The breeze was fitful at best, we were ghosting along at 1 knot through the
whirlpools in the water - but the land was racing past at 5.5 knots, and the
2 looming, smoking volcanoes, one dead ahead 5 miles away, the other 2 miles
to our left were getting closer by the minute. Then the fishing line
screamed off the reel, and I hauled in a 10 lb tuna, filleted him on the
stern, and by then Lewoleba town was on our right, behind the huge sandbank
protecting it from the 8 knot rip tides that rush  between the islands. We
motored slowly along the shoreline, ferry terminal, Bugis fishing village on
stilts over the water, 100+ boats ranging from dugouts to 12 metre wooden
fishing or cargo vessels, palm trees, 2 mosques, small kids waving madly,
yelling "Hello Mister', then doubled back and anchored 50 metres from the
small police launch, SW of town,near the ferry jetty..



The islands that make up Indonesia stretch for some 2500 miles east to west:
Irian Jaya (the west part of Papua New Guinea), Ambon and Sulawesi (300
miles south of Philippines), Timor, Flores and the other islands of Nusa
Tengarra that we are in, 300 miles south of Sulawesi (and 400 north of
Australia), the tourist destinations of Bali and Lombok, then Java the
capital, home to 120 million people in an island half the size of the UK,
then north of Java, Kalimantan (S Borneo), and finally the large island of
Sumatra south and west of Singapore, with its northern province of Aceh
famous for pirates who raid the Malacca Straights west of Malaysia, and the
recent tsunami, and the independence movement.



Our dinghy had been injured from the Kupang beach, so we mended it, then
next morning dinghied into Loweleba's beach, and gave 5000 Rupiahs each
(30p) to 2 fishermen to guard (jaga) our dinghy. Officialdom sensibly
ignored us, so we ignored them, and strolled along to the market. I doubt if
more than 5 tourists/month visit Loweleba, the children regarded us as prime
entertainment (and the chance to practice their English). We bought all we
could carry, then arranged with Lawrence at Hotel Rejeki a tour round the
nearest volcano (Ili Api) next day.  Incongruously my Indonesian mobile
phone worked, so when the intended driver refused to take his new car over
some of the rougher roads of the route we had planned, we were able to
reorganize the tour from the boat by phone



Next morning, a small fishing canoe with an
older man and 2 young men paddled quietly up to Intrepid and started poking
and pulling ropes and such like. Generally we like to be sociable, but these
people did not fill us with confidence, so we talked for about 10 minutes,
then I said as clearly as I could Selamat Jalan (Good Bye) and they went
off, but we couldn't be sure they wouldn't return when they saw we were
gone. Given Intrepid is our home, it is disquieting - we locked up as
thoroughly as we could, but there are lots of things to take in a sailing
boat even if you don't break in, and a few boats had reported having their
anchor ropes cut (not in Lowoleba - and ours is chain anyway). Still that's
part of being a nomad, and we also had a large turtle swimming round the
boat to compensate.



Our car turned out to be a smart new People Carrier, so it was something of
a surprise to see the 'good' roads (since we had agreed to exclude the 'bad'
roads). The 'good' roads once out of town were very old black top, where the
few remaining pieces of tarmac only emphasized the potholes in between. We
managed perhaps 6 mph, stopping only to look at one of many handmade
brickworks along the way. Our driver couldn't see why we wanted to look at
them - aren't all bricks made by mixing clay by hand, loading it into 2x4
brick moulds by hand, then leaving the bricks in the sun to dry before
arranging them in a 10ftx10ftx8ft room shape around firewood, caking the
outside with more clay then leaving it to fire overnight to produce some
deliciously earthy reddy/brown bricks?



Our destination was the Kampong Lama at Jontona. About 1000AD people from
Moluccas came to the island of Lembata and settled on the upper reaches of
Ili Api, the volcano. Elias, our guide had gone to find work as an emigrant
worker in Malaysia, working on the Sabah Gas Pipeline, returning after 20
years with enough money to buy a house and bride and enough English to be a
guide to the 30 or so people who visit each year. I had worked in Sarawak
for 4 years at about the same time as Elias was there (1990 or so).



Kampong Lama is the old village sited about 500 metres below the volcanic
crater where there
is a slight break in slope, so their wells provided a little water - but not
much, so about 30 years ago the Government persuaded the villagers to move
down to the coast where new wells could provide more water. But the
villagers maintained their old village, and every September go up for a week
long festival. Our car managed 1 km then gave up, so we walked up the
remaining 4 kms to a village that dated back 1000 years. 7 foot long
elephant tusks are still stored there (the bride price is an elephant tusk),
also gongs, 600 year old Chinese plates and jars and an old Portuguese
cannon.  The villagers were all there preparing the Kampong Lama for the
festival, and Elias climbed 100 feet up a vertical coconut tree to get us 3
drinking coconuts - made me feel ashamed I can't do that up Intrepid's mast.



We paid 90,000 Rs to the village, and 60,000 to Elias (about 10 pounds in
all), and bought some bananas etc for lunch - there are no restaurants as
its inconceivable to these people that anyone would not eat in his own home,
then went round the other side of the volcano to Mawa which has a Mosque and
church, and some of the best ikat weaving on the island, arriving to find a
dance just starting. I was invited to join. My sense of rhythm is
rudimentary, but within 5 minutes of tuition from the tiny (4 ft 6 inches)
old ladies on each side, mouths bright red from chewing betel, teeth ground
down to stumps, but very athletic, I was rotating a 5 to the right, 3 to the
left, shuffle, back, forwards, repeat then faster ..and faster. until to my
relief everyone collapsed. Apparently a nearby village had visited, and the
dance was a farewell for them.  We checked out the ikat weaving in the next
village - string is tied around the handspun cotton so that when dyed, only
parts of the thread are coloured, resulting in patterns when woven -
provided the length and tension is exactly right.



We paid for our car (500,000 Rs - 30 pounds), and found Intrepid thankfully
intact, but a 'cargo ship' from Sulawesi anchored 50 metres away. This cargo
ship was wooden, about 15 metres long, with a large lateen sail made of the
same material you see in brightly coloured woven plastic bags, a crew of 5
who were playing cards in the wheelhouse. We gave the captain a can of soft
drink, and he paddled me across in his dugout canoe which they use to get to
shore. The hold was cavernous, they had 3 very old diesel engines (1
broken), the kitchen was an old oil drum with wood at the back, next to the
toilet (a hole over the water - just like ships 500 years ago).  They had
brought a cargo of wood to Lembata from Sulawesi about 4 days journey away,
and had just sold it and were waiting to see what they could get for the
return trip.



Next day we had gale force winds from ahead as we went along the straights
with 5 knot currents pushing us into shore so we pointed in one direction
and Intrepid went in quite another and we tried to avoid the sandbanks, when
I caught a largish fish, so had to get it in smartish - a lovely Wahoo,
razor sharp teeth, excellent eating - sashimi for lunch.



We anchored about 2 miles west of Lamakera, on the small island of Solor,
and dinghied in to the beach - but within 5 minutes the Army Chief and his
Intelligence Sergeant found us. 'Did we have papers?' Yes, on the boat, but
we wanted to walk to the village. We arranged to meet them again at 6pm, and
continued walking. Lamakera is a traditioinal whaling village like Lamalera
but totally
un-touristed - I doubt if there had been any tourists that year, and we were
followed by a gang of 40 or so kids as we walked through the main street.
Selamat Sore (Good Evening) to all the semi-dignitaries we met. Their main
well was almost dry, but there were others, there must have been 100 boats,
their whaling boats are about 10 metres long, sturdily built with big
outriggers. Whereas the Lamalera whaling village is Christian, Lamakera is
Muslim and mainly catches Baleen whales and Manta Rays. They catch about 15
whales/year using manual harpoons - the whales' hide is so tough that the
harpoonist has to use the weight of his own body to get it to penetrate,
that's why he jumps with the harpoon. We saw manta-ray flesh drying, but so
efficient is their process that each animal is divided up and rendered down
straightaway, so there was no other evidence.



We got back to the boat well after dark to find the Army Chief and 3 others
still wanting to come aboard. We gave them copies of all 6 documents needed,
which seemed to disappoint them in a way, then they commented that a
previous boat had given them 3 bottles of wine. I said we only paid for
tours, not for bribes, and I was sure they would agree with this. And
suddenly the game changed, the Intelligence Sergeant, Denny, would be
delighted to show us round the old Portuguese fort next day, and with this
settled I dinghied them off Intrepid.



Next day we slowly cruised along the coast until we spotted the Captain
waving his gold emblazoned baseball cap, and we managed to get Intrepid
alongside an old jetty 3 kms west of the fort. Motorbikes were procured, and
we set off for the fort with Nicky riding behind the Captain, stopping on
the way to admire and buy sea salt at the village. They filter seawater
through sand held in baskets of palm fronds, then boil the liquid to extract
salt which they sell to nearby islands. We bought 1lb for 5000Rs (30 pence),
then gave a 50,000Rs donation, I was so impressed.



The Portuguese Fort was ruined - in an earthquake in 1988 which devastated
Solor - they have a big quake every 10 years, and we could see 3 smouldering
volcanoes - talk about living (and sailing) in dangerous places. But there
was a bronze cannon, and Denny expertly described the history - the
Portuguese setting up a chain of trading forts, the Dutch overcoming them,
then Portuguese back again, the earthquakes. No different from the almost
ritual warfare that preceded it between rival islands.



Back at the jetty, we drank arak (distilled palm wine) and compared prices -
1 kilo of rice is expensive here at Rs 5000 (26 pence), so they mainly eat
corn and fish. A teacher earns about Rs1 million/month (60 pounds), the Army
Captain (who was from Java) was on Rs 2 million/month.



Finally we paid our motorcyclists, and gave Denny and the Captain their
tour guide fee (Rs 250,000 - about 15 pounds) and we just managed to get
off the jetty before the 1pm ferry came in. A great and surprising tour
courtesy of the Indonesian Army. They even phoned to offer advice on where
to anchor off Larantuka, which is just south of the dangerously narrow and
fast moving Selat (Straights of) Larantuka, and sent a further 8 text
messages asking questions and offering advice etc within the next 24 hours.
.
Larantuka is a big town by the standards of this area, 3 banks, 3 'hotels',
3 'restaurants', some administrators, 20 or so shops selling plastic
buckets, a street market and a night market etc. Its on the extreme east end
of Flores Island, and sits under another lowering volcano. Like many of
these towns, it is half Muslim, half Catholic - 1 Cathedral and 1 large (and
very beautiful) church of Virgin Mary, with the stations of the cross strung
along the seafront; 1 large mosque, and 1 smaller one, with the loudest and
longest muezzin (call to prayers) we have ever heard at 5am. Ramadan starts
in September this year.



We hoped to avoid formalities, but the police rowed out to us in a dug out
canoe and came aboard. However our tactic of having colour copies of all the
5 permits needed to cruise Indonesia ready, and presenting them to the
whoever wants them works well, and they seemed happy enough. No requests for
money.



The Straights of Larantuka are only a quarter mile wide, but the tide races
through at 9 knots. The prediction of which direction it goes in is based on
the upper meridian of the moon - we estimated slack water at 1pm, but were a
little early and found we were doing 7 knots north through the water, and
only 2.5 knots over the ground ie   4.5 knots tide against us. But we crept
through the whirlpools before any standing waves were kicked up by the 15
knot wind from the south, and arrived at a promontory called Tanjung Gedong
at 5pm. There is lots of coral here, the water depth goes from 2 metres to
40 metres in the space of a few yards, and we don't anchor on coral (its bad
for the coral, and can easily trap our anchor) so the sun had set by the
time we managed a passable location 1 mile SW and weren't feeling talkative
so said Hello and Good-bye to the 2 dugouts that came out.



Next day we snorkelled on extensive coral, which however had been battered
probably by the 1992 earthquake, and the wind increased to 20 knots so we
sailed 14 miles round Tanjung Bunga into an un-named delightful bay just as
the sun was about to set (seems to be a habit) and wandered along a pristine
white sand beach, marvelling at all the bird calls as dusk fell.



Next day 4 dugouts came to say hello, the first (with a small sail) asked
for a dive mask to catch fish with. We had a spare one, and gave it to
them - so the next also asked, but that was all we had spare so the rest had
cans of diet Pepsi and pencils. The coral here had been reported to be
superlative earlier but whilst we found it pretty good, it had been invaded
by crown of thorns, which had killed quite a lot of coral. But we did see a
spectacular Lion Fish almost 2 feet long, looking more like a flower than
lion.



Wood smoke drifted round us from a small fire on the beach as the sun set,
with hardly a ripple on the water. Next day we caught the sea breeze at 11am
to sail 30 miles SW through the deep channel between Babi island and the
mainland to Sea World, a diving operation run by a Catholic mission, 10 kms
E of the town of Maumere. One of the 4 yachts there yelled to us as we
anchored - we hadn't seen Tony on Devotion since Fiji and Suvarov when we
helped him build a beach hut to pay for his National Park fees. He had
acquired a new girl friend and new engine, so was looking pleased with
himself, even if a big fish had taken rod, line and lure the day before.



Over drinks we learned of his TV exposure - he had arrived solo off Sydney
Harbour at night and waited for daylight to enter - but fell asleep to find
that Devotion had drifted onto the beach with TV crews filming, Helicopters
overhead etc and Aubrey his girlfriend first saw it on Channel 9 News as she
flew in from USA. A Police launch towed him off at high tide, but the shock
was too much for his engine. He bought a Nissan diesel truck engine and
marinising kit and fitted it. (The other yacht anchored at Sea World also
had a complete engine rebuild in Aus). We gave Tony 6 or 7 lures and line -
he is heading for Singapore to find work but doesn't seem in a hurry, and
Aubrey seems to prefer life sailing - in USA she sells bio-tech drugs.



Anchoring is difficult all along this coast, typically the sea is 40 metres
deep about 60 metres from shore, when it steeply comes up to 4 metres, then
surf. So anchor 40 metres offshore and its 25 metres deep, which requires 75
metres of chain to give the 3:1 ration necessary for the anchor to
hold ..which in the 15 knot onshore seabreezes would put Intrepid on the
beach.  We usually manage to sort something out, and the winds are usually
less than 20 knots, but its always a challenge.



The Friday market at Gillitung is only 3 kms west, so we walked in to find
100's of tiny women selling fruit and mainly machine made ikat weaving,
while 100's of wiry men sat around with fighting cocks drinking arak.Avian
flu continues to be of concern here - the way the men stroke their fighting
cocks makes chicken/man transmission very likely. The sacking awnings above
the stalls assume a height of 5 feet so I walk perpetually stooped, looking
at my feet - which is usually wise anyway to avoid the holes and worse. We
tried our best with Maeve to arrange a Pelni ferry for her to Macassar in
Sulewesi where her father was imprisoned by the Japanese , but the ferries
work on a fortnightly timetable, and we were the wrong week, so she will
have to fly.



Janet flew in from London, and as a 1st day treat we arranged an expedition
starting at 4am to Kelimutu.crater lakes, which are 3 different colours.
Its only 100 kms away on the main road - so 1.5 hours? Wrong, the main road
must be the steepest, bendiest, most motion sickness inducing road we have
ever encountered, it took 3.5 hours going flat out to get there, and we had
been warned to be early as clouds come in at 8am. But we were fortunate, the
sky was clear and the bright sunlight emphasized the incredible dark
chocolate colour of the first, the luminous solid green of the second, only
50 yards away, and the light hazel colour of the 3rd. These are full size
crater lakes, each 300 metres or so across - its thought that the different
colours are caused by different minerals in the water - the animist local
people believe that the souls of young people go to the green lake, old
people go to the hazel lake, and thieves and murderers go to the dark
chocolate lake. We went to all 3 but made sure we did not leave our souls
there.



Nandas our 'emergency guide' when Jos had not appeared did not speak much
English, but Emile the driver took us to the village of Jopu where ritual
sacrifices are still a way of life. Maria, the daughter of the chief showed
us round - her husband was killed in a logging accident in Kalimantan, and a
number of similar widows have ikat weaving for sale. There are 12 clans in
the village, each with their own chief, her father is chief of them all. The
title goes to the eldest son, but there are tests - when only 10 days old,
the first born is left alone on a high platform. I thought that if he cried
this would prove he was not fit to be a chief - but no, the louder and more
prolonged his yelling the more fit he is deemed to be a chief.



The central structure in which the chief lives is more than 500 years old,
15 metres high 15 metres square, wood on stone, with 2 internal platforms,
and stone platforms and walls round, just like a Marae in the Pacific
islands - but they are deserted, whilst this is a living village. The hard
wood is smoke blackened and carved, the thatch and bamboo are renewed every
10 years. There are 2 main festivals, in October at the start of the rainy
season, and in April at the start of the dry season. Maria described the
rituals and graceful Gawai dancing - we last heard of Gawai was in Borneo,
where it is the name for the main Iban festival - and we watched the ladies
spinning cotton, dying threads with natural colours, and weaving ikat. Each
sarong takes about 2 months - of course we bought more, (270,000Rs - 18
pounds each) limited only by the capacity of Intrepid.

The staple food in Java is rice, so anywhere rice can be cultivated in
Flores, it is - and the area round Kelimotu is ideal and full of green rice
terraces that would not be out of place in China. There are 2 methods of
rice production, wet provides a much higher annual yield with more
crops/year, and we passed a happy gang of 18 women and 1 man planting young
rice plants, knee deep in mud and water, while across the road 2 water
buffalo ploughed even deeper in the mud. We were entranced and took photos -
Nandas couldnt see why, and asked if this was so interesting, how did the
people of London plant their rice? (Anyone living in London reply please).



Unfortunately Janet's money pouch was probably unzipped and her day money
stolen while we were admiring the lakes which was a shame, particularly as
it was difficult to pinpoint who was responsible. But it was the tour Janet
particularly wanted, some things you have to write off if you are not to get
paranoid, so we sipped more papaya juice at Sea World, took our Malarone
(Malartia is endemic here) and as I write the
BGM is up and we are sailing at 5.5 knots in 7 knots of wind along the north
coast of Flores, still 140 miles to go to Island of Komodo and the dragons.



The northern holiday season is almost over, the 4 crew of Intrepid send best
wishes from a remote part of Indonesia.



Maeve, Janet, Nicky and Andy.



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