Monday, 29 August 2011

Larantuka - Riung

18 -26 August 2011

We finally caught a fish in Indonesia - a nice Turrum
Picking a departure time for the trip from Larantuka to Riung was a matter of balancing the time needed to reach our next anchorage and working around the strong tidal currents that exist in the narrows of the Flores Straight. One boat we heard from the day before got it wrong and, despite making 6 knots through the water, actually travelled half a mile backwards in an hour. Fortunately Nae Hassle has a powerful 160 horse engine so we were able to leave a little before the end of the opposing tide and still make reasonable progress giving us a good head start towards our planned anchorage at a small island off the north coast of Flores. We crew members had also taken note of which section of the narrows the local boats used against the tide when we had a nice lunch up there a few days before. By skirting the reef on the port side and staying out of the centre of the channel we avoided the worst of the currents. There were some very strong whirlpools and overfalls happening however so we were certainly on our toes until we reached open waters and headed west. Skirting the reef also proved productive and we broke our Indonesian fishing drought with a very nice Turrum landed in the narrows which was very tasty baked whole for dinner that night.

Small traditional village we anchored by one night
The sail was largely uneventful with light winds seeing the motor used yet again for long periods but we did get a good late afternoon seas breeze and nice sail into the island. This stop was about 15 nautical miles further than most the boats planned to go but our earlier start and good speed saw us dropping anchor in the good light needed to avoid coral reefs about 4.30pm. The anchorage was in a lovely protected bay just off a small and very traditional Muslim fishing village. Extremely picturesque and we had it all to ourselves. Very nice.

Next morning we were up early and headed for Maumere and the Sail Indonesia Rally’s planned stop at a small resort run by the Catholic Church about 14 kilometres outside the city. Maumere is the capital of Flores and provided the advantage of a good supermarket to reprovision the boats. This is also the easiest spot for cruisers to arrange a tour up to the famous Kelimutu volcano and it’s three craters all filled with different coloured water. Many, including Marc, took the three and a half hour drive  plus three kilometre walk up the mountain and despite then enduring the three and half hours back, all counted it as worth every minute. As we had been up and seen this amazing natural feature in 2010 when we sailed this area on the Indonesian boat Ombak Putih we elected to have a relaxing day on the beach instead. We stayed a couple of days at Maumere and it was good to catch up with a lot of people who had skipped the Larantuka stop.

Anchorage at Maumere
We headed to Riung next for more official receptions, tours and local sightseeing. On the way we  stopped for the night in a wide bay reputed to be a good anchorage. The bottom was uninspiring mud with no coral anywhere close so the snorkelling gear stayed stowed although we did enjoy an afternoon swim followed by a nice dinner of tuna and bottle of wine to celebrate Milan’s birthday. The bay proved not so good after all and we rolled all night with no one getting much sleep. At least it was easy to be up and away at first light because we all wanted to get the hell out of there. A pleasant surprise though was finding Ombak Putih anchored up in the shelter of the headland when we got up. We have extremely fond memories of our time and friends made on this lovely traditional Indonesian boat in December-January last year. It was great to see her again even if we weren’t able to say hi.
Sunrise with Ombak Putih visable near the shore on right

 The day followed the usual pattern of a bit of morning land breeze then nothing through the middle of the day followed by an afternoon sea breeze so again we progressed via a combination of sail and motor depending on the available wind. The anchorage in Riung is protected by very pretty islands a number of reefs and we timed our run in for early Monday afternoon with the sun high and tide low so we had a clear view of the coral as we picked our way through the channel.
Over 30 boats called in to Riung providing a very impressive site spread around the small bay with long jetty to reach over the mudflats . The town is the smallest stop on the Rally so far with houses on stilts over the salt flats lining a long road into the main area. There are small local traders but no real stores, no ATM and only one bank sub-branch which didn’t change money. The jetty area became party central with night markets and all sorts of activities including the official welcome on the first afternoon and  “Gala Dinner” on the Wednesday nights. Cultural tours to local villages were also provided on the first two days and a special tour by boat to a nearby island to see a small local species of Komodo Dragon was scheduled.

Prestige waterfront properties with all mod cons
We skipped the first two tours choosing to avoid the crowd and do our own thing instead. We actually spent the first morning cleaning down all the topside on the boat and shining up the bright work before taking the dingy over to a nearby island in the harbour and doing an hour’s  snorkelling around the coral. Later in the afternoon we headed in to town to our newly found Riung Local, the “LiQueen Resto” and enjoyed just about the best squid we’ve ever eaten. It was two whole squid each, superbly cooked for the exact right amount of time in Indonesian seasoning and sauces. Outstanding. With good 3G service in the area we were even able to manage a short skype call from our iPhone to number  three grandson, Kristian back at home from the dinner table before the internet server crapped out. The small restaurant was run by a beautiful young women who had studied on Bali before returning home to Riung. Karen enjoyed quite a long chat with Nina but was a bit taken back when she suddenly asked “Do you know any single men?” She considered offering Marc for a quickie marriage but thought he may not have had enough Bintangs yet.  When we complimented Nina on her restaurant, food and very good English she proudly told us that ex UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was holidaying in the area and was coming in to eat there on Friday night. This piece of information was politely received but viewed with much scepticism on our part as we really couldn’t imagine TB and family coming anywhere near this very poor little town and particularly as we had already informed her we were leaving on Friday morning so wouldn’t be around to verify the great event.
We then headed for the night markets at the jetty where Colin and Milin had returned from their tour. While Rob ran them back out to the Nae Hassle in the dingy Karen and Marc stayed ashore sitting on a wall enjoying a cool drink with friends Ian and Jacqui from the catamaran Bundy Blues. On Rob’s return we decided to head back to the restaurant to join Bundy Blues who headed up for a meal on our recommendation. Shortly after heading off Rob asked Karen for the iPhone back to check for any further text messages from home.

We spent a fantastic day snorkelling the reefs off this little island
That’s when the excrement hit the oscillating device. Karen didn’t have it. When they’d been sitting on the wall Marc and Karen and put their camera bag and various “things” down beside them. Marc’s welcome scarf from the earlier reception had was amongst the “things” and had mysteriously disappeared. The iPhone must of gone with it. With all our contacts and emails in the phone its value is much higher than replacement cost.  Rob being addicted to staying in touch with what’s going on in our former world via the net was distraught with many loud words about how important it was to retrieve the lost phone. Instant crowd. Sail Indonesia representatives, Police, stall holders, villagers their dogs and chickens all seemed to flock to the spot to help or watch the entertainment. Rob instantly offered a “no questions asked reward” for its return which was announced to all and sundry over the very large PA system onsite for the festivities. The Sail Indonesia rep then rang our number in the hope someone would answer it. With a very distinctive revving Harley Davidson ringtone  Karen screamed “I can hear it ringing somewhere,” greeted by much excitement from the crowd. “It’s in your pocket!”
Sure enough it turns out Rob had handed everything BUT the phone to Karen before heading out in the dingy and it was in fact secreted in one of the many pockets of his cargo shorts revving madly. HOW EMBARASSING!!!! While Rob grovelled apologies to everybody from the Police to the village chickens all assembled enjoyed the show with much laughing and finger pointing at the stupid Ossie. Subsequently we even found out Marc’s scarf had actually been accidently scooped up by Jacqui with their “things” and was promptly returned when we hooked up with them. The phone now lives on a lanyard round Rob’s neck and he was extremely sheepish moving amongst the locals for the rest of our stay.

Sarah from Double Time on the hill at our snorkelling island
The second day we hired a local fishing boat to take us further offshore to an absolutely stunning little island we had visited on New Years Day 2010 on Ombak Putih but had never really expected to see again. Good friends Jean Collins and her daughter Sarah off the Darwin based boat Double Time joined us three amigos from Nae Hassle and we split the $30 hire fee for the boat plus three crew for the day. OK it might have been an expensive private charter but it’s nice to splurge some times. The island features  a brilliant fine white sand beach and the snorkelling was the best so far with good clear water, some nice coral and lots of colourful fish plus some fair sized barracuda making a meal off their smaller cousins. We had an absolutely brilliant day followed by sundowners with kiwis Michael and Kym on their comparatively tiny 30 footer Cheetah Two. These young guys are having an amazing time having sailed the boat across the Tasman from NZ and up to Darwin to join the rally. You can check out their blog at
Karen, Marc, Sarah & Jean with our private charter boat.
The “Gala Dinner” that night started at 8.00pm to allow for the local Muslim minority to be finished evening prayers beforehand. Once again the official festivities features a few thankfully short speeches followed by much singing and dancing by very cute kids in traditional costume. By the time the dinner was served it was actually after ten so the earlier sundowners and few drinks at the dinner were taking their toll on empty stomachs with some of the cruisers joining in the dances with varying levels of competence much to the delight of the huge crowd of local townspeople watching on.The meal provided was extremely good and included a particularly nice beef dish we hadn’t had before. If we had any idea what it was called we might be able to have it again but it was much too late to remember such details.
After finding out there were nearly sixty people booked on to the following days trip on local boats to see the little Komodo dragons we decided to cancel out on that to have a sleep in and chill out day before moving on to Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park where the big boys live. When we talked to returning cruisers later it proved to be a good decision. They had been spread across seven local boats and taken out to the island where the tide was in so they disembarked in near waste deep water before tromping quite away to a spot where a goat had been slaughtered and hung up to attract the dragons. With fifty plus water logged tourists fast approaching in a none too stealthy manner, the one little dragon on site beat a very hasty retreat back into the bush electing to delay his buffet of goat until the hordes had departed. Only the very first on the scene saw him and of those only one got a photo at all which was of a dragon rear end disappearing into the distance.

Second time we got to take in this fantastic view
We hit the local that afternoon and pooled our remaining Indonesian Rupiahs to split two Nasi Goreng and two large Bintangs between the three of us with 1000 Rupiah (about 15c) to spare. First stop in Labuan Bajo will definitely need to be an ATM or moneychanger whichever comes first.
The next morning we were up early and prepared Nae Hassle to head west along the coast and departed about 8.30am to let the sun get high enough so we could see the reefs better.  We no sooner cleared the channel than we were shocked to pass a huge motor Superyacht headed in to the harbour. Despite passing close by and straining our eyes through the binoculars we saw only one crewman in crisp white uniform on the stern and couldn’t see through the huge windows of the multiple decks to see if Tony and Cherie were enjoying a nice cuppa and breakfast on board. It did make us wish we’d stayed any extra day and slipped back to the “LiQueen Resto” for some more great squid and couple of Bintangs that night. Who knows.
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1 comment:

  1. Great reading! Chuckled at Rob's losing the phone. How embarrassing. Bit like when I reported the car missing to the police, and then found it in a different spot. I stil cringe at that little event.
    Continue to enjoy yourselves!


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