Friday June 7
Welcomed to Natuna by the same morning squall as in 2016. We entered the channel Selat Lampa in the SW corner of Natuna and anchored in exactly the same spot as last time. Nice to have good internet again so Lea responded to all her birthday messages while I got busy arranging a pot luck dinner for a belated celebration of her 50th.
With a lot of help from our friends we plated up a full roast pork dinner with lots of side dishes for 11 on Gemini Lady.
The champagne was a bit flat so we boosted that with the soda stream. Another great night in an exotic location.
Next morning we were off again heading for the East Coast of Natuna and the main city Ranai. The cliffs as we left Selat Lampa were spectacular.
It was a 40Nm motor in calm conditions again keeping well offshore to avoid rocks and reef. Satellite image navigation was essential here and while we had no KAP files for Natuna we had downloaded the coastline areas onto Ovitalmap on the iPad. We arrived at Ranai town anchorage under the shadow of Gunnung (Mt) Ranai just in time for another squall. Beau Soliel was ahead of us and because they had no satellite image navigation they slowed and turned suddenly in front of us, without looking behind, because the water shallowed up over a reef. Fortunately from past experience we know to watch them closely. When I bought the issue up at dinner that night Terry bit my head off quoting racing rules and right of way bullshit.! Once clear of them we motored up the bay weaving between the reefs to nice clear sandy spot to anchor. The 2 French boats Javerne and Ganesh were already there and Amaldec had just arrived too.
Once the rain had cleared we went ashore to explore and enjoy an early dinner.
Sunday June 9
After visiting the nearby fishmarket, by dinghy, to stock up on fresh vegies and fruit, we got a call from Peter off Kittani that he had found 2 motorbikes to hire.
We quickly got organised and headed back ashore for a road trip. We headed north up narrow roads to coastal lookout where some young locals took photos for us.
The locals were all super friendly with lots of waving and big smiles. We stopped at the Rally anchorage at Teluk Selahang and had coffee and a snack. Zane, the local Rally organiser was there so we got a copy of the updated program. We discussed with him the possibility of organising a climb up Gunnung Ranai.
We then headed further north to check out a waterfall park. Many families are still on holiday so there was quite a crowd at the waterfall park where the stream has been diverted to fill 2 large swimming pools.
Again the locals were very friendly and the kids cheeky. Everyone wanted photos with us. These 2 girls were delightful.
Below is the original waterfall and the Durian seems to be the central theme of the park.
We then headed back to Ranai Town and stopped to look at the huge Mosque, a prominent feature of the town. Apparently it is 4 years old and already falling apart. We never went for a close up look. We did notice that as the town appears quite wealthy the density of Mosques per square kilometre seemed very high.
We then went uphill searching for the beginning of the trailhead to climb Gunnung Ranai. We couldn’t find it so we hoped Zane could help us organise a climb. Our bums were getting a bit sore by now so we started looking for a Chinese Restaurant that served cold beer. No luck so we called it a day and retired to Gemini Lady for few cold ones.
Monday June 10
We still had the use of the bikes until 10.30 so after zooming over to the fishmarket again early and returning with 2kg red snapper for dinner we took the bikes and headed south passing modern bridges and ancient stilt villages.
We stopped at a beach resort where the staff were cleaning up after the weekend. They were all very friendly again and insisted on photos.
It was a lovely beach and obviously popular with the locals. The coffee was terrible but that’s not unusual anywhere in SE Asia.
Back in Ranai we dropped off the bikes and prepared to motor the 9Nm around to the Official Rally Anchorage.
Caught up with Rod and Heather off Psycho Puss who we hadn’t seen for a few weeks.
They stayed for dinner and we had snapper fillets cooked in a couple of different ways.
Tuesday June 11.
For the first time ever I had decided to keep the fish head and skeleton and make fish head soup. Lea wasn’t so keep especially when I stank out the boat with cooking fish before breakfast. However, it turned out delicious and we enjoyed it over the next couple of days.
Organising paperwork diesel and chatting to visiting Tourism Ministers filled up the day. A dinghy dock had been built for us on the beach for easier access.
Wednesday June 12
Zane had come through and organised us a climb up the mountain. We met at 0600 for the drive to the trailhead. Our group of 8 as well as us was Pete and Mari Ann (Kittani), Lisa (Pegasus) and Ade (Beau Soliel) together with 2 local guides.
It was a clear morning with no cloud over the summit. We started walking around 0630.
The rough narrow road quickly turned into a track and got steeper. The trees thickened and the jungle closed in. Our leading guide pointed out a few monkeys but we didn’t get close enough to identify them. 3 small dogs accompanied us all the way no doubt scaring away all the wild life.
It took us 3 hours to reach the top with a lot of waiting to regroup. It was a tough climb up the very steep track, scrambling over rocks and tree roots. Often we had to pull ourselves up on ropes. Ade was a lot slower than the rest of us but she was determined and never gave up. The second guide stayed back to look after her. The view from the top was awesome and we were very lucky with the weather. The cloud was only just beginning to shroud the northern summit. We ducked as a large swarm of bees flew past us.
The descent was harder and often required hands and knees crawling due to the slippery rocks. We diverted off to a waterfall and enjoyed a refreshing shower. At that point we were all totally saturated with sweat and dripping so the cool fresh water was a very welcome respite.
Zane was waiting for us at the bottom and we arrived around 1330, then it was back to the boats for a shower and a quiet afternoon. The festivities were scheduled to start at 1630 so Lea was all dressed up ready to go by 1615 when we got the memo that it was actually a 1900 start. Time for a beer then and more socialising. The usual Gala Dinner with lots of speeches, traditional dancers and performers but the food this time was excellent. I gave the thank you speech on behalf of the yachties. We also received a lovely souvenir bag with a T Shirt and Umbrella each.
After the formalities finished the locals moved in for more photos.
The next couple of days were spent recovering with a bit of socialising and watching the locals in some sporting events onshore.
Nice lunch out with Kerryn and John. Jam session on the beach with our musical Frenchies.
Saturday June 15
We had put our names down for a long day tour down to the southern and western parts of the island. In the end all we achieved was to visit 3 remote villages who essentially hijacked us with their hospitality and enthusiasm for our visit.
At the first village we were greeted by a huge delegation and a big spread of food and drink in the local community shelter. Homemade cakes and sweet and savoury morsels loaded up the tables together with fresh coconuts. We were all seated at the tables and the locals gathered around encouraging us to try this and that as well as taking hundreds of photos. The people are genuinely happy to see us and go out of their way to make us feel welcome. I spoke to Zane about the amazing hospitality and he said the villagers were only advised yesterday that we would be stopping here and that they put on this spread for us entirely within the village, voluntarily with no financial help or payment.
The second village put on a traditional dance display performed by school children and the village musicians
The first performances were indoors with very comfortable seating and a traditional coffee leaf and sugar drink. Dale made himself very comfortable.
We were then moved outside for the maypole dance. Then a meet, greet and photo session with the dancers and local dignitaries. Here Lea meets the village chief.
Then a short walk down into the mangroves where a new restaurant had just been completed specialising in the local crab. Small gazebos radially arranged from a central serving area all on stilts over the mangroves.The meal was great and the crab sauce delicious. As usual the crab meat difficult to get at. We walked down the new boardwalk and checked out some local ship building as well as some woven handicrafts.
The third village at the end of the road was a river frontage. We walked the promenade and smiled for the photos but we were a bit over it all by now. It had gone on too long.
Back on the bus we were disappointed that there was not enough time to visit the seaport which was the main reason I did the tour in the first place.
Back at the anchorage some boats had their clearance documents returned but most were advised they would arrive at 1000 tomorrow.
1000 the next day came and went with no documents but a promise of 1700. Eventually they turned up at 1830. Very frustrating for everybody but that’s Indonesia Officialdom for you. At least the boat got de barnacled.
Scheduled departure time next day 0400 with Psycho Puss and Site for the 340Nm 3 day 2 night passage to Miri. Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia