Yes, yes, I am all too aware that I have fallen behind with my blog and if I wrote my usual long spiel, I would bore everyone stupid- (yes, I have also heard the complaints about how friends say they need to read my postings over several days!). I just can’t seem to stop once I start writing those long epistles! I love writing, & photography and I don’t make any excuses for the length of my posts.
However, I will summarize the last few months to catch up and try to post more regularly from now on! Sure, she says!
Our time in Australia passed all too soon. It was wonderful to catch up with family & friends, and spend quality time watching our 3 grandchildren re acquaint themselves with their Opa & Loolah.
We hit the ground running with Christmas, New Year, one of my longtime school friend Alice’s 60th, plus my father’s 90th birthday celebrations in the first 2 weeks alone.
We had two wonderful trips down to Coffs Harbour, NSW to spend with Avery, Chantelle & our adorable little Wilder and caught up with Michael several times when he flew back from Sydney, where he now works, to spend his weekends home caring for his son Arni and Dante.
As usual, we were welcomed into Paul & Jenny’s home to use as our base and it was a sheer delight to wake up each morning to dear little Max’s welcome cries and eager anticipation to start the day.
He had fallen in love with his ‘Opa’ from the minute we arrived back, and despite showing me love and attention, Opa remained his no 1 buddy during our stay.
The few memorable occasions when both Michael’s little boy Arni & cousin Max (only 5 weeks apart) were able to play together were very special to us.
We loved the excitement of Paul & Jenny’s house hunting and were so excited when their offer was accepted on a stunning large property in Burpengary East.
We caught up with some friends but much of this trip back to Brisbane we needed to concentrate on renovations to our rented home, and helping my father with a number of issues!
Once we arrived back to Stars End 2 in early March, the first week flew as we cleaned the boat from inside out and top to bottom. There was mould in a lot of places, including inside most of the cupboards & lockers. I took the opportunity to spring clean and reduce the amount of unnecessary items we had on board, and at the end of that first week, the boat felt spick and span, plus we had updated lists of all the lockers’ contents, including Frank’s spare parts and tool sections.
After 2 1/2 months of being away, the engine started with a little choke, and ran smoother after Frank fitted a new alternator. The water maker ran with a slight leak that was soon fixed. A new regulator had to be fitted to the gas outlet and our outboard engine for the dinghy was as cantankerous as ever, until Frank did a complete overhaul.
Being the tail end of the monsoon season, it was like living in a sauna on board, and we dripped puddles from morning to night. We were so anxious to feel some breeze on our faces again, that we decided to head off from the mooring at Marina del Ray where Stars End 2 had spent the last 3 months after just one week, and do our re provisioning from Medana Bay in north Lombok.
We managed to find some clear water to scrape the bottom of the hull, but were very disappointed to find the ablative antifouling paint we had only done 11 months ago in Opua, NZ, was down to the undercoat in many places and the boat was full of weeds and small barnacles.
We left Medana Bay in the company of Aussies Steve & Linda on their yacht ‘Donetes’ and we coast hopped close to 300 miles back to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores over the next week, with some interesting stops along the way, but unfortunately little wind to sail with, and roly anchorages on the exposed shoreline much of the time.
As is the case once back on the yacht, the days tend to merge together, and it was only when Frank checked his faceBook as we clambered into bed one night, that he informed me that both of us had forgotten, let alone celebrate that day, as our 36th wedding anniversary!
We had organized to pick up our longtime friends Desy & Dave from Labuan Bajo just before Easter, so we enjoyed killing some time once we arrived back to the area, exploring many of the bays to find some good locations to take our visitors.
Once Desy & Dave flew in from Bali, we spent a day re provisioning at the produce markets in Labuan Bajo with our faithful taxi driver Max, before setting off for some sea, salt air and sand.
We had found most of the tourist destinations were over rated and full of the inevitable rubbish in & out of the water- it is so heartbreaking.
With Desy & Dave, we spent the next week or so, exploring different anchorages in the islands that are scattered around Labuan Bajo. The furthest we traveled was the island of Gili Banta, an amazingly pristine little island about 30 miles north west of LB, with finger like bays and raging currents up to 5 knots depending on the tides, in the channels around the island.
Gili Banta is just too far away for the tourist boats to motor in one day, so we relished in having the anchorages mainly to ourselves, only seeing the odd local fishing boat and a traditional ‘phinisi’ live aboard charter boat anchored nearby late one evening.
We anchored in crystal clear waters, snorkeled coral fringed reefs nearby & Desy & I strolled along white sandy beaches searching for shell ‘treasures’ and Dave sourced locations to hone his outstanding photographic skills (credit to Dave for several of the photos included in this post).
Frank fossicked along the beaches or tramped up the steep hills and took some great panoramic shots.
We visited a tiny island- Pulau Messah where every square inch of land was crammed with colorful wooden homes and we felt like the Pied Piper as scores of children followed us as we explored the narrow streets.
Desy celebrated her birthday whilst on board Stars End 2, and treated Frank & I to cocktails & an amazing dinner at the luxury Komodo Beach Resort on Sebayor Besar. At one scary point, Frank & I had to dash back to the yacht, when we notice it slip anchor. It was sent it shooting down with the strong current for about 100 meters before the anchor thankfully grabbed and we were able to head back to land to finish off our evening of indulgence.
A highlight was spotting a group of 5 giant manta rays off a rocky promontory, and we were entranced watching them weave slowly back and forth gracefully feeding on small plankton in the currents.
We had an absolute ball, relaxing in the stunning anchorages and soaking up some magnificent sunsets at night whilst we sipped sun downers and it was just unfortunate that Dave & Des had to cut their holiday short for medical reasons.
So now Frank & I are back on our own again, and renewing the monthly visas at immigration- a process that tests our patience and actually encourages us to head to Malaysia sooner to avoid this drawn out bureaucratic rigmarole.
We use the Puri Sari Beach Hotel as our base in Labuan Bajo, as we did last year, and Huberth, the charismatic manager who has helped us so much, and his friendly staff, make us very welcome . We have indulged in a number of great inexpensive meals in the restaurant and thoroughly enjoy using the swimming pool and internet facilities.
Our plan is to island hop as much as we can up to South Sulewesi where we will renew our visas next month in the huge city of Makassar. From there we will head west across to Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, to the island of Belitung, which we have heard from friends is beautiful. After time there we will clear out of Indonesia and head for Malaysia, hoping to join up with our friends who are right now embarking on a Sail Malaysia East Rally.