Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Belitung Island and Crossing the Equator

October 16, 2010—The past ten days have been a swirl of activity. The day after we arrived at Belitung, we took care of getting fuel. Steve took our jerry jugs ashore and watched with interest as the diesel was siphoned from a 55-gallon drum into a large open pan and then transferred to the jerry jug using a one-liter ladle. It took awhile to fill our four jugs.

The next day we went into the town of Tanjungpandan to use the Internet and buy some groceries. It was Sunday, so the Internet spot was packed with kids all playing video games with the volumes turned all the way up. I wanted to upload the last blog, as well as some pictures, and it took all my concentration to get that done. All around me I could hear “Fire in the hole” followed by explosions. What an experience.

We had a fast lunch at KFC, which included a delightful chocolate sundae, and then picked up our groceries—important things such as Oreos and Ritz crackers. Now it was time to catch the bus back to the anchorage.

Steve was not feeling well the next day, so I went on an all-day tour with the Rally. We drove over to the East Province of Belitung where we stopped at a museum. It was a very small and sparsely filled building, but it was interesting. The best thing was the school across the street. Janet, Marilyn, and I walked across the street to say hello to the kids. You would have thought that we were rock stars. They all began yelling and waving, and they wanted to shake our hands. The teachers joined right in and even asked to have their pictures taken with us. It was the most amazing experience we have had.

From there we made a quick stop at a dam and then went to the Regent’s for an excellent luncheon. The building was quite old but well maintained and ornately decorated. From there we went to Panai Beach for more traditional dancing. On our way back to the anchorage we stopped in a town renowned for its coffee and had some time to shop. Marilyn and I were stopped by some local women to have our picture taken with them when all of a sudden another woman appeared and handed me her baby boy so that he would be in a photo as well. Another wonderful experience!
Our last stop was the Kwan Im Temple, which is a Buddhist temple overlooking the ocean, and it was very interesting. By now it was getting quite late so we all climbed in our vans and headed back. It was 6:30 before we arrived at the beach, and we were all very tired. It was a long but interesting day.

Steve stayed on the boat the next day since he was still suffering from Montezuma’s Revenge. Dave, Marilyn, and I decided to take a bicycle ride on vintage 1950s bicycles, and as we rode along the street, we were greeted all along our way with waves and “hello mister.” We rode quite a distance and then stopped to have a cold drink, but there was no ice available so we just got a warm drink. We drank our sodas and spent some time talking with an elderly local who stopped to chat with us. We stopped on our way back to pick up some vegetables and eggs and then returned to the anchorage very hot and tired but happy with our excursion.

By now Steve was still feeling ill, so we went ashore and went to the medical clinic that had been set up. No one spoke English so one man went to get a guide to translate for us. After he arrived, we got the information across, and the people got busy gathering several drugs for Steve to take. We thanked them and started to pay, but they told us that there was no charge. We think that he picked up Giardia, and the one of the drugs that they gave him was for that.
October 13 was the last day of the Indonesia Rally. We had to do a few things to prepare the boat to leave the next day, but we took it pretty easy during the day. Luckily, Steve was beginning to feel better. At 6:30 we went ashore for the Farewell Party. There was live music and some local dancers. The dancers came over to our seats with a brass box. Inside were some leaves and spices. They instructed me to take a leaf and then put a pinch of three spices on it. I then was to roll it up and taste it. I have to say it was very bitter and not good at all. After a minute or two my mouth was numb and the bitter taste was still there. Local fare can be so interesting.
It was now time for us to eat. There must have been ten tables, all of which had different dishes laid out for us. The food that we tried was excellent, and Steve was able to eat most of it. Dinner was followed with speeches by the local government representatives. It was getting late, and we had to leave early in the morning, so we snuck out and headed back to the boat, where we loaded the dinghy and went to bed. We found out later that we only missed more speeches.

Belitung was lovely because of the white sandy beach named Tanjung Kelayang. It felt as though we were walking on powdered sugar. Also, there were some very interesting rock formations on two of the surrounding islands, which we visited twice. One of these formations had a passage through the rocks, and we drove through it several times one day. Steve began to sing “It’s a Small World” as we were going through the last time. The people here were friendly and welcoming, which is what we have found all across Indonesia. It has been well worth the time and effort to see this country.

Now it was time to leave for Batam Island. We pulled anchor at 5:30 a.m. on October 14 and motored out of the anchorage and for the rest of the trip because of very light winds, but we did have a current helping us along. We had the usual fishing boats through the night, as well as a lightning storm to the west of us. Luckily, it never came close, and we had no big winds from it.

On October 15 we continued to motor with calm seas and a good current. This was a special day because we would cross the equator for the second time. On our Pacific crossing we arrived at the equator at night. This time we arrived right at sunset so we took pictures of us on the boat with the sunset behind us. Right after that we reached the equator, where we stopped and each of us swam around the boat. We then gave King Neptune the obligatory shot of rum and toasted each other with a shot of Damiano, which we have been carrying since 2007. After that we happily continued on our way.

The next morning we were entering Riau Strait, which was filled with commercial shipping. It was interesting trying to figure out all the lights on the ships to determine their direction. The AIS system really helped to figure out which ships presented a danger to us. Luckily, only a short time after we entered the strait, it was dawn, and the light really helped us to see the situation more clearly. We entered the Singapore Straits for a short time and then went through the breakwater to Nongsa Marina on Batam Island.

The marina is very nice with very few boats. A pool, a laundry, and a restaurant make it a nice place to rest for a couple of days. The evening that we arrived we invited Tin Soldier over for some champagne to celebrate crossing the equator, as well as our trip together through Indonesia. We spent a lovely evening together sharing some of our favorite moments of the rally. Next stop is Singapore!


traveldestination said...

It was a very small and sparsely filled building, but it was interesting. The best thing was the school across the street. Janet, Marilyn, and I walked across the street to say hello to the kids. You would have thought that we were rock stars.
i liked this conversation which is showing your zeal.
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Dasril Iteza said...

i very glad to read your post about Belitung and you have interesting pics.....

my name is Dasril & i am Belitung People!


Adam and Nicole Jordan said...

What an amazing trip! How awesome to be doing this!