Monday, March 16, 2015

Seven Nights of Not the Fairmont in Sri Lanka, (But Still Awesome)

Being the daughter of a freelance travel writer can come with certain expectations when it comes to hotel rooms. I will readily admit that I’m a snob about hotels, (this leading to the charming nickname, ‘Five-Star’ from my darling mother). So when my parents told me we were going to spend a week travelling around Sri Lanka, by bus, train and van, and staying in guest houses and motels, I was slightly apprehensive. My experience of travel, (not counting the six years on the boat) had consisted of carefully structured days, following strict itineraries, dining in expensive restaurants and retiring to $1000 a night suites with chocolates on the pillow and a maid waiting at my beck and call. Like I said, I’m a snob.
The day we arrived in Sri Lanka, we checked into to the country with all due speed and immediately departed for the train station. The plan had been to get bunks in the first class sleeper train and then travel to the town of Columbo, take another train, arrive in the large city of Kandy and meet up with our friends on Totem whom we would be travelling with. At least that had been the plan. Unfortunately, the sleeper car was full and so we would be in second class seats overnight. That doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that second class seats cost four bucks and are made of sweaty, sticky, smelly vinyl and have absolutely no leg-room.

When we didn’t follow the plan, I got mildly agitated.  Luckily, after about twenty minutes of waiting for the train to leave, my dad found out that there had been a first class cancelation and grabbed the cabin for my mum and I. We hurried to the cabin and were greeted by a dismal sight. I (foolishly as it turned out), had believed that perhaps the magical land of first class would resemble something like the luxury train across the Rocky Mountains that I had taken when I was six. I was sadly mistaken. The floor was dirty rubber, somebody appeared to have stepped on our beds with muddy boots and it was stiflingly hot. Don’t even get me started on the bathroom. I tried to fall asleep but it was horribly loud and bumpy, and in the middle of the night the conductor burst in, shouting, to check that there were only two people in our cabin. You get the picture.

Luckily, the next train was better. We got first class seats in the optimistically named ‘observation car’ which promised air-con and a clean bathroom. However, the springs on the train were too soft, and whenever we went over a bump, we would go airborne and wouldn’t spot bouncing for about a minute.

Eventually we arrived in Kandy. We travelled by tuk-tuk to the guest house that us and Totem would be staying at. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sri Lankan forms of transport, the tuk-tuk deserves an explanation. The tuk-tuk is a small, three wheeled taxi that nimbly weaves between large trucks and buses at breakneck speed, while the driver looks over the back seat and cheerfully assures you that his tuk-tuk is brand new, and he’s been driving since he was twelve.

As we arrived at the guest house, I took a deep breath. We were greeted by the owner and shown to our room. It was small, cold and white. It was a fricken cell. The bathroom at least, had hot water. And ants. I could deal with the ants. It was however, when I sat down on my bed that the trouble began. It appeared to have been made from chopped up tires mixed with bricks. I sat down on my parent’s bed. Perfectly acceptable foam. I went to visit the kids from Totem. Their bed too, was normal. Damn. Later, we found out from our friend Behan, from Totem, that my bed was probably made from processed coconut husks pressed into a brick. However, despite the brick bed, Kandy was lovely.

 The people were friendly, the air was cool and the food was wonderful. At three o’clock, we visited a sari shop, so that my friend Siobhan could pick up the sari that she had had tailored the day before. When I was little, in Vancouver, I had always wanted a sari. The women wore them with such elegance and grace and they were so beautiful. So finally, here was my chance. I poured over the fabrics and gazed at the delicate patterns. Finally, I chose a purple-grey silk with a lacy copper edge. The blouse would be made of black silk with the same border. The next day I picked it up. Then, we travelled through the hill country of Sri Lanka to one of the abundant tea factories. When we reached the small stall that sold Sri Lankan tea, my mother asked one of the women if she could help me wrap my new sari. She bundled me up with a smile and sent us on our way. As it turned out, a foreigner wearing a sari in Sri Lanka was an entirely social experience. Almost every woman we passed would stop to adjust me and rewrap my sari to her satisfaction. The woman that we had encountered up until that point had been very shy, so it was fascinating how a simple piece of fabric could open the way to conversations and friendship.

Over the next few days, we traveled to the tiny town of Dalhousie whose claim to fame is a mountain is called Adam’s Peak where the locals believe Adam first set foot on earth. Every day, hundreds of pilgrims journey up the 5000 or so steps to visit the temple at the top. We left for the climb at 2:30 a.m. I was just starting to regret wanting to do this. The air was frigid but infused with excitement. You could feel the thrill tingling through the icy air. Sadly, about 1000 steps up, my bad ankle gave way, and so I waited in the tea house of a kind old couple for the Totems to come down. The elderly couple spoke barely any English, but showed me pictures of their children and grandchildren and gave me a blanket and insisted I wait on their couch. At about 6:30, my father came up from the foot of the mountain to fetch me. The couple took a photo with me, I thanked them and bid them farewell.

Hubert the Elephant

Charlie's cousin
The next hotel was the worst. The bed was too small, it was boiling hot, the bathroom was filled with mosquitoes and it was filthy. I was horrified. I got through it however, (albeit grumpily) and we traveled on. The next hotel was much better. The three Totem kids and I shared a dormitory like bedroom, with thick mattresses, air-con, T.V, a mini-fridge, and a clean bathroom. It was slightly sad how excited I got. We would stay there for three nights, and we were all ecstatic. The other kids and I spent the remainder of the day chilling in the air-con and watching CNN. Excitement. The next day was our safari. We were packed into a giant jeep and splashed off through the puddles. We saw a leopard, elephants, jackals, deer, peacocks, wild boar, and mongeese. It was fantastic. 

The following day, my parents and I travelled by bicycle through the ancient city of Anuradhapura. It was beautiful and fascinating. The ruins were interspersed with peoples’ homes, which helped to see how huge it was.
The next day, we left, and arrived home at the boat. I think I might have possibly left some of my hotel snobbishness behind. Maybe.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

My Red-haired Relatives--visiting orangutans

On Boxing Day, a large yellow and green boat pulled up next to Ceilydh. This was the boat that would take us up the Sekonyer River for three days while we go see orangutans. This was the trip we’d been dreaming about for months, the chance to go to Camp Leaky and also to see wild orangutans. Ever since I heard of the problems and dangers that orangutans face, I’ve wanted to help. We’ve given up palm oil, and we’ve adopted a young orangutan named Bayat, who we’ll receive pictures and updates of, in order to support Camp Leaky. For me, the most important part of this trip was learning more about the orangutans and how we can help protect them.

We would sleep, eat and travel on the boat with a small crew and a guide. Our guide was awesome. Her name was Rini, she was Muslim, she’d been to university and she was married to a university professor. She was very talkative and curious, asking about our travels and seeming especially interested in the komodo dragons that I mentioned.

 On our first day, we traveled up the river, stopping at the first feeding station at two o’clock. Rini led us through the forest, pointing out various plants and herbs for healing. “That one there prevents malaria. The orangutans eat it too,” she informed us. “And that one’s for mosquito bites”. There was such a huge variety of plants and trees and the palm oil companies were burning them and the illegal loggers were chopping them down. This forest is unlike any in the world. The horror of its destruction is just starting to reach the rest of the world, but luckily, Indonesia’s new president has pledged to stop the illegal logging.

Soon, we started to hear yodelling guides, (that’s the best way I can think to describe them) calling for the orangutans. We walked a bit more before entering a small clearing. I was dismayed. There were rows of benches and a roped off platform covered with bananas. “It’s like feeding time at the zoo” I whispered to my mum. Soon though, I felt better as our red-haired relatives swung down through the trees to grab bananas in their mouths and then scurry away. The thing that amazed me was their eyes. They had soft brown eyes that seemed ancient and sad and so human. They would stare at you, making eye-contact for a brief moment that stretched out forever.

The next morning, we headed off to the second feeding station. Rini pointed out orangutans, telling us their names, ages and a bit about them. Many were the children or grandchildren of the original orphaned orangutans that Dr. Birute Galdikas had rehabilitated and introduced back into the wild. Their parents had been killed by the palm oil plantations and the babies had been taken and sold as pets. The palm oil plantations and loggers are not only killing the orangutans, but destroying their habitat; the rainforest of Borneo. Palm oil plantations only produce for twenty years, after that, they’re simply cleared away; leaving an open space that will never regrow, due to the poor soil.

 The way the orangutans swung from tree to tree was incredible. They would climb to the top of a bendy tree and then fling their weight to one side, causing it to lean over and allowing them to grab the next tree. You could see and hear them coming from quite a ways away, because the trees would bend and rustle. They were perfect and beautiful, and I felt so lucky to be able to see them.
Next stop: Camp Leaky.  There were people from all over the world, come to see the ginger apes. The first part of feeding time wasn’t much different than the other stations, but after about twenty minutes, things started to get a bit more interesting. Sarah, (Our friend who’s visiting from New York for three weeks) got peed on by a young and mischievous orangutan. A mother with her two babies came walking down the path. And a ridiculous looking gibbon chased a wild pig.

The mother orangutan’s name was Uning and her oldest baby would be ready to leave her in a year or two. She was nineteen years old, and we got to watch as she taught her five-month old baby how to climb. First though, she whacked a wild pig with a stick. There are many wild pigs that hang around Camp Leaky and the feeding platform. They are aggressive, and have killed several baby orangutans. So before Uning started to guide her baby through the trees, she picked up a stick, and smacked the curious pig. Then, as we watched, silently cheering her on, she gently pried her baby off and wrapped the infant’s arms and legs around a low branch. Her baby reached out with both hands and feet, trying to find its mummy again. Uning pushed her child up through the trees, ignoring the baby’s grasping hands.

Then, a large man pushed in front of everyone watching with his ridiculously huge camera pointed at Uning. (Seriously, the camera was just silly; it looked like a missile launcher). Everyone sucked in their breath as he began to take rapid fire pictures, (with flash!) of the orangutans. His guide placed a hand on his arm and requested that he stop using the flash, as it disturbed the orangutans and was against the park rules. The man shook him off; “There’s no sign! You’re not a ranger! Get out of my way” he said in a loud voice, startling Uning and her baby. He got much closer than you were supposed to and continued to take pictures. So I stepped up.

“One of the basic park rules is no flash photography of the orangutans. You’re scaring Uning and her baby” I told him. He looked at me disdainfully. “Show me the sign little girl. You need to learn about obeying the rules!” Now I was angry. “You need to learn about respecting the beautiful creatures that we have all come to see, along with respecting the people that protect them. Enjoy the experience, and stop frightening the orangutans”. He blustered a bit but stopped and stomped off. Our guide, Rini grabbed my hand tightly, possibly to prevent me following him and ranting at him a bit more. “Thank you” she whispered, “You are brave to say whatever you want to say”.

A few minutes later, there was a commotion from up the trail. “Tom’s coming!” people called in hushed voices. Tom is the alpha male of Camp Leaky, and he’s huge and furry and orange. He came striding down the trail, looking very cool with a shaggy haircut and giant cheek pads. He was like a rock star, he had handlers, pushing people out of his way and clearing a path. He settled on the feeding platform and ignored everyone.

We were one of the last groups to leave, and I was so happy that we had gotten to see both Tom and Uning. The orangutans were so amazing, but what I found fascinating was how they seemed to show such strong emotions. They weren’t human emotions, but they were clearly reacting to the world around them. Uning seemed proud but a little sad when her baby got the hang of climbing and she was clearly wary of the wild pigs. Some orangutans were just young and playful, but every so often they would look at you, and you could see just how similar to us they really are.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

So Many Ponies . . .

When we go to the market, we walk. Period, full stop. Or, if it’s really far away, we might splurge on a bemo. (I know, such extravagance). But today, we really went all out. First, we took a taxi. Then we arrived at the market to see pony carts parked outside. I promptly squealed. This, of course, made all the locals chuckle. We finished our shopping, as I urged my parents to hurry up. I wanted a pony ride, damn it. They seemed to be slowing down on purpose, chatting with the tobacco seller, smelling the mangoes, and basically ignoring me. Such kind people. Anyway, after they finished inspecting every single piece of fruit the market had to offer, I rushed them to the pony parking lot. They had been to the market yesterday, and taken a pony cart home, so they were more blasé about the ponies. But I wasn’t. I could never be blasé about ponies. NEVER.

When I finally succeeded in towing them to the ponies, they recognized their pony man from yesterday. Apparently he was very gentle with his pony, so we picked him. The pony, a tiny, shiny, fat brown animal, pulled a ratty, broken down chariot with two wheels. There were nicer carts but we liked this determined, sturdy little pony and the small, kind old man who drove the cart. The pony’s hooves were being reshod, probably with my parents fare from yesterday, so we waited as the pony was tended to by the local farrier. While this was going on, we had to watch as a complete jerk of another pony man, chucked manure and fruit at our driver’s head and tried to convince us to switch carts. We declined.

Finally, the pony was ready. We climbed into the wobbly contraptions, which falls back as you climb in, and squished up to the front, to balance our weight over the wheels and make it easier for the pony. As we trotted out of the yard, the other driver ran up and rubbed manure into our driver’s hair. We all shouted at the other driver and the pony picked up his pace. When we arrived at the small marina owned by a British expat and his Indonesian wife, the pony was slowing down. We hopped out, fed the pony a carrot, and waved it down the road. Best. Transport. Ever.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shopping; Indonesia Style

Shopping in Indonesia is an endless scavenger hunt of squeezing between small stalls, laden with vegetables, and prowling the aisles of gleaming grocery stores, filled with processed products crammed into plastic wrappers. You learn to ask people not where the store is, but where you can buy a specific type of food. You begin to notice people with shopping bags, and note the direction they came from. It’s so different from shopping in Australia, or America, or Canada. There, you find the grocery store, and with it, everything you need. Here, you have to work for it. First you find the market. That can sometimes take all day, and as markets are busiest in the mornings, when you get there in the afternoon, there’s likely nothing left. So you go the next day, and haggle with cheerful women in bright headscarves that laugh at your attempt to bargain. You return home with colourful fruits and vegetables, pleased with your purchases. But wait! Fruits and vegetables, while, delicious and healthy, do not exactly a dinner make. So you go to the grocery store and find flour and canned goods and perfume and socks. You hunt through the shop, looking for the refrigerated meat in cold, misty cabinets. Consulting the cashier doesn’t help either. She will shrug helplessly and smile hopefully, putting her hands up sadly.

This is the story of our day long quest for chicken. An epic tale that will take you, the reader, from one end of Lauban Bajo to the other, while following, me, the author, and my trusty, yet simple companions. We started in a bemo, the small decorated, bejewelled mini vans that have been outfitted with long benches and pressed into service as taxi/buses/transport things. My trusty, yet simple companions and I could not sit upright in the bemo, which proudly declares that it loves Jesus and Elvis Presley. We requested to be taken to the market. We were taken to a sloping hill with a few stalls, where the market appeared to be almost finished. My trusty, yet simple companions and I leapt heroically from the bemo and dashed to buy the few green offerings. Now, unfortunately, we were stuck on a hill a ways from town while the cruel sun beat down upon us. “Why did you bring us here?” I chastised my trusty, yet simple companions. They had no answers. We hiked for a while until we found a bemo whose clearly flamboyant personality was smothered and repressed under a coat of silver paint. I sympathized.

 My trusty, yet simple companions asked to be taken to the fish market. The fish market! There was a mutiny going on here, and none but I could see it. Fish market indeed. We arrived at the fish market (I can feel my fingers shrink from the words as I labour to write them) and my trusty, yet simple companions bought plantains. An oppressive smell strangled my nose. If a grocery store smelt like this market did, it would get no customers. It smelt like a place where rats hung out. And in fact, they did. My trusty, yet simple companions led us to this hell hole. From now on, they are no longer trusty, just simple. My simple companions led me to the back of the market where they bought mangoes and bananas. Their trusty status has been resumed. However, there was no chicken or beef. Just dried fish which my trusty, yet simple companions turned up their trusty, yet simple noses at.

Our first and only chicken that we found in the market

 We then travelled to the grocery store, and searched half-heartedly for chicken or beef. But then, one of my trusty, yet simple companions found a hidden freezer, shunted to the side in shame. Inside, were large round shapes cloaked in black plastic. They were the size and shape of human heads. I declined to look inside, instead, inquiring of the cashier, what the suspicious shaped black lumps were. “Beef” she whispered in a horrified, revolted tone. We bought one lump of beef. We then continued on our hunt for the elusive chicken. First, we stopped in a European bakery where I got a fruity iced tea and a slice of the best lemon poppy-seed cake EVER, and my trusty, yet simple companions indulged in a ginger coffee. One of my trusty, yet simple companions had the bright idea to ask where we could buy chicken. The cook gestured towards a young girl who had just brought us our food. The girl drew a hand across her throat and made a gagging noise, and then clucked and flapped her arms. My trusty, yet simple companions hastily requested two dead chickens, and promised to be back at four. And there ends the heroic quest of a brave girl and her trusty, yet simple companions.

Today they lied to me and told me it was Friday when it was in fact Saturday. Evil !@#$%^&*()(*&^%$#@@@@@#$%^&*&&^%$%^&$#$%^&*^%$#$@#. I swore to my father that one day, I would smother him in his sleep. Make a note of that

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Critters of Komodo

Hello, to my mostly faithful readers! I hope you’re all doing well so that you can continue to read my blog. If you all died, no one would read it, and then I’d be sad. Any-ways, we’ve been poking around the Komodo National park, that’s made up of about four or five big islands and lots and lots of little ones. And on these islands, there are critters of various shapes and sizes. When we pulled into our anchorage yesterday, Timor deer dotted the rocks like the chocolate chips in freshly baked cookies. 

There was big deer and little deer, brown deer and tan deer, and BABY DEER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As you no doubt have assumed from the excess of exclamation marks, this fact excited me. AND THE BABY DEER WERE SWIMMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 CUTENESS IN A SMALL FURRY BUNDLE. There were also wild boars. And wild BABY PIGS. This morning, I watched gleefully as a large mama pig led her two little pigs down the mountainside to the beach. She then encouraged them into the water for their morning bath, which sent my mum and me into squealing fits of joy and caused my dad to shake his head sadly at our delight. 

Of course, Komodo isn’t all small baby animals that cause you to practically wet your pants over their utter adorableness. If you talk about Komodo, you have to talk about the dragons. On Rinca, one of the islands in the park, we visited these- lizard/dragon/voldemort/Darth Vader/ things. When they get mad at each other, they swell up and sound like Darth Vader. And I swear to god, they’re secretly claiming that they’re the dark lord. They also bear a strong resemblance to Voldemort. When we arrived at the dock on Rinca, a guide leapt up to take us to the office to pay for our park pass, person pass, boat pass, hiking fee and guide fee. His name was Paul, he was shorter than me, and he looked extremely nervous. He carried a long forked stick, which he used to warn off the dragons. When we asked whether the dragons had come to recognise the stick, he snorted. “It’s not magic” he told us. “If it’s not determined to eat you, it works fine. But if they’re hungry, run, and climb a tree”. He glanced down at our sports sandals doubtfully. I then noticed that all the guides were wearing trainers. “I’ll leave you my stick” he offered, heading off to the office. When we got close, he told us that the office had been raided three times by dragons, and the in charge guy had been bitten twice. “I think the dragons know he’s corrupt” he mused thoughtfully. Once we had paid, he took us on a winding path through the ranger’s houses. My mum squeaked. I turned to look at her, and she was doing a little excited dance, and pointing under the house, where about eight large dragons rested. “That one’s smiling!” she giggled. I looked at the one in question. Its mouth was open and it was propped up on its front legs. Then, there was the Darth Vader noise. Paul gripped his stick. “Oh, shit” he muttered, as a dragon slowly heaved himself to his feet.

Later on our walk, I asked if there were many female guides. He laughed and shook his head. “No women!” he said. “I think it is too dangerous for them”. I raised an eyebrow. I was quite a bit bigger than him. When I pointed out that danger doesn’t lessen or grow depending on gender, he shrugged. “I didn’t tell my parents that I work here. They think I work in a restaurant” he told us, changing the subject hastily. After our walk was finished, we went and looked at the dragons again. These ancient animals were huge and mysterious. They were the largest lizards in the world, and on the islands, they had no predators. I was so privileged to have seen them in their natural habitat, and I know it is a memory that I will carry for the rest of my life.   

Monday, November 03, 2014

Making Friends in Maumere

In Maumere, it took two days for us to find the market. The first day, the scooter driver sent us to the right. The man selling bananas sent us left. The schoolgirls sent us to the back of town. The bemo driver took us to the park. By the end of the day, we were sure it was a plot to confuse the foreigners. Eventually, we headed home with our purchases from the supermarket that we had found. The supermarket was a large building with tidily ordered rows of teas and cookies and soap, wrapped, then double wrapped, and then triple wrapped with plastic. The only fresh food was imported apples at $7 a kilo. However, we did manage to find the lone pork chop, buried deep in the freezer and frozen rock solid. We wearily trudged home, tired of the heat and disappointed that we had been unable to find the market. We were unpacking our groceries, when we realized that we had accidently bought long-life chocolate milk. I didn’t even know that that existed!

The next day, we took off at 8am, determined, that this time, the market would not escape. We marched off, filled with new resolve. We weren’t exactly sure how we would find the market, but find it we would. We passed the park, with the large statue of Jesus smiling blindly and benevolently down on the cracked pavement and withered shrubs. Two teenage girls walked laughing, towards us. “Hello mister! How are you?” one asked, and then burst into a new fit of giggles with her friend. It appears that in Indonesia, foreigners of both genders are ‘mister’. We smiled and waved and called, ‘Selemat pagi! Di mana pasar?” (Good morning! Where is the market?) The two girls pointed different ways, had a brief argument, and then smiled, and both pointed the same way. We thanked them and walked away.

After a couple of blocks, the girls appeared again. They started to lead us to the market and it seemed as if they were our self-appointed guides. It turned out that they were in a tourism program, learning English, so that they could go to Bali and work in hotel management. They were fifteen, and living in a boarding house with several other girls while their parents worked in Bali. They got us to the market, and we bought them ice-cream as a thank you. They then marched us back to the boat, practising their English with us all the way. When we got close to the boat, we were joined by another friend of theirs, also in the tourism program. She was seventeen, and her English was quite good. We invited them back to the boat, eager to repay them for being such wonderful guides. After much giggles, they accepted. They loved Charlie and also the artwork on the walls. We exchanged phone-numbers and facebook, and promised to stay in touch. They laughed and grinned and then indicated that they must go. Wishing them luck, we waved as my dad took the back to the wharf. They were so sweet and so kind and I hope that they will succeed in whatever they do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Village Life

Yesterday we went to a traditional Indonesian village. We were standing by the side of the road, trying to figure out where the bus-stop was, when a car pulled up. Two men stepped out and offered to take us there. Their names were Elfis and Nobbi. We got in the car and headed up through a bumpy, winding road, while Elfis and Nobbi watched music videos by this elderly Christian guy. They seemed to have an endless supply of them. We eventually ended up at the foot of a steep hill, which we trudged up, ending up at a small village of traditional houses with thatched roofs and no walls. We were greeted by the village leader, who dressed in original garb and showed us his spears, machete, and bow and arrows. We were then led to where the women had set up their various necklaces, bracelets and baskets for sale. They were all basically the same thing, and most of them showed signs of being produced in a factory. My mum however, bought four baskets that we didn't actually need, and my dad bought a wooden spoon. It was interesting to see just how isolated they were. They had their own pigs and chickens, and they grew most of their own food. After we had been waved off, we took Elfis and Nobbi out for lunch. For the five of us to have huge lunches, plus drinks, only cost about eight dollars. The food was quite spicy, to me, but I soldiered on, until being informed that this was 'mild' for Indonesia. After being dropped off near the harbour, Elfis asked for money. We had paid for gas and food, and they hadn't said anything about money at first. We had hoped they were just being friendly, and showing their country to foreigners. Despite that, we had had a wonderful day and it was fascinating to learn about the traditional lifestyle. (My dad also bought a machete at from a market on the way home, for chopping up coconuts, and declared that it made him feel 'manly').

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Visiting the Alors

Today, we are heading to Alor Island, part of the Alor archipelago. We plan to spend six weeks slooooowly heading up to Bali. We have about fifteen or sixteen travel days. When we were sailing up the coast of Australia, we were moving every day. But now, we're going to spend roughly four weeks just lazing about. Scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, hiking, exploring, talking to locals, going to markets . . . These are all things we just didn't have time for, in Australia. We had a normal life, school, work, circus and friends took up all our time. We had such a wonderful time in Australia, but I'm really excited about this new part of our voyage. The area of the archipelago that we're going to is newly protected by the locals, and is just taking off as a scuba diving spot. There are also several traditional villages that we're hoping to visit. We have about a week in the Alor Islands, which to me sounds like an insane amount of time. It should be fun though, and I'm looking forward to exploring Indonesia.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

First Impressions of Indonesia

First Impressions of Indonesia

Walking the streets of Kupang for the first time was interesting, shocking and wonderful. As me and my tall parents passed the crowds of small Indonesians, loads of the boys or young men whistled and shouted. At first we thought it was because we were the only white people in the mass of people. But we soon realised that they weren’t talking to us. They were talking to my legs and my mum’s cleavage. I was wearing my usual outfit, shorts and a t-shirt. My mum was wearing a long dress that wouldn’t be considered low-cut in Australia, but it was here. Together, we scandalised the town.

Today, I wore a knee length dress with a highish neck-line. My mum wore a similar one. We still got some shouts, but people were talking to us. They were looking at our faces and asking our names. They would touch our hair and smile happily. And it made me feel like dirt. I completely understand the need to be respectful of other people’s cultures and religions, but when people think that the way I dress influences me as a person? That confuses me so much. I dress to be comfortable in the heat. I dress in a way that makes me feel good about myself. However, when I show my legs or shoulders and that makes people view me as if in exposing my body, they somehow own me, that makes me embarrassed and angry. It seems as if in wearing shorts, my body becomes separate from me. I also think, that if they want to stare at me and judge me for my un-modest outfit, that says more about them then it does about me. I wish I could be someone who laughs it off. But I’m not. It hurts when people judge me and shout and whistle. I’m thirteen. I’m still a kid. And I don’t want to have to think first about how others will see me if I wear a particular outfit.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Two Fish

TODAY I CAUGHT TWO FISH!!!!!!!!!! TWO!!!! I KNOW!!!!!!!! Seeing as the last fish I caught was a three inch long sunfish when I was 7, I’m pretty proud. We’re in Alcaro Bay and we’ve stopped for a day. Not because it was windy, not because we had to repair something but because we met a lovely couple who encouraged us to stay. Their names were Ted and Des and when we arrived in the anchorage, they promptly zipped over in their dinghy to tell us about Darwin and give us advice. We joked about running out of food but it turned out they had stocked up for six months and insisted we come for breakfast. I think we might have eaten an entire pig. There were sausages and pork chops and bacon and hash browns, baked beans, toast and eggs. Impressive. 

We went to shore to walk off our breakfast and when we came back all of fifteen minutes later; Ted and Des were fishing and had already caught about fifteen fish. There were a few big fish which they kept and lots of medium ones that they tossed back or flung on shore for the big sea eagles which inhabited the shore. When they tossed fish on shore, an eagle would swoop down immediately and, not stopping, grasp the fish in its talons and fly away to enjoy its treat in privacy. They offered to let me try so I thought what the heck, might as well. 

Now, I’ve always been the bad luck fisherman. When I’m around, nobody catches anything. My mum’s the same. So, naturally I was surprised when 20 seconds after tossing my line in, I caught a fish (Wooo-hoooooo!!). Excitement. After about five more minutes I caught the biggest fish of the day. I named it Doris. Doris was a goodly fish. She was about 6 pounds. After chopping off Doris’s head, my mum spotted a mud crab. A big one. Ted and Des claimed it was tiny but I don’t believe them. Ted grabbed his weighted throwing net thingamajig and after a few tries, caught it. And immediately gave it to us, because apparently, they were sick of crab. So we got three fish and a crab and a wonderful friendship which sounds really soppy and sentimental but I don’t care. So, good day.