Much has transpired since leaving Rote Island. We sailed our way back to Timor and headed north of Kupang to a small village called Wini where the rally was scheduled to stop. Quiet place. Leaving Kandu for the day, we bus-toured east to the border of Timor Leste (East Timor). The previous Portuguese colony fought for independence during a twenty-plus year bloody civil war starting in 1975 until gaining full independence in 2002. Close to the border, a Leste guard beaming a smile, beckoned openly that we should break international law and come visit his country. We smiled back and waved.
We also enjoyed a fabulous local market chock full of interesting vegetables and some tropical fruits we previously had neither seen nor tasted – the ‘specially fragrant’ and unforgettable durian being one of them. Once you smell it, you’ll never forget it!
The Wini local rally organizers held a simple dinner for us with music and dance. They offered us gifts of their lovely scarves that the local women weave here in Indonesia.
Off to the island of Alor, we stopped briefly at a fisherman’s pearl farm bay for a night tucking in along the southwest coast. We all wanted to swim, but instead explored from the safety of the siderail the world of rather innocuous yet scary looking jellyfish with Rainer Dawn and Sue Hacking from S/V Ocelot.
Later that evening, the adults from Grand Cru, Esprit III, Ocelot and Kandu enjoyed cocktails in the roomy cockpit of Ocelot, the lone catamaran while the boys enjoyed popcorn and movies. Great hors d’oeuvres and conversation made for fun camaraderie and conversation among cruisers. We miss our Polynesian cruiser family, yet we’ve been learning a lot from our new cruising family and are enjoying meeting different, yet like-minded people. We come in many shapes, sizes and from different countries: that night from Australia, South Africa, Washington and California states.
Motoring north around the western tip of Alor island, our next destination, Kalabahi, is located at the very end of a long wide fjord found on western Alor. The area is known for it’s spectacular coral gardens due to the cold swift currents passing by the islands generally from north to south. We were dramatically introduced to these currents on our way to the fiord pushing against their strongest at 5 plus knots on our nose. For hours we inched 100 yards off the bank of the channel in search of a counter current, which we on occasion successfully caught. What would normally take with the current a couple hours, took us against the current most of the morning. Once in the fjord heading nearly due east, the current abated significantly and we made excellent progress with just a one-knot counter current while dodging large anchored fishing platforms. From the entrance of the fjord, it took three more hours before we made the end of the bay and finally anchored off Kalabahi.
Kalabahi city is not a usual Indonesian tourist destination. The streets are not slick and tidy. It’s a bit dirty with plastic trash littering the sides of the street, river bottoms and the water where we anchored. It’s the principal city of Alor and the center of that region’s administration encompassing 4 to 5 neighboring islands. Many children on canoes approached our boat hoping for treats or gifts. We gave out writing pens and paper, some canned meat that I didn’t want, and a few candy bars. After that, whenever we were aboard, the children returned demanding more.
While walking the streets, our tall, blond haired, blue-eyed boys were sought after for photo ops by giggling girls. The local boys looked on in bemused and rather sullen silence.
Several boats of our rally arrived a day before schedule. Rally tourist organizers quickly finished a specially made dinghy dock for us and scrambled to push up events, setting us up with a nice tour of the island including a visit to a traditional mountain village known for it bronze drums and where the religious structures were built side-by-side, Muslim and Christian. The Vietnamese drums, likely found or traded centuries ago from Chinese ships, are today used by families to support marriage proposals.
Later that day, we were invited to visit the Alor regional museum that was heavily guarded and only allowed visitors by reservation. It was rather sparse and limited in local information. Pictures of the past and recent Regent Governors were prominent – all looking like military dictators. The tour continued with a boxed lunch on the beach and culminated in a rather arduous hike to visit a waterfall, especially enjoyed by our rambunctious boys. Sporting a dress and flimsy flipflops, after slipping and sliding on the muddy path, I opted out of that activity.
The next day with friends Bolo and Natalia from S/V Wassyl hailing from Poland, we headed off for a day of drift diving. The density and diversity of coral life and multitude of colors were beyond our previous diving experiences.
There were fernlike plants (actually animals) that curled up when touched, and thousands of small iridescent colored fish darting and swarming all over the underwater landscape. We later learned that all the ‘soft coral’ can move around to more nutrient locations like starfish. Neat.
Fabulous cultural interaction included witnessing the Indonesian Independence Day (August 16th) where locals reenacted their fight for Independence from the Dutch in the 1950’s – It was an amazing show!
The day after, local rally organizers honored us with a beautiful welcome ceremony featuring two beautiful local dance troupes.
Later that day, we were invited to walk in the ‘Indonesian Independence Day’ Regency parade where participants wear costumes representing their customs and traditions. Plus, that night to top-it-off the outstanding festivities, we were dressed-up in local attire to share dinner with the Regent Mayor. Wow! Our experience in Alor couldn’t have been more full and dramatic.
The three teenagers Bryce, Trent and Rainer escaped the girls to have a bit of fun one early morning before the wind picked-up skurfing behind Wee Kandu in the middle of Alor’s deep fjord adjacent to Kalabahi city.