Equator crossing, by sea and land

November 13th: part 2 Bit disappointed about the equator crossing, it wasn’t the celebration we had hoped for. We did do a big loop and I gave King Neptune his shot of alcohol, just hope we keep him happy! It was certainly far too rough for a swim and I actually felt a bit sick it was so rough. It was our first strong Westerly wind for a long time, it was on our nose hence a bit rough. We are now in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time. We have had South Easterly winds for the last 4 months, and now the change of season is here.We anchored just off the village, Tanjung Kelit only half a mile from the equator. The area is known for its “Sea Gypsies”. Peter and Heidi and Michele and Mariette went into the village.

 

We had a snooze. Then we got a call from Heidi to say they had arranged a local boat to take us all to the Equator Monument, be ready in 5 minutes! We were ready and got picked up. Aboard was the village chief, his wife and the boat driver. Rani, the chief’s wife was prettily dressed in a long skirt, long sleeved top and veil, which was beautifully decorated with bling! They collected us and the 3 other boats, Mauskatti, Stormvogel and Solstice and we shakily made our way across the bay, through a narrow mangrove entrance to where the monument sits atop the hill. There were absolutely no signs or indication that the monument was there. The boat was a local fishing boat, they are very long and narrow and rather unstable! If someone moves, the whole boats leans precariously the same way. It was rather un-nerving to start with but eventually got used to it. As we were exiting up the walkway, they turned the bilge pump on – a couple of kids with containers bailing out the water in the bottom!

There were quite a few steep steps up the hill to the monument. It was done very nicely with pavers and some ceramic tiles, set amongst the natural bush. The view was stunning, we looked out to sea where there were a hundred or more of the fishing shacks on stilts, apparently 3 people live in these huts all the time. You could also see right around, over to the village and many small islands in the area. The monument was about 4 metres high with a compass arrow on the top. Peter and Heidi had brought a bottle of champagne and some beers to celebrate with everyone and it was very pleasant. Michele from Mauskatti had brought a flag from their home country of Luxembourg and one of the local lads climbed up and tied it on the monument.

We were then taken back in the boat, and due to language difficulties, we weren’t sure where they were taking us, and I got a bit worried as we crossed through a very high current area but they took us to a Sea Gypsy village.

 Wow – the land this village adjoins would rival Sovereign Island on the Gold Coast. A small round island with swaying palm trees, absolutely beautiful. However, they all live in shacks on stilts in the water. Absolutely no buildings on the land, except a generator surrounded by a stick enclosure. There would have only been about 40 people. They made us very welcome and had the young lads shimmy up the coconut trees and bring down drinking coconuts for us. One of the local men made short work of preparing the coconuts for us, you then put a straw in and drink the liquid, which is really lovely and refreshing. Then you take a spoon and spoon out the very white thin layer of flesh, which is also delicious.

We just sat, chatted and looked around, we were outside the chief of the little village’s compound, this was much bigger than all the others, and had a fish enclosure with quite big fish held in it. There was one little boy about 7 years old running round with a wooden spear, spearing fish that swam past.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding stupid, but these people’s lives are so simple, they have barely anything but they are so happy, peaceful and welcoming. Our time in Indonesia is coming to an end and I know that I have grown as a person since seeing this beautiful country, and her people. I now have a healthy respect for the Muslim women wearing their veils, if you can read the book “My journey behind the veil”, written by Kay Rasool, do it. She has also made a documentary My Journey, My Islam. Basically, and I was guilty of this, Westerners see the women wearing the veil as being suppressed, but this is actually contrary to how the Muslim women see it. A lot of racism is based on lack of knowledge, and I am ashamed to say, that I was guilty of this. But, I am now aware that these women are proud to wear the veil, and that they are just like me, they love to speak with you, language permitting, they work, they cook and clean and do everything we do, except they wear a veil and you never see them in short sleeves or short skirts. Even in the 35degree temperatures they are all covered up and wearing their veils. They will often have a long skirt on, and underneath you can see they are also wearing leggings.

They dropped us back at our boats, I ran and grabbed a plastic storage box and grabbed some of the stuff we had left for giveaways, scissors, packets of colouring pencils, reading glasses, pens, rubbers and a bit of other stuff. They were really grateful and I know the other boats also rallied round and gave school books etc.

Well we are now in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time on Southern Star. Now that sounds like it might be cooler temperatures? No way, it is now really, really hot. We are getting thunder storms and a bit of lightning at night and quite a bit of rain. Not complaining, we did not see rain for nearly 4 months. It’s great to have some of the salt washed off the boat.

November 14th: Departed Tanjung Kelit at 6:00am for Benan Island. It was a 30 mile trip and we were dodging and weaving around the many small islands. We had some quite shallow patches and I was on the bow for a bit of time scouting. It was quite choppy and rough, the wind was fair blowing. I decided to make a quiche and, as I put it in the oven, the swell picked up. I was watching the quiche mixture slosh from one side of the dish to the other. Great I thought, this is all going to end up on the floor of the oven. But, it didn’t thank goodness, I did not fancy cleaning that up. We arrived around lunch time. Again this island has a lot of shacks over the water. It also has quite a long concrete jetty and a pile driving barge tied up to it. We got a call from Raymond (Our Indonesian rally contact) to say come over to shore for lunch. We decided to go even though we had already eaten quiche.

Robbie took the duck off, and wouldn’t you know it, the davit is now playing up. The boom is not working, the counter balance valve in the ram is the problem. We decided to leave it for now and worry about it later. Hopefully it’s something Robbie can fix. I have to say there is not much he can’t fix!

 We left the duck at the jetty and were met by Echo, one of the tourism guides from Panuba. He took us to the house where Raymond, Anna and BJ from Lingga Island were. BJ was cooking up a lunch for everyone. Not sure who is cooking at his restaurant while he is away, but again, they are looking after us so well. They also had Bintang on ice, the small bottles for 17,000 rupiah or $1.70 very cheap.

The house had a rickety narrow jetty that led out to a patio type area with a shade structure. Still rickety but very pleasant sitting out over the water. There were only 8 rally members and BJ cooked us up some rice but it had celery and red onion in it, scallops in a beautiful sauce and some vegetable patties. It was extremely nice sitting there and we all had a few beers. So of course I needed to use the bathroom. Phyllis from Solstice (USA) also needed to, so Anna took us into the house. Surprise! They had two bathrooms. Now don’t get too excited – it was only the Indonesian toilet that you squat over, they do not use toilet paper and then with a scoop, you scoop some water from the bucket to flush. And, the other thing was that it went straight into the sea!

Back to the boat and it was sleep time, drinking in the afternoon tends to do that to us. We woke up at 7:30pm and then spent a couple of hours trying to do emails and phone America to order the new fan motor for the freezer, which we had finally managed to locate the retailer for, the motor was only $84 and we also ordered a new fridge and the 2 freezer drawer seals, 2 light bulbs and the plastic arm for the ice machine that I had managed to break a while ago. The whole lot including freight came to $517. That’s pretty good considering we also received an email from the Indonesian Sub-zero agent saying he had located the motor and it was $430 U.S. Dollars, plus freight! You have to shop around! We are getting it shipped to Raffles Marina, Singapore. We will be there around the 26th November.

November 15th: Oh what a night! After the pile driving consistent, bang, bang, bang we tossed and turned and then the storm came. We both got up as we couldn’t sleep anyway and we didn’t want a repeat of the last bad storm. There was a lot of lightning, initially quite a way away, but it got closer and closer. The Thunder was booming, the lightning was lighting up the whole sky and then the rain came and it was bucketing down. The wind only got up to about 30 knots so it wasn’t too bad. The boat didn’t budge, and nor did any of the others, thankfully! We finally got some sleep and woke up around 7:30am. I started on the blog, it really gets away on you and next thing you are 3-4 days behind and then it’s hard to remember what happened. Robbie cooked bacon and scrambled eggs while I typed furiously and then we had to be onshore at 9:00am for a welcome ceremony. We made our way ashore and were greeted by the chief and a few of the Island locals. We walked across to the other side of the Island, it is really beautiful. A nice golden sandy beach, lots of palm trees and they actually have 6 chalets on the beach that they call “homestays” but I believe that they are cabins – rather than locals living in them and you stay with the locals. They looked very nice. There were lots of goats wandering round and they were very inquisitive sniffing around our bags. We were all given a fresh coconut to drink and some traditional food, curry puffs, little coconut covered balls that exploded with a sweet brown syrup if you weren’t careful and the green pancakes. The speeches were only short which was good, basically asking us to please spread the word about Benan Island. In nearly all of the speeches we have sat through they apologise in case we receive bad service! We have never had any bad service, or incident here – they are just so welcoming and eager to please you.

We headed back to the boat as Robbie wanted to try and fix the davit. I started cleaning and sorting out some cupboards. I have brought Ethan our grandson about 20 really cool hot wheels toy cars and do you think I can find them? It is driving me absolutely nuts. I have been through every cupboard on the boat and I can’t find them. So frustrating!

Bj was cooking lunch at a little warung (café) on the jetty so we whipped in for that but unfortunately it wasn’t very nice, certainly not up to his usual standard. It was a sweet and sour chicken with rice, but the chicken was very strange, very bony and fibrous and dark. Hmmmm say no more. There was also a nice dish of carrot and zucchini julienned in a curry sauce that was nice. Back to the boat and more work on the davit for Robbie and I finished cleaning the inside of the boat. It was so hot, I was in my bra and nickers, god help anyone who saw me, but I don’t think anyone did!

Robbie has gone to bed, he’s not feeling well, and this is not like him! But we didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and it is so hot and humid it zaps your energy very quickly.

I am sitting here in the peace and quiet, its 7.30pm, Robbie is asleep, and all the others are in at shore having sundowners in one of the shacks. The lightning and thunder has just started, it’s still a long way off but I think we are in for another fantastic light show tonight!

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