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Monday, October 22, 2012

October 14 - 16 - Tanjung Kelayang - The Tip of Belitung

Sunday was a long, long day. Sailing these waters is a study in evasive maneuvering and survival techniques. Fishing boats, floating rigs and nets provide a means for the weary sailor to stay alert and at the ready. And they say it only gets worse the closer you get to Singapore. This is good practice then because we are now determined to ONLY make day passages if at all possible until we get to Malaysia because day travel is stressful enough. It does also keep it interesting as we watch the flurry of activity in the water around us and dodge floating nets. Then there are the cargo ships and tankers to contend with. These local fishermen are nuts! We have wondered more than a few times how many of them meet fatal ends out here plying their trade.

Traveling the coastline of Belitung is a lovely way to pass the time, however. It is a beautiful island, and as we neared our destination of Tanjung Kelayang at the northwest corner, the coastline resembled overbuilt cities yet closer inspection revealed incredible rock structures so beautifully formed that they hardly seem natural. The shoreline is stacked with them and at a few places it resembled a much smaller version of Australia's Cape Melville. Stunning, really. On approach into Kelayang we dodged several boulders that were perched smack out in the bay amid crystal clear sparkling blue waters. It was like a movie set. We felt the tinge of another "if only we had known…we could have spent more time here" moment. Why on Earth is Indonesia so darn stingy with their cruising permits and visitor visas? There is so much beauty to enjoy here and yet we find ourselves just skimming the surface on our way through. What a pity. We set the hook at 4 PM in time to get a call from Imagine telling us tonight the locals are hosting a dinner and live music on shore for the rally yachts. Of course we could not miss that.

Monday we joined Hans and Ute for a walk along the beach out to the boulders on the point. This place reminded us so much of The Baths of Virgin Gorda, BVI. We were enjoying the lovely day when black storm clouds suddenly rolled in issuing forth a downpour. We happily settled into a small beachside café for respite where we passed the time eating calamari and cap cay - delicious and very inexpensive. The storm really pounded down overhead for a while forcing us to sit, relax and enjoy the cool fresh air for a couple of hours while the boys enjoyed a few more beers. After the rains passed we tried to walk the beach a bit further but then along came another nasty one barreling down on us so we fled to the dinghy and set off for home. We got word there was another dinner that night with more entertainment so at 5:30 we took ourselves back into shore while miraculously the rain abated for several hours. Dinner that night was even better than the previous. The food is just so good and fresh here. We stayed a little later than usual because the Scallys and Avant Garde had arrived and when they are around a good time is guaranteed.

Tuesday, the four of us set off on mopeds to explore the island. On my own I am a pathetic excuse for a moped rider, having survived two previous crashes as a passenger I have tremendous anxiety about these things. Anyway, I reluctantly mounted mine and took off following Hans and Ute telling myself I really need to get over this. Frank stayed behind me in case he had to scrape any of my body parts off the pavement. I was fine until we had to turn then it was beyond pitiful. They easily glided and I staggered along, eventually loosening up enough to smile from time to time. Geez I hate being a wuss! We rode along the scenic coastline, noting the majestic boulders scattered along the beach and out in the water, eventually we hit a major road where traffic picked up considerably. After over an hour of riding we came to a bustling city and yet strangely we could find no place to stop for refreshment and a rest. My hands and rear end had gone completely numb from the bike's vibrations by now, and as I looked over toward Frank I noticed his same discomfort. Frank shouted to Hans to find a café where we could catch a break. He turned off the main highway and sped off down a side road where we came to a large modern hotel. It felt good to get some circulation back into our bodies. The placed appeared empty but the restaurant was open, so we enjoyed a short break over coffee and fried bananas, drizzled with chocolate syrup and sprinkled with shredded cheddar cheese. It was strangely delicious!

Back out in the parking lot, we all mounted our mopeds, me feeling much more secure and confident I cranked mine on, accidentally turning the handle giving a burst of gas to the engine and immediately shot up over a curb falling into a flowerbed! What a doofus! The others had taken off already. I feebly called to Frank who had to come back and lift the bike off me looking really worried. I laughed and said, "Rather here in a flower bed than out on the road".

Not long after leaving there raindrops began to fall, pelting our bare skin like BB's. Hans sought shelter at a tiny roadside café that was not much more than a crude hut where the owner sat eating at the counter. Within minutes the heavens opened up releasing a torrent of rain, the sky turned completely black and we thanked God we were safe and fairly dry. We must have stayed there for an hour and a half eating several bags of homemade fried cassava chips and freshly roasted peanuts. They were so delicious we each purchased several of the small bags to take home. Finally the downpour eased to intermittent rain and Hans announced we had to make a run for it or we would be stuck here all day. Ugh. Off we rode, rain streaking down our visors killing visibility and suffering once again the little bullets of rain against our skin. I was actually enjoying this more and more because it was forcing me to get real and get over my moped-a-phobia to focus on other things (like survival?).

Arriving at a popular swimming and dining spot on the beach amidst the boulders we stopped for lunch. By now we were soaked all the way through, clothes clinging to our dripping wet bodies we attracted more than a little attention from the locals who were dining here. Ute and I were ushered into the back by a woman where I thought we were going to be given towels to dry off or something, but she stopped at a large bin full of ice and a variety of whole fish, bags of shrimp and a variety of other seafood, pointing and looking at us as if asking us what we wanted. We pointed to a large fish and the shrimp, and then asked for Cumi Goreng (fried calamari). On the way out, we pointed to the fresh water spinach as well and then toward a pile of teapots. She nodded her understanding and then led us back to our table where the boys were already enjoying their large Anker beers. The meal was outstanding! Finally the rain abated and we wearily rode the few remaining miles back to the anchorage where we received reports that we missed a massive rainstorm and 35 + knot winds that literally rocked the anchorage. Some yachts had nearly rolled in the chop that was stirred up and some had experienced waves breaking over their gunnels, but were assured "Destiny" and "Taimada" had survived unscathed. Well thank goodness we missed all that!

Returning to "Destiny", we noticed that several items we had left on the sugar scoop were gone, apparently washed away when the storm hit. That was a bummer. There is no telling what else may have gone into the drink, and I'm sure we won't know until we go looking for them.

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