Since our last blog, when we were busy getting Mai Tai all fixed and ready to leave for the next part of our circumnavigation, Christmas came and went. Suddenly, I realise that we are already at the end of January.
We are fortunate that we are allowed to travel within Indonesia, at least in this region of Indonesia. Plus we have been given a further 6 months on our visas. We do, however, have to go through all the formalities with immigration each month to apply for 1 month extensions, up to a total of 6 months. There are only a few immigration offices who are able to do these extensions and it can be a bit of a mission to do. But these extensions have allowed us to explore more of this fascinating part of the world.
While we were in Teluk Dalam our nearest office was a 2.5 hr drive away in Gunung Sitoli, but we knew that the process would take at least 2 days, so we went with friends and spent a couple of days there. Our local friend, Nitra, booked us into accommodation at the Museum, staying in traditional Nias bungalows.
The museum was excellent and we had fun wandering around the gardens at night, watching the statues seemingly come alive in the moonlight. The history of the South Nias Region is fascinating.
On Christmas Eve we took Nitra’s family to dinner in Teluk Dalam at a wonderful seafood restaurant. They have been so good to us, helping with so much of the red tape associated with travel in Indonesia and showing us many hidden gems that tourists never get to see. What a surprise when they presented each of us with a beautiful gift at the dinner. I was given a hand-woven bag and the 3 men were given a precious gift of the Kalabubu Necklace, a prestigious adornment usually only for head hunters and warriors of South Nias. This is not something you can buy in the trinket shops. The story of the Kalabubu Necklace is well explained in Wikipedia.
On Christmas day, all the villagers dress up in their finery and gather in the church to celebrate the joy of love, peace and community spirit. They don’t have Father Christmas here, but celebrate together as a community through singing and sharing of food throughout the day. Beautiful really.
I love this picture taken of all the children of the village all dressed up.
This picture of beautiful Nitra in traditional dress playing her “ukelele” at a local festival. Thank you Nitra for these pictures.
In the New Year we tried out our new engine and anchor windlass by taking a week to sail up to the beautiful bay of Afulu, 100 nms to the north. We had stopped there briefly before on our way south, but had not gone ashore to trek through the tropical jungle to the stunning white sandy beach bordering the Indian Ocean.
We will soon leave the town of Teluk Dalam where I have spent days strolling through the back streets with my camera capturing these gorgeous happy people at work, children at play.
Sailing in our region of West Sumatra right now is a mixture of no winds and flat calm seas interspersed with nasty squalls, thunderstorms and torrential rain, so we need to plan our passages between islands carefully as we are navigating between coral reefs and breaking seas. There is a reason this area is famous for its surfing. It is unusual to have a cruising ground famous for both cruisers and keen surfers.
Over these last few weeks, we have been tossing up the options open to us for continuing our travels. With borders closing, visa requirements changing with little notice and all this having to fit in with the right weather seasons to move on, our cruising lifestyle has become a lot more complicated. There are now countries requiring Covid vaccination certificates before being allowed entry.
To continue our journey westwards our 2 main options are to sail to the Maldives or to the Seychelles, both of which are open to cruising yachts at the moment. We can then decide from there whether we head north up the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, or continue south around South Africa.
We have decided on heading for the Seychelles, 3000nms away, 3-4 weeks sailing. The best time to go there from here is the end of April to catch the south easterly trade winds. This is a more southerly route so we are exploring the Mentawai Islands, world renowned as a Mecca for for surfers, and will check out of Indonesia in Padang at the end of April.
More of the Mentawais in our next blog. Stay safe.