Penuba, Lingga, Equator, Benan, Bintan – Tanjung Pinang
25th October to 5th November
These islands are all within Riau Province, Lingga Islands and Riau Islands being two groups within the Province. The former are little visited: to quote from the Cruising Guide, ”…almost zero English spoken..transport non-existent…locals a mix of Malay, Bugis and Hakka Chinese..”. The Lingga Islands straddle the equator and there’s a long history of international trade through such a calm and strategic area (though Singapore of course now dominates such trade).
It’s scenically either splendid striking unusual mountain peaks or flat mangrove islets, and there are hundreds of offshore simple wooden platforms with families of fisherfolk. Sailing at night would be a hazardous business.
Heading slowly north, more motoring than sailing in such calm and windless seas, we stop briefly on tiny and rarely visited Island Penuba, but after gentle stroll, quick and simple shopping, opted to miss the rally ‘festivities’.
A couple of days later Henrietta’s back in the northern hemisphere, Caroline and Joyce, crossing for the first time, celebrating and placating Neptune in novel fashion. Unusually there’s both a sea crossing and a land crossing hereabouts. We wander up steps to a peculiar equator monument on a peninsular in Lingga.
And next day motor further north to the island of Benan for more rally festivities (dancing, visiting school and eating…) and, prompted by party-oriented Americans, Halloween party – enjoyed by local people as an example of Western culture …(I cringe).
It is then only a thirty mile sail to the island of Bintan and its capital, Tanjung Pinang, by far the largest city we’ve seen since Cairns, some 3,000 miles behind us.
Two of my crew leave on the fast ferry to Singapore, soon to enjoy a well-earned shower (though I shan’t publish the happy photo of post-shower pink and smiling faces!).
I could write lots and lots about the joys and trials of sharing small boat life with two, and then three, women. Suffice to say, I’ve enjoyed the time and adventures shared, learnt much, eaten lunches, tried to keep my mouth shut and never thought of taking my shorts off. Ann leaves me too a day or so later, and I slowly return to the routines and rigours of single-handed sailing.
There’s a final rally outing around Chinese temples on Bintan, and to the birthplace of the Indonesian language, Pulau Penyengat (which alone would merit a chapter of a book…but here’s a photo or two instead….)
Final port of call in Indonesia, a soulless modern resort for well-heeled Singaporeans, is where we collect exit paperwork and passports (and eat yet another final dinner!). There are many emotional farewells as we part from friends established over the past three months and more – though I shall stay close to many as we soon head north to Malaysia.