Our Isolation Bubble in West Sumatra

We have now been in isolation for 3 weeks, had our temperatures taken and have been declared fit and well by the Indonesian Navy.

With our orders of food and fuel, delivered and stowed away on board, we were ready to set sail on an overnight passage to our new promised island hideaway, 70 nms away.  We can stay there for as long as the rest of Indonesia remains closed to us.

During the night passage we crossed the equator from north to south and arrived at our new “home” at dawn on the morning of our 17th wedding anniversary.

There was just one other boat in the large well protected bay, 15 nms south of the equator, right in front of a picture-perfect tropical island.

Soon there would be 13 boats calling this place home. If you were asked to describe your idea of what a tropical island paradise might look like, this would be it. Our tiny island is called Barogang, situated off the northern tip of Tanahbala Island, West Sumatra.

Not long after we arrived at Barogang, Indonesia announced that all ports were closed to foreign vessels at least until the end of May, so we realised that our best option was to make ourselves at home here for however long it takes for borders to open again.

Ashore, we found an old overgrown house, with a fresh water well in the back corner, an old run-down pig pen and chicken coop with lots of rubbish lying around. The Tourism dept nominated a young local lad to watch out for us and before long we had 3 pigs, 5 chickens, 2 cats and a dog from the neighbouring island.

Of the 13 boats, there are Australians, Kiwis, Germans, Swiss and British, and together we all chipped in to do a major clean up around the little house on our island.  We used some old wrecks of Indonesian fishing boats to build outdoor furniture, a dry bar which we named Corona Bar 2020, and a gazebo built out of bamboo, to keep out of the intense tropical heat, and frequent tropical rains.

One of the crews put in a vegetable garden and have already planted some sweet potato, garlic, and herbs. We will probably not be here long enough to reap the benefits of this garden, but hopefully the local people will after we have moved on.

The Tourism Department also designated another person to take care of fulfilling our weekly grocery orders from the nearest village, 20nms away.  This person, named Firdaus, is also able to supply diesel, outboard fuel, and topping up our local phone cards for us. The only access here is by boat, so it is quite a mission.  Firdaus has an 18-foot fiberglass boat that looks like it survived from the second world war.  The 40hp outboard is probably from the same era but it seems to keep running for the duration of his weekly runs from the village of Telos.

Because we had all been in our own bubbles for the past 3 weeks, we were able to happily share social times including pot luck dinners.  Local fishermen who would normally come ashore, have been asked not to do so while we are here.  A directive from the Regent himself!

The orders were that we could only use this island, and not go to the larger neighbouring island of Tanahbala. However, from our coral crusted and rocky coastline we could see a beautiful white sandy beach stretching for over a mile. We would look longingly across the 50m wide channel between us dreaming of a brisk walk or run along this beach, until eventually, by asking nicely, we were given permission to go there whenever we want, as there were no villages or anyone living in this remote area. Now, we have it all.   

The nearest cell tower is also in Telos, so every week or 10 days we sail Mai Tai to Telos Town 20 nms away to send our blogs, phone family and send and receive messages. All of the rally boats do this by anchoring in front of the cell tower and not going ashore at all, which we are quite happy about. We don’t want any of us to get infected and risk bringing the virus back to our wee island community.

Today was Anzac Day, and being a majority of Australians and Kiwis, we wanted to have a dawn service on the beach.  I know many public services around the 2 countries had to be cancelled, so we felt very privileged to be able to share this together.  Being sunrise, our pictures of the service were not great, but one of our friends did film it and I hope we have a U-tube video to attach to this blog so you can see it. Andrew, from SV Angel Wings lead the service. Anzac video link: https://youtu.be/hqEtaz5uApw

We have now been on Barogang Island for 3 weeks. Where has the time gone?  The Regent visited this week along with Police, Army and Navy personnel, plus a doctor and nurses to check our temperatures and health questionnaire and asking whether we had everything we needed. They gave us a solar panel, a battery and wiring with which a couple of cruisers hooked up some lights in the house. And a brand new wheelbarrow was unloaded off the boat as well.

The request for a cell tower has not yet brought about any progress on that front.  We will see.

Living right on the equator means we get tropical storms with lightening, thunder and rain which seem to appear from nowhere and punctuate the clear blue skies and bright starry nights on a daily basis. The heat is oppressive, so the cool rain is actually very welcome. We do feel very lucky to be here, and for being so well looked after by these proud, charming and very honest Indonesian people.  But no one has any idea of how long this will last or what our options will be for our future plans from here.

9 comments

  1. Looks amazing Kay, loved the ANZAC day service!
    Paul is in quarantine in an Auckland hotel, we pick him up Sunday! Enjoy your lovely beach.
    Jen xx

  2. Je vous suis depuis le début de votre “Mésaventure” et aurais volontiers être parmis vous , recevez tous mes meilleures amitiés et grosses bises aux dames.
    Gerard D’ Extrapoles. Actuellement chez lui en France.
    Mon frère Jacques est confiné à Phuket.

  3. Hi there Kay and Lane.

    Have been thinking about you since you were last in touch when you were unsure of what lay ahead. Really pleased to hear that all is well now. Loved reading your latest story as well as the photos. Looks as if you are surrounded by a great bunch of people too. What an amazing job you have all done cleaning up the island! Well done!

    Celebrating ANZAC day must have been very special. Sadly no such thing for us here. Jacinderella decided it was best for us to be locked up for another week. Aaaaaaaargh! It was the most magic day too. Lots of people were very creative and made all sorts of poppies and other ANZAC things and displayed them on fences, in windows, on letterboxes and on grass verges. Lovely!

    Well we have no news except that we were able to have a takeaway coffee today! We are seriously over this charade and fear for the future. Our trip to Koh Samui mid June is not going to happen.

    Now that you are parked up on an idyllic island with your mates and have plenty of supplies, we envy you all! So relieved that all is well for the time being at least.

    Enjoy every moment. Look forward to the next chapter in your amazing story.

    Love from Jan and Linton xx

  4. Lane & Kay,
    As always, love the updates of your great adventure. Lane, what is the size of the Mai Tai as compared to the Topaz I got to sail on with you and your parents way back when we were kids. Always loved going to Catalina Island and between you and Kevin Cloud getting me on the Harbor Patrol There I found out how much fun one can have while being paid for being on the water. Stay safe and when you get near another cell tower send along updates. Hope to see you sometime in the future. Doug Dinjian

    1. Hi Doug – Always great to hear from you! Mai Tai is very similar in hull shape to the Topaz. Topaz was 55 ft and Mai Tai is 44 ft.

  5. Great place to be in lock down. I’d say that group you are with will be life long friends moving forward.
    Keep well.. Keep safe.
    Kia Kaha.
    Kevin

  6. WOW ! I reckon you’d all survive anywhere ! How lucky to have found such a beautiful desert island to be marooned on ! And you certainly have ingeniously made the most of what’s there ! We look forward to your next instalment
    Love
    Joan & Claude

  7. Salut Kay
    C’est superbe où vous passez votre période de confinement mais en même temps bien déconcertant de ne pas pouvoir savoir quand vous serez libres d’organiser la prochaine étape de votre voyage.
    C’est plus aventureux que prévu!
    Bonne chance
    Anne x

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