Hello Indonesia

Kupang – a cacophony of noises originating from many sources – the mosque, where Ramadan’s call to prayer is amplified over Kupang town and harbour; Kupang’s curious bemo transportation system which seems to be run by the ‘lost boys’ of Neverland. Bemos have the noisiest and largest speakers belting out ‘doof-doof’ music throughout the streets enticing people to join them along the way for a measly 2000 (less than 20c); motorbikes – everyone in Kupang appears to own a clean and shiny motorbike. The motorbike is the pride and joy, utilised by each family member, sometimes at the same time. Another seemingly innocuous piece of technology adopted by the locals is the mobile phone. Everyone has one and girls in particular are often seen texting while sitting side-saddle on the back of a motorbike.

So that’s Kupang. But let me write about the trip here. After spending the final few days stocking up in Darwin, we sailed across the start line of the rally at 1100 on Saturday 28th July with about 100 other vessels some going north to Saumlaki, while the majority were heading on a course of 2850T to Kupang on the western end of Timor. We reckoned the 470nm trip would take around 80 hours of sailing and hoped we didn’t need to use all of our duty free fuel if the winds died down. The first night of the trip was very bumpy and windy up to 30knots. The following two days were great sailing and we managed a consistent 6knot average all the way across to the western end of Timor to Kupang in 77 hours and to our delight before darkness. Before entering the harbour we hoisted our hand-made Indonesian flag (made out of an old red and white umbrella that used to be on the boat) plus our yellow quarantine flag. We’d read on others blogs from previous rallys that the holding in the harbour wasn’t very good so we anchored at the southern end of the fleet in 15m with about 70m of chain out. As it turned out, a few days later when the wind picked up, some of the boats dragged – one made it onto the rocks, but fortunately the boat survived with no damage.

We spied a boatload of customs officials being ferried from boat to boat but there was no apparent method of booking their services. Wayne was quick off the mark and got the dinghy off and took off after them! It was after 5pm but with his charming smile convinced them it would take only ten minutes to process us. So with that Wayne returned with three customs officials to clear our paperwork. We had been informed of the volume of paperwork required to get into Indonesia and this was just the beginning. To the officials we presented our CAIT (official boat transit paper), our Crew List, ship registration, Port Clearance – all in duplicate and suitably stamped with our impressive Blue Heeler self-inking official seal! As we gave them paperwork, they gave us more, but unfortunately ran out of the yellow form that confirms we’ve been processed for quarantine! No worries – he just took a piece of our Blue Heeler letterhead and wrote the details on it and signed! Once they’d finished, an eager yachty appeared at our gunwales requesting the customs travel with him to the next boat… After such a long voyage, we had a quiet night and slept until the call to prayer the next morning.

The next day we ventured into the city of Kupang with all our paperwork in tow, having learned that there was plenty more paperwork and stamping required at the temporary office set up for rally participants at the back of the Palai Laut bar. The dinghy boys at the beach area require payment of 40000 (around $4) to look after our dinghy for the day, which they did. They gave a ticket which we would return to them at the end of the day.

The local internet carrier, Telkomsel, were giving our free Sim cards to yachties, so I grabbed one and topped it up for 50000 ($5). For 220000 ($22) we bought two mini sims for the iPads including 1Gb of data for one month. Telstra could learn something from this.

The people, particularly children, greet us with a friendly “Hello Mister” or “Hello Missus”. I usually reply with “Selamat Siang” or the informal “Halo”. The children and young adults are keen to practice their English and I’m keen to revisit some of the Indonesian words I learned in years 7 and 8 at Benalla High too!

We enjoyed the welcome dinner provided for the yachties on the Thursday night we the Mayor of Kupang was the VIP for the evening while the Deputy Mayor entertained the crowd with his rendition of Elvis! On the Friday, we joined the others on a tour around Kupang. First going to the Monkey gardens to see the wicked little monkeys, then onto the Kupang Orphanage to see the kids. It was a bit of a drive to get there, out of town then up a slow dirt road. About 30 yachties ventured to the orphanage and we each brought with us some exercise books, pencils, pens and clothing for the kids – Items we’d bought in Darwin. There are over 90 kids at the orphanage and while others were at school, the remaining kids put on a concert for us! The littlest girl was a child of three years old and she’d been at the orphanage only two months since her parents died. She was bright though and was not shy in singing a song by herself to the delight of the audience. The kids sang a number of songs to us, before jumping off the stage and coaxing us to join in and sing with them! It was a lot of silly fun for everyone as we slapped hands together and sang out loud. After the concert we were shown around the grounds including the boys and girls dormitories. Only five rooms with bunk beds in were for over 40 girls; some have to sleep on mattresses on the floors. There are no possessions and no girly things except some drawings on the wall of rainbows and flowers. With no possessions, the rooms of course were tidy at least. The boys’ room was similar but all the bunks were crammed into one large room. The children work around the orphanage with gardening, fetching water from the well, looking after chickens and ducks, praying and singing. They go to school and the older ones are encouraged to find work and hopefully get a scholarship; funds of which may of the yachties contributed towards. Apparently one year of university for the older kids costs the equivalent of $100 per year. Yachties were invited to contribute $25 when they registered for the Rally. I was lead around the dry garden with a young girl and boy who identified things in Indonesian to practice their English. They showed me their well which drops 25m to the water, which they hoist up each morning.

After a couple of hours there, we said goodbye and headed back into Kupang for a meal (of rice, spinach, pork and chilli) then onto a spring to go swimming. It was a little late in the day so I and many others declined the swim. Alfredo, the organiser of the tour and son of the owner of the orphanage, took us from their to show us the rice padis near his home which are fed from the spring. A small plot he told us can reap 3000 kgs of rice in one season which feeds the children. Alfredo was kind enough to take us to his home and introduce his mother and father. I greeted her “Salam Ibu” which means “Hello Mrs” – a more formal approach – to which she smiled and shook my hand. The home was humble with little to no furniture and basic kitchen items.

A final day in Kupang – Brian & Gail (Dol’Selene), Steve and Ann (Recluse) joined us aboard Blue Heeler to talk about our voyage to Alor. We agreed we’d travel for a couple of days along the Timor shore before sailing north to Alor. I was feeling a little off on my last day in Kupang. Unusually for me I was off my food (that IS unusual), very tired and aching in my joints. I was suddenly thinking of “flu like symptoms” which seems to herald any disease known to man. Back on board I forego my glass of wine (yes, we DID bring some in the end!) and went to bed by 7.30pm for a long sleep. By Monday, Wayne also started feeling odd but his condition worsened as mine improved. Keeping up the Gatorade which I bought on a whim (cause I like the containers they come in), we pumped electrolytes into our system while sailing north along the Timor coast.
Stopping at two anchorages on the way, rather than sail overnight, we battled the 2knot current and bounced over the turbulent waters of Salat Pantar to arrive at Kalabahi, Alor, on Tuesday 7 August.
The pier in Kalabahi welcomes yachties and for a fee of 50000 (which lasts the total stay), we can go ashore as much as we like. We managed to get our jerry cans filled with reasonably clean (to be determined) diesel for a cost of 7000 per litre (around AUD.65c). Each morning and afternoon the kids paddle out in their canoes to hassle the yachties for pens, books, chocolate – I even had a request for Fanta! I haven’t given them anything yet, except to say “tidak ada hari ini” (nothing today). Steve got it right by telling the kids they wouldn’t get anything unless they presented something in return. So now he’s got a supply of coconuts and fruit coming in while the kids are happy receiving pencils and books – everybody’s happy!

Today we will head across to the Kalabahi market and practice our Indonesian and tomorrow we head over to the western side of Pantar. Kalabahi has a population of around 60,000 and this will be the largest town we’ll see until we reach Bali. Until then… Selamat tinggal!

















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Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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