Wham bam Mataram!

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Medana Bay Marina Resort is pretty much the half-way point between Darwin and Singapore, still some 1000nm away. Here we would replenish our stocks of food and fuel, but in particular to obtain an extension of our social visa, before heading across to the island of Bali then across the Java Sea to Kalimantan.

The visa process takes about five working days so we didn’t waste any time and arranged to travel to Mataram to get the ball rolling. As we’d arrived a couple of days earlier than Dol’Selene and Recluse, we were invited to join the crew from Esperanza (Hans & Carla) and Mirus (Henk & Miranda) as a party of six to travel to Mataram where we’d have our fingerprints and photo digitally taken. Strange that this wasn’t a requirement of our original visa application, but nonetheless we travelled in the vehicle pre-arranged by the Medana Marina staff.

While in Mataram we took the opportunity to grocery shop at the Mataram Mall’s Hero supermarket (full of western goodies at western prices) where I also topped up my iPad credit and we each bought a cheap pair of polarised sunglasses. Before going to immigration, the driver took us to Pura Lingsar, the holiest Hindu temple in Lombok built in 1714, nestled in the rice fields some 10kms from Mataram. Each of us had to wear a yellow sash around our waists allegedly to keep the pure northern thoughts of the body separate from the evils in the southern regions. The tour guide, Yuda, enthusiastically showed us around the grounds in half an hour, explaining to us the significance of the temple not only for Hindu but all religions on Lombok. On such a hot day, a group of young kids were skinny-dipping in the cool drainage water, seemingly uninterested in their sacred surroundings.

After a bite to eat at a local cafe, we attended the busy Immigration office where I made my way to the Informasi counter to see who could assist our group. Our group had been expected and was quickly ushered with a smile to the outer offices where each one of us was processed separately within a few minutes. I was last to be processed and for what seemed an odd request, I was asked go to a separate office. I went along to an office where an unusually large Indonesian fellow was waiting for me – he wasn’t smiling. In adequate English he explained to me that there was a problem with my passport. Gulp! “What’s the problem?” I asked. “Well it seems that you are not on the list” he said. “What list?” I asked. “There’s been some sort of miscommunication, nothing for you to worry about”. He went on. “So what’s the problem?” I asked as confusion set in and I started to get a sweaty top lip. “It seems that you have no stamp in your passport” he finally said. Gulp! The conversation went on in this vain for a little longer, as sweat increased around my forehead. I was wondering how much rupiah I had on me and would it be enough if I had to buy my way out of the conversation. I wondered what the hell was going on as he wouldn’t show me my passport. He continued, “If it was within 24 hours of arrival, no problem…but six weeks…?” hinting that I should have checked my passport for the necessary entry stamp at the time of arrival or at least once in the past six weeks, and that there may be repercussions for my recalcitrant behaviour. “I thought it had been stamped..” I gulped once more and smiled as the sweat dripped off my lip. He offered me a cool water which I gladly took to quench my dry throat, taking the opportunity to wipe my lip. Thinking quickly as to why I hadn’t checked my passport I had to find a way to get out of there. I quickly put my corporate learning to practice, smiled and asked “Okay I understand what you’re saying; so what can I do to help you” and whipped out my iPad producing digitally saved cruising permit, crew list, port clearance, recipe for nasi goreng, anything to prove I’d actually entered the country officially. “It’s okay, it’s okay. I will process for you in this instance” he decided. I wondered whether this was in fact the end of the process or whether he was waiting for me to suggest a more expedient resolution method involving the greasing of palms. To be certain, I asked him twice, plus I asked another guy sitting in the room at least three times, and the janitor on the way out “So, am I really going to get my passport back?”. The answer was “yes” on all accounts. I eventually had it returned with everyone else’s a few days later. Phew!. The immigration guys were ultimately very helpful and it didn’t cost me one rupiah. And the moral of this story is: be sure to check your passport is stamped properly and carry a hanky at all times!

With the stress of dealing with immigration over, the staff at Medana Marina organised a blues night with local band and popular singer to play some great tunes. I was impressed with the singer; can’t remember his name though but he had a great falsetto voice and sang well known, but also original tunes. The dance floor was dry dirt and when the yachties began to cut the rug, dust lifted up covering the band, speakers and instruments. One of the staff came along and squirted the dance floor with water for the next set. Another singer thought he was Indonesian’s answer to Mick Jagger; donning a skippers cap he belted out Stones hits like Honky Tonk Woman to the delight of those dancing in the wet dirt. The local people didn’t join in but sat around the perimeter looking at the funny old white people drinking too much Bintang and kicking up their heels in mud!

The following day I decided to treat myself (an unusual occurrence nowadays) and had a massage offered at the resort for a meagre $12 for one hour. The short Indonesian woman stood on a stool and ran her fragrantly lotioned hands over me, pulling at fingers and toes (weird?). It was as if she was preparing me for a meal for the locals. During my hour of relaxation, my session was rudely interrupted by Wayne, wanting to know “What price was that guy selling Bintang singlets yesterday? I can get two for 160000?”. I said “tell him he’s dreaming”. So much for ‘my time’…

The Tanjung Pasar (markets) is about a half hour walk from the Medana marina. Wayne and I walked there in the early morning and bought some veggies and a freshly killed ayam (chicken). There were less flies on this particular chicken so we were willing to take a chance on it! To get the chook home quickly for pressure-cooking and vacuum sealing, we caught a Cidomo (horse and cart) for the return journey and paid the guy 30000 for his time.

With Brian, Gail, Steve and Anne, we enjoyed a day out touring around the north western corner of Lombok. In particular we visited the spectacular Sindang Gila waterfalls and swimming hole. Our guide took us on a 25minute walk up and down steep steps, over an irrigation channel and through the leafy vegetation, we arrived at the falls, stripped to our togs and jumped into the delightfully cold water. The force of the water and air cascading down was so strong that the water spray blinded me. Wayne was first to explore the back of the falls, creeping blindly on a rock ledge behind the mass of water to dive into the depths to the side of the falls, moving all the time so as not to get sucked under the mass of plummeting water. Steve, myself and Brian joined in, but apparently this caused our diminutive guide much angst in doing so. There’s no way a guy the size of one of my legs could possibly have saved four foolhardy tourists from the deadly cascades. Once we were out and dried, he was happy again and served us bickies and pineapple. Other places we visited on our day out was a traditional village (although I was unimpressed with the imposition this appeared to cause the villagers), and went to a small village to see ikat weaving demonstration, guys threshing rice and a local mosque made out of bamboo and grasses.

The official Sail Indonesia event at Medana Bay was held with various dignitaries in attendance including the local Regent. Although initially well attended by the yachties, after a delicious spread of Indonesian cuisine, the VIPs departed to the local mosque to attend evening prayer. For an hour and a half we watched a few locals playing instruments but the VIPs didn’t return. It was 7.30 by this stage and most yachties don’t get to bed much later than 8pm so we all cleared out, uncertain if the event was to continue. Still not sure if the VIPs ever did return.

Our final morning, while Wayne caught up on the ABC news, I walked towards Tanjung to get some money from an ATM. On the way a young lady on a motorbike invited me to climb aboard transporting me a short distance up the road. Apparently bike riders must have helmets but for passengers it’s not a requirement. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a motorbike without a helmet. First time for everything!

With our visas renewed and provisioned up, it was time to leave the friendly staff of Medana Marina. Dol’Selene and Recluse were still waiting for their visas, so we took Blue Heeler to Gili Air for a couple of days and perhaps do some diving until they received their passports. As it turned out, day one we had a quick walk around the island (and one of the best beef burgers and chips at the Chill Out Bar) but later that afternoon the wind picked up to 25/30 knots from the south-east and didn’t stop until we left some 36 hours later. The anchorage is exposed to the south-east so it was bumpy and unpleasant, and we couldn’t even get the dingy to shore.

That same evening at 10pm, a yacht entered the bumpy bay attempting to pick up a mooring. He couldn’t do it in the poor conditions and in his haste to find a place to drop anchor, he motored directly for the reef. Wayne got on the radio to caution him, but too quickly the yacht was trapped on a large mooring rope unable to escape until morning. We couldn’t help the stricken yacht as we were prepared to depart in a few hours. I believe they were saved the following morning though.
At 3am we raised anchor and swiftly sailed with 25/30knots on the beam managing 7-8 knots of boat speed until we reached the northeast corner of the island of Bali where the wind came to an abrupt halt. The impressive Gunong Agung volcano blocked any wind from the south passing over it so we motored the final few hours reaching Lovina Beach anchorage by 4pm.

Lovina Beach is a lovely tourist spot. Unfortunately our cruising permit arranged by the rally organisers expires in mid October, so rather than having a 90 day permit, it only lasts for a shortened 76 days. That means we have to leave Indonesia early than expected so will have to visit the interior of Bali on another trip, along with the Gili islands. Eating out is pretty cheap with a standard dinner of two main meals, one large Bintang and dessert would set us back around $10-$12. Happy hour is generally for three hours and Bintang only 20000 a large bottle. Once the crew from Dol, Recluse and Comedie arrived at Lovina, we enjoyed a couple of dinners in good company.

The local Hindus are friendly and charming; in fact all the Indonesians we’ve met so far are warm and welcoming. However each time we went ashore at Lovina we were hassled by desperate shop keepers with their tales of woe if I don’t buy a wooden dolphin, another sarong (just one more) or some small overripe bananas to give them good luck. It would be better luck for them if they just left me alone.

Preferring to sail directly to Kumai in Kalimantan/Borneo, some 400nm northwest, once more we left Dol’Selene and Recluse to join us a few days later as they would island hop the trip. It’s a long way to visit orangutans but this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures that many don’t get the opportunity to do. We arrived safely yesterday (30th September) and my next post will hopefully have a few hairy apes on it!

Photos:
Visit to Pura Lingsar
Band and singer at Blues night at Medana Bay Marina
Cidomo and driver (part time doctor?)
Standard travel around Lombok and the Gili Isles
Medana Bay festivities
Steve and Gail feasting after the Sindang Gila waterfall swim
Balinese dancer
Local treats
Sindang Gila waterfall and irrigation
Wayne looking relaxed after his dip in the waterfall (note the Bintang singlet)
Photos from Gili Air before the wind
A happy boat at Lovina Beach
Ikat weaving demonstration

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About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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