13 July 2007
Darwin, Australia and on to Indonesia
Having spent nine months in Australia and covering a great deal of the east coast, we have some final thoughts.
Somewhere in Polynesia we met an Australian single handler who was in a relationship with a US State Department employee. In a conversation about the differences what we should expect to find when we arrived in Australia, he commented that he couldn't understand the American "psyche". Curious, I thought but now I have a greater understanding of his comments. In the US our diversity in culture, region, religion, political agenda make for a stewpot of "psyche". Oh sure we're large and loud and leave a big footprint but to define us is cumbersome especially when you see it from the prospective of a more homogeneous national character.
The Australian economy is expanding at a rapid rate due to the export of mineral wealth. When we arrived the exchange was $.72 AU to the USD and today it is $.87, in just nine months. This economic expansion coupled with stringent immigration regulations leads to a shortage of skills. The Australian educational system may not be keeping pace with the economic development but there appears to be no furor to outpace the rest of the world in the race for technology. Australians are happy to be Australians and what's wrong with that. Not laid back, but content. Comfortable in their own skin. They are not too concerned that the world is becoming flat. They have been and will continue to be independent and very hospitable.
Although isolated, Australia does have neighboring nations that are close enough for small boats to transit. The proximity of Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Papua New Guinea, China and others seems to make Australia a bit of a protectionists state. Immigration to Australia is difficult thereby increasing the cost of labor and limiting the talent pool in our opinion. It also appears that protectionists trade barriers impact availability and inflate the cost of goods.
Australians enjoy the great outdoors. They are a nation of backpackers, campers, caravan adventurers and yachtsman. They love the outdoors so much so that they have the highest levels of melanoma of any nation. The state supported athletic programs have developed some of the world's finest athletes and a plethora of olympic metals.
Top Ten Things about Australia
Ginger, Tony & Leslie; Bill & Kerryn; Chris & Lynn; David & Ivana; John & Elizabeth; Fred Van't Riet;
Julie & Peter; Sherrye & Charles and so many more people who made us feel welcomed to Australia.
The hospitality was exceptional.
The Great Barrier Reef
Best French Fries, abundant serving of large cut fries are always served hot
An amazing variety of birds
Crocodiles, Kangaroos, Sea Snakes, Poisonous Spiders, Bats,
70 species of Sharks (some of which can be dangerous according to the visitor information)
Excellent vineyards and smart pricing
Great navigational aids
Backpackers, backpackers, backpackers and the accommodations to serve them
(ie. internet cafes that cruisers also use)
Cleanest restrooms of any nation
Darwin has become one of our favorite stops. With the exception of the 8 meter tide and no place to land your dingy, it is a city of a human scale. There are lots of dining al fresco, pedestrian traffic is abundant, pubic transportation is good, street markets come alive on the weekend nights and every bar is full on Friday nights. All in all we enjoyed the town and it's people.
The Sail Indonesia Rally is headquartered out of the Darwin Sailing Club and this is a great facility although not a marina. There is a fine marina at Cullen Bay but just before the rally the charge for entering the lock into the marina went up to $250.00 so we took the hint and anchored at Fannie Bay along with 70 other boats. It was easiest to land and depart at high tide but of course this was not always convenient. When not we were left with hauling the dinghy 100 plus yards to the water. The club does provide wheeled carts to aide in the trip but the rocks and coral and sand make it a struggle and you end up being soaked every time. But this is the life style we have chosen so no complaints just commentary.
We felt the the organizers of Sail Indonesia Rally did a commendable job herding 130 cruising boats through the formalities and there was a form of entertainment almost every day. But as the two weeks wore on everyone was ready to go. On the day of the start, we decided that we would find the back of the pack and try to avoid traffic. About 70 boats crossed the line ahead of us and 10 or so behind, leaving a few still at anchor. It was beautiful with many boats flying spinnakers and everyone working hard to avoid each other.
The winds were brisk after we cleared land and we were moving up in the pack as everyone started to spread out. At dusk we could see a great number of navigational lights and we were doing well expecting to make Kupang in just three days. Then the winds died and a great many lights started passing us. We spotted a number of steaming lights on the mast meaning these boats were under power to ensure a timely arrival. Not Shiraz. When that boat speed finally got down to a knot we ran the engine but only for 45 minutes.
Now we were definitely in the back of the pack with the other purist. On the second day we flew the spinnaker and enjoyed the day but from that point on we were committed to a four day sail and eventually found it necessary to slow the boat in order to make a daylight arrival. On the last night we were under jib alone and still making 5 knots. But the timing was perfect and we entered the 15 mile channel to Kupang as daylight broke and the wind went to zero so again we motored arriving after some seventy boats had already anchored. So here we were in Indonesia.
Kupang, Kupang, Kupang
Never heard of it? Well it's a most hospitable place. The Department of Tourism who sponsors Sail Indonesia arranges the destinations and different islands and villages need to apply for the opportunity to host the one hundred plus boats. From government officials down to school children everyone seems excited about our arrival. The kick off dinner includes several different dance troupes and a fashion show of resplendent costumes of the different cultures in Indonesia.
Tours took us to local villages and scenic outlooks. At our first stop the dancers waved swords and executed difficult dance steps until they enticed cruisers into the dance and then it turned into a laughing spree for all the local villagers who were smiling through red stained lips and red teeth from beetle nuts they had been chewing. The nut produces a mild narcotic which must reduce inhabitions because everyone was in the act. You may need to endure long bus rides on roads that were built for a Range Rover endurance test but in comparison to the preparation by the village you will understand the value of a day well spent. Also you will find yourself waving out the window during the entire trip. In every little burg people lined the road and the children waved like the Queen of England was passing by.
The final dinner was held at Teddy's Bar, the headquarters for the rally. Here cruisers pay three times as much for a beer as down the street, but this is the gathering point. Dancers entertained before and after dinner and everyone got into the act. Later in the evening a band played and there seemed to be some bent toward older country and western music and we were unsure if this was for our benefit or just the taste of the locals when it came to popular music.
Now everything doesn't go off like clock work. Officials show up late, buses stop running, schedules are misread, but hey as they say here in Indonesia, "different field, different grasshopper". Go with the flow and you'll enjoy Kupang.
For a short view of a welcoming ceremony dance with us invited to join if we wish please click on the picture. Remember, there will be sound.
For more pictures of Kupang and the traditional villages, please click on the arrow below. To stop the slideshow just click on the square.