01 August 2007

Kalabahi, Pulau Alor

Anchored Kalabahi Village
Pulau Alor
East Nusa Tenggara

Greetings all! Firstly, we our safely anchored at our second stop on the Sail Indonesia rally. We left Kupang yesterday morning around 9am for a 130 nautical mile sail/motor here. Around sunset we saw several hundred dolphins jumping 20-30 feet in the air doing flips. We were also graced with a full moon, insane shooting stars, war ships passing down the side of Sandpiper, and with all of this we were still able to make 20 gallons of water.

The trip was about 50/50 sail and motor and was a nice overnight passage. We had several other rally boats around us all night. There was a report of a 'floating island' from someone. I quickly altered our course 20 degrees and thankfully never saw anything. Indonesian waters are full of debris, from logs to trash, and can be quite bothersome to us sailors. So it is nice to have a word of warning.

The day before leaving Kupang we were told that Alor was in the midst of civil unrest. But all would be ceased for our visit. The next few days should be interesting! Just to clarify... we are in the middle of nowhere, deep in Muslim country, and tourists are not part of the culture. Sail Indonesia is the largest rally all year. Most of the stops will be at towns and villages that have petitioned at years in advance for us to stop. The local people are very excited for us to visit their villages, and this is the biggest event of the year for them.

Also, our last entry didn't include our last night in Kupang. It was a very special night for all. The mayor of Kupang and Teddy from Teddy's Bar hosted a fantastic gala dinner for all us participants. All of the boats were given a coffee table book of Kupang with color photos and a traditional woven scarf called a ikat.

There were also dance and music performances from the local university students where we were able to join them for a lesson. The dance they taught us was about a young boy getting in trouble from his mother. It was a great experience!

The best part about the night was that the rally started a scholarship fund for four local university students. The money we raise will pay for their tuition and books for all four years of school. The students joined us for the dinner and spoke about what they were studying (mostly chemistry and teaching) and how grateful they were to receive this money. I think this is such a special way to give back to the city of Kupang and I was very pleased to be a part of this.

The people of Kupang could not have been any nicer to us. It was a real treat to experience and to see the smiles on everyone's face, both young and old, that we were there. This was really touching. The Sail Indonesia rally website has a paypal account for anyone not participating in the rally but who would like to contribute to the scholarship fund. Indonesia is extremely poor. Any amount is welcome. $30 per boat from us rally participants was enough to fund all four students for four years.

Finally... a Happy Belated 40th Birthday to our dear friend Chris Allaire on the S/V Christa whom will be retiring shortly from the U.S. Coast Guard and will be joining the ranks of us salty cruisers soon. Happy Birthday Chris!!!!!!!

Amy and Tom

Notes From Ron:
"Palau" is the Indonesian word for "Island". Thus "Pulau Alor" means "Alor Island" in English.

I'm curious about the reports of civil unrest in Alor. The islands around Alor are having a lot of problems. But I've never heard of, nor can I find, any recent news about problems on Alor itself. Alor is one of the poorest islands of Indonesia. Nearby Timor is recovering from a long civil war and succession of East Timor. There are still a lot of refugees and fighting left over from that war.

Other nearby islands are being ravaged by Muslim versus Christian religious wars. Most of Indonesia is Muslim. Most of the country's population of 250 million people live west of Bali. Most of the Christian communities are in the eastern islands, such as Alor and Timor. Over the last decade, Indonesia has been trying to move people from the overpopulated main islands of Sumatra and Java to the less populated eastern islands. Thus, most of the new comers to the eastern islands are Muslim. That is causing a lot of tension because the Muslims are now becoming a majority.

However, Alor is mostly Christian, with a small and even poorer Muslim minority. Perhaps it too is feeling the impact of new immigrants competing for resources and political power?

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