Anchored AT Kalabahi Village,
Solor Alor Archipelago,
East Nusa Tenggara,
Greetings from Alor Island. The friendliest place on earth!
We have been here anchored in Alor for the last week as part of the 2007 Darwin-to-Kupang Rally. There are 2 small anchorages here and Sandpiper was the third boat to arrive. After two days there were boats packed in everywhere because it is only shallow enough to anchor right up along the shoreline.
After we set the anchor, kids from all over swam out to us, all waving and saying "Hello Mister. Welcome to Alor Island!". Since our arrival there have been kids in the anchorage swimming or paddling around all day long, all waving hello, and climbing up on to the boats that have ladders on the back. Lucky for us, Sandpiper does not have a ladder on the back. Poor Shiraz does....
We spent one day going out on a dive boat that took us out about 10 miles from where we are anchored. We got to spend the day snorkeling. Alor has over 150 dive spots and divers come from all over the world to dive in some of the most remote areas. Once you get away from the anchorage, the water gets really clear. We got to see all kinds of brightly colored fish with many different colored corals.
This was also in an area where the local Indonesian fisherman who live in a village along the shoreline use their dug-out canoes to drop their hand woven fish traps among the coral. Amy even saw a Blacktip reef shark as we were trying to get back on to our dive boat.
Alor Expo was also on during our visit. We went to the opening ceremonies with special seating for all of us Rally participants. The Alor Expo is where people from all the surrounding villages get to show off their different music, dancing, and handcrafts. The Expo was opened by a group of local high schooler students walking on bamboo stilts and playing all kinds of different bamboo instruments in a bamboo band. They really love the bamboo out here. They even had guys on the sides firing bamboo cannons. There were also booths where you could check out the crafts. Lots of stuff made out of bamboo.
The funny part about the expo, and being in Indonesia, is how super friendly everyone is. While walking around we were swarmed by kids and adults who all wanted to shake our hands and have photos taken with us. Most people wanted to know our names and where we were from. A mother even had me sign her son's hand with a sharpie! We have to keep walking. If we stop , then everyone circles around us and we can't get away. Everyone here is so genuinely friendly!
Walking around town everyone says "Hello" to us with a friendly wave. Kids get super excited when we say "Hello" to them, leaving them running around laughing. If not ashore, then we are surrounded by all the kids swimming in the harbor, laughing, and crying "Hello Mister" every time we pop our heads out on the cockpit.
One of the very few bars this town has is located right where the dinghies are tied up, They have really cold beers for super cheap... only $20,000 Rupiah, which is about USD$2. The exchange rate is really crazy. 50,000 Rupiah is about USD$7. So for 1 million Rupiah, you get around USD$100. This makes for a fat pocket of cash because there are so many notes needed to pay for anything. But each note is worth so little.
The funny part about this bar is that it is a bamboo shack that only has about 5 beers on ice. When the beer runs out, they take the money you just paid them and take off on a motorcycle to bring back 5 new beers to put on ice.
They are also huge Yanni fans, which is quite bizarre. They play his DVD for us as soon as we walk in. I think we have seen it 5 times now.
One night we left the bar with two young guys from Louisiana who are on one of the boats filming a documentary about Indonesia/Yachties (www.northofdarwin.com). We were getting into our dinghies when a local named Bob from a police boat invited us aboard to have some drinks with them. We ended up staying aboard with them till 3am. They filled us up with their local home brew (called Sope) and singing songs for us with a guitar that mysteriously showed up on the back of a motorcycle. I am sure that the whole anchorage appreciated all the fine singing that came off the back of the police boat. But who's going to complain when you are on a police boat?
We also took a tour on the island today. We stopped at several villages that had singers and dancers with music going when we arrived. Amy even joined in to one of the villages dances and was responded well by the locals.
Indonesia does not get much tourism where we are. The areas that we are visiting get very few cruising boats during the year. As result, this part of Indonesia is very much untouched by visitors, and everyone seems so excited when we arrive.
Tom and Amy
06 August 2007
Anchored AT Kalabahi Village,