Will wonders never cease, somehow we were able to check back into Indonesia, enjoy Kupang's night market, get our laundry done, then up anchor and sail away in less than 48 hours. The wind was predicted to be light, 7 knots from the South, with calm waves. Perfect sailing for our Westward course to Sumba Island, halfway toward Komodo. Our Indonesia tour has started again in earnest!
Twelve hours later, we are fighting both wind, waves, and current hitting us directly from the West. Reminder: what is the only direction a sailboat can’t go? Directly upwind. And current doesn’t help either. We can zig-zag up wind, but with a strong current, it pushes Sonrisa’s bow backward, causing us to zig and zag in 180 degree increments - which means we aren’t moving forward. I look at the chart. We can wait this out until this unpredicted wind and current shifts, or we can go to Flores Island instead, directly North and a little East. We were a little disappointed to be skipping Flores anyway, so maybe this is a sign we shouldn’t do that. I make the suggestion, we “divert” North - which in essence meant that we just continued going the direction we were already going.
As soon as that decision was made, the wind stopped completely.
Turn back and motor directly West, now? We could…, but when does the wind come back? We decide to stay the altered course and go to Flores.
Early Thursday Morning, Thanksgiving on this side of the dateline we chug through Ocean puddled at the base of four different cone shaped volcanoes. The area is stunning. We lay anchor just outside the town of Lewoleba, just as the monsoon rains brush through. It pours, but the rain is a welcome cool.
After the rains pass, we head to town to make a visit. We meet “Jimbo” who offers to “watch” Grin while we are gone. Thank you! We walk past the lumber yard, tailor shops and neighborhoods with people everywhere enjoying the breeze on their porches. “Mister! Mister! Hallo Mister!” The outgoing friendliness we found in Tual is present here again. We meet a little boy who has constructed sailboats out of styrofoam, a stick and a banana leaf. We walk past a mosque, call to prayer singing across its loud speaker.
Then, we hear drumming. We make our way to the main street and find a parade en route! What luck! Apparently, November 25 is “Hari Guru,” the Day of the Teacher, and they are holding a pre-party parade three days in advance to get the ball rolling. These Indonesians know how to pre-party!
Marching bands of children of every age pass by. My favorite is the marching band comprised of five year olds who carried as steady of a drum beat as anyone else. Teachers marched, kids dressed up in the uniforms of careers they hope to have. Many dressed in traditional Indonesian clothing with beautiful handmade Tais patterns and unusual headdresses, and one man demonstrated traditional spear fighting tactics.
We tried to remain inconspicuous, but as the parade marched past us, the participants eyes were always drawn to the strange foreigners standing on the side of the road taking pictures. Their face would register the surprise (especially little kids), and then they would break out into huge smiles and frantic waving: “Mister! Hallo!” Soon, 15-human pile ups started occurring when the front line of the parade slowed to a stop and the following line was so busy looking at us that they ran into the back of their friends. Even being pinned in a mash of parade-people, they continued to crane their necks backward to see us. What else can we do but cheer, smile and wave?
In their excitement, some invite me to join them in the street. Using the hand gesture that looks to us like “go away”, they call me forward. They bend their elbow, lifting their hand toward their shoulder, then they swat their hand away from their face. At the last minute, when their arm is about straight, they curl their hand downward, bend their elbow again, and make a scooping motion toward them. This is Indonesian body language for “come over here!”
I hand Andrew the camera and scurry into the group for a picture. As the photograph occurs, layer upon layer of Indonesians gather to join the photo. Why do they love this so much? They don’t even get a copy of the picture! For them, I think it’s the social interaction they love. It’s like a thirty second party.
We find all sorts of street food Andrew can’t wait to try. One shop simply labeled “Goring” or “Fried.” Through the front window we see piping hot, freshly fried foods waiting for purchase. The gentleman in the back room scoops giant sieves out of boiling hot oil. Looks a mite dangerous, but then again, that’s life out here.
As we walk down the road, gangs of tough-guys of all ages break out into smiles and request that I take their photo. One is super proud to be wearing an American flag sweater. People. It’s almost 90 Degrees F here, with 75% humidity.
The tough guys want to group up with Andrew because he’s “so tall!”, and then with me because I’m “beautiful.” How do you resist that request? Selfie, Selfie, one more, please. Selfie! “Photo! Photo!” Pausing for just a few minutes to take photos together always makes them so happy. It’s the least we can do.
For dinner, we find a man with a cart doing a brisk business. What is this? Egg, and…? A man scoops squares of pale colored something out of a big bucket. It could be raw chicken, but the texture doesn’t look quite right. “Ayam?” Andrew asks, Bhasa Indonesian for “Chicken.” There is some confusion about whether Andrew is talking about the scrambled egg. Andrew points again at the bucket of squares. The Indonesian man shakes his head. “Tidak, Tidak Ayam (not chicken), then launches into several sentences of Bahasa Indonesian we cannot understand. Andrew blinks. The man seems to give up and says “Ikan”.
“Ooooh, fish!” We say. We order two for a sample, but even as he scoops the squares out of the bucket again, I still can’t figure it out. It does not look like fish at all. Raw fish? Fish pressed into perfect squares? They are much too uniform for that. The man pops the egg concoction out of the cooking plate, and with a smooth flick of his wrist flips them over to cook on the other side. When they are done, he wraps them in paper and tops them with a sweet, spicy sauce. We take them over to two chairs for a sample.
The squares are like a firm gelatin. “Agar-Agar” I say. “Fish flavored Agar-Agar?” We scowl. We don’t taste any fish.
How often do I eat something I have no idea what it is? Pretty much every day now. It’s tasty, and I’m sure it’s safe because a pile of locals line the street waiting to get it.
Then we head back toward Sonrisa to tuck in before sundown. As we turn the corner to retrieve Grin, we find him out for a sunset stroll with Jimbo. Not to worry, when Grin saw us coming, he turned around and brought Jimbo back to shore. I guess the sunset/volcano backdrop was just too tempting for Grin to sit by and wait anymore.