The passage from Tual went according to plan. Except for another tear in our spinnaker. Not a bad one like before, but enough that we stopped using it, which slowed us down. We were in close proximity with the other boats, which I find makes the passage more stressful because, in effect, we are racing. I try to make decisions (like whether to fly the spinnaker at night) the same as I would if the other boats weren’t nearby, but at times that is hard to do.
Baubau (or Bau Bau or Bau-Bau or Bau-bau) is a city of maybe 250,000. We are anchored near a small hotel that has a dinghy dock. And despite this being a Muslim area, the hotel serves beer. And at Luc’s insistence, they keep the beer cold. Luc has arranged for each boat to have an interpreter/guide, plus there seem to be extras. They are all delightful, and they constantly want to practice their English and ask us questions. I find it tiring, even though they are lovely people who could answer my thousand questions, if only I could muster the energy to formulate the queries, ask them, and try to decipher the responses.
Jesse is SO much better at this than I. He is constantly chatting with the guides, and they adore him. He learns about them and about the city, the language, the customs, their families, their aspirations. He passes some of this along to me, which is nice. But what I enjoy more is simply watching him interact. What a kind and curious/interested/genuine person he is!
After our mid-day arrival and a fresh juice at the hotel, we walked to the shopping mall. Mostly empty, probably because the local population doesn’t have money to spend on Starbucks-like coffee and fancy decorated donuts. We did, though it only made me miss the better donuts we get at home.
In the evening we all met for a dinner planned by Luc. This was at the commercial waterfront, a couple busy kilometers away. The highlight of the evening was travel to/from, by “bentor.” These are motorbikes with a rickshaw-like two person seat over the front wheel. For a couple dollars we paired up and piled in and raced through the city amid the swarm of motorbikes and other bentors and just enough cars to keep some of the drivers on the right (I mean left) side of the road.
Dinner was ordered from a row of little stalls selling various specialties. About $5 for a meal.
Jesse and Tim did the scheduled activities — visiting a school to talk with students about climate change, and visiting a cave with a clear pool of water in the inner darkness, with glowing crystals all around. It sounds like the cave was pretty impressive. And the school-kids questions even more so. We have no money, so what can we do about climate change? What are YOU doing about climate change?
I spent this oppressively hot day working on the boat. I took a stab at repairing our spinnaker, though I’m not confident my fix will last. And I repaired our starboard fuel transfer pump, and adjusted our fuel gauge, and poured ten gallons of fuel through our baja filter that holds just a pint at a time… I tried to knock off all the diesel-related items from our list.
In the evening we had a buffet dinner at the hotel (again about $5 each, including paying for our guides). Luc told us not to eat too much, because after dinner we would take a bus to a ceremony where we would have more food. Little did we know…
Like many of the others I was very tired, but Jesse asked me to go, and I was intrigued about the event. Luc didn’t tell us much, I think because he didn’t actually know what we were in for. But nevertheless he exuded enthusiasm and made it seem like it would be a huge opportunity lost for anyone not coming.
The bus ride was half an hour winding up into the hills. We knew we had arrived when suddenly there was a big crowd and hundreds of motorbikes. We were celebrities. A few guards kept the walkway passable for us, while hundreds of children and no small number of adults lined both sides and stared at us, took pictures of us, gave us high-fives, and/or smiled bashfully.
Approaching a large pavilion, we could see that there was a big crowd seated on mats inside in long rows. Between the rows of people were rows of…things resembling large woks on low wicker stands…with tops covered in fabric…each one uniquely and ornately decorated…and there were hints of foods/drinks poking out from under their covers. Although the pavilion was packed, there was a people-less area in the middle, and we were led there. We each sat in front of one of the decorated woks, and everybody waited…
We had no idea what we were now in the middle of. One of our guides explained to Jesse that this was the annual celebration of the harvest. Ahah! Thanksgiving! We could relate to that, and to the waiting (for what, not sure) for the meal. Occasionally one of the men that appeared to be in an inner circle would take a microphone and say a word or phrase that would be echoed by the crowd, and then the speaker would repeat it with the tone of, “I can’t HEAR you…,” and the crowd would up the volume. Then back to waiting. Some people were taking photos with their phones. Some were texting. There was a prayer at some point. And there was a passing of a “handshake” from neighbor to neighbor, but you slid your hands between your neighbor’s and then touched your heart. And a little speech by the vice-mayor of Baubau. (Our guide next to Jesse said her talk had nothing to do with the celebration, that it was strictly political and for the wrong party, and if she had a brain she wouldn’t need to read from notes!)
There must have been some cue that I missed. People were removing the tops from the woks, and starting to eat. In mine I recall there being a huge bowl of rice in the middle, surrounded by two deviled eggs, a whole fish (wicked spicy), a noodle dish, a little bowl of chicken (the man next to me demonstrated adding a sauce from another bowl to the chicken), a bottle of water, a can of pineapple juice, a large bunch of tiny bananas plus some watermelon and an orange, a plate of various confections, half a dozen coconut rice sticks wrapped in banana leaves, and probably there was more that I’ve forgotten. How to eat any of this while sitting cross-legged in a crowd was a challenge.
And there was the puzzle of why the ladies sitting directly in front of us were not eating. We had plenty to share, but no one was offering. I tried once to offer, and the woman looked away. Jesse’s buddy explained that the woman sitting directly in front of each of us was the woman who made (and decorated) the foods/wok. Or at least it came from her family and she was the family representative. Yikes – now we felt bad that we were barely eating, after having already had dinner, and not being entirely up to the challenge of how to eat a whole fish with a spoon (and I was lucky in this regard; some seemed to have no utensils).
The guy next to me continued to be helpful. He took the juice from his platter and put it in my backpack, and indicated I should do the same with mine. He pulled out the half dozen rice sticks in the banana leaves and indicated that I must put them in my pack. And then he put the cover back on my platter, and his, and nodded a goodbye and left. There was some traditional music and dancing off to one side, but it didn’t amount to much. And although we tourists were invited to dance, they were not persistent about this when no one jumped up. And then Luc told us it was time for us to go. Not that the event was over, but time for us to leave. We filed back out through the throng-lined walkway to our bus. Luc then explained that there were so many people outside because each family gets an assigned space in the pavilion, and the family chooses a representative to go inside, while others may attend outside.
It was all surreal for me. I felt like I should have been outside watching. But Luc had told us that we would have opportunities to be treated like royalty, just because we are tall white folks who traveled from afar, and thus we add a strange form of status to local events.
Tim and I did the Baubau area tour organized by Luc. Jesse rented a motorbike (and Daphne and Ruy rented another), and borrowed one of our guides and went exploring. Seems he had a great time. They went up into the hills and hiked to a waterfall with a swimming hole. He of course also bonded (even more) with the two guides that ended up going with them. He was pumped about riding the motorbike in the chaotic traffic with unfamiliar rules (like you don’t stop for a red light unless you are making a turn).
Meanwhile the scheduled tour went to a museum in the house that belonged to the last Sultan of the area. Then to a place where traditional clothes are made. Then to a place that makes brass jewelry. Then to a place where cloth is woven. Then to the largest (area) fortress in the world, built in the early 1600’s. Then to the tourism office where we were served lunch. Then to the beach to cool down a bit in a welcome breeze, and then home. I can’t say I much enjoyed going place to place in stifling heat, but I did enjoy seeing the weaving and buying a sarong and a head bandana thing… We all piled back in the bus to go to a buffet dinner including a cake to celebrate Josh’s 21st birthday. The young people went out for an after-party, but enough already for me.
At dinner we bumped into the first non-yachtie white family I’ve seen in Baubau, and I found I had the urge to shout, “Hey Mister!”
I skipped the tour today. Tim and Jesse went (I thought), which was even better. Quiet time.
It didn’t turn out quite the way I planned. Our batteries were low, so I started an engine to charge up, and I heard a POP from the engine room. Broken alternator belt. No big deal. But while I was in there I also tightened the belt for the water pump. And discovered that we still have a slow fuel leak by our transfer pump. Plus there was some odd banging noise that at first I thought was debris banging against the side of the boat. No, it was our connection from the steering hydraulic piston to the rudder armature, come very loose. None of these are a big deal (being caught in time), but also along the way I discovered that our solar array was not providing a charge to our batteries. We’ve never had any problem with the solar charging, and thus I know little about it, so this was disconcerting.
But it was kind of fun to hang out on the boat and tackle the small jobs. Even the solar array was tracked down to our usual problem — a corroded wire connection. Around noon I was ready to relax, when to my surprise Jesse showed up with his friend/guide Sahur to show him the boat. Very nice. Tools still everywhere, I explained to Sahur that this is what we do on our boats — we fix things. And while I had Jesse’s help, I went up the mast to inspect for chafe aloft. All good. And I did get a wee bit of relaxing time after they left and before Tim returned from the tour.
In the evening we all had to put on long pants (some wore sarongs) and look our best for a meeting and dinner with the mayor. Once again we were center stage, this time with tables and chairs rather than mats on the floor. The food and entertainment were delightful, though I nearly passed out when I ate a whole hot pepper hidden in a mild fruit salad! I sweat a bucket and cried for a while, and survived…
The mayor had heard that Pat worked for Microsoft, and (incorrectly) that James built marinas. He said in his speech that he hoped in some fashion Microsoft would help people in Baubau, perhaps providing computers and/or software, and that James would advise about building a facility for visiting yachts. I expect the mayor will be disappointed in these areas. He had each of us introduce ourselves, and we were each given a “goodie bag” with a sarong and a (too small) T-shirt. There was traditional dancing, which was the highlight for me.
Last full day in Baubau. We went snorkeling in the morning. It was nice to finally get back in the water, after being anchored in dirty harbors. But not very impressive coral or fish. Two of our female guides came with us, and I was a little surprised that one snorkeled. The other says she is a certified diver, but she was not dressed for going in.
I had anticipated a “quiet lunch” served at the beach. But there was a mob of kids waiting for us, and adults, too. I find this wears thin, even though everyone is extremely friendly. After lunch we returned to our anchorage, and a boatload of kids paddled out to get pictures with us. And then we did some food shopping at the mall, and got drinks at a Starbucks knock-off. The four girls working there served the drinks and then asked us to pose for photos with them. I’d rather be sailing!
Oh well, it’s all part of the grand adventure. We have a “farewell” dinner tonight (farewell especially to our wonderful, wonderful guides — it will be sad to part!!). In the morning we head for our next stop, Selayar, 160 miles west.