Catching up on photos…
Catching up on photos…
On one side of the bay, near where we anchored, is a river that we had heard leads to a Mentawai village. On the other side we can see a small working port, with a tugboat and a ferry and a few larger fishing boats. We wanted to explore the river. Our friends on Gaia were here two days ago, and told us via radio that the river has three paths — the left is pretty, just jungle. The middle peters out. The right takes you to the village.
When the morning rain subsided, we decided to try for the village. But first we had to find the mouth of the river — hidden among the mangroves. We found an opening, but we didn’t know if the three paths had separate mouths, or if we would encounter forks upstream. In any case, upstream we went. After maybe a mile we passed a boat coming down. The men aboard smiled and pointed upstream, so we judged we were on a good path. In another half mile there was a fork, so we stayed right, even though the larger flow seemed to be left.
The mangrove banks gradually changed to pandanus and coconut palms. The channel got pretty narrow, often less than 30′, which had me doubting that the large canoe we saw had come down this way. But it was still deep, and on we went. We saw a man getting out of a canoe, and slowed to speak with him. He just pointed upstream, and from that point we could see a little dock. We tied the dinghy and stepped ashore.
There was a concrete walkway stretching to the left and the right, and it wasn’t clear which way to go. A young girl and two younger boys were approaching from the left, so I gave her a questioning look and pointed each way. She pointed right, so we went that way, while they stopped to inspect our dinghy.
The concrete walkway turned out to be Main Street, houses all along each side, almost every house having people staring at us. But everyone waved back at us, and many smiled hello. We crossed a couple side streets, constructed the same as Main Street, and we crossed a covered bridge over the river. We spoke with two or three men that we passed, but not enough English to communicate. We passed a “gathering place” that had a tavern-like aspect, mostly men hanging out. Places like that make me nervous — how the group will receive outsiders. But again everyone seemed friendly, and we waved and smiled and said hello, and continued on by.
And then we saw a man planing a board for his house, and he stopped and said hello in pretty good English, and invited us to join him. We sat on his deck and had water and sweet tea, and met his wife and son and brother and a neighbor. Communication was very limited, but as a new batch of rain poured down we tried to learn some words from him — cat, dog, house, roof (beautiful and watertight thatch), duck, wife, son, etc. Mostly he was teaching us the Indonesian words, which we had at least a tiny chance of remembering, but sometimes he would teach us the Mentawai word. All I can remember of Mentawai is thank you, and even that I’m sure I now have wrong, something like matsurai bagata…
We had read that the Mentawai were “semi-nomadic” but that much seems to have changed, as they have well built houses and other signs of permanence. They grow bananas and coconut and cacao and some things we couldn’t identify. We saw some people carrying big bags of copra out of the jungle, probably bound for the ferry as a cash crop. Lots of chickens roaming around. Wires for electricity, but the only satellite dish we saw was at the “tavern.” Kids had book bags, and were clearly coming home from school in the rain. There were a couple motorbikes (even though no road, per se), a couple bicycles, someone had earbuds listening to music. But the signs of modernity were very limited. Funny how it seems that those with the least are the happiest and friendliest…
The rain eased as the tea was finished, and we thanked them profusely and headed back the way we had come, feeling much more at ease now.
Returning to the bay, we decided to run by the port to check it out. There was some activity there, loading bananas and other cargo on to the ferry, and interest in us. We decided to check it out, and went ashore. An English-speaker (sort of) named Timo adopted us, obviously hoping to be our guide for a fee. There was a little restaurant, so we went there and bought him lunch. While waiting for our food a policeman showed up, nice guy, no problem, but wanted photocopies of our passports. That was going to require a trip to the boat (and probably some money). So we bought him coffee since he had to wait for us to eat, and then Timo and Mr Polisi and another guy of unknown connection hopped in the dinghy with us, and off we went. We let them look around on the boat, and we chatted, and then we said it was time to go.
Timo took me aside and said I should give him 300,000 Rupiah to give to the police guy, for our safety. I said that was too much, and offered 50,000. Or I said I had $5 US, which some harbormasters seem to prefer. He declined the $5 but said I should give him 100,000. I was not in a strong bargaining position, because the only bills I had were 100,000 — I didn’t have a 50,000 note. So I gave him 100,000 (about $8). Tim took them ashore, and he told me after that the policeman declined the money. So Timo gave it to the other guy — still don’t know his role. Whatever; not a big deal except that we are almost out of Rupiah. Getting desperate for an ATM!
Waiting for the sun to sink below the clouds and cool things down, suddenly there is Maggie coming to anchor next to us! Tim and I swim over, just to cool off, and invite them over for a sundowner. They had never been aboard our boat! We pulled out the last of our snacks, and swapped stories about the places we’ve been, and what lies ahead. Very nice. Another memorable day.
It’s been days since we’ve had an Internet connection good enough for a blog post. So below I do some catching up. Still can’t handle photos though.
We left Lagundri at dawn, 55 miles to our next planned stop at Sipika in the Telos island group. After motoring for two or three hours, a breeze came up, and then grew to 20 knots — almost unheard of hereabouts, except in squalls. We had a nice sail, but the wind wouldn’t let us point to our destination. So we decided to “go with it” and head for the east side of Pulau Tanahmasa instead of the west. As the sun was getting low we entered a very inviting bay that has no name on our chart. Also the chart suggests that it is too deep for anchoring, but we found a good spot just inside the northern point of land, off a little village. We are anchored just a quarter mile north of the equator. Across the bay is another village, in the Southern Hemisphere. We decided to name this anchorage Equator Bay.
Three dugout canoes with kids came out and hung around the boat, plus an older fisherman. They spoke no English beyond, “Hello Mister.” I wish we spoke the same language, because I think this is a magical place, and I’d like to hear more about it. But we were busy with our latest gear failure (salt water pump used in the galley and also needed to make fresh water), and preparing dinner. The kids lost interest after a while; the fisherman hung out and asked us for a mask and snorkel. We don’t have extras, so we had to say no. I offered him a Coke as a consolation prize, which he accepted, but then asked again for a mask & snorkel. Oh well.
Full moon. Beautiful night. No internet here despite a great cell signal. Some rock music coming from the village, makes an interesting counterpoint with the fishermen paddling home in dugout canoes…
Next day we motored to Telos Town to get internet. We drifted off the town for a couple hours as we tried to figure out what to do about our batteries (and email our plan to the dealer in Australia who is trying to help us), and about our malfunctioning salt water pump (and email Bob begging him to bring a replacement with him when he comes to join Maggie in Padang). We would get engrossed in the tasks, and twice came close to drifting on to reefs!
Finally we just found a spot to anchor, and it turns out to be a very nice spot. We’re about six miles south of the equator here, so a celebration was in order. But we spent the entire day until dark working on the pump. Our celebration consisted of pulling pizzas from the freezer for dinner, and splitting an extra ration of beer.
Yes, we get internet here, but it is so slow it is barely possible to send an email. So I can’t post this blog yet.
Even though we anchored far from shore, we’ve had several visitors paddling canoes, looking to get something from us. The first guy was somewhat comical, talking at me non-stop even though I couldn’t understand a word. He wanted a diving mask. When that didn’t work he asked for diesel (to take back to the village, I guess, since he was paddling a dugout canoe). Okay, I siphoned a gallon into a jug for him, but it didn’t stop there. He asked for food, and I gave him a little. He asked for a mask again. He asked for cigarettes. I finally just said enough, and ignored him.
Then came the boys with shells and bracelets for sale. Then the fisherman with squid for sale. Then two guys asking for clothes, and simply hanging behind the boat for a very long time until Tim gave them old T-shirts. They didn’t express thanks, and they didn’t go away until some time later. I feel for these guys, seeing the rich white folk coming to their area with expensive yachts. But they don’t make it pleasant for us. In many places they come with a smile and it seems more manageable and more fun. Here they don’t seem happy, they want too much, their prices are very high, and they aren’t smiling when they leave. I don’t know, maybe we just had bad attitudes after struggling with the pump all day, but I don’t think that’s it.
We moved on a few more miles to Sipika. Popular anchorage — Convivia was already here, Peregrine arrived an hour ahead of us, and On Verra arrived an hour after. Next day Maggie arrived, too. This is a beautiful anchorage off of a nice beach, where a surfing resort is under construction. We spent another day messing with our salt water pump, discovering that if we mount it upside down it seems to work! Both Peregrine and Maggie had spare pumps that they offered us, but ours only has to last three weeks until Bob arrives (to join Maggie) bringing us the replacement. And for now things appear to work. We’ve been catching rain in the squalls, though, since we’ve been uncertain about using our watermaker. Kind of fun…a little “primal” to be catching/drinking rainwater. Of course many cruisers rely on it solely, but not us.
We had seen some white guys landing a boat ashore here, so when we went ashore we looked for them. We met an Australian named Sooly and his wife Melissa from Padang. And his mates Chris and Ben and Dugal, plus Ben’s local girlfriend Rini. Had a beer with them and talked about the tsunami tower Sooly is building, so when the tsunami comes his family can ride it out on the tower. He has done a lot of research about how tsunamis will behave here given the shape of the ocean floor, and how to build a tower that will withstand the forces. Plus he has an app on his phone that will alert him when there is a tsunami warning. He has two adorable boys, soon to turn four, who are twins — one white-skinned like him and one dark-skinned like his wife. They make a beautiful family. We got invited to dinner. I was about to decline…we don’t want to overstay our welcome, when Ben, standing behind Sooly, nodded an indication that we should accept. Okay, back around sundown.
The guys were hanging out in Ben’s place next door, drinking beers and talking about Australian rules football, which they tried to explain to us. We brought a bottle of the moonshine we procured in Nias, plus some fruit juice. Of course with Tim there, plus booze, we talked about everything. How Muslims in “Indo” are different from Middle East Muslims, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, how to get what you need in Padang, what drugs are available locally, etc.
Then across to Sooly’s place where the steaks (from Australia) and “bugs” (like small lobsters) were on the barbecue, along with fresh corn. And a bottle of Bombay Saphire gin appeared, and chilled glasses and ice and lime and tonic. Wow! The ice was the best! The Australians lived up to their reputation as serious drinkers, and the one Kiwi kept pace, and we tried to stay close. The food was unbelievably good. And we all became best friends forever — at least for tonight. These guys did not hold back their opinions about all things Australian, Indonesian and American. We learned a lot, we had one of the best meals of the trip, and we came away with some phone numbers of potentially useful contacts in Padang. A memorable night!
Next stop on our way south is called Pasti’s in our cruising guide, though that’s just a name the surfers use, rather than the name of the local town. Nice anchorage, in that it is relatively shallow and sand rather than coral. A little rolly, but we don’t much care. It is one of the underrated advantages of a catamaran that it doesn’t roll like a monohull in places like this.
There’s a beautiful surfer’s resort ashore. I had ideas about renting a board for the day, plus arranging for dinner at the resort. It was a rainy morning, and we spent some more time messing with our salt water pump, which now seems to be working fairly well. In the afternoon I inflated our kayak and paddled along the shore looking for a way to avoid the reef. One of the guys working at the resort paddled out on his board. He said if I waited at the floating hut off the resort, he’d call for a canoe to come get me.
So I rode in via dugout, and met Paulo, one of the owners of Surfing Village. No matter that I didn’t have any money with me, have a beer! But he told me this is not a safe place to learn to surf. The guests were almost all large Australian men (one named Beast!), and there were stories of broken boards and broken bones and major wipeouts. Okay, I won’t try to rent a board today. But dinner would be no problem. I asked Paulo if it was a fixed price meal or a menu, and he said, “Don’t worry about it. Just come on in. Would you like another beer?”
I swam back out to the floating hut to retrieve the kayak, and as I got back to our boat i was a little surprised to see my canoe paddler approaching. I had told him I had no money with me to pay him, and then Paulo had said he works for the resort so no need to pay him. But he had come to collect. I paid (about a dollar), and we asked if he could return at six to take us both ashore. Okay…except by 6:15 there was no sign of him. We called the resort on the VHF, and they sent a powerboat to take us, and half a dozen surfers, to the edge of the reef, and the canoe appeared to ferry us in two at a time. This was a little exciting…surfing in over/through the coral…waves sloshing over the gunnels… But we made it, still (barely) floating.
We met Mario, another owner, and a bunch of little kids for whom we had brought a soccer ball. (Only offering we could think of, since we’d been told not to bring money.) We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and beer, and magic tricks performed by Paulo, and jokes that were challenging to follow with the Aussie and Brazilian accents, and a (very impressive) photo show of the surfers in action, and we had a delightful time. Ferried romantically back to the boat by dugout (which we happily paid for), ending a happy visit to Pasti’s and Surfing Village.
Except…Tim seems to have gotten food poisoning at our delicious dinner. Ick!
And I hear that Bernie won only one of five state primaries this week. The more I learn about the world, and American history (I finished reading The People’s History of the US), and the more I meet people of different cultures and learn from their perceptions of the US, the more I support Bernie, and big changes from the current American corporatism.
But back to sailing. We covered the 45 miles from Pasti’s, which culturally is still part of Nias, to Tabekat Bay on the island of Siberut. Here the culture and the local language change to Mentawai. But we haven’t met anyone yet. We anchored out in the open in this beautiful and protected bay, and I was delighted that, for a change, no one came to the boat trying to sell us anything. And upon hearing a motorbike in the distance I realized we haven’t heard that sound, nor the call to prayer of a mosque, for days.
We have just 70 miles to Tua Pajet, the place we have chosen for our rendezvous with our new crew member, TC. We didn’t want to meet at Padang, in part so TC can see some of the Indo islands, but more so that we can all sail together for a day (and probably a night) in advance of our prepping and departure from Padang. We have 4 days until our rendezvous, so we might stay here a day and explore, if Tim recovers quickly.