Wakatobi and Buton and Bonerate
Wangi-Wangi (Wanci), Hoga and Buton (Pasar Wajo), Kalaotoa and Bonerate
12th to 31st August
(Above place names may be meaningless to you. We’ve not even touched the main island of Sulawesi, the world’s 11th largest island. Buton is itself quite a big island, 80 miles long, Wakatobi is a group of smaller islands, a National Park, renowned to keen divers but tricky to get to, so little visited. Incidentally, none of these names is pronounced ‘wanky wanky’.)
In the past month we’ve crawled haphazardly across about 700 miles of eastern Indonesia. It’s a truly huge country and it will take another two months for this rally to cover the next 1,200+ miles and innumerable anchorages on the way towards Singapore – or somewhere nearby. The term ‘Rally’ is, in any case, something of a misnomer (most folk much too independent and inclined to self-will; just a loyal few visiting all the rally venues) but it’s a convenient, sociable, recognised, supported way of muddling along – which is what most of us do anyway. And it’s a good way to introduce us to unvisited bits of Indonesia and its marvellous diverse culture and natural history.
From the last blog entry, in Central Maluku, we sailed a day and night, winds adequate for most of the hot sunny tropical way to Wakatobi. (We’re ‘off-Rally’ at this stage; not ready yet to risk more long Indonesian speeches.)
Wakatobi (named from larger islands of Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko – it’s ok, you won’t be tested…) is a delight. In the capital of Wangi-Wangi, named Wanci, we’re welcomed warmly by VHF, led by piloting dinghy through the coral reef pass and instructed where to anchor, (holding’s not good, but it’s nice and close to mosques’ early loud insistent discordant calls to prayer and out of the path of local ferries).
For the three days spent exploring ashore, we have charming, pretty, willing, friendly guides/companions/chaperones named Agis, Amti and Jujuss (17, 17 and 15 years old). They want to practice English and excuse themselves from school. There’s a week of pre-Independence anniversary stuff going on anyway, so schools’ classes are all over the place, and youngsters join streams of processing junior half-mast goose-steppers stomping smartly through crowd-lined dusty streets, Indonesia’s red-white flags fluttering everywhere.
Our laundry is done (everything both spotless and ironed), papers handed in, etc, then our young guides A, A and J lead us off. On day two, Jujuss organises her special tour for us, hand-picked venues with car, driver and all five of us. We’re invited to her home for lunch and her mother (herself only 30) has prepared a fine meal. Remember J is only 15!
You won’t read it if I write too many details so just a few photos, and I’ll say we enjoyed a happy and informative few days with our hosts – especially walking round the fascinating Bajo Mola village (indigenous islanders dwelling in densely clustered, stilt-founded houses over water), a quiet couple of hours on sandy beach, and especially lunch with Jujuss’s family (despite the harsh reality of sitting/eating decorously at floor level – if you’re over 65, European male and don’t do yoga, sitting for much time on a hard floor is pretty troublesome – if you ever want to stand up again).
After Wanci, it was a slow day sailing over to the much smaller island of Hoga. It’s heavenly: white sandy beach, crystal clear water, unspoilt coral and the widest variety of reef fishes I’ve ever seen. (I read there are over 1,000 different species, but it’ll take a long time to recognise and name even 100.)
A slide show of the last photos from my ‘waterproof’ camera, which wasn’t..
Hoga is hardly populated; it’s apparently ‘owned/operated/leased’ by a UK company that enables international researchers (Operation Wallacea) to visit and study coral life. A handful of more off-track backpackers are in evidence; and two dozen young New Zealander marine scientists from Wellington University arrive as we leave – they must find the beauty, peace and warmth of the place a delight from the bustle and icy blasts of Wellington’s winter.
And from Hoga it was a long day’s sail over the 55 miles to Buton (day sailing always preferable when there are so many unlit, poorly marked fishing boats and FADs).
Back with most of the Rally fleet in Buton and the anchorage at Pasar Wajo, there’re lots of quasi-organised events, catch-up chatter, local hospitality and more. The girls have day trips to Bau-Bau (Buton’s capital) and markets and the local ‘entertainment’ (5,000 dancers/singers/speeches – partaking in one of Indonesia’s many festivals), returning laden with gifts to eat and exquisite local sarongs. I missed out but have photos, some of which I share with you now.
From the big island of Buton, we head south, independent of rally once more – a fine day and starry night’s sailing – then spend a night at Kalaotoa (peaceful, isolated and somewhat mysterious) and next night, Bonerate (traditional boat building, a wedding, some more wondrous coral, yet somewhat spoiled with sandy foreshore of plastic detritus …maybe more another time….
Some photos from Bonerate….