Monday, September 12, 2011

Picture-Postcard Places + Sailing Past Volcanoes + En-route To Lombok

Our Visa’s run out in 2 weeks and we need to renew them in Bali before then to avoid fines and paperwork. So the pace needed to pick up on our journey west. We’d heard from another yacht that our friends on Molonga were trying to contact us from Banta Island – just 15 miles away from Gili Lawa Laut. As we neared Banta, we heard them call us and Narid and we all ended up anchoring together in a picture perfect isolated bay. With clear, turquoise waters below, fringing reef and steep mountains above – this place deserves 9 out of 10 for sure! Anyone wanting to visit this magical spot, the coordinates are 08 24.52S 119 19.18E.  
Indi demonstrates her slide on the bows of Molonga.

We had a most memorable day and evening catching up with Molonga, swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking and speed snorkeling (being dragged along behind the dinghy by holding on to a rope). Kelly and Youngie spoke of the bar that opens each night on the beach. Apparently locals head there when the shadow from the mountain covers about 200 metres of sand. We could see a small wooden shack in the corner of the beach and we were curious as to how it could work as a bar. So, before dusk, we set off along the pink sandy beach towards the ‘Banta Bar’. I should have guessed (Youngie is always cracking jokes), but the bar had actually been built by the Molonga crew earlier that morning with bamboo and rope washed up on the beach. They had set up an array of beverages and even had a sign written on Youngies surfboard. Such a cool idea! We enjoyed sunset drinks, Rene made a beach maze for Indi (4 yrs old), and we even had a beach-side fire, complete with toasted marshmallows!!  

The Banta Bar - Indi, Youngie and Kelly are the spectacular owner-builders and publicans.
Yachties enjoying sundowners at Banta Island.

We all went over to Molonga afterwards and embarrassingly, I fell in the water on my way from our dinghy to their boat! Rene jumped in after me which was nice of him. Not that I was in any danger though! The moon was almost full so the water visibility was near-perfect. I fell because I was rinsing my feet of sand so as not to dirty their decks. Kelly kindly let us use some of their fresh water to rinse off and some dry clothes to wear so we could party on into the night.  

Motoring in be-calmed seas.

Reluctantly we pulled up anchor the next day in flat-calm conditions. We had to motor for a few hours before some breeze picked up and then used the motor intermittently so as to keep up our progress. I took a rest and woke to discover we were right under a huge volcano!! Rene had sailed us to within 30 metres of its shore which had wild horses running upon it. Gunung Sangeang is an impressive 6800 fathoms and gave me slight vertigo looking up at it through the binoculars. 

Gunung... what an impressive monster!

Sailing away from this impressive monster, we had a radio call from Narid (who, as usual were miles ahead of us in their much faster yacht). They were getting up to 30 knots of wind! Rene was just hoisting the MPS (multi purpose spinnaker) so he quickly dropped it and instead we slipped through the water nicely just under our main, head, stay and mizzen sails. We sailed so nicely in fact that we managed to overtake a local motor boat who was trying to cross our bows. I have read that Indonesian boats will often try to cross each others’ bows to pass their bad luck onto the other boat. This explained some close calls we’ve had along the way. Instead, our bad luck was transferred to the local! 
Night fell and we slipped into a three-hourly schedule of keeping watch. I spotted bright orange-red lights moving along and down in a distinctively volcanic way. OMG yup! That’s right. We sailed all night past Tambora Volcano 9035 which was oozing red hot lava down its sides. It was pretty mesmerizing to watch (we were about 40 kilometres away) as dark lumps of cold lava were pushed along by the hot stuff. The air smelt similar to the Northern Territory (bushfires) and luckily there was no ash so we could keep our sails up. It was too dark and too far away for any of the photos I took of it to turn out. One of the things on my must buy list (when I work in Singapore) is to get a really good SLR camera!! 
We sailed into Medang Island the next afternoon after a slow sail in light winds. Some locals (Biyan and Rustau) visited immediately wanting to sell fish or lobsters. We declined the seafood and instead gave them a bag of clothes. With fast internet and phone connection here, the afternoon slipped away updating the blog and calling home. 
We were woken by locals calling out the usual ‘Hello Meeesterrr’ while hanging onto our railings. Rene went out and politely dealt with a local who kept repeating that he wanted a snorkel. He explained that we only have one each – which to the local seemed like a lot! Rene instead got out the Bajao goggles (from Wakatobi) and tried to give him these. Being a Bajao himself, it was a little strange that he refused them! Instead we ended up swapping a large container of pens and pencils and a blank book for 6 eggs. Within minutes of this guy leaving, Biyan was back – this time he climbed up on deck and sat with Rene chatting. Biyan’s hobbies are walking in the village, sailing and speaking English. He asked for a wetsuit but since we don’t have one to spare, we gave him a bag of children’s books to help him and his village with their English skills. Rene read him some of the books and helped him with some pronunciation. The interaction was going well until I made noises about needed to leave. Biyan really wanted a wetsuit. He left reluctantly – asking us to return next year.
Rene reads to Biyan
The wind was up and we had a glorious sail for a few hours. Anima steamed along nicely and we relished in the freedom.  A pod of Dolphins joined us for about half an hour and it was exhilarating to watch them surf down the waves at our bows. Rene kept dangling down towards the water, hanging off the bowsprit… I knew he was part Dolphin!!
Dolphins joined us today :)
We were so tired that we made a silly decision to head south, to Gili Air on Lombok. We hoved to for a few hours to wait for enough light and to ask some yachts in Medena Bay (Lombok) whether it was worthwhile. Their answers made us decide to just head to Gili Air instead. While hoving to, Rene slept and I kept watch. I saw a big Portugese Man-o-war float past and a pod of strange whale-like dolphins. We motored into Gili Air, past an uncharted reef and anchored in 22 metres (in 101 anchorages, they say it is 3-10 metres!). Even with 85 metres of chain out we dragged, but, being so exhausted and in light conditions, we turned off the engine and slept. It was a noisy little island with dozens of tourist boats zipping in and out. By the afternoon we were rested and ready to leave (I was so keen to get to Bali!!). We set out and I nearly took us over a reef but managed to steer away just in time.

Anima steaming along north of Flores.

1 comment:

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