about face and back into deeper water. Phew! Nothing like getting the adrenaline running early in the morning before breakfast!
17 Islands

Once safely anchored off a small island with its pure white beach all was forgotten. Initially we shared the island with three other boats, but one by one they left, leaving us with the island to ourselves. We are now at the tail end of the Sail Indonesia fleet and it seems to work best for us this way. We love a quiet anchorage with at most one or two other boats and even more so if we have it to ourselves. Many boats sail together in bunches leaving and arriving together but we are happiest on our own.  Our hearts sink when we arrive to find heaps of boats all anchored on top of each other, jostling for space. It is great though when the boats do bunch up, to catch up with friends, share a drink, a meal, stories and experiences.

Anyway, back to Seventeen Islands. This was cruising at its best. I slid the surf ski into the water and paddled around the island where I discovered a small cave where I could paddle right through from one side to the other. Other islands were a short dingy ride away so we loaded up with all our snorkelling gear and found some wonderful sites where the water was clear, the coral a colourful magical garden and the fish in every shape size and colour. And to top off the perfect day we loaded the dingy up again, but this time with our BBQ hotplate, sausages, salad, wine and beer and headed to the beach. We lit a fire cooked our simple meal, and watched the big red Indonesian sun dip behind the distant mountain.

Indonesia is for us really the best cruising ground. Our only regret is that we have to keep moving on, to keep up with the fleet and also make sure we are in Lombok in time to renew our visas. Heaven would be unlimited time to explore and enjoy this vast island nation. Diana



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