30 July 2007

Kupang, West Timor

Anchored off Teddy's Bar
Kupang, West Timor

Greetings from West Timor! Team Sandpiper has been busy since arrival in Indonesia getting checked it and checking out the local area.

We are anchored off Teddy's Bar here in Kupang with all 107 other boats in the Darwin-to-Kupang Rally. The rally is a lot more that just Darwin to Kupang. The rally committee has events scheduled for the next 2 months all over Indonesia. This is just the first stop.

Teddy's Bar is right off the beach. They have staff that will, for only 25,000 rupiah (USD$2), help you land and will watch your dinghy while you are ashore. The Dawin-to-Kupang Rally staff are stationed at the bar to help any boats that are having problems. They arranged for all the boats to check in with customs, quarantine, and immigration.

When we arrived at the anchorage here in Kupang, most of the Rally fleet had already arrived. About half of the boats had yet to be checked through customs because there was such a large number of boats for them to process. There were boats everywhere flying their quarantine flags and calling on the radio. Some had been waiting for 24 hours or more, and they really wanted to go ashore.

Since there were so many boats in the anchorage, we decided that we would explore the whole area before we decided to drop the hook. We wanted to be clear of the other boats, but still be in about 20 feet of water so we would not have to put out a ton of chain. We went to the far side of the anchorage and found a really great spot near the beach with no other boats near us. As soon as we set the anchor, customs came straight out to our boat, passing everyone else that had been waiting, and came aboard. The customs and quarantine officers were very professional and cleared us in less than 20 minutes. The speed which customs checked us in was also due to the swell in the anchorage. They told us that they were not feeling too well!

As soon as we cleared, we went ashore, passing all the boats that were still waiting to clear in. I think that we got lucky because customs starting their boardings at our end of the anchorage. All the boats that had been waiting were trying to figure out why we were cleared first.

One funny thing we have noticed about anchorages is that arriving boats are always drawn to boats that are already anchored. They anchor right next to them, yet there is plenty of space elsewhere. Most boats will drop anchor on the outside of all the other anchored boats. So when the boats near the shore depart, the group of anchored boats keep moving further out as new boats arrive and old boats leave. We have found that if we plow right through all the anchored boats we can usually get a great spot near a dinghy landing right near the shore. But we get a lot of dirty looks as we steam by everybody else.

After checking in we went ashore to Teddy's Bar where most of the fleet hangs out. We met up with all our friends from other boats to hear about their trips. Team Sandpiper did quite well on this crossing since we had been able to sail most of the trip. Some boats motored the whole way. There is a flurry of activity ashore as boats fill their jerry jugs with diesel on the beach trying to replace all the fuel they burned on the crossing.

Team Sandpiper is hoping that the 200 gallons of diesel that we took on in Darwin will be able to get us all the way to Thailand. Stay tuned to see if we can do it!

Kupang is super cool, and a much bigger city that we thought it was. There is tons of crazy traffic in the city, with small buses the size of vans with super loud music blasting and crazy stickers all over them. They even have stickers that cover their windshields. I have no idea how they see at night.

There are also motorcycles everywhere. Because not very many people here own cars, they all own motorcycles. There are all kinds of crazy motorcycles buzzing around, some with whole families aboard, including small babies.

Crossing the street for the first time was a death defying feat. But after a few days we are getting better at it.

The coolest vehicles we have seen are the motorcycles carrying chickens to the market. They have wood boards that stick out 3 feet on each side with about 20 live chickens tied upside down by their feet. You can hear the chickens clucking away before you hear the motorcycle coming, PETA would have a field day here.

Some cruisers on another boat went to the market and ordered a chicken. The guy grabbed a live chicken out of a cage and chopped off its head while they waited! I think we are holding off on eating meat for awhile, or at least until its not killed in front of us.

The following morning, after we arrived, we went ashore to check in with the Immigration office that was set up temporarily across the street from the bar just for the rally fleet. They were all very serious looking, until we brought out our camera. Then all of them wanted to have their pictures taken with us. They even brought out some hot rolls for us to eat while we waited. This would have never happened in the U.S.!! When Amy picked up our papers at the end of the day , the officers offered her shots of beer while she waited.

The people here are all super friendly and all want to say "Hello". I kind of feel like a rock star when we walk around town. People are all saying 'Hello Mister', 'Hello Misses', and shaking our hands. When we come ashore and ask somewhere where we can get something, they reply "I will go with you". They hail a cab and travel around with us making sure that we are not getting ripped off. Today I needed to get some beer from the store. The guy on the beach went to the grocery store with me in a taxi. When Amy asked one of the girls at Teddy's Bar where she could get a haircut, the waitress picked her up in the morning and walked her to the hair dresser.

We went on one of the tours set up by the Rally committee to see some of the traditional villages in the interior. I thought that we would all be in one bus. But we arrived ashore at 7am, we all boarded 10 small buses. We had a police escort and were followed by 2 ambulances, complete with sirens, for the entire day. It was quite cool as all traffic had to pull over as our buses blazed through traffic.

We stopped at one small village where the local Timorese live in small grass houses. They sang a welcome song for us. After that we had an insane 3 hour bus ride up into the mountains on roads that I would not ever take a 4 wheel drive on. It was like a bad movie where you could look down the sides of massive cliffs and mountains and it looked like we were going to tumble down. I was very impressed by some of the steep mountain roads that the vans climbed up.

We ended up a small village which was the last traditional village in Timor where the village was run by a prince. They put on a big lunch for us and told us about their village and letting us look around. After that, it was another insane bus ride back at Kupang, arriving at 10:30pm. A long day on a bus!

One thing I forgot to mention is that everything is really cheap here. Amy and I went out for dinner with a beer, and it cost about USD$12. Amy's day with the hair dresser was USD$12. And she got a really great hair cut with lots of attention from the ladies at the salon. I think we are going to like it here!

Team Sandpiper is leaving Kupang tomorrow morning for an overnight sail to Alor, another island 130 miles north of here, where the rally has 4 more days of events scheduled for us.

We are still in a Sailmail black hole. So please have patience with us for not getting emails from us. We are hoping that our radio reception improves soon. We will probably not be able to have access to the internet until we get to Bali, over a month from now.

We did get a SIM card for our phone. If you can figure out the international dialing code, then you can call or text us at 081-353-881696.

More when it happens,

Tom and Amy

Notes From Ron:

  • In Indonesia, the buses that Tom & Amy refer to are called "Bemos". Here and here are some good traveler descriptions of Indonesian Bemos.
  • To call Tom and Amy: 011-62-813-5388-1696.

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