After several days in Ndana, we returned to Nemberala (on Rote) to stock up on food and prepare for a longer sail to Savu. There are a couple of shops that stock the rarer items important to us – like longlife milk, milk powder, oats, Nutella ($8 for a small bottle!) – and Coca Cola (for Daddy). We also bought a big Indonesian gas bottle and rigged up an alternate cooking system in the cockpit using our camp cooker. It’s quite difficult getting Australian gas bottles filled here, so we now cook “al fresco” when at anchor, and use the galley stove when underway.
We also visited a gorgeous little lodge in the hills above Nemberala called “Utopia Lodge”, run by an Italian/German couple. It is truly a little piece of paradise – stunning views over the bay framed by colourful bougainvillea, little rock paths that lead to different nooks and crannies, a swimming pool built into the rocks, and a communal open-air dining area. We managed to sneak a peek at their prime suite – so creatively designed, all in the open but private, and oh so romantic! Definitely a honeymoon spot!
We left Nemberala at first light, as we had a 12-hour sail to get to Savu. We dodged a number of buoys near Ndau (probably where the Rote fishing fleet moor each night when they’re fishing for squid), and from then onwards had a clear unobstructed sail. It got a little choppy between the 2 islands off Rote (Do’o and Ndau), but was otherwise smooth and very pleasant. We arrived at the Savu anchorage about an hour before sunset. The main anchorage is near the pier at the town of Seba, but there is also a smaller anchorage nearby that is a little quieter and in a little keyhole in the reef. Marco wanted to scope out the depth and state of the seabed before anchoring inside the keyhole, so we dropped anchor on the outside of the reef.
The next day we moved to the main anchorage so we could go and explore the town and surrounds. It was a short dinghy ride in, and a bit of a scramble to get up to the main pier where all the action happens. It’s quite a bustling pier (for such a small town) – there always seems to be a ferry docked, at least one comes or goes each day, and also a couple of working vessels with cranes offloading goods.
Seba is a little busier than Nemberala, and not as quaint – but the locals are very friendly and were all keen for a chat and a laugh. Marco managed to find us 2 motorbikes to rent (with gears this time – new experience for me!), and we set off into the hills. What a beautiful island it is! Not the typical tropical island landscape, as it’s quite far south of the equator and pretty dry (this time of the year), but it has a rugged deserted beauty and simplicity of life that is captivating.
Once we left the busier part of town, the countryside was a mix of dry grassland, lontar palms and farmlands. I was quite surprised and impressed with how healthy the farmlands looked, given the dryness of the island. The answer, I think, lies in the myriad of canals that snake through the countryside, so water seems to be made available to everyone. I had to stop and admire a very healthy looking vegetable garden, flourishing with beans, tomatoes, pak choi, spring onions, peanuts, papayas, bananas – and water buffalo. The family were happy to show us their crops and insisted on us taking a backpack full of pak choi with us! We also rode through dry rice paddies, that are obviously flooded in the wet season. What a fertile island, despite the apparent dryness!
We meandered steadily up into the hills, passing traditional houses, churches (it’s a predominantly Christian island), a school, lontar palms and even horses. We found a great viewpoint (next to the cellphone tower) and spent ages admiring the panoramic views and working out where we’d sailed.
Savu was a really social time for us. We met a really sweet family the one afternoon, when they were out on a family boat trip and came passed to say hello. The boys and I happily went for a putt around in their quaint long wooden boat, managing to converse and find out a bit about each other along the way. It turned out that the dad (Lifron) was the local policeman, and the mom (Chaca) a high school teacher in the town.
The next day they came to visit us on our boat, and the kids enjoyed seeing where the boys sleep, and paging through some books together. Lifron also managed to get some fish for us from the local fishermen – smallish “needlefish” or “half-beaks”, that eat other fish and are in turn eaten by tuna. They were really tasty fried in garlic – just a little time-consuming to eat due to the tiny bones. Lifron insisted on giving us his super-sharp fish-gutting knife. I think he took one look at our inferior one and thought we really needed it.
The following day Chaca invited us to visit them at their house in the town. It really struck us how the people here delight in meeting other people. In the West people often delight in “things”, but here people delight in “people” – which is how it should be really. The boys had a great time playing with all the kids from the neighbourhood – playing soccer, exploring their tree house, and climbing papaya trees. They walked us back to our dinghy armed with 23 fresh coconuts, and we felt really humbled by how appreciative they were of our visit.
In the meantime, we had moved our boat back to the quieter anchorage, and entered the gap in the reef after Marco had satisfied himself that there were no dangers. The bonus was that a bit of swell had pulled in, and a left and right wave were peeling down the reef. The swell needs to be pretty sizeable for the waves to be good, as they need to wrap a long way. Marco reckons that the right would be excellent in the right conditions. As it were, the waves were perfectly formed, and a great size for the boys to enjoy without fear. They spent many hours surfing – either school in the morning and surf in the afternoon, or visa versa.
We thought we’d try and buy some food in the smaller village just inland from our anchorage. The village turned out to be quite far inland, so we just enjoyed a walk through the dry rice paddies interspersed with flourishing vegetable gardens. Again, there was a comprehensive network of canals throughout, complete with sluice gates to change the flow of the water. So impressive!
With the nearby village being a little too far to walk to, we had to take the dinghy back to Seba to stock up on food. There is apparently a market a little out of town – 1km? 5km? We couldn’t get a consistent answer, but managed to find a decent selection of fruit and vegetables from the various stalls in the town. We also took the opportunity to enjoy “nasi ayam” (fried chicken and rice) from a warung – so delicious, and great to eat chicken again!
After returning from our provisioning, we found a couple of kids with surfboards on our boat. They were jumping into the water from the cockpit – but we weren’t happy, as we didn’t know them. Marco had some stern words with them about coming on board uninvited. We did, however, realise that they hadn’t meant any harm and were really just coming to say hello. As it turned out, the boys ended up going surfing with them and got to know them quite well over the next couple of days. They joined us on the beach one evening for a campfire and a game of soccer, and rowed out to us with coconuts the next day. Noah and Josh were very sad to leave them when we eventually left.
And so, our time in Savu had to come to an end. A beautiful island with beautiful people – thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome!