Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14, 2010—Our first day at Wangi Wangi in Wakatobi was very busy. We motored through the pass in the reef and anchored with five other boats in the lagoon. As usual, we straightened up the boat and got some rest.

We heard over the radio that there was a parade in the afternoon, and the Sail Banda fleet was asked to attend, so at 1:30 we all met at the restaurant and walked to the soccer field to assemble. We wore our Sail Banda shirts and carried our U.S. flag mounted on the oar from our dinghy. The group consisted of one boat from Canada, two from Australia, and three from the U.S.

We were put in the middle of the other local groups and began our walk around the town. Joining us were students from a private school in town who were studying English, and they acted as guides for us in order to practice their English skills.

All along the way the locals had come out in large numbers to watch the parade. When our group went by, everyone would call out to us and wave. Many asked to have their picture taken with us , and they made sure that our flag was included in the picture. They were so friendly and were enjoying themselves immensely. When we stopped in front of the Regent’s residence, we all saluted, and then we continued on. We ended up walking in a large square pattern through the town.

After returning to the restaurant, we were told that the Regent was so impressed with us that he wanted our group to come to his residence for a lobster dinner that evening. Steve and I were very tired; however, we agreed to join the group. Cars were waiting for us at 6:30, and we were driven to the event. We were given seats in a long row behind the “official” seats. We did not see dinner tables anywhere and sat for two hours before the proceedings began. They call it “rubber time” here.
While we were waiting, we watched young people in beautiful costumes come in and sit in a group to our right. The costumes were quite unusual and were very diverse in style. Finally, the show began. We were all given snack boxes with a spring roll, a piece of cake, and a glass of water—so much for lobster! There were several awards given out by the dignitaries, and when that was done, the dancing began.

The groups came from all over Indonesia to represent the different provinces. They had been together for a week getting to know one another and sharing their different cultures. Each group was called up to perform a traditional dance from their province. It was very interesting and very diverse. One of our favorites was a group dressed in beautiful oriental clothing. The young ladies sang is very high pitched voices and performed the most amazing dance. The body position and posture were all very controlled, and the dance was performed very slowly. The leg and foot work appeared to make it hard to keep one’s balance; however, none of them waivered during the whole performance. It was wonderful to watch.

We enjoyed every one of the dozen or so performances, but around 11:30 all the cruisers decided that we needed to leave. The entertainment was not quite over, but we found a good place to say, “Thank you” to the regent and then slip out. Our cars took us back to the anchorage, and from the boat we could hear the party continuing.

The next day we relaxed in the morning but went ashore to find a bank so that we could exchange some money. We did not have any luck. There are two banks here—one does not exchange money, and the other bank does, but the rates are horrible. Neither of our bank cards would work in the ATM so we got nothing done.

On August 10 Steve returned to the bank and was able to change U.S. dollars to hold us for awhile. We then took two guides and went with Marilyn from sv Tin Soldier to the central market. It had been raining all day so there were large pools of water along the road and most of the paths through the market were wet with puddles. This was a whole new experience, and we all agreed that this was the poorest market we had ever been to. The vendors were all very friendly and polite. We purchased some limes, some red chilies, and peanut clusters, and all were very inexpensive. I got four nice limes for 2,000 rupia or $0.20 U.S.

Ramadan began on August 11 so from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. there is no eating, drinking alcohol, or smoking in public. Some restaurants close as do some shops, but we could still find places open to buy things that we needed. The hardest thing for us is that the mosque down by the water broadcasts prayers and music five times a day beginning at four in the morning. They use loud speakers, so even with the hatches and ports closed, ear plugs in, and our two fans running, we can still hear the music.

The next day eight of us loaded into two cars and took a tour. We stopped at the Bajo Village. The houses were built over the water on stilts, and then the people would build a stem wall around each house with coral rocks. The first village was very poor; however, we found that once again the people were very friendly and welcoming.
The second stilt village was newer. The houses were separated by water so boats were the only way to get from one house to another. Some of these houses had already begun to build up the stem walls around the perimeter. The ocean water flowed freely in and out with the tide so the water was much cleaner, and there was a nice breeze.

After the village we visited several water caves where the locals go to swim, bathe, and do laundry. These are fresh water springs that fill the caves so the water was very clear. At each one we watched women doing the laundry while the kids played in the water. We also drove up to the top of the hill to get a view of the whole area, and then we finished the tour by stopping to watch women weaving cloth on a loom. The material was beautiful, and I never would have known by looking at it that it was hand woven—it was perfect.

Last night we took Anna, our guide, to the Night Market. There were vegetables and fish available for sale; however, the real treat are all the food vendors that set up booths and sell all sorts of wonderful things to eat. We found donuts, steamed rice, fish squares, and vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce. The food was all delicious and ridiculously inexpensive. The crowds were out, and everyone was enjoying the evening. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and returned to the boat absolutely stuffed.

Today we had a fairly lazy day. We did get some chores done, and I did a load of laundry. Earlier in the week I sent in my sheets and towels to be done by someone in town. I was very pleased when the laundry came back as it was very clean and smelled great. It was just a bit damp so I did have to hang it out a little longer to get it dry enough to put away.

The official festivities for Sail Banda begin this evening. We will attend that event and one tomorrow, and then we plan to head south to Hoga Island in order to do some diving.

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