Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bombs, Bottles, and Bats

Current Location: Batu Boga East, Indonesia
Current Position: 08 28.24' S 121 57.34' E
Next Destination: Maurole, Flores Island, Indonesia

Bombs, Bottles and Bats. That pretty much describes our last two anchorages.

First there was Teluk Hading; a lovely spot, where we anchored just a bit too shallow (at low tide we were in 7.8 feet, with a shallow bommie right behind us -we had to pull in some chain to avoid hitting it until high tide). The water clarity was great, but there wasn't much to snorkel on, except the three lion fish hanging out under a piece of coral. Later in the evening two local fishing boats came in and anchored pretty close to Billabong. One of the boats came over to say hello (and ask for cigarettes of course). We were just getting ready to go over to Island Sonata for dinner, so after saying our hellos we were wondering how to then politely say goodbye, when, KABOOM ... and with the loud bang the entire hull of Billabong shuddered (I thought we had just hit the bommie). KABOOM, it went again. The three fishermen hanging on to Billabong excitedly looked up, pointed, and said goodbye as they tore off, just as a third KABOOM sounded and both Chris and I saw a huge flood of water explode from the sea. And now we understand why we aren't catching any fish in Indonesia - the locals are stunning the fish (yes, with live, exploding bombs), and then diving in and scooping them up! Now don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of one getting an easy, full meal, but isn't that just a tad-bit overkill??? What we have heard is that they are getting the bombs from old war dumps (usually underwater). After they salvage the bomb, defuse it and remove the "good" bits, they create a waterproof wick by wrapping it in aluminum foil. Then they take the entire thing and wrap it in a papaya, before tossing it overboard, from their dinky little dugout canoes. Afterwards they scoop up the fish with nets, or divers using Hooka hoses! I have to imagine that the mortality rate for fishing is higher in Indonesia than other countries! It's so bad that even the sea birds and bigger fish come running the minute the bombs sound and scoop up whatever they can.

We left Teluk Hading, with plans on attempting to enter a fantastic looking lagoon Chris had spotted on a satellite photo. We were ready to do some serious navigation; maneuvering around and through the reefs. What we didn't expect was to come around the corner and spot thousands upon thousands of floating bottles! Not only did we have to navigate the reef but we also had to weave our way through the numerous seaweed farms! Imagine driving through Nebraska when the corn is sprouting, and seeing row upon row of husks - it was like that, but with bottles on water instead of stalks on dirt!!! We managed through okay, but finding a spot to anchor wasn't easy, as the seaweed farms occupied all the shallow spots. Then, just as we were dropping our hook, the mangrove's stirred to life and thousands of fruit bats (also known as flying foxes) swarmed to the air, and streamed out, crossing over Billabong's bow. It was a site to see, and for the remainder of the day and throughout the next day, we would continue to be entertained and awed by the quantity of flying foxes. We even ventured into the mangroves on the dinghy, stirring the bats to life (and praying we wouldn't wind up covered in bat dung!)

All in all they were two great anchorages, each with something just a bit unique!!!

Additional Anchorage note for following cruisers:

You can enter the lagoon, which is on other side of the hill as Tanjung Gedong, through one of three main channels. There is a northern entrance to the east of the very small island (it starts slightly north west from there). The outer edge shoals depending on the previous years monsoon activity so be careful and enter only in good light, we only saw a cat do it. The southern edge has a very deep main channel (90') due south from the gap between the two main islands. The channel is navigated based on location of the seaweed farm bottles and is kept clear for ships collecting all the seaweed. There is another southern channel to the East (40') but you need to navigate more bottles and weave in front of a village to find the main lagoon. We were surprised to have a slight swell from the southern side (as there is really no fetch).

The anchorage is on the northern edge of the lagoon, tucked in off the reef near the sandy beach with mud flats in front and the mangroves to the north. It may fill up with seaweed farms in the future but there is always room in the middle (70'). We anchored in 50' Coral and mud but other found less depth. It was VERY calm despite people getting rolled out of the other anchorage the night before we arrived. If you squint just right the main peak reminds us of Bora Bora. We did a bush hike to the top of the hill by the anchorage but had to fight very tall grass and stickers. There is no trail!!

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