We've now been in Indonesia well over two months; we've seen a lot but there is so much here that we won't have time to see on this trip. Definitely a country to return to. A few random impressions:
|Trimaran fishing fleet between Bali and Lombok|
- thousands of motorbikes, many laden with 3 or 4 people, animals, huge heaps and bundles of wood or leaves - some are kitted out as mobile shops and are as wide as a car.
- terrifying driving: overtaking on the inside and around blind corners is perfectly normal.
- skinny cats with short or no tails: someone told us kittens' tails were cut to show they belonged somewhere and weren't strays. I don't know if that's true, but they're very unattractive. Lots of dogs on Bali, very few on the other (Muslim) islands.
- friendly, curious people: we are bombarded with questions ("Ingris? From Ingerrand?") and requests to have their photo taken with us.
|A doer-upper in Semarang|
Our grasp of Bahasa, the common language across Indonesia, is still sketchy. After enthusiastic greetings and how are yous, we can count and ask how much - that's about it. Generally that's been enough and we have added a few words as we've travelled. It was only as we gazed down at the glorious star-shaped lagoon in Raja Ampat's Peynemo that we realised the Bintang beer we've been enjoying all this time means Star - ah, that would explain the design of the label! There's still plenty of room for misunderstandings. A couple of nights ago we went ashore for dinner in Semarang, taking a full dustbin bag of rubbish from the boat. We couldn't find a bin so ended up arriving at the restaurant still clutching the bag. They took it away ... and when we left, handed it back to us, having stored it in the cloakroom while we had our meal. Rubbish is a huge problem throughout Indonesia. Streets, drains, beaches and streams are covered with plastic. Coffee and tea are sold at roadside stalls in individual sachets, as are shampoo and washing powder. There isn't an infrastructure for rubbish collection away from the cities, and what used to be bags made of palm leaves is now plastic. I guess the West needs to sort itself out first, but Indonesia needs to develop the systems and educate its people; for tourists don't like plastic covered beaches.
|Pig market in Rantepao|
We have now officially left the Oyster World Rally. It was very sad to wave goodbye as all but three of the boats sailed away from Lombok marina three weeks ago. They've been to Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling and are now well on their way to Mauritius. We have made some lifelong friends in the fleet and shared so many experiences. I'm sure we will meet up again in various sailing and non-sailing locations around the world - possibly even as soon as Christmas in South Africa. The timing of the rest of the Rally as well as the long passages involved led us to choose to form a breakaway group with Miss Tiggy and Lisanne, variously called the SE Asia Oyster Group or Wong Diwection.
|Traditional skills alive and well|
|Torajan Tonkanan family compound|
|A few buffalo sacrificed|
|Carrying the coffins for burial|
|Tau Tau, coffins and skulls in cave burial|
We have been steadily moving west during our time in Indonesia, but boat progress is too slow to get everywhere, so in company with Eric of Lisanne, we flew north to Makassar on Sulawesi (a very strange K-shaped island). After a nine hour drive to the Toraja Highlands, we spent a couple of fascinating days with an excellent guide. Toraja houses and rice barns are built entirely of wood, with no nails. They are elaborately carved and brightly painted and range in lines along a family compound. The roofs swoop dramatically - some say like an upside down boat, but more probably the shape is based on buffalo horns. We saw many buffalo grazing next to rice paddies. They don't work and are pampered like members of the family. All very well, but they are then part of the ritual of funeral ceremonies. We watched as 24 of them had their throats slit and 48 pigs were killed in honour of an old lady of high caste who had died. The animals will lead the way to the afterlife, it's believed. It was extremely bloody (though mercifully quick) and the whole community turned out to watch, bringing condolence presents (ours was a carton of cigarettes!) and taking tea with the bereaved family. The bodies are carried in ornate mini-house structures and many are inserted into caves in the cliffs. Outside, metre-high tau-tau statues of the deceased are placed. They are lifelike and their clothes are changed regularly so that people remember what they looked like. If a baby dies before its first teeth have come through, it is buried in a tree - a cut is made in the trunk, the swaddled body is pressed in upright and the belief is that the child will be absorbed into the tree and grow up that way. Superstitions are still widespread: as we walked through one hamlet, a young pregnant woman hugged me and apparently said her baby would have a nose like mine as a result! She had a piece of ginger root pinned to her tee shirt to ward off evil. More hugs in store at a primary school we visited after touring a market with hundreds of sweet-faced buffaloes, selling for about $3000 apiece, as well as pigs trussed to bamboo stakes - all destined to be part of funeral ceremonies.
Our next flight was to Sorong in Papua, even further west than where we first arrived in Indonesia. From there a ferry took us to Raja Ampat (four Kingdoms), a spectacular collection of islands with some of the best coral in the world and huge numbers and diversity of fish. After all this time on the Rally, when I've been the snorkeller while others dived, I finally took the plunge (literally) and passed my PADI Open Water course in Lombok, so I was able to dive with Charles and Eric and see the stunning sights, including a Wobeggon Shark, which looks like a slightly moth-eaten rug. My style still leaves plenty of room for improvement!
We also fitted in four days of complete pampering at Amandari in Ubud on Bali. It wasn't all lazing by the glorious infinity pool, yoga, sumptuous food and massages, though: we climbed Mount Basur in the dark in order to be at the summit for sunrise and went for a wonderful bike ride and hike through UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces where the mud walls and elaborate irrigation system (reminding me of the 'bisses' in Switzerland's Valais) have been much the same for centuries. Bali is an anomaly in Indonesia: no minarets and calls to prayer here, but an unbelievable number of temples. Nearly every day seems to bring major celebrations, processions and flag-waving. We also had a different cultural experience in Seminyak - otherwise known as Sydney-on-Sea - where we watched the Melbourne Demons triumph in Aussie Rules against Geelong. It's a really good fun game.
|PADI qualified finally|
And then back to Calliope which feels so much like home. The freezer is less well-stocked now and we are using up tins under the floorboards. We're still reading a lot, embroidering and - always - polishing stainless steel.
We are now on our way to Jakarta with Bastien and Selma, our French crew from Nouvelle Caledonie, who will look after the boat while we nip back to England next week and again in Singapore when we leave the boat for longer in November and December. We are sailing along the north coast of Java, the one island which contains 60% of Indonesia's population - that is 160m people or 2x France in 1/3x the geographical are . The coast is undistinguished and dirty; instead of dodging coral reefs we are avoiding oil rigs - as well as the ubiquitous small and poorly-lit fishing boats. However we spent one day inland and visited the fabulous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
|Rice terraces in Bali|
Our abiding memory of Indonesia will be the warmth of its people. 250m people in 15000 islands, multi-religions, multi-cultures, but living together in harmony as far as we can see. Many live in subsistence mode, fishing in boats smaller and larger, sailing out in outriggers into the straits between Bali and Lombok to fish in currents of 6-7 knots and huge water movements. Mobile communications quality has been superb - 4G of really good speed at dirt cheap prices. We are the tourist attraction; however, the "Muzungu" tourist to over-charge and over-sell has only been an isolated issue, and everyone waves, smiles and laughs. A real joy.