Today has been a delightful day, but there is a sadness bubbling threatening to break the surface tension. We woke to another glorious day in paradise. The beach calling us. Today is about things we love: coffee, beach, massages, ice cream, more beach and some rock scrambling. Like caged animals we embraced space after the three day trip from Sabang, Indonesia to Koh Lipe, Thailand. Tomorrow we will complete our journey back to Malaysia where we begin the process of leaving the boat.
The Indo Trip
Indonesia. Should we? Just pop across the Malacca Strait and add a new country to our cruising list? OK! The Sabang Marine Festival in Indonesia (advertised as a ‘yachties fun gathering’) sounded intriguing. We were attracted by many things: experiencing a ‘passage’ with kids; seeing a remote corner of the world; opportunity meet other cruisers; great snorkelling; and… free food.
We arrived after three days like zombies, sleep deprived and clueless. Our passage buddies dropped anchor an hour after us and they put up a yellow flag. Officials came to their boat to check them into the country. Hmm, so we raised a yellow flag too. Minutes later and I’m resting when the shout comes from deck, ‘we’ve got company!’. I bounce up, get dressed and quickly tidy up before 7 men clamber aboard from quarantine / customs / immigration. They are all extremely polite and respectful. I show them our medications, alcohol and electronic devices on request and next they are posing for selfies on the bow, ha ha! They direct us to the medical centre to have a rapid screen malaria test and leave. At the medical test a lady hands me her card saying she is organising the Festival and to contact her if I need anything. I didn’t know at the time, how much I would appreciate her.
Walking the streets of Sabang on a quiet Sunday afternoon
Grocery shopping at the fresh market
The 6 day Sabang Marine Festival took us on a tour of the Island and ferried us to Banda Aceh on the mainland to see the recovery of the town post-tsunami. Those two days were brilliant. We also had traditional games, amazing cultural displays of dancing and music, a rowing competition and a great time making new friends at mealtimes. We were treated like celebrities, a position we felt most unworthy of. I highly recommend the Festival.
Oh the people. From the minute we stepped ashore, we realised few westerners visit Sabang. Let alone bringing blue eyed kids. Everywhere people reached in to pinch cheeks, motorbikes stopped to stare or wave. It was all very good-natured but it was also extremely invasive. How can you teach children about boundaries when people ignore a child’s obvious discomfort and continue to peck at them? We all really struggled with this and at times had to push people away with a smile. That aside, the people are some of the loveliest I’ve met: I left Justin’s phone in a shop and the owner motorcycled all over Sabang to find us and return it, thank you kind stranger. It was telling the way the community treated the old man, Amein, who won Leora’s heart. Clearly he was once a pioneer of tourism in Sabang, now just desperate to share his story, he was brought along to many events and his presence added colour to our experience. The lady who handed me her card that first day, Nani, her husband Budi and daughter Zahra did a fantastic job of making the event run smoothly, and beyond that provided help when we couldn’t attend events and offered to find us a doctor when we all fell horribly ill.
The night after the Festival ended we all spiked temperatures. The kids hovered around 40.c for 4 days. Intriguingly, the tropics don’t feel so hot when you are 4.c hotter yourself. If I hadn’t been so ill myself I would have been concerned for our health. During this time, we were grateful we had friends, cruisers and locals, who would help us if needed. Sadly, we lost our beach and snorkling time in Indonesia… and a week from our lives.
Now we are running late returning ‘home’ and we will be rushing to deconstruct our boat life.
We fly to Spain in 10 days. I thought we would be ready to leave the boat life, but we are not. We love the life, we love the friends we’ve made, we want to stay. We look through boat classified and hope our dream boat will appear so that we can continue living this life, the nomadic adventurous life afloat, that we dreamed about for 15 years. When will we be afloat again? Soon, I hope.