I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Taka Bone Rate

We made it. We're here. Paradise found. (Again.)

Here sharky sharky sharky...

If you were unaware, paradise is typically manifested in the form of a nice calm anchorage with azure, clear waters, protected by a low-lying coconut palm tree covered isle. A coral reef lines the island and makes for excellent diving and snorkeling and tunas jump onto the boat and filet themselves on a bed of rice just in time for appetizers with sundowners.

Aside from the 5-star resort serving cold Bintangs and cheeseburgers (and the tunas) this place is damn close to paradise. And of course a 5-star resort would bring tourists and infrastructure which would take away from the pristine isolation that is Taka Bone Rate.

Taka Bone Rate is "the 3rd largest atoll in the world", but is not quite an atoll in my book. Instead, it is a series of reefs and islands (that are not connected), some inhabited and some not. It is a marine park and the government has gone great lengths to keep at least a part of Indonesia pristine. Only the people who live here are allowed to fish, a fact I lamented when I saw a massive, beautiful tuna on my dive today.

Today I went on two dives with the local divemasters who live at the research station. We took a bok-bok out to an uninhabited island and dived on the outer reef, which was some of the best coral - if not THEE best - I have ever seen. We dived along a wall and there were large areas blanketed with hundreds of different corals, soft coral, hard coral, sponges, eels, little fish, big fish, a few sharks and heaps of other cool stuff. Really pristine, really cool. I was all the more stoked when I learned that the day of diving cost was not 900,000 rupiah but 90,000 rupiah which equals about $9. That is hard to beat.

Shark (pup) whisperer

I have a feeling that, much like a few of the other paradise-like places we have been on this trip, the tropical time warp will occur and the days will slip by while I desperately try to stop time. You might think there is not much to do here, but between diving, snorkeling, beach-combing, reading, jamming on the ukulele and sundowners on the beach at 5, time flies.

The only thing I feel slightly guilty about is that we blew off the last stop of the Sail Indonesia rally to come here. There are people in a remote village somewhere who were ready to greet us with a cultural dance and a traditional feast, but the general consensus was that none of us could stomach the thought. Alas, with every dive - let alone every moment of relaxation and bliss - those pangs melt away.

I can already feel myself gone troppo.
At 8/29/2013 1:08 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 06°34.32'S 121°05.60'E

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hallo Mister!

Everywhere I go, walking down the street, driving down the road, people yell out "hallo mister!' regardless of the fact that I am not a mister. A few of those better at English say "hallo miss!" but that is rare. I don't take offense.

I know you are sick of hearing how ridiculous the Sail Indonesia rally is, so if you can't stand hearing of lavish parties and more over-the-top events, stop reading now. Really, I don't mind. I just feel the need to recount the events of yesterday. It was a nutty day. I mean, the whole Buton experience was crazy, but yesterday was the icing on the cake.

We were picked up in cars at 8:30 AM and taken for an hours drive until we arrived in Bau Bau, a biggish 'city' on the island of Buton. I was in a car with Kyle and our three guides (Tati, Tika and Salam) and the whole way we rocked out to Nirvana, Green Day, Michael Jackson and introduced them to some underground hip-hop - Atmosphere and Ugly Duckling.

We arrived in Bau Bau and were taken to a hotel (kind of thing) at the top of a fortress. Apparently this fortress, built by the Dutch in 17-whatever, is one of the largest in the world. We were greeted by guides who showed us an old flag pole and then were ushered into the courtyard where we all shook hands with and took pictures with the mayor of Bau Bau. After that there were the obligatory welcome speeches, cultural dances and then a traditional feast.

A note on traditional Indonesian fare - it kind of sucks. No offense to the lovely Indonesian ladies that toiled all night to prepare food for us, but the diet is a little too similar to that of the South Pacific. It consists mainly of starchy roots like cassava and yam, leafy greens cooked in coconut milk, rice, noodles, deep fried plantain and lots and lots of fish. Occasionally you might score a curried chicken soup or something, but on the whole I am not that impressed.

But I digress. There was a feast. After that we were permitted some "free time" to walk around the fortress but Kyle and I were hot, tired and a wee bit over it, so we talked our guides into sneaking off into town to chill out. They had a long serious conversation with an official before we were allowed to leave, but promised to be back an hour later. On the plus side we were supplied with a car and driver to take us wherever we wanted.

We opted to go to a cafe for a cold drink and air conditioning and returned an hour later much more refreshed. Then we were herded back into cars to go to a silversmith handicraft market, but our driver got lost and we ended up stopping ten different places before opting to go to the hotel that was the next meeting point.

At the hotel we were given rooms so we could "rest". We weren't even staying over night - the schedule had changed - but they still hooked it up with full on hotel rooms so we could have some down time. Aside from the mosquitos infesting the bathroom and the suspicious stains on the carpet the room was very nice, but Kyle and I opted to drink beer by the pool instead of napping.

After an hour or so, my guide Salam - who is a local of Bau Bau - offered to give me a special tour around town on his motorcycle. So, for the second time in my life, I jumped on a motorcycle (no helmet) and took off racing around town. He took me to a cave with an underground pool, a waterfall, rice fields outside of town, a Balinese temple and to his family's house. His mom was so flustered when I came into the house she almost cried, apologizing for "how small the house is" and "how dirty it is." This of course made me feel awkward but I smiled and laughed, ate the food they gave me and took pictures with the family. She wanted to feed me dinner but there was a "Welcome/Going Away" gala feast that Salam and I had to attend, so I politely declined.

After leaving we headed for the feast where, once again, tables with white linens had been set up, along with a dance floor, a band and heaps of food. We had to wait a few hours before the mayor arrived to eat, but in the meantime were entertained by more traditional dances. I am pretty sure I could do every dance by now - I have seen so much of it.

Dinner was pretty good - a little more variety than the standard traditional - and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and stuffed themselves as per usual. After dinner there were more speeches, more shaking hands with the mayor, a bit of obligatory dancing and then - as if the gods demanded it - we were ushered back into cars and left Bau Bau. Usually the events seem to go on all night, but by 10 PM we were out of there! I should have been more suspicious.

When we arrived back at Pasar Wajo there were tents set up. And lights. And a dance floor. And a buffet. And a band. And hundreds of people applauding our arrival. Shit.

As we left today, the wonderful people of Pasar Wajo deemed necessary to throw us a (second) farewell dinner, never mind that we had JUST come from one. As we all stumbled out of the cars, tired, full and ready to go home, cameras flashed in our faces. I stifled a yawn and a groan. Others did not.

"Yes, please, welcome, please come this way. Please go sit down at a table." We were ushered to tables under the lights in the tents, in front of a crowd of 100 locals who had eagerly been awaiting our arrival. I couldn't help but laugh at how haggard all of us yachties looked, in spite of our hotel rooms and being well fed and carted around in air conditioned cars. It was just too much.

After yet more speeches, the singing began and we were invited to eat. Again. "Just go put some food on a plate," whispered one of the officials. We all took small plates of rice or fruit and smiled at all the people watching us eat. Finally, the locals were given the go ahead and allowed to eat - after us. After our third feast of the day, they were allowed to eat. To me that is wrong. But I am a VIP and I guess I just need to get used to it. (Ha)

Then, in what was probably the most astounding act of the evening, the officials brought out cases of Bintang beer and flasks of whiskey and vodka. I was stunned. They are Muslims and drinking alcohol is a sin, not to mention illegal. At past events there might be a few beers for sale, but last night they brought out all the stops and let the booze flow. They might as well have fried us up some bacon.

Although I felt a bit strange drinking vodka in front of an audience of observant Muslims, it didn't stop me. In fact it helped me loosen up when it was the "line the white people up and laugh at them while they try to dance" time. Kyle and I definitely tore it up on the d.floor for a few songs before nabbing a ride back to the blissful peace of the boat somewhere around midnight. We were absolutely exhausted.

This morning we said yet another teary goodbye with our beloved guides who have become close friends. I will never forget how they saved me from mobs of people trying to take pictures with me, or how they informed me I was eating cow heart after the fact, or how they waited for us every morning at the dock to escort us for the day. What awesome people. I know we will be friends forever.

As you dry your tears I am sure you are wondering how the people of Buton could afford to host a week long party like this. I do not know for sure, but rumor has it there is a millionaire on the island who footed the bill for the whole thing. He is trying to promote tourism on the island of Buton and apparently, spending $2,000,000 (US) on a party for the Sail Indonesia rally participants is an excellent way to go about it. Bravo, I say.

And so, if you ever find yourself in southeast Sulawesi, stop at the island of Buton. You will be treated royally. You might not get a $2 million party, but I'm sure it will be worth your while.
At 8/24/2013 11:04 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°40.82'S 122°27.51'E

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Over the Top

Did you know that I am a movie star? Because as far as people in Buton are concerned, we - me and the other 30 or so white people on Sail Indonesia - are. I had always wondered what it would be like to be adored - people clambering over one another just to touch my hand, take a picture of me or better yet, take a picture with me, crying tears of joy just because of my presence (not joking). Of course I have done nothing to impress these people other than have white skin and come from a land far away, but apparently, it is enough. And not only is the local reaction the to us what makes me feel like absolute royalty, but the way we are treated by Sail Indonesia. I know I have already gone on about this in previous posts but seriously, this shit is over the top.

We arrived in Buton, an island off the east coast of Sulawesi (not to be confused with Bhutan), a few days ago. Upon arrival we were greeted with a massive welcome ceremony that I opted out of because at that point I couldn't stomach another traditional feast and more pictures. Ironically, the welcome ceremony wasn't any of that, but the events that followed have been full of speeches by important people - the governor, the minister of tourism - massive traditional feasts, customary dances, hundreds of pictures with random people and overwhelming hospitality. And it has all been for us, the yachties of Sail Indonesia 2013.

Yesterday we came into shore yesterday morning and were whisked into tents to be dressed in traditional garb. I was wrapped in a yellow sarong and tunic which made me feel like a princess, except that it was ridiculously hot. We sat politely through multiple speeches (mostly in Indonesian) by high-up government officials before being invited to the Dole-Dole ceremony. This ceremony, in which one thousand women of marriageable age literally feed people food who then give them a small gift in return, was one of the strangest things I have ever done.

You must understand that the scene was hectic: one thousand girls with huge trays of food lined up on the floor under tents, thousands more people watching, thronging us trying to take pictures or touch us, and being led by our personal guides to a random platter to be fed by a girl while her family watched on. Bizzare.

I sat down at a platter. A shy girl covered in makeup introduced herself, unwrapped some food from a banana leaf and held it to my mouth. I managed not to drool or spit anything out as I took a bite. Rice. Ok, rice is good, I can eat rice. Hmmmm... what else doesn't look too weird. Keep in mind that I was just recovering from a sick stomach and not feeling very adventurous. I ate a few more things, all spoon fed to me by the girl, and smiled and made yummy noises after each one. She was obviously nervous and I was nervous, but more because there were ten cameras trained on me and I was afraid of getting a mouthful of something I did not want.

Finally, the meal seemed to come to a close and I paid the girl 5,000 rupiah (about .50) before wishing her luck and leaving. I was then swarmed by people for the next 20 minutes who wanted their picture taken with me. I resolved to standing still with a smile plastered on my face while people draped themselves on either side of me. Finally I had enough and my guides shooed people away so I could get back to the dinghy. I now have sympathy for famous people who get mobbed by paparazzi and hysterical fans. Because that is what it was like.

Aside from Dad getting a serious case of food poisoning, I would say the Dole-Dole was a success. But of course that was not enough for one day, so Sail Indonesia planned a gala dinner for us that night. We all went back to our boats and recuperated for a few hours before returning for dinner. By this time the dusty field where the previous events had taken place was transformed into a classy restaurant with white table cloths, buffet tables and white christmas lights for atmosphere. I was blown away.

The food was amazing. Even the roasted cow heart wasn't too bad, but I kept picturing Daenerys from Game of Thrones macking on that huge, raw horse heart and it made my stomach churn. The curry shrimp, the nasi goreng, the soups and salads and never-ending dessert tray totally impressed me. After dinner there was an "awards ceremony" where each of us was given a framed certificate from the government of Buton. But why? All we did was show up. We haven't even spent a dollar in the village. I guess it gives a whole new meaning to "99% of success is showing up."

Tired yet? I am. But the fun doesn't stop there. Today we were the guests of honor at the Takawa Colossal Dance Show, a dance that involved 12,500 dancers. And I promise you, there were at least 12,500 dancers. First we were whisked away in air conditioned cars to the dance, with escorts and flashing lights and signs on each car that said "Sail Indonesia VIP". When we arrived (after passing thousands of people hiking up a dirt road in the hot sun) we were given special seats on a balcony overlooking the whole dance area in the shade. With water bottles for everybody. And a plate of food.

The dance was nuts. Can you imagine 12,500 dancers? It is hard to, but think Soviet Russia parades or North Korean shows... this was kind of like that. Totally overwhelming. At one point the dancers held up a "Sail Indonesia Buton 2013" sign and then proceeded form the shape of a boat. I am not saying the dance was specifically for us, but we definitely influenced it.

After the grand finale we were all invited to go down and dance with the dancers. I didn't want to but went out of obligation, and as soon as I got down to the dancers I was mobbed by people trying to take pictures with me. Mobbed as in people pushing each other out of the way, pulling me in multiple directions, grabbing my hands and hugging my legs. I don't know what the infatuation with white people is, but people were crying to get their picture taken with us.

My guides pulled me back to safety and the balcony was cordoned off from people trying in to take pictures. It was out of control, chaos, wild, an experience of a lifetime... but I am glad it is over. We were whisked back into cars and brought back to the dinghies this afternoon, only to learn that tomorrow we are going to a village a few hours away and are going to be staying overnight in hotels there. I think we have been effectively kidnapped by Sail Indonesia. To say the least it is over the top.
At 8/22/2013 7:30 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°30.71'S 122°50.79'E

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Wangi Wangi Wakatobi

The "harrowing" pass at Wangi Wangi -- not so bad in daylight

I have come to the conclusion that Asia is exhausting. It is amazing, awesome, a whirlwind of color and smells and heat and textures and tastes, and impossible to absorb more than a tiny fraction of at any given time. In the past few days I have been overwhelmed by cultural events - dancing, feasts, snorkeling, more feasts, more dancing, markets, people, more people - all of which have been... over the top.

We arrived in Wangi Wangi on Monday night. We were led through the extremely narrow and poorly marked pass by Gino, the head guy for Sail Indonesia Wakatobi. It was rather nerve wracking to shine a flashlight over the side of the boat and see shallow reef hugging either side, but miraculously we made it to anchor without hitting anything. I whipped up fish burritos from a little wahoo we caught along the way before passing out into blissful post-passage sleep.

Our Sail Indonesia Wakatobi rally began the following morning when we were herded off our boats by Gino, who insisted we be on shore by 9:00 AM. For most people, having to be somewhere at a certain time and place in the morning is not an issue, but for yachties - who have been doing whatever they want, going wherever they want, whenever they want - this can be difficult. Alas, we made it in on time for our first "Cultural Event".

We were greeted by a group of locals, mostly young teenagers, who were working as Sail Indonesia tour guides to show us around and practice their English. Each yachtie got their own personal guide for the whole time we were in Wangi Wangi, and Kyle and I were lucky enough to become friends with Dian and Cayu. These girls led us around all day every day, making sure we didn't get hit by motorcycles, making sure we weren't ripped off at the market, taking us to their school and to the water cave.

Cayu and the sea urchins

The only problem was that the morning after we arrived in Wangi Wangi my stomach had a bad rumble to it, the kind that said, "please, please don't mess with me." Unfortunately it is considered very rude to refuse food from somebody, especially when you have a whole village watching in anticipation, with cameras trained on your face, waiting to see how you react to eating roe from a freshly cracked open (live) sea urchin. All you can do is scoop the goo out with your fingers which have shaken the hands of say, 50 random people, pop said goo in the mouth and swallow as quickly as possible. If you are lucky you will only taste salt with a hint of low tide. Smile, laugh, and hope somebody has a TicTac.

It would be overwhelming and, I am afraid, downright boring for you if I described every dance we saw, every village we went to, every trip to the market... so I will try to keep it to the highlights. I do want to convey, however, that Sail Indonesia treated us like absolute royalty. Sure, I whinge that they were over the top, tried to fit too much in and did not give us any free time, but really, they just wanted to show us everything Wangi Wangi had to offer.

Our first night we had a Welcome Dinner at the Patuno Resort, a five star resort on the other side of the island. We were greeted by the mayor and an Indonesian movie star, entertained by beautiful dancers and fed a lavish feast. All free - all included with Sail Indonesia. As far as I could tell we were mingling with the upper echelons of Wakatobi society and while it was very nice, all of us were ready to get back to our boats after a huge day of cultural events. We are just not used to all the excitement.

That is another thing - just as in Saumlaki, everybody here wants their picture taken with us. We are treated like rockstars. I can finally appreciate why famous people snap when one too many people ask for a photo, because after a few hundred photos, Kyle and I were finding it hard to keep a smile on our faces. Fortunately, neither of us snapped.

Highlights. Other highlights. What comes to mind is dinner with Mom and Dad's tour guide, Ade. She invited the four of us to dinner at her house with her husband and baby boy. They picked us up on their motor bikes, but there was not room for all of us in one trip, until my guide, Cayu, offered to take me on her bike. At first I thought she was joking, she - being a small 13 year old girl, couldn't possibly drive a motor bike, could she?? But she was not joking and soon we set off into the night down the bumpy, sometimes paved sometimes dirt roads to Ade's house. This was my first time ever on any sort of motorized bike. Cayu couldn't believe it.

Dian and Cayu accompanied us to dinner at Ade's and it was a very special evening. We sat around playing with the baby, who at first was absolutely terrified of the white people - crying anytime one of us got near - but overcame his fears as we took pictures and made funny faces at him. Ade prepared a traditional dinner with smoked fish, rice and vegetables, which we ate with our fingers sitting on a rug on the floor. It was so meaningful, to be invited into somebody's house and fed their precious food, and we were all blown away by the experience.

Cayu, Sesi and Dian on Rutea

Another highlight was bringing Cayu, Dian and their friend Sesi out to the boat. Kyle and I had opted out of the cultural event for the morning so naturally the girls waited at the harbor for us until we decided to come into shore. After going to the market and meeting Dian's mom, we decided to bring the girls out to visit Rutea. They all squealed with excitement when we told them about the field trip and jumped for joy in the dinghy.

On Rutea we served them Coca Cola (traditional drink of America), cheese - which they thought was disgusting, and hummus - which they said they liked although I couldn't tell if they were being polite or not. We took pictures and showed them photo albums of life back home, a little tour of the boat and then it was time to go back in for another cultural tour.

I know this is getting extremely long but I have to tell you about the last cultural tour. It was insane. First, we all piled into bok-boks, long wooden boats with very few windows and very unstable feeling, to get over to Kapota island. Once we arrived (the whole way over I was planning my escape route through a tiny window if we capsized) we were ushered through the village - people taking our photos and filming us the whole way - until we came to a massive procession. Young boys and girls, between the ages of maybe 3 and 12, were dressed in gowns, head dresses, makeup, and very fancy costumes, being paraded around in carriages carried by the village men, to demonstrate that they would be available for marriage (some day).

It was probably one of the creepiest things I have ever seen. And amazingly these kids did not cry, even when they had to sit with their huge head dresses on in front of massive baskets of food and were not allowed to eat anything, even when we were invited/forced to eat right in front of them. Of course, we - being the guests of honor - were made to eat all sorts of food at many different places in the village. The locals got great pleasure out of feeding the white people, I guess it is a sign of status or means.

I managed to swallow a few bites of food at every place we went, but for the past three days my stomach has had a horrible watery, cramping feeling that makes me hesitant to go anywhere there is not a bathroom readily available, but that is not exactly an option so I keep the Immoduim flowing freely.

We are now underway to Hoga island, feeling the need for a bit of zero structure and freedom to dive and snorkel all day if we so desire. We had a very tearful goodbye with Dian and Cayu last night, who were absolutely devastated we are leaving, but I don't think they are used to people coming and going like we do. We also declined an invitation to the mayor's house for dinner to celebrate Indonesian Independence Day today, which did not please him, but at some point we have to say enough is enough. The guide books were not lying when they said Indonesians are known for their over the top hospitality.

And so, the epic of Wangi Wangi is over. For now. We are still in the island group of Wakatobi and I hope to have a few more tranquil, idyllic island paradise stories for you yet.
At 8/16/2013 5:05 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°19.78'S 123°32.02'E

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Day 2

The sun just set in rather spectacular fashion on day two of the passage through the Banda Sea en route to Wakatobi. The wind has held steady at around 15 knots for the past 36 hours and the seas have kindly stayed below a meter. It has been so pleasant that Kyle has not even spewed once! In fact, he is even eating and, dare I say, enjoying himself this passage.

We have about 150 miles to get to our waypoint at Wangi Wangi island, which we hope to reach before sundown tomorrow. While this is an easy passage, none of us want to stay out here any longer than necessary. And so, all is swell on board.

Next time from Wakatobi.
At 8/11/2013 12:16 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 04°49.51'S 127°03.20'E

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Friday, August 9, 2013

The Spice Islands

Picture the Spice Islands. Does it conjure up images of green mountains shooting up straight out of the deep blue, lush foliage clinging to the hillside, small huts lining the beach and a glassy calm anchorage beneath a volcano? Well, it should.

Banda, perhaps better known as the Spice Islands, are a small group of islands in the middle of the Banda sea, in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago. Things started to go poorly for the Bandanese when Europeans arrived in the early 1500's, first the Portuguese and then the Dutch. These islands are one of the few places in the world where nutmeg grows and were highly prized colonies.

It is easy to imagine Banda as a sixteenth century colonial town, and the remnants can still be seen today in the Dutch fortress which is still standing, in the sprawling governor's mansion and a few European looking hotels. The locals do not seem to hold it against the westerners who visit that their culture was all but destroyed by the Dutch who massacred the Bandanese in 1621 when they refused to give the Dutch a monopoly on the spice trade. The English had dug in on nearby islands and were profiting so richly from the nutmeg trade that the Dutch finally traded the English the tiny, obscure island of Run for the island of New Amsterdam, today known as Manhattan. The Dutch gained a monopoly on the spice trade and we got what is now possibly the most expensive real estate in the world. Funny how little quirks in history can change the face of the world. And it all happened right here -- out in the middle of nowhere -- in the Spice Islands.

The history of Banda is fascinating. But in all honesty I have been too busy touring small villages, diving, hiking up a massive volcano and enjoying ridiculously cheap Bintangs to brush up on my Dutch history, let alone visit the fortress. We arrived here after a quick two day passage that was without incident save the fact that Kyle was incredibly sick the whole time... poor guy is a trooper! But he cheered right up as we med-moored in the deep, flat calm harbor that is created by three "Banda" islands, one of which is a 666 meter volcano. Yes, we are anchored right under a volcano (awesome).

After checking in and getting the lines secured, we were whisked away on our first tour by Andy, who took us on his "Bok-Bok" boat (traditional Indonesian motor boat) to a village on the island of Banda Besar. We toured a nutmeg plantation, which is also filled with almond trees because they provide shade for the nutmeg trees to grow, and invited into a home-stay hotel for tea and cookies. Although it was Ramadan and the locals did not partake, they served us cinnamon tea and nutmeg coffee with almond cookies.

Banda has a majority Muslim population and it has been interesting being here during and through the end of Ramadan. Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for a month, not even drinking water during the day. They made me feel like a glutton. Regardless, everybody has been very kind in accommodating us -- feeding us while they fast and serving us beer even though they scorn drinking. I felt a bit awkward the first day this happened but quickly got over it, as there is nothing better than a cold Bintang after a day of diving. Fortunately Ramadan was declared over last night, and all night the call to prayer blasted over the loud speakers, fireworks were shot off and the whole city partied. Now I don't have to feel so guilty about eating lunch.

DIVING. Yes, the diving here is amazing. Yesterday I went on two dives with a local dive company and was thoroughly impressed. On our first dive my guide showed me an electric clam, a baby scorpion fish (which looked like a small rock until he poked it and it moved), massive sponges 2 x 2 meters, fans 3 meters long and all sorts of other cool stuff. I was just stoked to be back in the water but the amazing coral on top of it was a plus.

On our second dive I got up close and personal with a full grown scorpion fish. Scorpion fish look like the rocks of their surroundings, that is to say they are very well camouflaged. Since the rocks in this area are covered with pink and purple sponges, this guy was pink and purple, grey and brown. I could see the vicious spines on his back that can kill a human (if stepped on), although I do not think I would have spotted him had he not been pointed out to me. Soon after that we came across a lion fish hanging out with a cuddle fish, which looks kind of like a cross between a octopus and a squid. Cool.

By the end of the dive I had a huge smile plastered on my face -- so unbelievably stoked. I was ready to go again today, but a few of us made plans to hike the volcano in the morning, and I opted for the hike, although I questioned my decision as we clambered up 666 meters of steep, straight up, roughly hewn path through the jungle. After two hours of hiking we finally made it to the top, only slightly worse for wear (ha).

Being at the top of a volcano is eerie, especially one that is not dormant. Although it was windy and cool, the ground was hot with geo-thermal activity and I swear I could feel the ground rumbling (could have been my stomach though). The views from the top were stunning. I could see the anchorage way down below us, the surrounding mountain tops shrouded in clouds and the outlines of the reefs underneath the deep blue.

After a bite of chocolate and an orange, Kyle and I made our descent, with me sliding on my bum most of the way down. This trail had no switchbacks -- it was straight climbing up (and sliding down) lava flows. Just a bit gnarly. We made it back to the boat and after lunch and a quick rest we went for a nice little snorkel at the base of a lava flow in the outer bay and hung out with the fishies and the corals and, as you might be able to tell, are having a hell of a time.
At 8/8/2013 11:43 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 04°31.43'S 129°53.83'E

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grub Indonesia

I ate a grub. Yes, they served grubs at the "Sail Indonesia Rally Gala Dinner", which was probably the biggest event of the year in Saumlaki. To be fair, grubs were not a main course of the dinner, but I am proud of the fact that I ate ONE.

Acutally, the gala dinner was very cool. Before the dinner and ceremony there was the traditional food competition. At 6 PM all of us yachties were brought up to the government hall of Saumlaki for our going away dinner, our last hurrah in Saumlaki before we leave the island of Yandena for Banda and beyond. It was a big deal and our coordinators, Grace and Desi, told us to dress fancy and be on time (two rare traits for yachties).

As I walked into the government hall I observed maybe 20 tables lining the perimeter of the room. On each table was a meal from a different region of Indonesia, all elegantly prepared and obviously toiled over for many hours. As we walked by the tables I asked questions and took pictures of the food, and usually a picture with the people who made the food as well. All of the women were proud of their work tried to explain to me in great detail how each dish was prepared, but I understood maybe 5% of what was said. If they said "cassava" I said, "Oh I love cassava!" If they said "ikan" (fish) I said "Ikan bagus!" (fish good!) while they laughed at me.

At one point Jake from Hoku'lea came up to me and said, "Did you see the grubs?!" He promptly took me over to a table where, sure enough, roasted grubs were being photographed by fascinated yachties. For the next 30 minutes before we were allowed to eat, the general topic of conversation was, "Are you going to eat a grub??" After the judges had tried all the food we were allowed to dig in. I ate some delicious coconut curry, some amazing cassava pizza, bland taro leaves, weird potato slime and lots and lots of rice. Ultimately I got to the grub table. Without really thinking, I grabbed a grub and popped it in my mouth. I only wanted half a grub -- I intended to share it with Kyle -- but it was so tough and chewy that I couldn't bite it in half. And so I ate the whole thing.

The grub was surprisingly empty inside. It must have been well cooked. While the texture was rather unpleasant and no matter how much I chewed would not dissolve in my mouth, the taste was that of chicken bones or roasted nuts.. some sort of protein source. I can safely say that I would rather eat roasted grubs than starve. However, I was not starving needed some serious food to get the taste and grubby bits out of my mouth, so I carried on around the tables trying more things, some good and some average. Just as the judging ended, Desi, who has become my very good friend, came up and grabbed my hand. "Corie!" she whispered excitedly, "the judges say this soup is very good. You must come try it." I was feeling very adventurous (borderline invincible) and did not want to disappoint my friend -- or anybody for that matter.

I asked the women at the table what the soup was and they rattled off some name that I could not understand at all. It looked benign enough so I took a spoonful from a bowl. I think I ate some sort of seed pod because it felt like bark in my mouth and was very spicy and a little too flavorful. Desi was looking at me with smiling eyes and I smiled back. "Mmmmmmmm, it is very nice," I told the ladies who had prepared it. "Bagus." They laughed with pleasure as I drank the rest of the broth, trying to get the burning sensation out of my mouth. I didn't quite finish all the soup and I am glad I didn't because when I looked in the bottom of the bowl I saw a massive grub. Not like the roasted, crispy one of before, but a fat, juicy, black and white one that you might feed a big lizard. My stomach churned. The ladies and Desi were still watching me. I am not sure if they noticed me start to sweat but I smiled sweetly, handed the bowl back and did not meet their eyes to see if they disapproved of the untouched grub in the bottom of the bowl.

As I walked away I had to work to keep my food down, but some how managed to do so as we sat through an hour of speeches and dancing and of officials smoking cigarettes (inside). Just like at any other multi-cultural event in a foreign country, the night concluded with lining all the white people up and making them dance to goofy songs. I put my foot down at this, said my goodbyes and got out of there.

Tomorrow we leave Saumlaki and head for Banda Island, or at least in that direction. Saumlaki has been an awesome experience. I've never felt like such a rockstar in my life. The tourist office here has done an amazing job working with Sail Indonesia to make sure we had a warm welcome and plenty of activities to do. In fact, it is my opinion that they kind of over-did the activities, as we have hardly had any time to do our own thing. I have not even gotten in the water yet! When I tried to organize a boat to take us out to the good snorkeling islands, Grace and Desi denied me, telling me I would miss the canoe races or the dance competition or something or other. Whereas I had expected to be swimming or diving all day every day in Indo, I did not expect a very well organized week of activities visiting villages, monuments, feasts and other culturally fulfilling experiences. People here are incredibly nice and work very hard to keep tourists happy, although in ways that are never quite expected. Fortunately, one of our favorite mottos here on Rutea is "expect it to be different" because it always is.
At 7/30/2013 10:16 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°58.52'S 131°17.30'E

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