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Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 9 - 12, 2012 - Manggar, E. Belitung - An Amazing Visit With Our Favorite People in All of Indonesia

We arrived at Manggar bay around 11:00 AM and as we contemplated the rolly anchorage a Police Boat approached with a young man on board waving to Frank and pointing us toward the river mouth. They asked us our draft and then insisted that we would have no problem, leading us in through the river mouth that we didn't even know was navigable. It is a good thing too because we nearly touched bottom at one point and would have surely gone aground had they not offered an escort. Once inside the river we found a blissfully calm anchorage. The Police Boat continued to circle us taking photo after photo of "Taimada" and us. They seemed so happy to see us!

We gathered our papers and headed into shore where we were met by Hans van Babel who spread his arms outward and proclaimed, "We welcome you to Manggar, East Belitung! You are the very first Sail Indonesia Yachts to arrive!" He then kindly explained that although they are extremely happy to host us we arrived much earlier than the specified date thus they were not prepared for us. We quickly apologized ourselves and insisted that we have no expectations because we realize we are quite early, then further explained the rally foul-up of the dates and schedules resulting in a lot of confusion for everyone. We mentioned our need to purchase some diesel for our yachts, gasoline for our dinghies, beer and a few other necessities; also that we would like to find an ATM machine and a pharmacy. We let him know we would probably stay for just a day or so and then move on. Within minutes, Hans was on his phone making arrangements.
Typical Hans - always with a camera in one hand and the phone to his ear
 Meanwhile, he asked if there was anywhere he could take us. Frank and Hans responded saying we would like a good place for lunch & a beer. Another apology was issued forth, however, unfortunately liquor and beer is generally not sold here, rather this town is known for its coffee and coffee houses around which most of the social interactions take place. He drove us around the town by the fresh market and several supermarkets and along the way we noted the dozens upon dozens of coffee shops. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful lakeside restaurant and while enjoying our relaxing meal, Hans shared some future plans with us pointing out that the powers that be intend to build a marina here, allowing access from the sea. We agreed that a calm, sheltered marina would be a big attraction for the yachts, as long as the passage into the lake was dredged very deep to accommodate those who are not able to enter the river. While we were eating and discussing Manggar's future plans Tiwi Arvita arrived, whom Hans introduced to us as his colleague, distributing decorative bags to each of us filled with Belitung maps and brochures. Ute and I immediately bonded with Tiwi who joined us as we continued our drive around. Returning us to the police pier Hans announced that tonight he would try to procure some beers for Frank and Hans and that tomorrow he and his colleagues would be hosting us all day long with a tour, lunch, and a special dinner. He indicated that he also might have some surprises for us. We told him that we had left some friends out at the Siadong anchorage, "Christine Anne" (C.A.) and "Fayaway" (FA), whom he readily agreed that we should urge to come in and join us.

Frank and I dined aboard "Taimada" that night, and although we truly enjoyed the fabulous steak dinner they served us we agreed that we enjoy their company much more than we would have imagined. They have quickly become good friends. We are ever so grateful to Bernd and Tanja for putting the four of us together.

We met Hans, Tiwi and Indra at 9 AM the next morning.
 First they took us to the fresh market where they helped us to negotiate prices on fresh fruits, veggies and seafood. While Tiwi and I were browsing the clothing shops outside Frank managed to find a doughnut vendor, returning to us with a bag full of hot delicious half-moon shaped doughnuts. That's my boy! We then hit the supermarket and returned to the wharf to meet "C.A" and "FA" who were coming in with the rising tide around midday. After they got settled in, Hans and Tiwi returned to the waterfront in a large bus. They first took us to lunch at the same lovely lakeside restaurant where platters of food kept coming until we literally stuffed ourselves on a variety of wonderful dishes and then they drove us on a little sightseeing journey that ended at the top of the hill in front of the home of the Regent. Joining them were Sari and Andre.

Kerry, Lynette, Hans, Sari, Ute, Tiwi, Barb, Frank, Chris, Russ, Andre, Hans
Andre was introduced to us as the only cowboy in Belitung! Sure enough he wore a large brown cowboy hat that had been given to him on a visit to Colorado a few years back. He wore it proudly. Announcing that he was "Antonio Banderas!", he ushered us into the residence. The Regent was away but Andre being the second in command had joined forces with Hans to arrange a special Happy Hour for us here in this beautiful residence with a million dollar view of the ocean.
They brought out dozens of bottles of Anker beer and Guinness Ale.
Russ on left Andre, center 
When I explained I don't drink beer, bottles of water and a fancy wine glass with the Regency's crest appeared before me. We sat for a couple of hours visiting and sharing stories while our gang did their dead level best to consume as much as they could of the mass quantities of beer that had been laid before them. Hans and Andre explained to us that historically this is a tin mining area that is now making a strong attempt to move into the tourism and resort business. We gave him our thoughts and suggestions and then explained to him that first and foremost the river entrance must be dredged because five yachts with drafts of 2 meters and more had already turned away in the time we had been there. Two had tried, gotten stuck and moved on. Word was spreading quickly (as it does in the cruising community), that only a catamaran or a shallow/shoal draft boat would be able to enter the river anchorage, and the bay outside is too rolly. We suggested to him that because the lake is so well protected it would make a good long-term berthing spot for those of us who would wish to spend more time in Indonesia, leaving our yachts somewhere safe while we do a bit of land travel. There is no decent marina in Indonesia for this purpose; hence yachts are forced to push on to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for long-term berthage. He took it all to heart making copious notes, thanking us for our input. There is something special about Hans. He is quite young, but very intelligent and ambitious. He loves his home and seems to have a knack for making things happen. We believe he will bring success and progress to E. Belitung, and we told him that we look forward to returning in time to witness his progress.

Eventually, Hans announced that he was taking us back to the yachts to change for dinner and a big evening of entertainment.

Leaving the Regent's house with cases of beer
On the way out to the bus, Andre handed each boat captain a case of beer to take home, announcing that tomorrow beginning at 7 AM all four of our boats would receive free diesel, petrol and fresh water. Assuming he meant the 100 free litres that was mentioned in our rally booklet, Frank told Andre we needed to purchase an additional 200. He just waved his hand saying; "Whatever you need, it's free!"

At 7 PM, our busses arrived to transport us to dinner where a large group of local dignitaries joined us. We supped on delicious calamari, whole fish, enormous shrimp, chicken satay, various veggies, rice, and fresh fruits. It was incredible. Afterward we were led over to a stage where we were treated to dancing and singing by beautifully costumed youth, who eventually grabbed each of us to join them on stage for a few dances.
 Afterward one of the 'ministers made a speech and handed each couple tote bags made from local bamboo filled with t-shirts, followed by a presentation from Hans and a special gift of a small meteorite extracted during the excavation of the Belitung tin mines. Of course, dozens of bottles of beer were laid in front of us. The treatment we received was simply unbelievable. On the way back to our bus, Andre backed a truck up to the door and began unloading more cases of beer, saying - "…here take it it's free for you! Also tomorrow we will bring breakfast to all of you on your yachts: 9:00! Nasi Goreng!" Hans just stood by beaming his beautiful smile; so happy to do whatever they could for us.

Ute, Tiwi, Barb, Sari
Early the next morning we sat waiting for the fuel. "C.A." was first on the wharf at 7:00 AM. We reminded ourselves that we are on Indonesian time. 10:30 rolled around and although fuel had not yet arrived, breakfast had and we were all asked to come to shore to picnic under the trees while we continued the wait. A truck arrived conveying large containers of diesel in back. Russell (from C.A.) was asked to bring his jerry cans for the fill-up. He loaded up and then next came "FA". Meanwhile, Hans from "Taimada" decided rather than try to pull up to the dock, he would just bring his jerry cans in the dinghy. Unfortunately we don't carry them so Destiny waited until the rest were finished getting their fuel when around mid-day we finally pulled up to the wharf to discover there was no more diesel. Destiny sat at the wharf while Andre set out to obtain more.
Hans getting Taimada's diesel

Destiny at the fuel wharf
As we waited, Tiwi approached and asked me if Ute and I wanted to go shopping - well of course we did! So we took off for some girl time while Hans and Hans sat with Frank awaiting our delivery of fuel.

Tiwi drove us around town showing us her favorite places to shop, then we drove out to the lovely white sand beach. The view was magnificent! Ute and I started to get out of the car when Tiwi said; "OK, but be careful". What? I asked what we should be careful of, and she replied; "Just watch where you step", as she pointed to a signpost with a picture of a person squatting with a slash through it. Ute and I burst out laughing! I asked very crudely; "Does that sign mean "no shitting on the beach!?" Tiwi nodded in the affirmative and explained there is a certain culture of people here that likes to go onto the beach to do their toilet business.

Usually the tide will carry the waste out to sea cleaning the beach naturally. I immediately jumped out to snap a photo of the sign, followed by Ute who waved for me to wait - she wanted to be in the picture. She squatted beneath the sign with a mischievous smile on her face as I snapped the photo. Not to be outdone I of course had to follow suit! Poor Tiwi just laughed at us and shook her head.
She then asked us if we minded her stopping by her house to pick up her two little girls who wanted to meet us and to see our yachts. Of course we did not mind! Ute and I both had wanted to show our new friends our boats anyway. Eventually we returned to the wharf where a huge crowd had assembled to watch the American yacht get fueled. Frank and a couple of locals were busily siphoning diesel from a barrel into our tank, via our Baja filter. Frank had to clean the filter several times during the process. I'm not sure how much fuel we ended up with but I think it was in the neighborhood of 200 litres, and with that we were quite happy. Frank waived off the fresh water, although we were not in agreement on that point and lived to regret it later. When finished at the wharf Hans, Tiwi and her girls, Andre and a couple of his colleagues piled onto Destiny, all bearing their cameras and large smiles. I gave them a tour of our boat as we puttered over to re-anchor. Unfortunately while we were fueling up three more yachts had arrived. One of them had taken our spot and more making it difficult for us to find room to drop the hook. Why do people do that!? I was a bit irritated but got over it because we happen to like these other people. We transferred our passengers over to Hans and Ute who wanted to serve them tea aboard "Taimada" before we all loaded up into the busses once again. With the arrival of the others, our little group had grown to 15 cruisers now.

That night we were treated to yet another feast., this time at the home of the Regent where the story of the fishes and the loaves came into play. The chef was only expecting 8 guests plus Hans, Andre, Tiwi and Sari. Now they had 7 more mouths to feed. Amazingly they managed, treating us all like visiting ambassadors we dined in fine style. Hans wore himself out playing host to us all but we could tell he loved it. For dessert, he passed around pieces of a lovely cake that his sister had baked for us (and it was HER birthday). How absolutely thoughtful!

Friday morning, Andre arrived at the wharf promptly at 7:00 AM announcing to us all that breakfast is served. "Nasi Goreng!" He knew that those of us leaving today would await the rising tide around midday, so he chose one last opportunity to feed us. "FA & C.A" departed soon afterward.

Ute and I had so wanted to visit one of the famed coffee shops while here but our schedule had been very busy. Hans and Tiwi surprised us by arriving at the dock, waving us over to their cars. Hans took Frank and Hans with him, while Tiwi drove Ute and I to the "#1 coffee house in Manggar". On arrival, Hans proudly presented us the Pos Belitung newspaper that displayed a huge picture of Destiny at the fuel wharf squarely in the middle of the front page. It seems we have made the front page news again. We enjoyed the delicious richly roasted coffee while sampling local pastries and cakes that Hans and Tiwi had brought to the table. Eventually they reluctantly returned us to the waterfront loaded with newspapers and freshly baked breads where I nearly cried as we said goodbye. We exchanged email addresses and phone #'s with Hans and Tiwi promising to stay in touch. I do hope we will. We certainly plan to follow their progress as they reach toward the future. The people are what make Manggar so special. This has truly been the most heart-warming stop for us in all of our travels through Indonesia.

You will have to go to the "Our Pictures" link on the sidebar of this blog to see more photos. I've found that once I upload them to our web albums, they are no longer available to share on Facebook.

By noon we were away, setting a course for Nangka, Anchorage #84 in the "101 Indonesian anchorages book", some 30 miles to the northeast of Belitung.

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