Here we are at last in Bali and enjoying the civilised comforts of Starbucks, MacDs and Dunkin Donuts! Since Kumai we’ve been island hopping in the Java Sea. We planned to go first to P. Karimjawa but thirty knot southwesterlies were predicted, the marginal effects of tropical cyclone Jacob which was lingering in the Arafura Sea between Timor and Australia. It would have been a struggle to make it so we went straight to Pulau Bawean instead. Bawean lies in the middle of the Java Sea about 120 miles north of Java. The voyage from Kumai took a couple of days. Luckily the winds rarely gusted over 20 kts and we had a great sail most of the way. As we passed Tanjung Putting the swell picked up and we were plagued with a short choppy sea all the way to Bawean which made us both a bit seasick. We anchored at Sangkapura, a small port on the south side of the island.
As we walked into the village we were accosted with huge smiles, cheerful cries of “hello mister” and many invitations into peoples homes. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, everyone was relaxing in the shade and we were the entertainment! The next day we took a motorcycle along the potholed road which circles the island (a 55km circuit). The vibrant green padi carpeting the flat land along the south coast is dotted with terracotta rooves of mosques and houses and is bounded by lush, wooded streams. Natural teak woods and stands of bamboo shade the road along the west coast. The wide bays are clear and blue but are lined with only a thin crescent of beach. In an amazing display of short sightedness the sand was removed and used for building houses. Halfway along the west coast we took a side turning which lead us into the mountains and up Gunung Teraja. The tarmac quickly gave way to concrete, two concrete tracks gave way to one and soon the road was just to a muddy path. The track climbs up through terraced padi and coconut stands and small clustered villages. The scenery is stunning – like Ubud in Bali must have been 40 years ago before the tourists got there.
After five days in P. Bawean we headed east to P. Kangean which is the easternmost group of islands in the Madura island chain. The reef there is wide and shallow and forms an inland sea between the islands. We spent a couple of rolly nights anchored off the western end of the island, in 10m of water we were still about 1km from the beach which gave us little protection from a squall that seemed to be clinging onto our mast! Eventually we sailed down to the eastern end of the islands and nosed our way along a channel into the inland sea! What an awesome place! Anchored north of P. Saibus we were perfectly protected from wind and swell and the fishermen were so friendly they came by offering to give us a few fish! The reef itself was absolutely spectacular, one of the most varied and colourful reefs I have ever seen. Having been disappointed with the reefs in the Karimata Sea we were very glad to see a reef teeming with fish, starfish, sponges, crinoids and fans. We spent several happy days exploring the islands in the dinghy, snorkelling and beachcombing.
On both islands we found everyone just amazingly friendly. So many people would come up to us just to find out our story and to tell us theirs. Their natural curiosity and sociability made them warm, accommodating hosts – Bawean dan Kangean yang bagus!!
We had a challenging sail to Bali. We left P. Kangean in the afternoon and arrived at the north end of the Lombok Sea soon after midnight. The currents between the islands are fierce, very strong and changing rapidly. We were unfortunate in arriving on springs and, as it is still the NW monsoon, north setting currents. We motored against the current and by daybreak we were between Nusa Penida and Bali. Then the currents changed to south setting, we were doing 9 kts and barely using the engine! We sped past the entrance to Benoa Harbour and had to turn around and battle against the southward current to make it into the marina!
Finally apologies for no photos this time – yet more computer challenges! Tata for now!!