September 17-October 15 2022
Infinity motor sailed from Darwin to Kupang, Indonesia crossing 500 miles of the Timor Sea with flat water and no wind. This set the stage for most of our time here; lots of motor sailing.
Kupang in East Timor mirrored our experience in many countries recently opened up from COVID: immigration,customs and bio security (ICB) is disorganized, and frustratingly slow . Many thanks to the Oyster team who deals with it all. Having the OWR team organize the ICB of all these countries is a huge benefit probably saving the owners several weeks of their time in the course of the entire rally.
Indonesia: “Unity through Diversity” ,the country’s slogan, was a complete mystery to me. Indonesia is a mash-up of cultures, religions and geography with over 17,000 islands ,300 languages and 150 volcanos (over 100 of which are active).It is a miracle it has become a functioning democracy.
I wanted to understand this fascinating country better so between enjoying the scenic beauty on Infinity I jumped ship twice while here and traveled with several guides throughout Bali and by train throughout the 600 mile length of Java. Then finally concluding with a special visit to Krakatua.
The 4th most populous country in the world, following the US, Indonesia is predominantly an agricultural based economy consisting of over 17,000 islands . Java is the most populous island on our planet with a population of 140 million and the capital Jakarta. 70% Muslim with the remaining religions being Hindu, Christian and less than 5% Buddhist Indonesia is highly religious but very tolerant of all religions.Everyone is required to have a declared religion which is printed on their passports. People here are benevolent ,kind ,respectful and courteous to each other and strangers ie me😎
Their educational system is modeled after Americas with kindergarten, elementary1-6, junior high 7-9 and high school 10-12. All students wear a uniform that is colored based on grade. Curious how such a geographically, religious and culturally diverse country could be so unified I was told that throughout their schooling from K-12 they are taught 5 core principles of citizenship:
-Humanity: To treat everyone kindly and with respect
-Democracy: Elections are held every 5 years and I am told that voter turnout is near 100%. Compare that with 40% turnout in the USA.Asked how that is possible I was told that Indonesians feel it is an honor and their responsibility to vote. They would be humiliated if neighbors or family knew they did not vote.
-Unity: You talk about “Unity through diversity“ I have never been in a more diverse society in my life. In my 10 days of getting off Infinity and traveling by car and train through out Bali and Java I observed a giant diversity stew of different religions, customs, dress, all mixed up together and everyone genuinely really seems to get along.
-Prosperity: The majority of people I saw were poor in the rurals basically consisting of subsistence farming and lower middle class in the cities. I did not see 1 overtly wealthy person ,expensive car or beautiful home during my entire month in Indonesia. I am told they are still working on this principle and focusing on decreasing corruption. The most coveted jobs for the young are in order:working for the government which interestingly is shrinking in size and employees, police or military and large companies.
Despite being short on material things virtually everyone I met appeared happy and content. I did not see one homeless person.
Besides soaking up the culture I explored the villages, myriad temples,palaces and got to visit the archeological site where Java Man, homo erectus was discovered.
A national park and home to most of the Komodo dragons, they are only found here, is our first stop after Kupang. Hot and dry as we end the dry season the Komodo dragon is either sluggish during the day or looking for food in the morning. Either way they are big , scary looking and dangerous. They kill their prey by inflicting a bite that causes fatal infection. The dragon then tracts its prey until incapacitated and devours it whole.
For the next 2 days we enjoy the local culture and fantastic snorkeling inside the parks waters. The water is crystal clear and teaming with endless varieties of colorful fish.
Sailing past these islands I am struck at the overwhelming influence volcanos have played in creating Indonesia. Multiple volcanos towering 5,000-9,000 feet above the sea are present in virtually every island we pass ; many lying side by side with one towering above its neighbor. Clearly a reminder that we are in the ring of fire.
Along the north coast of Palau Sumbawa we pass Tambora . Tambora’s 1815 eruption covered the earth in ash and darkness in what was called the “Year without a Summer”.
While Tambora and Krakatoa caused two of history’s most famous eruptions ,both impacting weather for the entire planet, there are a myriad of smaller active volcanos looking down on these islands.Indonesia has 267 volcanos with 97 that are currently active.
As we sail towards Bali we get closer to the tourist and party crowd which we have avoided so far visiting and eating in small family restaurants sampling local Indonesian cuisine and meeting the “locals” . The Indonesian people are very friendly and welcoming most speak limited English. Most are very religious with Muslim being the predominant religion but Hindu and Christian very prevalent. Each island has its own religious majority that influences that islands personality.
We arrive at Gili Gede a small island where Marina del Ray is hosting our fleet. Infinity arrives early and after securing our medmoor we all depart for a few days ashore. I am off to Bali.
I spend four days traveling Bali exploring Hindu temples, getting a blessing and having my fortune told by a Hindu Brahman in and around Obud. We visited the Babur volcano which further drives home the impact volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have on a recurring basis to a large portion of this population. There is on average an eruption in Indonesia every few years which typically sprays ash several cm deep over a radius of 30-50 km. Fortunately large pyroclastic eruptions are much less common .
I didn’t go to any of the popular tourist or surfing spots trying instead to get a feel for its people,culture and history.
We return to Gili Gede, Marina del Ray for another Oyster party which just happens to coincide with several owners birthdays including mine . Hartmut from Nikaia and I bought drinks and the party went til early morning. Just like my college days ,nothing kickstarts a good party like free booze.
This post is delayed as I have had very limited internet for most of our time in Indonesia. I decided to do Indonesia in 2 parts so Indonesia 2 , Cocos Keeling Islands and our Indian crossing to Mauritius will be posted later probably when we get to Mauritius and 1st world internet.