Thursday, May 31, 2012

Life at Rebak Island Marina, Langkawi

I've been so busy with life lately that I haven't had the time to update sailbirds. I know it's very hard to believe – it's not like I'm working full time or racing around after kids... just busy with the boat and life. I'll tell some of the stories here... oh dear, there's so much to catch up on... where to even begin?
Jane leads the way on our adventurous walk around Rebak.
Anima is now safe and snug in Rebak Island Marina. It's by far the best marina we've ever stayed in - the best part being, yachties have almost free reign of the 5 star resort facilities. The marina is based on a tiny island just off the south of Langkawi island. A small ferry zips back and forth 10 times daily to Langkawi with resort guests, staff and yachties onboard. The only other thing on the island is the aforementioned Taj resort. Consequentially, it's very peaceful over here. We're surrounded by forested hills bursting with local birds, monkeys, monitor lizards and mosquitoes. The latter is controlled by bi-weekly 'fogging' with some kind of petrochemical-based spray which is pumped through the resort, marina and hard-stand. This fog is thick and nasty. Our strategy is lock-down inside the boat – all dorades, hatches and portholes shut tight to minimise exposure to this unknown chemical. It does work to reduce the mosquito population though - perhaps it's a necessary evil.
Mosquito fogging. Pretty scary huh?
It's the south-west monsoon season now, so frequent strong squalls pass by. Being tied up in a protected marina is so nice when the wind howls past, making our rigging sing. It's also nice to be connected to shore power. Laptops, stereo, vacuum cleaner, lights, fridge and the stereo can all stay on for extended periods. Best of all, the hired air-conditioner (only 50RM/month) can cool us down as can the 240V fan. Relief from the extreme humidity is very sweet.
The pool.
There's so much to love about being here. The pool, fringed with flowering frangipani trees and reclining chairs waited on by a happy guy who gives you fresh towels, fruit skewers (sometimes) and magazines! The beach bar where yachties and resort guests meet for happy hour half-price drinks. The games area inside the resort where one can play anything from Scrabble to Carrom (Rene is undefeated so far with the latter). The twisting paths to walk and explore (more on this to come). Best of all, the SY69 building to escape the sun and do yoga every morning. What a place to practice yoga in! Surrounded by water features home to colourful Carp and vibrant tropical plants, I've been able to immerse myself deeper than ever into my Ashtanga yoga Mysore practice.

All of this is still over half the price of marina's in Australia!
Yoga bliss.
After being here for a month, I decided to explore more of the island by foot. The lovely Jane (from South Africa) was our guide as she had taken one of the more adventurous walks last year. It took her a while to recall where the track started as the jungle seemed inpenetrable and we had to brave a large tribe of monkeys and killer ants! Just as we were about to give up, there it was - marked with arrows. We scaled a slippery track through the jungle, up a hill and down the other side to the beach. Previously Jane had been able to walk along said beach back to the resort. We had judged the tide wrong however and had to tackle the forest once more. It was really fun to walk along, covered in sweat (thanks to the extreme humidity) pushing through, under and around lush jungle. We got lost a few more times, probably due to concentrating on our chats more than the path. Annoyingly I skidded down the bank at the end and twisted my knee but it only took 2 days to heal.
The other side of the island.
Last week I turned 31. Unable to celebrate with family/friends from home, instead I communicated to them online and had a very relaxing day by the pool. The marina staff gave me the most decadent birthday cake I've ever had. Unfortunately Rene was unable to partake in any so I shared it with the other yachties at the weekly Friday night BBQ. 
What an amazing birthday cake! Thanks Rebak!
Friday night BBQ just getting started.
Rene has not been in the best of health. He experienced pains in his stomach for 4 days before having it checked out at a Doctor in Kuah. Initially we thought it was a kidney infection but the blood test results (which we only received 2 weeks after the initial test thanks to a dodgy receptionist) showed Rene had Pancreatitis! He rushed to a medical centre on mainland Malaysia for a CT scan which thankfully showed no damage. Being young and fit probably saved his life. What will continue to do so is a complete change of diet. No more fatty foods or alcohol for Rene! We discovered that Doctors here in Malaysia only issue half-dose, half-strength antibiotics. Supposedly because the people are smaller (not really the case when obesity is a rising issue as is Diabetes).

Anima has sucked most of our spare time (sadly, we barely ever swim in the pool). I've spent days cleaning and scrubbing the decks and topsides. A stubborn oily black substance sticks to our beautiful new paintwork and makes Anima look old and dirty! If a Scientist could invent some kind of preventative measure for this black stuff, they would be rich as currently the only way to prevent it is to cover the boat in canvas, something we can't afford to do right now. 

Anima has also been very thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed inside. All of her walls inside are sparkling clean. All her wooden trim is polished and shining. Everything is clean. More boxes have been packed and sent home and more stuff we don't need has been given away or sold. Rene has cleaned and polished the engine and bilges. He's treated a rust patch that was under the floorboards of the head and some tiny spots that appeared on deck. I prepared and then he painted the remaining mint-green non-skid areas on the foredeck. I cut to size the wood lino and Rene glued them all on for the galley and companionway floorboards. Phew! 

We're gearing up to officially put Anima on the market. This week involves meeting with the Langkawi-based brokers and I've been working on our own sale website too.
The last rusty spot!! Mid-treatment.
Measuring and cutting the new "wood" flooring.
Each week we hire a car, drive across the island to Kuah and try to get all the things on our list. As we get to know the area more, it opens up to us and we find where to get things. The hire cars are complete bombs for 40RM, yesterday however we had to take a 50RM car and what a difference 10 Ringgit makes! We flew along in a shiny, tiny new car with working air-conditioning and gearbox. Each week I take the ferry across to Langasuka where a local Chinese man holds a veggie stall for the yachties. It's a little more expensive than the local markets, but the food is of a far better quality. I've been enjoying Australian Avocados (paying the same price I would back home for them) and big, sweet mangoes among other things.
Rene pushing 60Kg's of our stuff along to send home.
I know there is so much more that has happened and I could write this for many more hours. I'll finish with this cute photo. 
Newlyweds from Indonesia with us.
Rene was working out on the pontoon when he saw these two getting glamour-shots done near the marina for their wedding album. Rene being Rene offered them our boat as a location. They climbed up and stood on the bowsprit and giggled a lot. Her dress was amazing! They wanted this photo and I want the camera that took it!! Anima looks even better now - finally, no stuff on deck.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Langkawi Life

As we will be living in Langkawi for the next few months (unless our plans change) I have decided to blog about the work we do on Anima, the things I see here that are different or interesting and the thoughts I have about life and everything. My writing may not always be in chronological order but will instead highlight the most noteworthy aspects of our lives over here. I guess this is kind of a record of what we're doing and also a way for me to reflect on things. It's just as much for me as it is for anyone who reads it.

Arriving back in Malaysia meant a chance to refill our diesel tank at the incredibly cheap price of 60centsAUD per litre (when I was in Primary school I remember petrol costing that much in Australia. Last time we refilled in Oz it was close to $2AUD per litre!!). It's the cheapest price we've encountered, anywhere. It's only this cheap if you take your jerry cans to the petrol station manually as the marina-style pumps are more expensive. We hired a cheap car and Rene did the fuel run out to one of the petrol stations in Kuah. Last time we had no problems but this time he had to fill each jerry can at a different pump and pay for each one at a time. One of the attendants asked him if he was going to Thailand with all of his cheap fuel (everyone fills up in Malaysia first) but Rene shocked him by saying no, we're staying here and he loves Langkawi (all said in Malaysian). It's always amazing how much the locals appreciate it when you speak their tongue. We've been practicing more with a CD that came with our phrase book. Rene is by far the better Malay speaker than I!

Before we fly home in August we need to send a lot of our belongings there by post. You can do it 20 kilograms at a time for 82.50RM a pop (just under $30AUD) and it takes 3 months to arrive by sea. The post office here requires that boxes be covered in paper and tied up with string! Finding suitable boxes has proved a sometimes difficult endeavour. Some places have asked for payment for the boxes they have sitting in their rubbish waiting to be burnt! Some good boxes we collected were ruined in a tropical downpour while walking back to the boat. Weighing the boxes is also tricky. Bass harbour has been quite unsettled with the frequent south westerly winds blowing up, resulting in boats dragging, waves crashing over our bows and a very rocky boat at times! Our digital scales don't like the movement and give varying weight measurements depending upon which way we're rocking! It worked out fine three times out of four. Rene had to cut open one box to remove an extra 5 kilos!
Navigating incomplete paths with boxes in tow.
Rene has installed LED lights on the stern that were broken. He has also replaced an energy-sucking light in the engine room with a strip of LED's. Most recently, he has been cleaning up the engine, making it shine and maintaining it too.

Initially we started out anchored at Telaga harbour. It's nice over there under the tall cliffs with a view to the ocean. Said ocean brings quite a ground swell into the man-made harbour at this time of year however. We enjoyed catching up with Dale from Freeform here and walking the beach at dusk. 

En-route to Kuah, we stopped at the "Fjord" anchorage which was picturesque as usual. By chance we shared the anchorage with our Indonesia rally friends Freycinet and Our Odyssey. As we are all Australians, we did what Aussies do best and had a BBQ. 
Anima dwarfed by the mountains at the 'Fjord' anchorage, Langkawi.
Rene and I left Anima anchored in the fjord and took the dinghy across to the Dayang Bunting lake. On the way, we beached the dinghy at a point where the rock wall looked quite low. We climbed up amongst what looked to be a run-down viewing platform (only the cement stumps remained) and found ourselves looking down at the lake! It turns out that this point we climbed over is called the 'Miracle Spot' as it is such a small piece of earth stopping the sea from entering the fresh-water lake. Next we went to the rundown jetty which protrudes out from Pulau Dayang Bunting. Ren did a tricky manouvre to tie up the dinghy so it wouldn't get damaged by the prolific oysters and we walked in through the forest to the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden.

'According to a local legend, it began when a male elf named Mat Teja fell in love, at the first sight, with Dayang, a female elf. Mat Tega won her heart, by rubbing a mermaid's tear drop on his face. Their romantic and intimate relationship became complete with Dayang's pregnancy. Dayang then decided to retire at Tasik Dayang Beranak (Maiden Giving Birth Lake). Nine months later, Dayang gave birth to a child but unfortunately, the child died after seven days. Saddened by the event, Dayang decided to bury her baby in the lake. After the incident, the lake was known as Tasik Dayang Bunting (Pregnant Maiden Lake), as a way for the locals to pay their condolences to the couple.'
Apparently women wishing to conceive visit this lake to bathe and take a sip of the water. Monkeys were everywhere and a health sign said to be extra careful of the water so I definitely didn't drink any. Rene dove right in and swam about like a seal in the dark water. I gathered my courage and swam too, after the monkeys had all climbed nearby trees. It was lovely. We were the only ones there because we'd timed our arrival to be in the late afternoon, after all the tourists had gone. 
Rene swims at the lake of the Pregnant Maiden.
Eventually we made the trip up to Kuah and anchored next to our friends Tasha D.M in Bass Harbour. As usual we had fun times with them :)
Rene used his Mum's recipe to bake Anzac biscuits on Anzac Day. They were perfect and he is now chief Anzac biscuit maker as my last two attempts were dismal. The most recent batch was fed to the fish - they were that bad!

Yummy Anzacs Rene! How very Australian.
I sewed a wind catcher in an attempt to combat the humidity and heat of the tropics by enticing some breeze into our home. Tasha leant me their one for ideas on technique and then I used an old Spinnaker to make my own version.

My hand-made wind scoop made from recycling part of an old Spinnaker.
We hired a car for a day and drove to Rebak, taking the ferry across to the island which houses a resort and marina. Rene looked quite unusual (as usual!) walking around the island - laptop in one hand, wireless internet dongle in the other - looking for good signal. We're contemplating staying here for a bit but need there to be decent internet reception.
Rene searching for wifi hotspots.
I wonder if some people wonder about what it's like to live in a Muslim country as a non-Muslim? To be honest, I often forget that where I am is majority Muslim because we spend so much of our time in our boat. Five times a day we hear the call to prayer floating out over the town. Some people find this annoying. I like it! The sounds are often quite musical and (now that my iPod is broken) I enjoy having some music to listen to, if only for a few minutes at a time. When on land, the call to prayer is louder but contrary to my assumptions, it doesn't change people's behavior in an obvious way. No one suddenly drops to the ground to postulate themselves. People don't close shop to pray. Life continues as per usual. Maybe the locals do what I do when they hear the prayer and use it as a reminder to be mindful. Rather than pray to Allah though, I reflect on being in the moment. I remind myself to live in the present, be grateful for what I have now and concentrate on breathing. It's nice to have such a connection to spirituality in our daily lives. Apart from the prayers, the only other major differences are food and dress. Meat from pigs is not widely available as it's not Halal. Most of the women dress very conservatively, they don't show any skin but for their face (their hair is covered with a veil as is their neck). I try my best to not dress disrespectfully but my gosh it's hard when the temperature is always 30degrees+++ and humidity is near 100.