The sail from Darwin to Kupang (in West Timor) was mellow and easy. Unfortunately I felt queasy for a while – and this was exacerbated by me downing half a cup of sea water, thinking it was fresh water! The sailing conditions were lovely – very calm seas, a gentle to moderate breeze from behind or off the beam, and sunny weather. It is about 500 nautical miles from Darwin to Kupang, and took us 5 days, 4 nights. We deliberately slowed down at the end as we wanted to approach West Timor in the light.
The islands of Indonesia are known to be scattered with “fish attracting devices”, which are basically moored floating drums / platforms, presumably to attract fish. One really doesn’t want to hit one of these, especially with the engines running. We did actually come across 2 of these on our 4th day at sea, still far offshore from land. I think they had come loose from their moorings and drifted out to sea. Although the wind was very light that last night, we decided not to switch our engines on so as to limit any damage in case we hit one of these. Fortunately we were protected and kept safe from any dangers – thank you Lord.
The boys (and Paul) entertained themselves by making little wooden boats that they dragged behind our boat whilst we sailed. They started off quite rudimentary, and got more advanced over time – with sails, drag shuts etc. There was a bit of a panic when one of Joshua’s came loose and was lost at sea (tie a bowline knot Joshi!). Marco turned us around and we began the hunt for the 5cmx5cm boat – and found it! Successful “boat overboard” mission completed! The little boat was consequently named “Lost at Sea”. Unfortunately her desire to return to sea must have been too strong, as she again managed to come loose and was ultimately lost.
The boys (big and small) also had fun jumping off the bow and grabbing onto the stern as the boat sailed passed. We had a rope tied off the back – and I was a little anxious that they might miss the rope and be left behind in the Timor Sea!
As we approached Kupang we first passed the port with a number of large ships anchored in the bay, including a gigantic “power ship”. There seemed to be a lot of industry in the area – what looked like a power station and a cement factory up on the hill. There were also thousands of “fish attracting devices” moored along the coastline and in every little bay we came to.
We rounded the headland and came to the more traditional part of Kupang – brightly coloured houses dotted along the shore and up the hill, and the bay full of bright wooden fishing boats. It was a delightful sight! There was also a large ornate building which we discovered was a church, and along the shore, a constant stream of scooters, bicycles and “bemos” – bright minibus-taxis with huge mudflaps, shiny stickers and loud music. They reminded me of the minibus taxis back home in South Africa, except they drove slower and were brighter and shinier.
We anchored a little further along, opposite the main part of the city. Some of the buildings were built right out of the cliffs and seemed to blend right into them. As we sat down for a cup of afternoon tea we heard the call to prayer from the nearby mosque, and the loud putt-putt-putt from the wooden fishing boats heading out to sea. Yip, we were definitely in a foreign country – how interesting and exciting!
We had our first visitors too – Ayub and Lambertus, who are “yacht agents” and offered to guide us through the process of checking into the country – for a fee of $100 (including taxi-fare). We had read about Ayub on various websites, as well as in our “Cruising Guide to Indonesia”. He was thrilled to see his name in the book, and there were high-fives all round as he revelled in this fact. Checking into Indonesia involves visits to 4 offices: Quarantine, immigration, customs (including a boat visit) and harbour master. It is totally possible to do it independently, but it’s supposed to be quicker and more efficient with an agent. He seemed like a friendly enough guy, so we agreed to use his services, and he met Marco at the beach the following morning for a day of formalities.
Marco said the whole process went smoothly, and the officials were very friendly and easy-going. They had to criss-cross town to get to the various offices, and customs came on board at around 4pm for a brief inspection. Again, they were really friendly – they viewed our medicine cabinet, asked about morphine (which we don’t have), looked under our mattress and in the engine rooms. And then we were free to take down the quarantine flag and go on land!
Marco dropped the boys and I off at Teddy’s Bar, an open-air area with tables and chairs, some food stalls, pool tables, a brightly lit up carousel for kiddies and a general meeting place. We were definitely the attraction, and had many people come up and chat to us, shake our hands, and high-five the boys. The girls seemed to like taking selfies with the boys, and really loved Josh’s long blonde hair! It seems that 3 students took us under their wing until Marco arrived, and we managed to have a fairly decent conversation using Google Translate and the bits and pieces of Indonesian we’d learnt so far. We ordered a smoothie made from a big green melon of sorts, as well as the standard condensed milk and sugar. Rather sweet, but tasty. We could have tried the avocado smoothie instead – also with condensed milk!
Marco had dropped the dinghy off near the Pasar Malam (night market) where Lambertus lives. He was Ayub’s “fuel guy”, who had a gentle disposition and was more than happy for us to leave our dinghy with him. We headed off to the night market to track down some food – what a selection, and so difficult to choose! I felt like nasi goreng (fried rice), pretty much the staple dish of Indonesia, and we thought we’d ordered that – however, we got plates of everything separately – rice, chicken, and kangkung (water spinach). It was really tasty though, and we felt very satisfied.
The next day we had to clear out of Kupang with the harbour master. The boys and I went along this time, to get a feel for the city and off the boat a bit. It’s a little chaotic, but is a lot smaller and more laid back than I thought it’d be. The cars drive slowly and people seem quite relaxed on the roads, and cars, scooters, goats and people seem to understand each other and keep out of one another’s way. The people are so friendly and helpful, and gave us so much time. They didn’t seem to be jaded or wanting a quick-buck out of us, which was so refreshing. There were very few westerners around – which is probably why. We bought some fruit from a roadside fruit stall, where we discovered “salak” – a fruit with brown snake-like skin with firm white flesh that tastes like bubblegum! We were surprised to find that some fruit was even more expensive than in Australia (e.g. oranges, rockmelons and apples). We went to a rather scruffy downtown market to buy some vegetables, and had most of the local schoolchildren following us from stall to stall by the time we’d finished.
We also organised internet for our phones, and drew some money. Our cards worked fine and we drew money in 5 batches (as the maximum limit per transaction is quite low). On the last attempt the ATM processed the transaction, stated “please take your money”, we could hear it being counted, and then it suddenly returned my card and stated “next customer”, without producing the money! Oh boy! Luckily the bank office was right there, and we went in and explained the situation to the manager. He wasn’t overly helpful – said we’d have to fill in a form to be sent to Jakarta, and they’d have to take it from there. I was preparing myself to write off $200, but managed to get into my bank account online and saw that the last transaction actually didn’t go through – thank goodness!
We returned back to the boat after a full day, and I enjoyed relaxing on my bunk with the sunset illuminating the city in front of me and the muezzin chanting me to sleep.
Paul left the next morning, and we were all sad to see him go. We felt like a family after journeying together for 6 weeks, but understood his commitments and other endeavours. Josh moved back into his room, and we prepared to leave Kupang for Rote island. Sampai jumpa lagi Kupang – until we meet again, you were a great introduction to Indonesia!