In a repeat of our arrival at Debut Island, way back in July, when many of our fleet arrived in Indonesia at the same time in procession, about 20 boats sailed (or rather motored) like ducks in a row from Benan Island to our final destination of the Sail2indonesia Rally, Tanjung Pinang.
While Benan Island was one of the prettiest, cleanest and quietest stops on the rally, Tanjung Pinang was the complete opposite.
A bustling port, with ferries tearing off to Singapore and islands at all points of the compass; small cargo ships, barges and masses of fishing boats, Tanjung Pinang was dirty and noisy.
The water was truly disgusting – a miasma of plastic bottles, food wrappers and containers, chunks of polystyrene – even an old fridge! One yacht had two dead rats entangled in the propellor of their dinghy’s outboard motor.
But it wasn’t all bad! There was a very pleasant fish restaurant run by some Chinese people. The food was delicious and good crowd gathered there to celebrate the birthday of Jill from Yantara.
A moment of amusement also when the Harbour Master’s office thought we had confused Tanjung Pinang with Bali! It took me several goes to explain that our boat was called Bali Hai, and yes, I did realise we were not in Bali!
A couple of days after we arrived we took the high speed ferry into Singapore as our daughter Hannah was arriving early the next morning from Delhi, India, where she is teaching Western choral music, drama and English as a second language.
We had organised a hotel room in Changi close to the airport so that we could get up and be there to meet her in good time.
After the dirt and run down atmosphere of Tanjung Pinang entering Singapore was like slipping into another universe – so clean, pristine even, everything working, no broken kerbs and holes in the pavements to negotiate, calm, order and everything working.
Not sure that I like that clinical feel – I sort of enjoy the mayhem and chaos but please Tanjung Pinang, clean up your harbour and smarten up your appearance just a little bit, around the terminal especially!
It was of course, wonderful to be reunited with Hannah and we didn’t stop talking all the way back to Tanjung Pinang!
That evening we had the final dinner of the rally. It was a great party and everyone had a brilliant time. There were songs (some with new words about boats that had mishaps etc written by resident muso Richard from Charon).
The ladies sang, the guys sang, the Dutch sang, the Kiwis did a Hakka, the English sang, the Aussies sang “I still Call Australia Home” (lead by ex Qantas chorister Hannah!) and the French sang (and we all joined in, in a last minute attempt at Entente Cordiale). It was really great.
Poor Hannah was exhausted so we took her back to get some sleep while some of the diehards partied on – probably to the wee small hours..
The following day we were taken to neighbouring Penyengat island which was full of historical sights. Despite the intense heat we enjoyed walking round the island looking at old royal tombs, gun emplacements, ruins of ancient houses and palaces which once belonged to sultans, and other interesting buildings.
We had a lovely lunch in a restaurant overlooking the water and were entertained by a fabulous band.
Not wanting to hang around the dirty port for longer than we needed to, we decided to head out again the next day and motored back to beautiful Benan (still no wind).
Tashi Delek and her crew Mike (Skipper) and Hugh were still there as they were waiting to travel straight on to Puteri Marina where they were planning to end their trip – for now. We had a lovely time with them over the next few days with BJ’s restaurant on the jetty opening especially for us and cooking up good meals.
Of course the kids loved Hannah and she was quickly surrounded whenever the possibility arose.
We made a quick trip back to Tg. Penang to pick up Kris, a good school friend of Hannah’s, from the ferry – coincidently he was in Singapore to have meetings to discuss a prospective job as a dance teacher.
Once we had met up we again took off as quickly as we could to a gorgeous little uninhabited island about a hour and a half away from Tg. Pinang.
Completely deserted except for the birds and a mongoose that strolled past us quite unconcerned – no footprints on the sand.
The time flew by and all too soon it was time to return to Tg Pinang for the final time. It was very sad to say goodbye to Hannah but as we will be all together at Christmas our farewell wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
As Hannah and Kris left on Saturday we had to wait a day before checking out of the country so we had some time to restock with fruit and vegetables at the wonderful markets (another positive for Tg. Pinang) and to have a delicious seafood “steam boat” meal at the fish restaurant.
After the delays and difficulties that many of the boats had experienced, we were fully prepared for Customs and Immigration clearance to take all day and maybe two days but with the assistance of Deni from the tourist office it was done and dusted in under two hours.
Suddenly our Sail2Wonderful Indonesia adventure was over!
As we motored out of the dirty harbour I didn’t want this to be the lasting impression of Indonesia. Instead I reflected on the other side of the coin – the stunning clear waters we swam and snorkelled in, the amazing volcanoes, the gorgeous islands, the stilt villages, the vibrant cultures, the dancing and singing, the colourful markets but most of all the warmest of welcomes, the biggest of smiles and the wonderful, friendly people of Indonesia!
Post Script On our last night on Benan Island each of the young people We had spent time with queued up to shake our hands and touch our hand to their forehead as a sign of respect. One young man slid a small seashell from his hand to mine as he did this. Such a precious moment and so typical of the friendship that was extended to us by these beautiful people. I was enormously touched by this gift of friendship and felt that it typified the generosity of spirit we had experienced everywhere we went.