in IndonesiaComments Off on Sumbawa


Sumbawa was an island where the people seemed even more happy than in the ones before We approached it from the east; although we started off sailing nicely from Banta, going through the strait between Pulau Sangeang and the mainland we had no wind and 3-4 knots of current against us…

that was a test of patience on a hot day.
Not surprisingly we took the first opportunity to stop and anchored in Wera Bay, just off the village of Sangeang.

Within minutes a group of boys were checking us out, they were happy to see us and even more delighted with a handful of sweets.

We saw more of them ashore later.

Sangeang is another Bugis Village, it was only established in 1983 after the volcano Gunung Api, on Pulau Sangeang, the island just a few miles off-shore, erupted, driving them out.

They all left and started this new village on mainland Sumbawa, re-establishing their boat building industry. It is the main ‘purpose’ of the village, most of the people are involved with it and is said to rival those Bugis boatbuilding towns on Sulawesi for size.

It dominates the village, along the black-sand beach are many large wooden ‘pinisi’, the classic Bugis ship, in various stages of construction and in the water, several are being finished off.

We took a look at those afloat, the sturdiness and quality of the building was impressive;

then went ashore to take a look at the work under way along the beach.
We were met immediate by the 2 boys who had been on the bow of the canoe which had earlier visited us…

they became our official ‘guides’proud to show off the boatbuilding and the village.

The ships are built in the traditional Bugis way of ironwood imported from Kalimantan. The keel is laid up on logs as rollers on the sand, thick planks on sturdy ribs are secured with wooden nails, then faired using an adze. The seams are caulked with ground up wood shavings, then when ready for launching all that is needed is a lot of manpower for the push down the beach…

These men are constucting a canoe with the same technique of planks, wooden nails and an adze for the finishing;

this old man makes the nails;

this man is pounding caulking

and this one putting on the real finishing touches.

The pinisi are now powered with engines and propellors although they still have a mast fitted and usually when under way still carry a stabilising sail.
It was interesting to walk along the beach and see the work in progress; to get a bit more explanation and a look around inside one of the boats would have been even better, but it wasn’t possible as men were busy everywhere.
Even there where there were no power-tools I felt I might be a work-place hazard! The ships are quite a height and men were working on makeshift scaffolds or platforms 5-10 metres up, (elsewhere Occupational Safety and Health would have been a strict ‘hard-hat’ requirement!). And of course no-one spoke any English

Further along the beach were these contented and healthy looking cows, a long way from any pasture and this man was heading to his canoe with 2 birds in a bag.

I don’t know what they were for or the significance but clearly they were important enough that he needed a photo taken of them!

The boys’ tour then led away from the beach and into the village proper, to show me to many of their ‘friends and family’

Further away from the beach where the houses, even on Indonesian standards, were really rather ramshackle, the buildings were of better construction

and this house just being completed shows they know how to build nice wooden houses as well as boats!

Being Bugis, the village is (probably) exclusively Muslim, there are several mosques.

I was trying to ask to be shown the market, I never found one although there didn’t seem much of the town I didn’t visit.
There were some people selling a few vegetables among other food items at their housefronts,
(I had to sample some of those deep-fried delicacies)

and I was taken to this woman’s little shop. She didn’t have much in it, and was busy preparing cotton for weaving.

This lady was busy weaving ikat on her verandah, my taking an interest in what she was doing soon drew a small crowd of women all with ikat to sell…she had several too. They were all of good quality, highly coloured and especially some with silver thread in-woven. The right people would have found them very attractive, but unfortunately I couldn’t ask to photograph them when I had no intention of buying!

These water-buffalo were returning to the village from grazing, unescorted.

Eastern Sumbawa has a tradition of using horses and horse racing. This man was proud of his pony, felt it should be photographed, but had to get his friend and daughter to pose with it, he wouldn’t!

Plenty of others didn’t feel the same way though,

ready to act-up for the camera;

or be photographed with their children;

or grandchildren…

We had a very restful night at anchor off the village, then the next morning motored on to the town of Bima, just a few miles away in a straight-line but by sea rather more as it is up a long narrow bay.We had to avoid men in canoes and fishing nets all along the way.

we anchored off the main dock.

Bima is the largest town in that part of Sumbawa, and although it is what is probably best described as a ‘grubby little place’ the people were as usual just delightful and couldn’t have been more helpful to us visitors.

The main town is a couple of kilometres in from the dock, apart from walking, the favoured method of transport was by dokar…

Although dokar might be the Indonesian name for them they are often referred to by the local people as ‘Ben Hur’ because the drivers enjoy racing them against each other, it’s a thing of pride, the fastest will get the most fares for the day.

Not only are they used for people transport they are used for freight as well, some of the poor ponies are very heavily laden…

Again it is a predominantly Muslim community, on the way into the town is this impressively shiny mosque, but here more than elsewhere there appeared to be better fraternisation between the religions; not all the schools were segregated and there seemed more obvious mixing between the young people.

There’s certainly no sign of religious oppression of Muslim women…as the smiles on these happy young girls;

and this young lady

and the 3 generations of this family on their ojeks, show.

There may be no fundamentalism around here, but that’s not to say that religious beliefs were not observed. The calls to prayer were very clear to hear and on Friday afternoon the street was closed at the mosque for an hour to allow the service to go ahead.

and the rest of the town deserted, as it is at that time every week when the men dress up and take their prayer-mats to the mosque for devotions.

In the middle of townis a good selection of shops; there’s even what might be almost called a supermarket, although it sells only a good selection of dried groceries.
It is the sort of town though where everything is available if you know where to look, and it is all at a very cheap price. These people cannot afford expensive!
It is notable for the almost complete absence of computers, the internet has barely arrived in Bima and there was no internet cafe, a cause of some inconvenience to us now accustomed to having it…
There are many excellent eating places where a good lunch can be bought for less than a dollar and there are good markets. The morning market sells mostly fruit and vegetables and is away from the main market which goes much of the day and night,

selling almost anything…

Birds with motorbike repairs?
As is usual, it appears there is much more stock than there are buyers…

The town centre has the former Sultan’s Palace

impressive in it’s time and right on the town ‘square’.

It now houses a small museum.

Not far away is the central station for the dokars…

where the ponies are fed and watered.

Out of the middle of town there are several sizeable public buildings and even in a town as ‘practical’ as this, public ornaments;

and the Muslim religion is in evidence everywhere.

(There’s no getting away from the religious wailings from the loudspeakers at this mosque, it’s loud and continuous, prayer time or not!)

and this house has unusually many little minarets…but it also has the Indonesian ‘hairpin’ style of gable, seen in different forms throughout the country.

Mostly the housing is not up to that standard, the streets are narrow, the potholes many, but people are happy and take pride.

Everywhere you go, the people are welcoming, they like to know where you are going, but with no malicious intent, it’s a part of conversation…
‘Ke Mana’ in Bahasa Indonesian is a phrase we got to learn quickly as we heard it often, -especially as it means the same as ‘Quo Vadis’ in Latin…

Parts of the town are almost rural with peanut farmsand the boys making use of the reservoir (almost) make me envious walking in the heat…

The queues at the petrol filling station up town are daunting

but there’s a man at the dock willing to help a yacht find diesel (as he has been offering to help check in with the harbourmaster and other services a yacht might want). He takes me and my 2 jerry cans on his ojek to another filling station on the other side of town

the queues are even longer and they are saying they are about to run out, but somehow we seem to insinuate ourselves in front, ahead of all the trucks

and the cans are filled quickly…albeit for a greater price I am sure, but still at less than 50c per litre, who’s complaining? (The rumour is that on the 1st of October the price is going up, no-one knows how much, so people are beginning to stockpile).

Back at the docks in the evening with the cool the markets and businesses are closing; the people come out to play.

Along the road at a school the town volleyball play-off is in full swing…there’s a lot of enthusiasm and audience participation, but the team members seem to be suffering from lack of training…

and at the docks the boats are preparing to leave for elsewhere in Indonesia.
The fast ferry, the ‘flash boat’, leaves in a remarkable cloud of smoke
on its way to Flores…

but most of the people are waiting before packing onto the smaller boats, the pinisi, along with the freight (mainly shallots in the purple bags) , for a much slower passage to various outer islands.

We stayed in Bima several days, we would have stayed longer if it weren’t that the anchorage was only really any good for half of the day. Although very calm in the mornings, at 12.00 every day, almost to the minute, the sea-breeze would set in and last until the mid-evening making dinghy trips too and from the yacht difficult and wetting, neither was it safe to leave the dinghy at the dock in that breeze, it could easily be damaged by the rough sea and sharp edges on the dock.

Somewhat reluctantly we moved on to stop off the village of Kilo, a comfortable day’s sail away.

Before we had anchored we were being met by children in canoes, their welcome was enthusiastic, but they were overdoing it; it was the only place in Indonesia where we felt in any way imposed upon.(We were not the only yacht to feel so.) There was an unceasing stream of ‘visitors’ almost all of them children, wanting schoolbooks, pens, dictionaries, sweets…anything…from the time we arrived until dark…

…and some of them came back for more.
It was hard to do so when they were just being happy kids, but it was the one time in Indonesia that we had to be firm and make it clear that it was enough,we had other things to be doing and so did they.

At dusk the fishing trimarans went out from the village for the night and we were gone in the morning before they returned; only partly because we didn’t want to give the children another chance!
Our early departure was helped by an excellent southeasterly wind blowing all night. It was a sailing opportunity not to miss. As soon as there was enough light in the morning we raised anchor and sailed away, surprisingly soon we were reefing, the wind was nearing 30 knots!
It lasted for some hours before dying and going ahead. By midday we were again looking for a breeze (from anywhere would do), we were in the wind-shadow of the big volcano Gunung Tambora.
Gunung Tambora is a very impressive volcano, almost 3000 metres high but unfortunately as a result mostly hidden in cloud by day.
It was once much grander, in 1815 in an eruption rather bigger than that of not-so-far-away Krakatoa, it lost about half its height (and wiped out all the surrounding population).
We kept our distance, but still it stole our wind!
Then on the horizon we saw a line of rough water, it looked like what we might see in Cook Strait and likewise; it signified a 180 degree chance of wind direction coming… Soon we were sailing again under reefed sails and it was a fast trip for the rest of that day to the small island of Medang.
It’s a non-descript, low lying, tree covered island with no permanent inhabitants, we anchored in a bay surrounded by rough coral.
There we caught up with some of the friends who had earlier left us, their reports of the day or 2 spent at the anchorage were not impressive. It was difficult to get ashore other than at high tide, the swimming and snorkelling were not good either, so, although we intended otherwise, rather than staying, we elected instead to follow their example, use the wind and move on to the anchorage at the north-east corner of Lombok the next day.

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