Saturday, November 09, 2013

Small villages

When we awoke at our isolated Indonesian anchorage, all of the small longboats that had anchored next to us had quietly slipped away in the pre-dawn hours for their day of fishing. We lowered the dinghy and went ashore to meet the people. It was very hot out.

We were greeted by a couple of exuberant villagers and many curious dogs. The very small village seemed to be separated by penurious family groups. At 1 grouping, we were offered plantain, dried fish, and bananas. This village was the most subsistence village we have yet seen and felt an overwhelming sense of immense poverty. They lived in basic huts with no furniture and cooked outdoors over a fire.

Very simple hut

They grew fruit and starches and caught fish, and also had a couple of pigs. Seaweed was being farmed in their little bay. We brought them some needed rope, batteries, and a few other items requested. A man who offered us coconuts with juice in them had a hard time seeing so we brought several reading glasses for the villagers to choose from.

These villagers had a hard time communicating through hand gestures and we got the definite feeling that they were not appreciative of anything that we brought them. No smiles, no head nods, just blank stares. Hopefully, we were reading them wrong. The kids were continually asking for stuff even after we gave them things. Most people were attired in T-shirts and shorts, some of which had probably been donated by other sailors.

There were 2 women expertly weaving baskets and this very skinny woman with very bad teeth allowed us to take her photo. Her face was dotted with small bumps and she had probably never seen a doctor or dentist.

Basket building

Another woman was weaving attractive multi-coloured cloth and she tried on several pairs of reading glasses before choosing the best pair for her eyes. A young girl was very insistent that she wanted glasses but we said no as we were worried it was more of a fashion statement than a need in her case.

Hard at work

After visiting, we scooted up around the point in the dinghy and we were shocked when we saw the water rise from a blast in the ocean. A fisherman with a few kids was using explosives to kill fish. After the blast, they would swim from their outrigger and collect the stunned and dead fish as they floated to the top and also dive down to collect others.

This fishing practice is illegal. It destroys the coral. They don't seem to consider that if they destroy the fish habitats they won't have fish in the future. They think in terms of food today, and don't worry about the future.

Youngsters swimming for dead fish

We knew there was another village named Dondo about 2 km down the coast so we took our dinghy. When first stepping ashore, I noticed the dark sand had gold-coloured flecks in it. We've noticed silver flecks in other sand but never golden ones. We walked over the sand and through a shallow river till we reached the village.

A few were about to dismantle this old fishing boat that had seen better days. These very common boats have side extensions that nets hang from, with lights that attract the fish.

Seen better days

These villagers from Dondo were friendly and more communicative. After a short visit, we walked back to our dinghy with a few villagers trailing behind. They were all lined up to see us off (westerners with inflatable dinghies seem to attract a lot of attention in Indonesia). But after several metres from shore, our outboard quit (fuel line vapour lock) and would not start!

We sheepishly rowed back to shore and pulled it up on land. The villagers offered us a tow back to Sea Turtle if we could supply them with a bit of fuel for their motor. We really appreciated this kindness but the pleasure was all theirs. Jordan and I got in their longboat with 3 men and watched as 2 others quickly hopped into our dinghy!

Will it sink?

The boat motor has a crank to start the 1-cylinder Chinese diesel motor with a big flywheel which is primitively connected to a plastic jug with fuel. We always hear the "bap bap bap" percussion of these mufferless boats but never realized how ear-splitting LOUD they are when you are actually in 1 of them. When cranking starts, the motor spits out black smelly smoke. Someone is always bailing water from the slow leaks.

Upon arriving back to Sea Turtle, we invited the eager men aboard to have a look. They were quite amazed with everything, especially all the electronic equipment such as the depth sounder, auto-pilot, compass, watermaker, etc.

After cold drinks and snacks, they left to tell their wives and other villagers all about their excursion. Jordan tried the outboard again, and it started!! He thinks it got overheated from the roasting heat of the sun. Next project - an engine cover to reduce the sun exposure.

Homeward bound

We went in search of a spot to snorkel to cool off and found the coral to be very disappointing, probably because of all the blasting in the area. However we saw colourful starfish including a big fat orange one, several fish that we usually see, and lots of little fish. We always see a new fish or something that we have never noticed on previous underwater occasions, this time a bright green fish with purple fins. We also swam through a HOT spot which was very uncomfortable. We suspected a natural hot water venting.

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