August 29th, the Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that Malaysian borders would not be opening until the 31st December.!!!!! Previously the opening date for borders was set at 31 August.
Thailand is also closed to cruising yachts until sometime next year.
So, what now????
It has been over 4 months since we arrived in the remote uninhabited island of Barogang, a beautiful anchorage chosen by the Indonesian Government for our period of isolation and to keep us more or less in a group. Initially, we all visualised maybe a couple of months, possibly 3. Since we have been here, we have celebrated Anzac Day, Swiss National Day, Indonesia Independence Day and all the birthdays of course.
As mentioned, word was that Malaysia was to reopen its borders on the 31st August, so we were making our plans accordingly, taking into consideration weather patterns and necessary visas to time our crossing of the Indian Ocean. Since we are looking at going via the Red Sea and Suez Canal, January is the best time to start this crossing. Those heading towards South Africa would generally, wait until next May.
Before continuing on our journey westwards, most of us need to go back to Malaysia or Thailand to prepare our boats and to pick up spare parts that have been shipped from various parts of the world. Also, to re-provision for several months of cruising. It is difficult to find all the supplies we need here in Indonesian supermarkets. Indonesia is beautiful and the people are wonderful but the boat service facilities are basically non-existant.
In the early days of this pandemic, throughout much of Indonesia the misunderstanding was that it was the tourists who spread Covid19, so understandably, we were not welcome. We are in the region of South Nias, which is Covid free (for the moment) and the local people no longer see us as a threat. They are starting to warmly welcome us in their towns, still with social distancing and wearing masks as best we can.
We can now wander around the closest town of Tello, which has a safe anchorage nearby, (just a 3m crocodile keeping watch on our movements). The town is very clean and the people selling their wares out on the street welcome us with big smiles.
It is also interesting to see a Mosque, a Catholic church and Buddhist temple all close together in the town.
To go to the larger town where there is a larger market, we need to take a 2 hr ferry ride which could increase the risk of infection. However, it was good to see that they were limiting the number of passengers and alternate seats marked with a cross to ensure social distancing. Our temperatures were taken on disembarking. The towns are empty of the usual visitors who come for the world-famous surf spots along the coast, so businesses are suffering badly as a result.
We went to the local food market, dined out at the local restaurant, and generally had a fun days outing.
Some of our friends have needed to see the local dentist and doctor, and although the facilities were pretty basic, they were very satisfied with the care they received despite the lack of any local anaesthetic for the dental work. Ouch!!
Today is the first of September. We have all left Barogang to move to another anchorage on the Island of Sipika, well known in the surfing circles, and closer to the village of Tello. There some local people here coming and going, but we keep to ourselves on our yachts or meeting up for sundowners on the beach.
There is a lovely white sandy beach to walk along and a paved walkway takes us past a small village and school under the shade of coconut palms. As much as we enjoyed the walks at Barogang, I am really enjoying the change of scenery.
We often get together to discuss our plans from here, but really there are very few options open to us at present. We are allowed to sail around all the 101 islands of South Nias, but we are beginning to choose which of the trees on shore we will decorate for Christmas, and the turkeys are few and far between.
By the way, we are 7 miles south of the equator, so it is hot and muggy with heavy downpours several times a day.
Up until now, we had planned to take flights home occasionally, to visit with family and friends. Now, that is no longer an option. I find that hard. We have to satisfy ourselves with What’s App messages and video calls when we have good internet.
I have to stop thinking of all the places we could be visiting now if we had joined our friends and headed for the Med this year. Sicily, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal. That will have to be for next year or whenever borders re-open.
We will make the most of our time here, where, thankfully, we are safe and welcome to stay. It is very beautiful and peaceful.
The Indonesian government has assured us that they will continue to renew our visas until we can safely move on.