Monday, 20 July 2015

Episode 39 Indonesia - Eastern Nusa Tenggara

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

For Episode 38 we had been down at Rote Island (Right at the SE tip of Indonesia) surfing the world famous T-Land break.
We had to return to Kupang for a visa renewal.

Our location for this Episode of the Blog.
Our route for this Episode of the Blog.


We had been to Kupang before (In Episode 37) to clear in and had spent over a week there exploring, etc…
So this time it was a case of reprovision, refuel, get our visa and customs paperwork completed and get out of there.

It still took 5 days to get all that done.

We were in Kupang for the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
Each afternoon in the city people would set up a long line of road side food stalls selling lots of yummy food, smoothies, fruit shakes, drinks, sweets, etc…
At around 5pm many people would flock to the area to buy food which they would start eating from around 5:43pm which was sunset.

It also meant the night markets were really packed each evening.
We loved the food, but there was the issue of leaving the RIB onshore at night (security and the rough weather) and the many people eating at the markets.
So we had a great system where Lisa would stay with the RIB and Paul would walk up with a large Tupperware container, fill it with food and return just a few minutes later.
Our favourite was the Satay Chicken Sticks (Sate Ayam).
We could get 3 servings of rice and 3 bundles of Sticks (10 in each) with the most amazing Satay sauce for just A$6.

Kupang has the most amazing red sunsets we have ever seen and it happens every night.
We would sit upstairs with a meal or a drink and enjoy it.

The sunrises aren’t too bad either…

When we first arrived in Kupang (7 weeks prior) we asked some nice local ladies who have a small sewing business to do some sewing for us.
They were very busy so we left the material with them and collected the finished product on our return.
They made some new sun covers for Lorelei’s windows, some new shorts for Lisa and some cushions for Lorelei using the local Batik material we brought in West Papua.
The end result for all 3 was fantastic, particularly the cushions.

Once again we used the local agent Napa for our official stuff and also his friend Max to run us around the city on their motorbikes.


In one respect the timing was terrible for us to have to return to Kupang.
In another opinion it may have been a good thing.
We (along with every other surfer in Indo) had been monitoring a large low pressure system that was developing in the southern Indian Ocean.
The models had it looking like it was going to be big – REAL BIG!!!
For 10 days we watched it progress into a really intense system and 4 days out it was all over the net with 50-60ft waves reported in the epi-centre.
This would push the swell onto the West Australian Coastline and most of southern Indonesia’s surfing hotspots.
Massive surfable waves of up to 25ft were forecast in some areas.

"We have seen multiple satellite passes confirming seas of 50 feet, with one pass indicating seas of just a hair under 60 feet. Satellite-confirmed seas of 60 feet have happened only a handful of times around the globe in the last decade."- Kevin Wallis (weather forecaster)

In some respects we were sad we had to leave Rote but in reality Paul would not have surfed it at that size with 30ft+ faces.
Additionally and more importantly - what was the anchorage going to be like for Lorelei? It faced SW and that’s the exact direction the swell was coming from. It had the potential to be very rough and uncomfortable.

Either way we had to leave and so did Harry and Hayley off Jack the Toad as by pure fluke their visa also expired on the same day.

We looked for alternate options and the most promising was Savu which is a small island 120nm away and on the way to Sumba.
However it is only a little island and was due to get bigger waves than Rote with still the anchoring issue for Lorelei.

We simply couldn’t stay in Kupang either as it also is a very exposed anchorage facing SW.
So with all that in mind we ran north to escape it.

It seemed crazy as we wanted big waves to surf – but just not that big!!
Safety for us and Lorelei was paramount so run we did.

1 week later were amazed to see footage and photos of monstrous waves from around the Margaret River (SW Australia) area and the famous big wave spot of Cow Bommie.
One wave from local big wave surfer Jarryd Foster made the Annual Billabong Big Wave Awards and is reportedly one of the biggest waves ever ridden in Australia.
It did come at a cost though and he snapped his leg in the process….

The waves in Indonesia’s central surfing areas of Bali, Lombok and Sothern Sumatra all had great waves but unfortunately the swell didn’t push as far east towards Rote as everyone there was hoping.
The swell at T-Land only peaked at 5-8ft for 36 hours.


We took off the day before the peak of the swell for the 130nm run north to Alor.
Rather than split the trip into 2 full days, we decided to do a 24hour overnight run.
By 9am the wind was already 15knots and we sailed straight off the anchor and were ripping across the bay at 8.5 knots boat speed.

As we headed up the coastline the large swell was smashing onto the rock faces causing some big waves and spray which looked and sounded awesome.

The overnight passage was pretty routine with a large moon creating enough light to make it easy to see for any structure or other vessels.

The fast passage came to a screaming halt when we entered the Alor Straight at 5am.  The south setting current was ripping at over 3 knots and we were down to less than that in boat speed. It took us over 5 hours to travel just 20nm to get up into the bay.
The upside was we ran the desalinater for the entire transit up the straight and we filled the tanks and washed the huge amount of salt off Lorelei.

We passed a large amount of the Bamboo fishing pontoons on the way up the bay. It was interesting to see the winch systems were all made out of natural materials.

Getting close to the main town of Kalabahi we started to see more boats.
We passed this very packed ferry.

We anchored at 10am in a delightful little bay just a mile from the main town of Kalabahi.

There were a few friendly locals on boats going in and out of the bay.
They always had a friendly smile, a wave and would yell “Hello Mister!!”


The main reason we came to Alor was for the Scuba Diving.
Alor has some world class diving and a mixture of muck diving in the bay and reef diving in the pass.
We wanted to try and do a bit of both.
The muck dives we could do easily enough on our own but the reef dives in the pass could prove to be an issue as the area is renowned for strong currents (which we found first hand in getting to Alor in Lorelei) and drift diving is a common practice with local dive operators.

So we jumped on the internet to try to find out dive site locations and dive maps or briefs that would assist us.
Whilst there are 3 dive operators in the area, the most established and highly regarded is Donovan Whitford from Dive Alor/Dive Kupang.
Donovan and his father Graham (who are Aussies) have lived in Kupang for over 20 years and are the ones who put Alor on the diving map.
Donovan runs regular charters to Alor from Kupang and has done over 4500 dives around Alor.
Whilst looking on his website, we noticed he had a 10 dive charter booked to start in just 3 days time.
Maybe just maybe we thought we might be able to join in….
A few emails and phone calls later and we were booked on.
It had all fallen into place perfectly. There were only 4 guests, they all wanted to do reef dives in the pass  and not muck (which was perfect for us) and to top it all off – the charter boat was moored only 40m from Lorelei.

However we still had 3 days to kill and so we wanted to get some muck dives in first.

We walked outside on the morning of our first full day in Alor to find another yacht anchored next to us.
They must have arrived only hours prior so we left introductions until later and went diving.

Perfect conditions to go diving….

We took the RIB 5nm down the bay to one of the premier dives on the area “Mucky Mosque”.
As the name suggests, it is out the front of a waterfront mosque which we easily found and went diving.
It turned out to be an ordinary dive with not many interesting critters and we were disappointed.

A well camouflaged Cuttlefish

We checked the internet later that day and found a photo of the mosque and we realised we were at the wrong one.
We needed to do some more research to find the right location.

At midday we received a visit from a local guide named Adi who was taking the couple off the other yacht on a day trip into the mountains the next day and wanted to see if we were also interested.
After some discussion we signed on with him too.

For the afternoon we went around to dive the Pertamina Fuel Pier but it was windy and onshore and the viz was terrible so we aborted and dived in the small protected bay where Lorelei was anchored.

We found scores of Fire Urchins with Brooks Urchin Shrimp living in them.
The shrimp are only found living in association with the Fire Urchins and hence was a first for us as we’d only seen a few Fire Urchins prior to this.
The difficulty was getting up close to photograph the 10mm long shrimp without touching the urchin spines as they can inflict a painful wound.

A 5mm long Squat Lobster

A Brook’s Urchin Shrimp

That night we had Thomas and Annette onboard Lorelei for drinks from the German yacht Anke-Sophie.
They are a great couple and we were looking forward to having a fantastic day trip with them the next day.

Abui and Kabola Traditonal Mountain Tribe Tour.

We were picked up at 8am and first went to Adi’s house for breakfast and to meet his family and our tour guide Mila.
Mila was great as she spoke Indonesian, English and the traditional mountain tribe languages.

Adi showed us some very old carvings from the local area too.

With the lack of rain in the area, many homes have wells for fresh water.
Adi’s well was very deep.

The drive up to the first village took 1 hour.
The views over the bay as we climbed into the hills were amazing.
We took the car as far as it would go and walked the rest of the way.
At the base village we stopped to see a lady doing traditional weaving.

She also showed us some handmade jewellery and a very old sword and scabbard that was nearly 100 years old.

We were completely blown away when we arrived at the Takpala village and home of the Abui Tribe.
It was awesome!!!
Traditional houses well laid out in a very clean setting with 180 degree water views.

We were able to walk freely around the village and talk to the people (who thankfully also spoke Indonesian) and have a look inside their houses.

For centuries the village has not worshipped a god but instead has believed in their ancestors spirits.
Now with religion being popular they have had to adapt.
The 2 different cappings on the rooves below are for the Muslims.
One building serves food that is halal friendly and no pigs or dog and the coloured flags indicate which is which.

The head man of the warrior clan showed us some traditional dress and weapons before proudly putting them on and giving us a fighting and bow and arrow demonstration.

One highlight was seeing the Moko Drums which are very old bronze kettle drums.
Whilst they are found in a few locations around Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia, they are most famously associated with the island of Alor where they have long been prized in ceremonial exchanges.
Moko Drums are still generally required as part of the bridal dowry.

Before we left the local ladies set up some stalls showing and selling traditional jewellery and woven cloth (like Tais in Timor Leste).

For the second village we had to drive back down to sea level and around to another side of the island before tackling a windy road that was in bad repair with lots of pot holes and wash-outs.
We stopped a few times to have a look at the awesome view.
This time we were looking up the bay instead of out over the pass.

The Kabola Tribe received us in an area built for ceremonies and visiting tourists.

Their traditional clothes are a little out of the ordinary as they use the bark from a local tree to make them.
They dressed Lisa and Annette up in bark dresses that were amazingly one piece of unjoined bark.

The 2 local men demonstrated to us how they made fire from bamboo and how they remove the bark from the tree and prepare it.

By the time we had arrived back in the main town of Kalabahi for lunch, we were 2 hours too late and the food stalls were all but empty.
Being Ramadan also didn’t help…
Fortunately Adi’s wife is an excellent cook and they made us a very late lunch at their house.
We visited the local stores and markets and finally arrived home at 4pm completely stuffed but very happy after an awesome day out.

We had a rest day the next day to sort out our dive gear, rig cameras and sort through the 600+ photos from the village tours.

Thomas had heard about our diving adventures with Donovan booked for the next day and decided he would like to come along as well for the first day.

Diving with Dive Alor

At an early 5:30am we were in a very packed RIB and heading over to the charter boat.
From there we departed at 6:15am for a 7am pick up at the main wharf at Kalabahi for Donovan and his other guests.

While we were waiting for them to arrive, we were able to have a walk around the wharf and take some reflection shots in the glassy early morning conditions.

One of the traditional local Phinisi’s at the wharf

Heading out down the bay was great. It was glassy flat and there were loads of large Tuna and Spinner Dolphins jumping out all around us.

We passed a lot of the Bamboo fishing platforms on the way.

Ahhh now there it was – the correct Mucky Mosque location which was a little further down the bay. Donovan confirmed this also.

The 12m/40ft boat was perfect for the amount of people we had. There was a lot of room both up the front, down the back and a great central space out of the sun where we could sleep, eat and relax.

We did 3 dives that day starting with a protected bay with loads of unusual critters, followed by a great wall and ending with a sloping wall dive with lots of ledges. It was a fun first day and Lisa took some nice macro shots of Leaf Fish and Frog Fish.

Juvenile Clown or Painted Frogfish

Leafy Scorpionfish (or Leaf Fish)

L: Giant Frogfish face R: White Leaf Fish

Right: 2 in 1 – Note the 2 shrimps in the one shot….

For Paul it was great to have some other models aside from Lisa.

Paul’s highlight of the day was a Giant Frogfish that yawned for him – twice!!

The next day was supposed to be a 4 dive day including a night dive.
However by 4pm we were all stuffed and a little cold so everyone canned the night dive.
One diver named Istiani had her 17 year old son Kefas onboard as it was Indonesian School Holidays.
Whilst he didn’t dive, he was a keen snorkeler and photographer and brought his Nikon camera onboard.
Between Paul and Kefas, they had 3 Nikon camera bodies and 6 different lenses to choose from so Kefas took loads of pictures of us and the other divers gearing up and getting in and out of the water.

The group L-R: Istiani, Lisa, Paul, Pipiet, Tonny

The conditions stayed flat for the whole day making it very pleasant to travel between islands to get to the dive sites.

Looking forward as we motored to Reta Island.

Looking aft as we travelled from our first dive site at Pura Island

Anchored up at our 2nd dive site.

Paul enjoying lunch on the bow

In the afternoon we dived below an old Mosque.
Its claim to fame is it houses the oldest printed copy of the Koran in the world.

We did get some great photos during the 3 daylight dives.

This is a very small Snapping Shrimp (carrying eggs) on a Starfish

We surfaced from the 2nd dive to find this canoe sailing around us

The shallows at the end of the dives made for great sunlight shots.

By the time we got home that night Thomas and Annette on Anke-Sophie had left. They only had 60 days in Indo and wanted to see as much as they could. We had shared a great few days with them though.

Tonny and Pipiet had to return to Jakarta for the last day so day 3 just had Donovan, Isti, Kefas and us onboard making for a load of room.

Having a cuppa, fruit and pancakes for breakfast

The morning was still and hazy making for some eerie photos as we travelled down the bay.

Looking back towards the 1000’s of buoys at the Pearl Farm

It was spring tides that day and the currents in the pass were brutal and Ambon the captain had a very hard time keeping the boat going straight.

At the first spot we had to wait for 20 minutes for the current to subside before going in. We only had a small time window so we didn’t want to go in too late and still entered as there was a little current.
The cave and wall was incredible and the colours on the wall were amazing.

The photos below are virtually straight from the camera with no colour editing or enhancement.

We think this is the biggest Barrel Sponge we have ever seen

The afternoon didn’t go so well and we did the premier Bommie called Cal’s Dream which is a pinnacle that comes up to within 6m of the surface.
20 minutes into the dive a roaring current hit at around 6 knots. It was by far the strongest current we have ever felt whilst diving.
Thank goodness we had our reef hooks and were able to hook into a small hole in the reef top to do our safety stops. The funniest thing was watching this poor little white leaf fish near our feet. He was tucked up against the reef edge looking for current protection too and didn’t look too happy about it.

The boat was sitting out watching for us and we had travelling over 100m underwater from the time we unhooked to the time we travelled the 6m to the surface.
Thank goodness for good crew….

Donovan making sure we are OK.  Note Lisa’s safety sausage to the right

A week of Sickness

We had an invite to meet Donovan, Isti, Kefas and the crew for dinner that night but we were both very tired so we politely declined.

It was just as well… Paul was starting to feel sick that night and for the next 3 days he had terrible Flu symptoms and was stuck in bed.
Oh well at least it gave him time to sort through and edit the 1500+ photos from the 3 days.
However by day 3 the pics were done and he was sick of watching movies.
He was climbing the walls in frustration but could barely get out of bed.
The weather was perfect, there were loads of boats chores to be done and the muck dives were calling…..
The upside was Lorelei was in a very protected anchorage with no one to hassle us.

On the afternoon of day 3 Paul was starting to feel a little better and could get up for 15 minute periods and at least sit outside for a while.
After a really good night sleep the night before we surmised one more good sleep and he would be much better.
It certainly wasn’t the case and he had a terrible night with no sleep and virtually cried most of the night with extreme throat pain.
He was having trouble breathing and couldn’t swallow at all.
At 10am he awoke and rolled over in horror to find Lisa under 3 blankets and shivering violently with a really bad fever.
Paul could barely lift his head off the pillow and there was nothing we could do – we just had to ride it out.
For 36 hours we were both in a hell of a state. We couldn’t eat, could barely drink and had no one to turn to for assistance.
Our sheets were a sweaty mess and we couldn’t even change them.

On day 6 at 3pm Paul started to come good and was able to get up to run the generator as we were pretty low on battery voltage.
It was a comedy of errors and he overfilled the generator and spilled fuel everywhere.
He then tried to cook some custard for us both and nearly set the galley on fire and made a hell of a mess.

By day 7 Paul was up and about and spent the day doing 1 hour on/1 hour off and trying to get Lorelei and us back together again.
However Lisa slept most of the day and still had a fever.

However we weren’t clear yet.
Lisa still had 3 days of fever and spent most of that time in bed.

After 10 days (and probably the worst week and a half ever full time cruising) we were up and about and going again.
Along with the fever we had in Gizo in the Solomons 2 years ago, it was the sickest we have been with the combined issue of a crossover period where we both had it.

The 10 days certainly was going to put a dent into or travel plans as we were due to meet our next guest on the island of Flores in 2 weeks time.
We had 3 weeks’ worth of activities to do between Alor and there so now we had to prioritise and remove a couple of stops or at the very least cut them short.

Back into the Alor Muck Diving

Either way we weren’t going to miss the muck dives in Alor so that’s what we started with once we were better.
We ventured down to the correct Mucky Mosque for a dive there.
However Lisa got cold after only 60 minutes and we cut the dive short.

A Lionfish being cleaned by 2 Cleaner Wrasse

Miniature little bugs crawling over the soft coral

The next day we did a double dive on another site called The Mini Wall.
It had a lot of soft corals on the sloping wall with many unusual critters.
Lisa was having camera problems and didn’t take her camera.

Yawning Lionfish

Mushroom Coral Pipefish – a first for us

Sailing to Flores

We downloaded the weather and the forecast looked OK for the 300+nm sail to Labuan Bajo on the Island of Flores.
We were due to pick our next guest up there in 10 days time so we had to get going.
However Paul’s head cold had returned after getting cold the day before whilst diving and Lisa was still far from 100%.
So we decided to break the trip down into a series of smaller day trips.

We left Kalabahi at 6am with lots of waving from the residents of the bay.
The conditions were glassy until we hit the main pass.

As we transited down the bay we spied a large Humpback Whale travelling up into the bay.

In the main pass the wind came up early and it was from the south so we hoisted sails and weaved around the islands as we headed north out of the pass.
We spied a small sailing canoe that was struggling with the windy and rough conditions.

We turned west for the run across the top of the islands of Nusa Tenggara.
The currents are brutal in this area and the spring tides didn’t help.
We pushed tide most of the way and sometimes had speed down to only 2 knots.
At noon the wind picked up to 20 knots and came straight in from the west and was really rough.
What the @#%$& was going on with the weather??
We were right in the middle of peak trade wind season which should have given us S-SE-E winds. The weather forecast also indicated a week of Easterly winds - NOT 20 knots of damn Westerly….
We couldn’t turn back as the tide in the pass had already changed and we would not make our planned overnight stop before dark (and it faced west anyway).
So we scoured the charts for an alternate anchorage to give us westerly protection.
We found a possible option but either way we had to bash and crash into the wind and current. We had green water all over the boat and were not happy at all.
At 4pm Lisa remembered she was given a huge amount of goggle earth overlays from another yachtie months ago and a quick check revealed we had one for the proposed anchorage. Thank goodness!!
At 5pm we managed to navigate over a very shallow reef bar (with less than 2m/6ft under the keel) and were able to anchor in a small but well protected inlet for the night.

We were so happy for a decent meal and a good night’s sleep.

It was the most un-economical run we have ever done in Lorelei.
We managed just 38nm for 73 litres of diesel.
(Normally it’s roughly 6nm for 5 litres…)

Day 2 was kinder to us with light south winds but we still had to push current and motor/motor sail all day.

We passed some amazing islands and 2 active volcanos that were 1500m high.

This island was huge but bare of trees and green foliage

With the zoom lens we could photograph the steam rising off the outside of the caldera of the first volcano.
The smell of sulphur was quite strong as we sailed past.

In 2 full days of travelling we had done only 80nm and still had over 220nm to go.
It was going to be a long (and expensive) week....

That night we had a great sunset with a Volcano in the background.

Day 3 of the trek west and things were looking better.
We had gone past all the smaller islands with the passes in between creating the brutal currents and were now transiting along the very long island of Flores.
The currents had subsided and the light winds were anywhere from east to south.
We were able to motor or motor sail at a comfortable 6 knots average.
By 4pm we were still travelling along nicely so we decided to do an overnighter and push our luck.
There was no moon so it was a dark night but the skies stayed clear and the wind was only light from the south.

At noon the next day we were motoring along in flat conditions when Lisa spied what she thought was a large raft of logs about 1000m away.
We soon realised they were actually small whales just resting on the surface.
We turned Lorelei around and slowly nosed up to them and switched off the engine and anything that would make noise or scare them.
Paul grabbed his camera and freediving gear and jump in to have a look.
They must have sensed he was there and he just could not get right up close for any decent photos.
Meanwhile Lisa sat on Lorelei with the camera and snapped a few photos.
After looking at the ID books we still are not sure if they were Melon Head Whales or Pygmy False Killer Whales.

Paul swimming quietly up to the pod

The only decent photos Paul got were of Lorelei as Lisa came up to pick him up…

We had been warned by a few people that the charts for the area were a long way out.
Well that is an understatement!!
We passed one headland and were about 1nm offshore and the charts had us transiting though the headland. Crazy!!

This is the distance we were from the headland

This is the track from the Laptop showing us going over the land

By 3:30pm we had found a protected bay to stop the night.
By going overnight, we had knocked off a large portion of the trip and only had 32nm to go to reach Labuan Bajo the next day.

We had to take the long way around for the last 32nm as the short cut through the islands and reef was like a minefield of shallow areas and with the charts being so far out and it being overcast we didn’t want to risk it.

We did pass some great looking islands that had some nice potential anchorages.

Coming into Labuan Bajo Harbour looked awesome with the many steep islands and mountain ranges in the background.

We finally put the anchor down at Labuan Bajo at 2pm on the 20th July.

So that’s it Episode 39 “Eastern Nusa Tenggara”.

Overall it’s been a challenging month offset by a few great highlights in between.
Our long bout of sickness meant we had to skip our planned week of diving in Maumere and a visit to the Coloured Lakes which are mid way along Flores Island.

But hey - it is what it is - and that’s cruising.
We don’t sugar coat the blog to make it sound like
“everything is awesome” because with cruising it is often not the case.
We are particularly finding that while cruising here in Indonesia.

So now we are at the gateway to the Komodo National Park and waiting for our friend Nathan from the NSW Central Coast to arrive in 4 days time.
He is onboard for 3 weeks of fun filled action in and around the Komodo area, diving, kiting, hiking and looking for large lizards.

We found one already – on our boat…..!!!

Then we are off further west for the second half of Nathans stay to try and find some decent surf on the SW coasts of Sumbawa and Lombok.

Look out for Episode 40 “Western Nusa Tenggara” towards the end of August.

We have put a separate page together with a collection of our best underwater photos from diving at Alor.
This is the link:

Cheers for now.

Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger

Yacht Lorelei.

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