Octsober 26th-November 1st: One of the most picturesque anchorages we have been to. The island of Belitung also known as Billiton – this island once famous for its Tin mining. The whole area is white sandy beaches with crystal aqua blue waters and scattered with the most amazing Granite boulders, really stunning. They are on land and on water and some of them are huge boulders, and incredibly balanced on top of each other. It was obvious to us that it is a wealthier regency than any others we have visited. The buildings and houses were much nicer than normal, and it was also a lot cleaner.
We had a slow couple of days at the start, we were exhausted from our 2 overnights passage and it took us a while to recuperate. We were treated to a welcoming ceremony on the beach at our anchorage and were all given a lovely cone shaped bamboo hat painted and decorated (just like the hats you see the locals wearing in the rice paddies) and a wooden sail boat key-ring. We also received a small box of local food, with interesting green cake and other delights.
The following day Octsober 28th we were treated to a bus tour to the capital city – Tanjungpandan, where we visited the local elementary school. Wow- we were welcomed by students in traditional costume performing a welcoming dance. They looked beautiful and the dance was fantastic. We had a walk through some of the classrooms and interacted with the students who are just beautiful, friendly and very smiley. They sang for us and gave us gifts of boiled eggs decorated in paper wrapping and tied onto a stick, and a gift bag of food and a water bottle. Next stop was the museum which had a lot of the tin mining history, ship wreck history and earthenware, furniture and other antiques. Back on the bus to the Regents house where there is a very large traditional house and we were given another welcome dance and a traditional meal. We all sat on the bamboo mats on the wooden floor, in groups of 4, and were served a meal on a tray that we had to eat with our fingers! The food was lovely, soup (with fingers? Yes you poured it over the white rice), chicken, fish, a vegetable dish AND Stingray! I have never eaten sting ray and to be honest I didn’t know what I was eating until afterwards, it was thinly sliced and with vegetables and was very nice. We had a stop on the way home to the supermarket to pick up a Magnum ice cream – some things are world wide – Coca-Cola and Magnums. They also had a KFC here!
We had organised with Raymond our Indonesian guide, for a bit of a shin dig with Karaoke at 4:00pm to farewell some of the boats who were leaving early the next morning. Very sadly, Oda our travelling buddies since NZ had decided to accelerate their departure to Singapore, along with Diomedea, Elonnisa and Mediterraneo. We all had the best time, singing and dancing. The hit was our rally song, penned by Elisabeth from Elonnisa which humorously mentions every boat in the rally. Even the restaurant owner was dancing up a storm with Helen from Boffin. He was only about 3 foot high but man he had the moves!
At 7:00pm we had to move over to the amphitheatre for a local dance performance, except that only about 6 of the rally members made it. Unfortunately we were two of them, along with Peter & Heidi, and Michele and Mariette. Michele (a male) and Robbie got coerced up onto the stage with the 6 young ladies. After a number of Bintangs Robbie was hilarious and I say no more on this but when you see us next, ask me to show you the video. I have not laughed so much – ever!! At all of the performances there are a large number of locals and they treat us like royalty. They are such friendly, inquisitive people and just love to talk to you, and for us to take their photos.
The following day Octsober 29th: We took Peter & Heidi and went exploring in the duck to the lighthouse island. Stunning scenery and beaches. We landed on Lengkuas Island where the lighthouse is and there we found the crew from Gypsea Rover and Honeybee. They had just climbed the lighthouse which cost 5,000 rupiah (.50c) but none of us had brought our camera or any money so we decided we would come back another day. We did have a lovely swim and snorkel and there were thousands of little reef fish.
Finally – the Water maker part arrived in the afternoon so Robbie installed it and it was a huge relief to be making water again. We had been very conservative and actually still had over ¼ of a tank of water.
We had to be back in the amphitheatre at 2:00pm for the dragon dance, this was something special. They were so life like and really entertaining. The poor dancers must have been melting in their heavy, furry costumes in the 35 degree heat. We were amazed to see them pack up in the back of a truck with all their equipment, dancers and helpers, all piled in the back and driving off. Never would you see this in Australia or NZ. It looked really dangerous. We were then treated to an evening of dance and music performances and dinner. The performances were stunning, the music spectacular and the food was beautiful. This was the best of all Indonesia, we were thrilled. They had really gone to a lot of trouble and expense for us. We are impressed, they are really keen to build their tourism here and it has been a highlight of the rally for us to be here.
Octsober 30th: Back on the Bus at 10:00am for a trip into town to the markets. On the way we detoured to Tanjung Tinggi Beach – WOW this has to be THE nicest beach I have ever seen. Even compared to Whitehaven Beach my all-time favourite this is something! Giant granite boulders, soft, silky white sand and crystal clear water. The rocks create little protected bays for swimming and it is just incredibly beautiful! This is now a must to come back with the duck for a swim. We continued on into the main city Tanjungpandan, the capital of the Belitung regency. Bit of mucking around with trying to buy phone/internet credit, visit to souvenir shop and then the markets. Stocked up on fresh fruit and eggs and then over to the beach front restaurant for lunch. So cheap to eat for both our meals – Nasi Gorengs and Calamari, and a few bintangs for Robbie and soda waters for me total of 180,00 rupiah or $18.
Octsober 31st: 10 of the rally participants hired 2 local boats for half a day – (600,00 rupiah per boat or $60,) and we explored the Lighthouse on Lengkuas Island and 2 other nearby islands –Pulau Burung and Kepayang Island Wow this has been one of the best swimming days we have had. We swam at every island, in the crystal clear aqua blue water where the sand is lovely white, very soft and clean.
First stop was Pulau Burung . The approach has some stunning rock formations, one which looks like a birds head. There is a deserted resort on the island, which does not look very old, apart from the ramshackle jetty which is in front of the old restaurant which we thought was lovely, it was a hand built stone structure with thatched roof. We had a lovely swim and walk on the beach where I saw a lovely wrecked, half sunken wooden dinghy. I spotted what looked like a baby crocodile swimming in the water right near me but it was a lizard!
Our next destination was beautiful Lengkuas Island, however the pride of this island, is the iconic old lighthouse. Built by the Dutch in 1882, it still maintains its main function today in guiding ships sailing through and out of the island of Belitung. Approximately 50 meters in height, it is as tall as a 12-storey building. It has a window on each floor, giving visitors a chance to enjoy the different views from within the lighthouse. While the lighthouse itself is an exceptional feature, the spectacle it offers from the top is truly spellbinding. Here you get a complete 360 degree view of the fascinating Island and all the wonders that surround it, including the crystal clear waters, coral reefs, palm trees, boats and other spreading tiny islands. The lighthouse was shipped over from Holland in pieces, you can see that each panel is numbered. We had to wash our feet in fresh water prior to entering, to reduce the risk of the metal stairs rusting. It was a long way up, but worth the climb although my legs are still sore!, You can compare the old with the new, they still have the old lantern equipment in place, next to the new LED system which runs off a small battery with solar panels.
Next stop was Kepayang Island, a turtle conservation and Rehabilitation Island, and again, stunning scenery, however we were disappointed with the turtle accommodation. There were two largish turtles, and about 40 baby turtles, but they were just in concrete holding tanks with water and nothing else. We felt the water should have been continuously being circulated, but it wasn’t. Apparently the eggs are rescued, or brought to the island by the locals where they are hatched, raised and released to the sea. I was very sad to see them in these conditions.
Once back on Southern Star Peter & Heidi came over for a game of 500. Robbie and Heidi won, again. Painful!
Last day of Octsober today, honestly hasn’t been bad at all. Only a couple times have I thought a nice cold beer would be good in this humid weather, but so long as I have had soda water or tonic water I haven’t missed alcohol it’s really just having something bubbly to drink. Plain water gets too boring and bland. Still had a good time without alcohol except that sometimes you don’t see the funny side of the others jokes (mainly those who are drinking)
We were invited for sundowners on “Almacantar” with Steven and Clair the Scottish couple who recently got engaged. Had a lovely evening – the last Octsober day.
We have had a re-think on our cruising plans for the future and have decided against the Japan-Aleutians-Alaska-USA route. We now think that we will head to the Mediterranean, then England, Ireland, Scotland and then back to Gibraltar to cross the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. Most likely with the ARC – a rally. I have been organising quotes for shipping Southern Star from Phuket, Thailand to Marmaris, Turkey. I am correlating information from 9 other boats in order to try and get a better shipping price for all 9 boats. It is going to cost us around $50,000 USA dollars – gulp! The alternative routes are either through the Suez Canal which is currently a no-go zone due to the trouble in the Middle East, and not to forget of course – pirates. Or, around the Cape of Africa which is around 18,000 nautical miles and very rough oceans. Will keep you posted on this one.
November 1st: Lazy morning and then we picked up Peter & Heidi and took the duck over to Tanjung Tinggi beach, the stunning beach area we had been to on the bus tour. The movie “Lascar Pelangi” or “The Rainbow Troops” was filmed here. It was based on a novel written by a local girl, Andrea Hirata. Will have to watch it someday.
We enjoyed a swim and snorkel for a couple of hours and, Heidi and I broke the Octsober dry spell with a couple of the new lemon Bintangs. Was very nice, rather like a shandy, (beer and lemonade) and sweeter than Corona’s. Peter and Heidi chatted to some fellow Germans that turned up, 3 men with a young local Balinese girl whom one had met on Facebook and come over and married recently. We cruised along the coastline and stopped for lunch at the resort near our anchorage. Had a lovely lunch whilst watching a local police party celebration hooning around on Jet skis. More swimming and then back to the boat. Had a sleep and were invited for sundowners on Gypsea Rover, there were a number of rally members there and it was rather crowded but really nice to catch up with everyone. I only drank tonic water, apart from the one glass that spilled because it was so roly. This is a lovely anchorage, the only downfall is that every 2nd day it becomes really roly and actually makes me feel sea sick it’s so bad. Back to the boat and Robbie went straight to bed, at 9:00pm in preparation for our 4:00am start tomorrow, but I was determined to get some photos posted on the website as I had left it so long and I was annoyed at myself as it then takes so long to do. I finally finished around 11:00pm, after noticing one of the yachts sneaking out, I think it may have been Kiwi Blue.
We are all now heading to Singapore over the next 3 weeks. We have some final rally events and a farewell to attend on the 24th of November on Bintan Island and then it will be goodbye Indonesia and into the notorious straights of Singapore to do battle with lots of commercial vessels that ply those waters.