Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Across the top of Flores to Lombok

17 Islands to Lombok

This will be a catch up blog, a quick summary of our sail across the top of Flores and into the charming town of Labuan Bajo and then through and around the islands of Rinca (pronounced Rincha) and Komodo and finally across the top of Sumbawa and into the designated rally stop on Lombok island.  It’s about 300 miles and yet again it’s been some of the best cruising we have ever done. I thought I’d make this blog a selection of snap shots, brief descriptions of points of interest we have encountered along the way. But first, it might interest some of you to hear what a typical day of passage making actually entails on the good ship The Doctor.
another day, another anchorage to welcome the weary sailor

The day starts at first light, that grey blur you sometimes wake up to really early in the morning. We exit our cosy aft cabin and get dressed, stagger down the passage way and begin departure preparations. That means closing all hatches (15 in total although some we don’t open for an overnight stop). Once hatches are secure I say a short prayer and start the motor, it starts, I say another short prayer. Diana switches on the vast array of navigation systems, lap top and chart plotter and we check all systems are go, they are...another short prayer. We then pack away the evening dishes, stow any loose items , bring bathers and towels down from safety lines and do a final look over. Good to go. I go forward to retrieve anchor and Diana either flakes the chain or motors slowly forward to give the chain some slack. Anchor is up and secured to bow roller, I walk back to cockpit pulling up cat lines as I go. (These are old sheets we leave over the side in case Motley decides on a swim and needs to get back up) Then Diana motors us out of the anchorage and into clear water where we hoist the main. As has been the pattern on most mornings, we usually have a mild South East trade blowing so it’s a sweet beam reach along the coast. Once the main is set, we roll out the furler and engage the services of Automan. He is happy to oblige and yes, I say a quick prayer in thanks. Once all the hard work is done, Diana goes below to make herself brekky, I sit on watch and then we swap over. Once brekky is done, one of us retires down below to one of the following:  continue reading novel, check emails, write a blog, try and get a score from a recent Wallaby debacle or get the water maker going. Coffee is served at 10.30, lunch when we’re hungry and if it’s a big sail afternoon tea around 3. Added to this routine is the constant sail adjustments, moments of madness when we put up spinnakers and take down spinnakers, avoiding floating fish traps and nets and general staring out at the mountainous scenery that floats by.
Komodo island pink beach dive site, note Indonesian style chater boats

Anchoring is pretty much the reverse of the above. We drop sail, motor into the lee of a headland, find a good depth, 15m max if possible and drop anchor. The anchorages are usually out the front of small fishing villages and we know when we see those long and sleek put put boats at anchor we have found the right place. It’s wonderful to settle back on anchor and watch the life of these simple fishing people unfold in front of your eyes. Fishing nets are repaired, women walk to and fro with large baskets on their heads carrying all sorts of things, families wade through the low tide rock pools picking up octopus and whatever and always, always there are kids playing and laughing in the water. There’s usually a fire somewhere and smoke makes its lazy way skywards caught against steep and often wooded mountains. The cream sands of the bay finish close to high water mark and then a bamboo paling fence with gate appears and behind sits thatched roof huts and the occasional brick building. The villages look small from the water but when you step through the bamboo gate another world awaits. Houses are simple, usually made from handmade mud bricks or up on rickety wooden piles and separated by brick paved paths or concrete paths. Living is close but as we walk through or ride through on the backs of scooters everybody smiles and waves and these are big open genuine smiles that warm the heart. The sun finally sets and the mountains stand out in their smoky wash of soft greys and blues and a few lights flicker on, hidden mostly behind the tall coconut palms. The day has been pleasantly serene and the finish equally so. (Editors note: not all passages are like this, but I have to say, most have been along Flores and Indonesia)
a perfect bay on Komodo Island


We had a few days snorkelling around these stunning islands and they well deserve their status as the best dive sites in the world. They are well known tourist spots and most dive charters operate out from the charming town of Labuan Bajo. We holed up there for a few days to get diesel, fresh veggies, and to avail ourselves of some western comforts at Indonesian prices. There are many Italian restaurants run by young Italian men who look as though they commute between Rome and Labuan Bajo on a daily basis. The food is sensational, both Italian and Indonesian and nothing over $8.00 for a main. The massages range from 8 to 20 dollars depending on what you get. A traditional massage for 1 hour comes in at 10 bucks and you go out 20 years younger. I have damaged my shoulder and so decided to go for a “remedial” 1 hour at 20 bucks to try and sort the problem. As they say, no pain, no gain and it did actually help. Just one little anecdote before I get to the diving.

We had left our washing at the Eco Resort just in front of the anchorage and they said to pick it up around 4. We dinghied in and made our way to the reception, paid our 20 bucks (expensive but worth it) and then wandered up stairs to have a Bintang or three as the sun set. There was no one anywhere apart from a sign that said help yourself to the fridge, just write your name and what you take down in the book. We did just that and after a few coolish Bintangs we fell in love with the colonial charm of this place. The ceilings were made from bamboo weaving and floor was a crisp white tile, and everywhere were cane lounges and white balustrades. What the hell, let’s stay for dinner. We were the only guests and enjoyed a meal of top class restaurant quality with delightful service and a sun set over coconut palms and green clipped lawns. If anybody reading this is thinking of a holiday in Indonesia and would like to combine world’s best diving, Komodo dragons, fine food and luxury accommodation, Google Eco resort Labuan Bajo. We grabbed our washing and made our way back to the dinghy down a grass track to the beach. It was a special experience and as always with this cruising life, totally unexpected.

Well, dear readers, I return to this blog some weeks later and I’m trying desperately to pick up the focus I was getting at when I first wrote it. You see, we are now in Kumai, on the bottom of Borneo in the state of Kalimantan and a lot has happened since the meal at Eco resort. I think I was doing snap shots of the sail to Lombok and there was just one more to do and that’s diving in Komodo and Rinca.
soft coral

It’s spectacular. We snorkled every day on our journey through Flores and onto Rinca and Komodo and every time it was different, sometimes an abundance of soft coral, sometimes great slabs brain coral and sometimes great outbreaks of green staghorn. Everywhere fish of every possible colour combination ducked and meandered among the coral and it was truly a visual feast complete with aquarium like water clarity and a bath like water temperature. Enough of the diving, you can’t really use words to describe it and they fail dismally to cliché an banalities when you try and capture the sights under water. Suffice to say that as I swam back to the dinghy one time, having had enough of the landscaped perfection under me, I turned back for one last look, one final sweep of my eyes over the terraced garden of coral and fish as it cascaded from the drop off and into a blue abyss of the deep.
more colour

So, that’s basically it apart from one special day at Medang Island very close to Lombok and that I’ll leave to another blog. Cheers Rob

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