Have been in Saumlaki for about 10 days, we arrived here to start the Sail To Indonesia Rally 2013. Five boats including ourselves were starting here where as others were starting in Kupang. Theres another rally starting here called the Sail Indonesia Rally, they have about 20 boats here mostly from Australia and New Zealand. All boats are feeding into the Sail Komodo rally which travels the length of Indonesia and its Islands.
The organisers here put on a great welcome show with a lot of the local and national dignitries present. There were some local dancers and singers performing and the local people laid on a huge table of local food for us all. They all seemed very proud to have us there and were very welcoming. Sadly the numbers of boats that start the rally here have dwindled since it started in 2005. In the beginning there were over 150 boats here but as tourism hasn’t taken off here there isn’t much to see in the way of attractions, also as its only recently become an official port of entry has meant that it was difficult to check in here as Customs and Immigration had to be flown in especially from Ambon.
When we had a few days in the hotel there were a lot of uniforms staying there and after talking to one of them we found out that they were official people from Jakarta who were discussing the issues around tourism/planning/development, etc, so looks like they maybe getting the help they need to develop the town so it could welcome yachties and other tourists more easily.
On one of the days we organised a local mini bus to take us around some of the local sights, we stopped at the village with the stone boat, this was a boat which was apparantly 500 years old ( but equally could have been 5000 years old depending upon which piece of tourist literature you read !). More impressive was the huge flight of stone stairs leading down to the sea.
The kids were on form as ever !!
On friday they had organised the farewell event for us at the local arts center. There was a display of local foods all made by different womens group, they were to be judged by local councillors and then we were allowed to sample the different dishes. After this there was some traditional dancing and singing and then some food laid on for us. It was a big event for them and they wished us a safe and happy trip. It looks like we may be leaving at the beginning of next week for the next stop to Alor about 400 miles away.
Been here in Saumlaki for a few days now, got here on the 23rd July after 7 days at sea. We checked in with the quarantine and health guy who tried his best to obtain gifts from us. He went through the boat opening all the lockers but ignored anything to do with food, he kept picking up torches/glasses/books, you name it he had his hands over it. Think he was waiting for us to say ‘Your welcome to it’ which we didn’t, he gave up after a while until he was about to leave the boat and grabbed Brians jacket thinking he could take it !! Brian took it back and we gave the guy a lift back to the jetty. Apparantly this sort of thing is quite common in these parts of the world, any small brides or gifts go a long way to getting your cleared through the various channels.
Saumlaki is a place that hasn’t been hit by tourism at all yet, in fact me and Brian were the only white peopke in town and people would stop and stare like we were aliens walking down the street. Its all very friendly though, those who can’t speak much english shout ‘Mister Mister, how are you ?!’ and those you can start a small conversation with you and shake your hand. We still have to get checked in by customs and immigration but they are being flown in from nearby Ambon as there isn’t an office here. They are being flown in purely for the Sail Indonesia Rally, the rest of the yachts will be turning up from the 29th July onwards. It will be good when other yachties turn up, not because there will be other boat people to talk to but because i won’t have so many people shouting ‘Mister Mister’ at me every time i walk down the road !!
When we first left the boat to go into the main port building the flags had been put up to welcome us. Most of them were now in shreds due to strong winds. We had a contact named George who welcomed us, an Indonesian man who was probably about 60. He spoke good English and said he was always on call to help us. He introduced us to a girl called Genie who he said worked for the Tourist Board. She proudly showed us the tourist information center they had erected especially for us – a glass cabinet that contained some postcards and a couple of brochures with a piece of A4 paper stuck to the front of it with ‘Tourist Information Center’ printed on it, the remaining three she shelves were empty. I got a postcard and a brochure to look at later.
Every time we went anywhere near the place she ran up to us asking if we needed any help, sadly there didn’t seem to be anything a tourist would want to go and see so theren’t any tours to book up on. A few days later they had doubled the staff at the tourist information center and a new girl in uniform arrived being just as helpful as the other one. In fact one evening when me and Brian had gone for a walk a scooter screached to a stop and she was on the back of it asking if we were ok and did we need anything. You have to admire their work ethic and enthusiasm !!
As the boat is going to be at anchor out in the bay for a few days i thought i would take the oppourtunity for some R&R and checked out a couple of hotels. I’ve been on board the boat now for nearly 3 months sharing the forward cabin with the other crew member. It gets cramped and a bit smelly at times !! The hotels charge 300,000 Rupiah which is about 20 pounds for an air conditioned room with shower, TV and breakfast. Better still Brian was tempted so we got a twin so its about 10 pounds each !! I think i’ll make the most of it while i can !!