We left Kupang about noon with a light breeze that allowed us to sail for several hours. Then the wind died completely and we motored all day and through the night. It was a slow trip against a strong current but the seas were flat and I took an extended watch (because Gord was not feeling well) under a spectacular starry sky with lots of meteors. We really did not encounter any fish boats or hazards and the 5 other lights around us provided a sense of security and comfort.
There was much discussion about entering the pass with the strong tide against us. It was necessary to do some fancy calculations to determine the flow and strength but in the end it is all just a guess. When we reached the entrance to the pass beside Alor Island, we had 3 knots against us but once we moved along the shoreline the current subsided and was actually with us all the way to the anchorage. The topography had changed dramatically from that of Timor as now huge rugged steep hills emerged from the sea along little narrow strips of beach here and there covered with palm trees.
Alor is located between Timor and Flores and is often refered to as "The island of Magic" since it is steeped in myths and mystery.
We rounded the corner toward Kalabahi, the capital city of Alorand could see villages with tin roof domes and blue spires as well as cathedrals and churches clinging to the hillside. There really wasn't much in the way of flat land anywhere. Cluttering the channel were bazaar fish traps, permanent bamboo frames looking like unfinished roof tress structures.
Sailing through the maze of bamboo traps were dugout canoes, powered with sails made from all sorts of materials but the sailcloth of choice seemed to be brightly colored tarpaulin
An overloaded sampan (Indonesian fishing boat) motored by us, the locals very excitedly waving and welcoming us.
We reached the anchorage, already crowded with yachts, all surrounded by dugouts containing loadfuls of kids anxious about the arrival of visitors. We anchored very close to the wall covered in SailAsia banners where all the activity seemed to be happening.
The entire anchorage was very deep and the holding a slippery mud but we managed to hook securely. We watched a brilliant sunset as the water became peacefully calm. We desperately needed sleep so had supper and went to bed at 7:30pm. It was hard to sleep with the noise from the blaring horns, music, laughter and chanting from shore.
An Early Morn
We were awoken by the Call to Prayer at 4 am and the haunting Muslin wailing began blaring from the loudspeakers, lasting until daybreak. Then a cacophony of rooster calls.
After that, a huge ferry pulled into the dock only feet from us and blew his horn earsplitting loud, repeatedly. No need for an alarm clock here! (I remember when we complained about the roosters and dog barking waking us, which pales in comparison to the deafening sound of the ferry).
We looked out to see an official looking fellow, dressed in proper trousers and a long sleeved white shirt, making the rounds to the boats in his dugout canoe. It was 7 am! So I hurriedly dressed in my Muslin attire (over the shoulders, over the knees) and quickly grabbed my laundry, knickers first, off the life lines and tidied up the cabin.
Over the course of the morning we were visited by many friendly faces, mostly coming by to say hello in their dugout canoes. All sorts of interesting fishing boats went by as well.
Later in the day, Stardust picked me up and we rowed to shore. We got an overwhelming reception on the shore, with kids appearing out of nowhere and running down the dock to assist us with the dinghy. It was almost impossible to get out of the dinghy with all the children covering every inch of dock space, so excited to see us!
We headed to town, which consisted of only a small main street, bordered by tiny interesting shops with everything…timber, bike tubes, rifles, dress materials, china, food, etc. all mixed together. And a mosque and a church every mile. We detoured down a narrow trail into the local crowded market and were swarmed with people “ ‘Allo mistah, hey missus, ‘Allo mister” everyone trying to touch us! We hastily made our getaway, afraid to stop long enough to even take pictures for fear of being mobbed.
We found a Bemo to take us to TELCOM, where there was supposedly an internet connection. But once there, we found that there was none and the clerks did not speak English to direct us elsewhere so we returned to the dock. Back at the boat I discovered that the Australian meat in my freezer was thawed so spent the remainder of the day cooking the only meat we will see for 2 months, hoping to salvage some meals!
Although our day was restful, yachts around us were playing bumper boats as the change of the tide swung all the boats in different directions. There were many who had to re-anchor in the limited space and we wondered where the remainder of the boats (probably around 30 in number) would anchor when they arrived later today. We continued to be visited by canoes all day until the sun was completely set.
The Rally arranged a tour to the traditional village of Takpala, one of the few catholic villages on Alor. It has about 15 traditional houses and we were treated to elaborate traditional dance with colorful costumes. More....
That evening, we took in the ceremonies for the Opening Ceremonies of the Alor CulturalExpo, a huge event that happens once a year. Groups dressed in traditional costume paraded into the stadium by the thousands representing the regencies of Alor and 9 Alorese sub districts. More...
We awoke to a serene misty morning, a fishing boat tranquilly bobbing in the mirrored waters. Not long later, the dugout canoe racing began. A long string of canoes were towed to the start line in preparation.
Rally Welcome Ceremonies
Gone With the Wind came aboard Ascension for a big breakfast of omelets and crepes and we watched the proceedings as a very decorated Indonesian fishing boat collected Dennis from Harrier to go ashore and represent the Rally participants in the Welcome Ceremony.
We were also summoned to shore for theCeremonies. We were met by our host with gifts of ikats in the form of sarongs placed around our necks.
We were escorted to a seating area for dancing by a tribe dressed in paperbark.
Yachties from 27 countries had photos taken with the officials.
In the evening we were escorted onto buses that drove us to restaurant decorated in preparation for the huge Gala Dinner. We were greeted by dignitaries, many of us wearing the sarongs that had been presented to us earlier in the day. A fabulous dinner was served consisting of about 12 dishes of authentic Indonesian food, rice, fish, soup, beans, veal and other unnamed courses.
Each table had 2 cute Indonesian’s serving us. The food was delicious and the service was divine!
We were seated close to the stage where we watched more traditional performances and listened to more speeches.
Afterward the cruisers had to get up on stage and participate while the band beat out the rhythm of the dance.
The Rally organized a trip to the small village of
Besar, where we were entertained in traditional fashion and went
snorkelling on a nearby beach. More...
In the afternoon the girls took a bemo to the Government offices where we were fortunate to find a local that led us down a network of paths to an internet. The connection was slow but the price was right…7500 rupiah/hr! (.75 cents US). I caught up on emails that I had been unable to send from our SSB radio at the anchorage. On the way home I bought 10 eggs that were handed to me loose in a thin plastic bag, a challenge to get back to the boat without breaking.
When the day came to leave we had a wonderful heartwarming sendoff from all the children of Alor. They ran down to the end of the dock with us, touching us, giving us the high-five (that I'm sure Liam taught them all!) and waving goodbye. I will always remember the outgoing and loving people of this friendly village.
We enjoyed a final sunset, then prepared to set sail the following morning.