This island is so different to the Indonesia we've seen so far. It's hot and humid with barely a breath of wind. The landscape here is dry, mostly barren golden, rolling hills with the occasional tall Palm tree or fringing mangroves being the only green. There’s much more rubbish floating around in the water too.
We motor-sailed from Inca village towards Gili Bodo in very light conditions. Rene tried to make us sail with the Spinnaker – the sock I sewed to help set and take in this big sail is not really working like we imagined it would. It needs some magic. The waypoints (from the book 101 Indonesian Anchorages) for Inca village had been spot on, so we assumed (mistakenly) that they’d also be right for Gili Boda. Not so. The anchorage is pretty tricky with lots of fringing reef. I sat on the crosstrees calling down to Rene where to avoid. He tends not to listen to me all the time however because I am way more cautious than he is regarding reef. We ended up motoring right over part of the reef (luckily it was high tide so it only went down to 5 metres) and anchored in close on a patch of sand surrounded by bommies. No other yachts were with us.
|Cerae snorkels with tiny reef fish friends :)|
|Gili Bodo awesome reef!|
|Gili Bodo sea urchin gang.|
I decided to play it safe and wear my stinger suit while snorkelling – I seem to be delicious to all creatures that sting and bite. This suit is far too big for me and stretches even more in the water so that the legs and arms often extend up to 30cm beyond my own. Rene and I had a gorgeous snorkel over some amazing bommies. The coral here is some of the best I’ve ever seen. After a while, a local boat motored past and we hopped back into the dinghy, collected Penny and went in for another snorkel. Rene pulled the dinghy along behind him and I eventually took a ride too (I’m not the world’s biggest snorkeler). We landed on the beach which had large monkeys on it moments before our arrival. The usual beach junk was present at the high tide mark (odd thongs, empty water bottles and random bits of plastic) but there was no more or less than an Australian beach so I was pretty happy.
|Anima, Cerae, Penny and Rene on Gili Bodo|
That night Rene and I woke numerous times imagining that we heard locals sneaking up to our home to steal our things on deck. Every time we checked however, the sounds of paddles in the water were actually fish jumping about. We left the next morning at low tide, through a much deeper channel (this time I steered and our depth never went below 20 metres), totally ignoring the waypoints and eyeballing our own way out.
We motored down to Labuan Bajo – the main town for this area. There are many small fishing boats around here so we had to maintain a constant lookout. The charts for here are not very accurate and in one instance we had to alter course dramatically to avoid hitting a large bommie. We anchored off the resort with half a dozen other cruising yachts as the main anchorage looked too busy, it was full of local fishing and tour boats of varying size.
Peddlers came by almost immediately wanting to sell us overpriced diesel, water, pearls or carved wooden dragons. Rene patiently spoke to them and they didn’t leave. Their selling tactic seems to be continuing to offer the same goods at the same price. After a time, they asked for Tshirts from us but we didn’t succumb to them – they were rude and we didn’t want to encourage them. Eventually (after 30 minutes or so) they left us alone, promising to return tomorrow.
Our friends Derk and Anneke from the Belgian boat Narid showed us the way in to the jetty (navigating over a small reef, through large boats and floating rubbish). We went with our empty jerry cans to the local water purification stand. Derk (sort of pronounced like Derek) had negotiated with the stall holders for a much reduced price (still double what the locals pay) of 5000Rp per drum.
|Filling up with 'air minum' (drinking water).|
I noticed right away that this town is way more touristy. The water stall girl spoke very good English and I saw tourists walking around everywhere (often in very skimpy clothes!). It felt strange to see other non-local faces that we didn’t recognize. So far, we’ve been so remote that the only other Caucasians around have been fellow yachties or the occasional backpacker who we’ve spoken to. Here, I didn’t receive smiles in return – just blank stares. The locals also either gave me blank stares or tried to sell me pearls or a ride on their motorbike (ojek) or minivan (bimo). They don’t seem to understand that a woman can dislike pearls! They don’t seem to understand that I’m not a money machine! As we walked along a busy, dusty street next to deep gutters filled with rubbish, I realized that Wakatobi, Banda and Saumlaki were far better than I’d thought. I got a case of ‘the grass was
We met with John, Mary and Catherine from Gavia Arctica (Canadian) and had a Bintang (Indonesia's local beer) at the Tree Top Café. One bonus about being in a tourist town was cheaper beer and nicer venues. We saw an impressive sunset over the bay and enjoyed chatting to our friends. Catherine spent the afternoon convincing us of how we should go to Canada – of how we would be welcomed in her hometown of Victoria and the cruising grounds are amazing (albeit cold). Our plans for the future are constantly in motion – it would be pretty amazing to travel in Canada… more on the future later.
|Sunset over Labuan Bajo from the Treetop Cafe.|
We’d heard of pizza being available so Rene and I went to a large, relaxed café/restaurant where we lounged on bean bags and ate pizza! It was a bit of a splash out meal for us (we spent $12 for two pizzas, a coffee and a milkshake) but it was so cool to eat something familiar (though it wasn’t really the same as back home). We rang my Mum and had a big chat – I had forgotten about the 2 hour time difference though and felt bad for waking her up!
|Pizza & contact with the outside world!!|
We have now been cruising through Indonesia for 6 weeks. We decided it was time for Penny to hop off Anima and do her own thing (she wanted to be back in Sydney by early September anyway). Labuan Bajo was a good place to drop her off as there are frequent flights and boats leaving here towards Bali. It's back to just us again.
Labuan Bajo was a chance for us to restock with food and water before heading further West. We bought 400 litres of air minum (drinking water) using Narid’s jerry cans and lugging them around. We took a bimo to the market (5000Rp) which is about a 10 minute drive away. The market was pretty dismal compared to the quality of Wangi Wangi. Deep gutters were filled with stinking rubbish, flies buzzed over everything and it was hot and dusty. We managed to buy the food we needed and then went to take a bimo back to town – they quoted 10000Rp and we said no, we only want to pay 5000Rp. They didn’t want to bargain, only repeated their price so we turned and walked all the way back. It was hot and dusty but pleasant enough. We got to see a bit more of this place and treated ourselves to a cold soft drink from a big supermarket along the way. The pollution here is pretty devastating. It fills every gutter and drain and creek. Rubbish seems to be everywhere. It made us appreciate just how clean Wakatobi really is! I tried to get laundry done but was put off by the sneering man who first quoted me 10000 per kilo and then changed it to be 15000 per kilo when I went to confirm it. Back to hand washing!
The peddlers visited us again twice. Once they chased us in our dinghy and another yacht-side visit was had. Again, they offered us pearl necklaces (for about $30 -$40), carved wooden dragons, water and fuel. Again they didn’t understand that we didn’t want these products. Again I was left feeling annoyed. I realized that I was getting so annoyed because the peddlers were invading my personal space. It is strange because we are cruising in our home which, because we are Australian, has our cultural ideologies contained within and around it. In Australia, we respect each other’s personal space and property. If we say no thanks to someone wanting to sell us something at our door, they turn and leave. It is tricky because we have our home with all of these ideas of what is wrong and right in a totally different culture. I can see why some tourists go off and start screaming at sellers – I had to go inside and let Rene out-patient them instead of me getting rude.
I was happy to leave Labuan Bajo. We set out in front of Narid and Gavia Arctica, motoring through the floating plastic rubbish oozing its way out of the bay towards the home of giant dragons...