Friday 7th September 2018
pBrightly painted wooden boats sit underneath the volcanoes on the dark black sand
We have arrived in a Gili Gede, an island in the South West of Lombok and are tied up in the half completed Marina del Ray. After over a week of day hop sailing, covering 300nm and 2 months with just the odd drop of rain. It feels good to not be rushing off at the crack of dawn, to be able to sleep with the anchor alarm turned off and to get some fresh water to wash down the decks.
All the islands from Java to Timor make up a volcanic arc that sits on the boundary of the Australian and South East Asian tectonic plates. Being on the extreme western edge of the so called ring of fire, a geologically active area that surrounds the pacific, it has active volcanoes and suffers from frequent earthquakes. Unfortunately demonstrated by the strong recent quakes in the north of Lombok Island that sadly killed around 500 people. Thankfully we haven’t been effected and nor has the south of the island where the marina is located, so we continue on as planned feeling that the best way to support the island is to visit and spend our tourist pounds. We sail past hundreds of cone shaped peaks, some rising to over 3000m straight from the sea.
Leaving Komodo our route took us along the north coast of Sumbawa. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, in the shadow of the huge volcano that is the Island of Sangeang , sits the village of Wera. A centre for traditional boat building it appeared that the whole village was on or around the black sand beach, either building, repairing, playing with or sailing boats. The boats are beautiful pieces of craftsmanship, made entirely from wood and ranged from the kids built toy boats, through the common long boats, up to a 30m long fishing boat. As we walked along the sand, regrettably again dodging piles of rubbish, we were mobbed by hundreds of children and encouraged by the obviously proud boatmen to photograph their handiwork.
Traditional boat being built in Wera
Continuing our journey we spent one night in Karanga. As the early morning haze began to clear it offered us a backdrop dominated by Gunung Tambora, the volcano that in 1815 erupted with such force that it filled the air with clouds of dust. This dust spread across the planet and was so thick it partially blocked out the sun, plunging the world into “a year without summer”.
Unfortunately a swim in the green seawater lake nearby, in the Caldera of Saltode Island, wasn’t possible, the anchorage was too rough to risk leaving Raya or dinging ashore. We moved on to the island of Moyo and managed a snorkel and a visit to the beach but the continuing choppy seas thwarted our plans to eat at the resort across the bay.
It was time to find a calmer anchorage and a more tranquil spot couldn’t have been wished for. Hidden behind a sand spit at the marvellously named Potapaddu Bay we found still water.
Raya anchored in the calm of Potapaddu Bay
We had a pleasant snorkel on the coral wall on the outside of the spit and as the afternoon wore on fishing boats started to appear from the village. Eventually they overcame their shyness and came across to say hello and see if we had any gifts. And we did. We had read that the villagers of Sumbawa were very poor but Wera had been too crowded to start giving out things and at Karanga it was a bit rough. The half dozen boats that crowded around us here were much more manageable. We gave away T-shirts, fishing hooks and line, toys and the ever in demand pens and paper. However the most popular gift was perfume. Penny had bought with her two boxes of tiny perfume samples and when we demonstrated what they were and let them smell my wrist, their expressions of delight was a picture. For your Istri (wife) we told them, giggling they added them to their stash of goodies .
With only a few days left of Penny and Stephens holiday we needed to push on and our next challenge was the narrow strait between Sumbawa and Lombok. We had another early start to try to get as far through the passage as possible before the winds filled in. We stayed as close to land as we could winding through the small islands and reefs, Mount Randi towering over Lombok in the distance. As we entered the channel for real, Penny was first to spot the overfalls, with 20kts of wind against us and 5kts of tide with us we knew eventually we would have problems and a line of white on the horizon was fair warning. We avoided as much of the turbulence as we could but eventually decided that 3hrs more of this discomfort wasn’t worth it and dived into a deep bay to spend the night before venturing on early the next morning.
Mid-morning we enter the protected natural harbour at Alang, heading for the lovely beach at the Ekas anchorage. We were glad we had entered in good light the bay was full of fishing platforms, apparently they are farming lobsters. An intense half hour ensued as we gradually worked our way through the hazards.
The beach here is named Heaven Beach and despite a rather difficult dingy landing, there is a surf break here, we had a pleasant stroll. High on the cliffs sat a small resort that was a one hour drive to the airport, so it seemed a good place to drop Penny and Stephen.
Heaven Beach, Ekas, Lombok
While they enjoyed a day of spa treatments before their long trip home we pushed on to Gili Gede. Again we had to face a tough sail, this time the channel between Bali and Lombok. For two hours we fought against a 5kt current but although frustratingly slow at least this time the waves were behind us.
We arrived at the marina in high winds to a chaos of Oysters, the Oyster rally were preparing to leave. We dropped the anchor for the night, it would be easier to tie up in the morning after most of fleet had departed. Ashore we had a quick catch up with our Oyster friends, we may see them again briefly in Cocos Keeling.