Back from the Wilds of Indonesia

As we pull into familiar Labaun Bajo so ends the long and adventurous trek around Borneo and Eastern Indonesia. This long voyage took us to remote and seldom visited parts of this exotic country. We anchored in virgin territory and met people certainly not accustomed to western visitors. We did this trek with little or no cruising guides, information or wisdom from previous visits by cruisers.

We went weeks without seeing another cruising boat and only saw one in passing the whole trip. This is a kind of cruising I had dreamed about and few experience. So did I like it?

The sheer adventure spoke to me vividly no doubt. The excitement added by the constant agony of knowing if something goes wrong there is no help. The old saying about casting off the lines and taking chances was never more we relevant.

We did some long passages; 4 days to Manado, 2 two Spice Islands, 3 to Wakatobi and 2 back to LBJ. More overnight passages than I have done since the South Pacific. With one exception we had excellent weather and calm seas, one night it rolled a bit in 20 knots of wind. The lack of wind in this area is appealing to us power boaters but contributes to the areas remoteness; few cruising sailboats have the range or will to motor as much as they would have to.

I had heard from several dive buddies that the islands on the northeast section of the Spice Islands were excellent diving, this prompted extending the trip east. With no real information on specific sites we blundered about searching for good diving and found none. The last real excellent dive was on the very eastern tip of Borneo until we hit the mound in the Spice Islands which was super. That is why they call it exploring, we dive in a manor few others experience and it produces excellent results every so often but takes many dives to find it.

The emotions and circumstances reminded me of the long Pacific Crossing; alone and at peace. I loved the nights of that crossing and when we made landfall I was mostly elated but a bit of me was saddened it was over. Thus were the emotions when we pulled into familiar Wakatobi and saw the fleet of this year’s Rally boats. It was a good feeling. It was good to talk on the VHF radio with another cruiser and when we anchored I quickly went about the anchorage meeting new people. I was back in my element.

My social “fix” made and back on familiar course we headed to Labuan Bajo. This was one of my favorite places last year. I was excited as dawn broke and the mountains peaked out of the low layer of clouds in the horizon.

So cruising goes, as in much of life , the safe and familiar mixed with the adventure and unknown. I believe taking the mix just past the comfort level is essential. Living only on the “safe” side makes for a dull life, not the product of dreams. Yet a life constantly in the unknown would be counter to why we cruise, cruisers like to take it easy and are social beings! The balance is essential, granted my life tends to be balanced on the far side of safe by most standards, I do need a level of certainty. I did not realize how much until I again walked the cobbled streets of Labuan Bajo. I had a sense of home even though I had only been here once a year ago. I went to the ice-cream vender and the Mediterranean Bar. I ate the best hamburger in SE Asia at the same place as last year. I even was hailed by a local lad I had met last year. We anchored amongst the fleet of regal Indonesian boats. The experience was pure joy.

So we will fuel and provision, connect with this year’s rally boats, and set out to dive in the wonders of the Komodo National Park. Huge Manta Rays await us in the water and massive Komodo Dragons on land, things of wonder few will see yet things I can count on, so good to be here again.

1 thought on “Back from the Wilds of Indonesia”

  1. Well Brian! You’re quite a nice read. Thank you for your wonderful post. Elisabeth, Proximity and I are in Vanuatu getting ready to head north to the Philippines and then across the top of Borneo, aiming for Singapore next March. Like you, we need to get off of the main road.

    We send our best, and who knows…maybe we can share another music evening sometime. Godspeed, old friend.

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