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Words from Tulu

Words from Tulu

These are the words and musings of Chris and Sara as they pursue their dream of sailing away on their catamaran called TULU

Ketapang, West Kalimantan

Sailing Posted on Fri, October 23, 2015 02:36:31

In the original rally schedule our next stop should have been in Kumai in South Kalimantan where we were to take a trip up the river to see orangutans in the wild. Sadly we were advised to bypass this stop as the seemingly perpetual forest fires in that area were reducing visibility to dangerous levels and the smoke was reported to be really bad. Therefore our next stop, still on Borneo, was Ketapang in West Kalimantan. Although covered in a layer of smog and gloom, the smoke in this area was not so bad.

The anchorage was 3 miles up the Pawan river. As we arrived we radioed ahead and a police launch came to give us a blue-light escort up the river showing us the way between the sandbanks. As soon as we had anchored, which was not an easy task as the river was fast flowing with eddies and currents and changing winds, we were urged to go ashore. Each boat, or small group of boats, was greeted on the dock by a welcoming committee comprising a local beauty queen, various officials and guides and a local priest who daubed our feet with a white liquid to protect us while we were there. They then gave us local woven sashes, local delicacies to eat and performed a traditional dance.

The jetty on to which we tied our dinghies was jam packed with locals coming to look at the boats, everyone wanting to touch us and take our photo – the jostling was such that if we wanted to walk down the jetty we had to have “minders” clearing our path. We were the first western visitors on yachts to arrive in Ketapang and were such a curiosity for the people of the area. Knowing this we were amazed by the high level of english of our guides – most of whom were high school pupils who have learned english in school and from watching english movies and listening to western music – one of our guides we an avid fan of One Direction!!

The people of Kalimantan are a real cultural mix with at least six religions – the strong Malay influence was evident. The Dayak Indians are the indigenous people of Kalimantan and we were invited to visit a Dayak village. We were entertained with the traditions of the Dayak people at what turned out to be a wild and bizarre house party. For many of us the most memorable part (not necessarily a pleasant memory) was when one of the heavily painted, be-feathered tribesmen bit the head off a live chicken and then proceeded to eat the head and suck the blood from the beheaded bird. This was supposedly to give him strength, and in a trancelike state he and several others balanced on a frame of upturned machete blades. Several other rituals were performed in various states of stupor. Much music, dancing, shouting and eating – certainly different to anything else we’ve seen, and as it turned out many of our guides had not seen these rituals before.

International Animal Rescue have an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Ketapang. Although this is not normally open to the public, the ministry of tourism requested they allow small groups to visit the facility to find out about their work. It was really interesting with the aim of their work to relocate wild orangutan who are in danger from habitat loss (principally due to forest clearing and burning for the palm oil industry) or rescue young orangutan and put them through an education programme to allow them to be released, if not into the wild, into the semi wild. Whilst at the centre the only orangutans we were supposed to see where the ones in cages that are “lost causes” – meaning that they are beyond rehabilitation and will have to remain in captivity. We were lucky enough to see a young orangutan being carried from “jungle school” to the clinic as it was rather lethargic and need to be checked out by the vet. All the time we were near where the orangutans are housed we had to wear surgical masks for infection control and there was the ever present police escort. From the rescue centre we went to the urban swamp forest where we saw gibbon and proboscis monkeys and were dressed in Dayak costumes.

The visit to Ketapang was regally rounded off by a gala dinner at the Regent’s residence followed by much dancing – particularly for Sara as usual – even with the chief of police! The following morning we headed back down the river, happy to be leaving the smog behind us, but sad to say farewell to the lovely people of Ketapang…..

(Unknown to us we were not leaving the smoke behind – a seasonal hazard in western Indonesia)

Karimunjawa and Central Java

Sailing Posted on Fri, October 23, 2015 02:35:35

On the two night passage from Bali to the island of Karimunjawa, off the coast of Java, we were certainly kept on our toes and had to keep a particularly vigilant watch all the time as we dodged fishing boats, fish attractors, tugs towing massive unlit barges, oil and gas platforms and of course cargo ships and tankers – mind you – at least the big ships are on AIS and are predictable! Saying that, we had a great sail and even caught a nice mahi mahi, our first in Indonesia.

Karimunjawa is a sleepy little town and island with good snorkelling and a generally relaxed atmosphere. We had our usual welcome rally festivities with the organisers inviting us to be dressed in traditional Javanese costumes for the evening. The ladies amongst us had visions of wearing the beautifully colourful slinky bejwelled outfits that we have seen so often as we watch the local dancing, but alas we were wrong – we were dressed in the most drab shapeless sacks you could imagine, but of course had to make all the appropriate noises about how lovely they were. Anyway it was a bit of a giggle and apart from sweating buckets as these outfits were over the clothes we were wearing, we had a good evening.

The next morning Lynne from Sunchaser and Sara joined a small group to take the ferry across to Java and travel inland to visit some of the iconic temples of Java. We left Chris and Peter on the boats as the thought of them travelling for hours just to visit a few temples was not worth considering – not Chris’ cup of tea. Sara and Lynne had a good time despite the four hour ferry ride followed by a seven hour journey in a minibus into central Java – not helped by horrendous traffic jams and a flat tyre! They say Java is one of the most highly populated islands in the world – and I can believe it – also with probably more motorbikes than most places. Even in the countryside the roads were really busy.

Having been travelling all day we arrived in Prambanan to watch the Ramayama ballet at the Trimurti open-air stage with a backdrop of Prambanan hindu temple illuminated behind – a stunning setting, beautiful costumes and mesmerizing dancing and the trials of a long journey were forgotten. The story of Ramayama is the Indonesian version of Romeo and Juliet – Rama and Shinta being the lovers. Although we missed the beginning this turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

After a night in Yogyakarta we visited the Sultans Palace then returned to visit the 10th century Hindu complex of Prambanan. This is the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia and is characterised by the intricate tall pointed architecture of its principal temples dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma and hundreds of surrounding shrines and reliefs depicting the story of Ramayans. In 2006 a strong earthquake destroyed much of the temple complex and since then they have been meticulously restored – an on going process at this World Heritage site.

In the afternoon we visited another Unesco World Heritage Site – the impressive Buddhist temple of Borobudur – another breathtaking visit. This temple was built in about 800AD in the form of a stepped pyramid and and sitting on each level are 72 stupas, each containing a Buddha figure. A series of five square bases is succeeded by three circular terraces representing the spiritual journey from the life of desire, through meditation to Nirvana. Built of blocks of lava rock it has nearly 1500 carved story panels and 504 statues of Buddha. Having been abandoned around the 14th century Borobudur was buried under layers of volcanic ash and tropical foliage until re-discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles, the British Governor General of Java in 1814.

From Borobudur we drove back to Jepara to spend the night in a hotel before going to the market then taking the ferry (a fast one this time) back to Karimunjawa – phew – a whilstle stop tour of some wonderful sites in central Java, but well worth the effort.

Back on Tulu, we invited a few friends over for sundowners to help celebrate Sara’s birthday. As we planned to leave at first light the following morning we decided to keep the birthday party low key – we should have known better – music and dancing on the aft deck with copious amounts of alcohol – oh well – we had a great night!

To everyones surprise we did manage to leave at first light the next morning for the passage up to west Kalimantan on the southwest of Borneo…..