Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wangi Wangi to Hoga Island

August 21, 2010--On August 15, a Welcome Dinner was held for Sail Banda at a new resort about 30 minutes north of Wangi Wangi. At 6:30 we all assembled at the restaurant and then piled into cars for the drive. We drove along a single-lane paved road and were amazed to see that it was lined with houses for almost the whole drive.

We arrived and were shown to the open-air restaurant, where we sat at a table with the crews of three other boats. The dinner was buffet style with rice, fried noodles, fish, fish soup, kasava, and greens. The food was good but spicy. We talked at the table until the Regent of Wakatobi got up to give a PowerPoint presentation about the area. He was pushing hard to have a Sail Wakatobi instead of Sail Banda next year. When he finished, we watched another traditional dance, and then the crew members from each boat were called up and given lovely hand-woven scarfs with Wakatobi embroidered on them. We were then invited to dance with the local dancers, and everyone had a very good time.

The next day we walked up to Telekom to take care of some last minute internet business, and then we walked to the Morning Market to get some veggies and some eggs. We went to the Alpha Market for bread; however, they had none. Bread is hard to find here as there are only two markets that carry it.

A festival was scheduled for 4 o'clock that afternoon so we went ashore at 3:30 and began to walk over with a few other crews; however, we were told that we had to go as a group. We were a bit confused since the field was only a five-minute walk, and we knew exactly where it was. Anyway, we waited and finally quite a few of the local guides left with us. The walk was straight down the main road, but the guides made us turn and walk inland for about five blocks, then south for about eight blocks, then back to the main road again actually going through some people's back yards on the way. We arrived at the field and were shown to our seats under an awning. About five minutes later the excitement began.

We had heard that a protest was planned, and we noticed that there were quite a few police around the area. Two young men, followed by quite a few locals, ran onto the field and began tearing down a display that had been built out of bamboo and palm fronds. The police stood around for a few minutes, and someone was speaking on the microphone. Finally, the police moved the locals back off the field. A young man who was the speaker and interpreter told us that the event was done for the day, and we should return to the anchorage. Many of the cruisers were filming all of this, including us, and many of the locals were filming the cruisers. It was a bit unnerving to say the least. We were told to wait for a few minutes, and then our guides led us from the field with the police stationed along our route.

At the restaurant the cruisers were all discussing what we had heard about the protest. Supposedly the small group of protestors was upset because food had been prepared by all the villages in the area, and we were to be able to sample it. That went against Ramadan, and they were upset. Now, just about everyone of us felt that the organizers would have made sure that no food was served until sundown; however, we also heard that this group was upset with the moderate Regent who is up for re-election next year. This was their chance to create problems for him.

We ate dinner at the restaurant that was the central area for the rally. Tin Soldier joined us, and we even enjoyed some wine. We then returned to the boat and made her ready to leave early the next morning. We were very glad that we had all our clearance papers completed and on board.

At sun rise we pulled the anchor and went out the pass in the reef. Esprit and Tin Soldier were just ahead of us, and there was a mass exodus of boats behind us over the next few hours. Some had planned to leave anyway, but others went ashore early to get their papers and take off. We were sorry that we didn't have time to say goodbye to everyone on shore, especially our young guides, and we were sorry, too, that this situation would hurt Wakatobi with future rallies.

We had no wind so we motored the five hours to Hoga Island. Luckily, we three boats were the first ones there so we were able to pick up mooring balls. Esprit took one, and we rafted up with Tin Soldier on the other. These moorings are better protected from wind and seas than the anchorage is. Hoga is supposed to have some fabulous diving, and we planned to find out.

The next day we all went snorkeling along the reef and saw quite a few fish and some pretty coral. In the evening we joined 18 other cruisers, with kids, to celebrate Jaryd's (Tin Soldier) 14th birthday. It was an excellent meal, and the company was great fun. Jaryd and his friend Jamie from Esprit then stayed ashore in a tent for the evening.

On the 19th we did a dive of the Pinnacle. The visibility was not great, and there were few fish, but we still enjoyed the dive. We went ashore in the afternoon to walk along the beach and stop in at a scientific marine research facility. We were hoping to get our dive tanks filled, but we had no luck with the dive people ashore.

Our last day in Hoga we found another dive site, and this one was exceptional. We ended up down to 120 feet for a short time; however, the best depth was about 90 feet. We came to one spot where the fish were so abundant that we were surrounded by them, and they were all swimming in a large circle above, below, and all around us. It was just spectacular. We also saw so much beautiful coral, especially fan coral, on this dive. It was hard to go back to the dinghy.

We left at 4 o'clock this morning headed up to Bau Bau, which is another stop for Sail Banda. The winds were very light so we had to motor sail the whole way. Luckily, we had a knot of current with us so we were able to arrive by sunset. The festivities begin tomorrow, so we shall see how it goes at this stop.

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