We soon got back into the swing of passage making as we sailed for five days across the Arafura Sea, past the southwest of New Guinea into Indonesia. It was a fabulous journey with a following wind and sea allowing us to fly the blue spinnaker for at least 60 hours.
We made landfall at Debut in the Kei Islands of eastern Indonesia, part of the Malukas. As we arrived late in the evening we anchored for the night in a large bay on the western shore and motored around into the harbour of Debut in the morning. We were met by a man in a little wooden dug out canoe covered in coloured flags, powered by what sounded like a particularly noisy lawn mower, who led us round the reef into the anchorage where the rally boats were to congregate for the rather labourious process of checking into Indonesia. As we sat at anchor waiting for the seeming endless parade of officials (that’s quite a loose term - shall we say men in uniform with paper and rubber stamps) boats laden with children all shouting, cheering and waving came past to have a good look at us all.
We were made very welcome by the village of Debut, in fact the entire island had been swept and multicoloured flags were put up in our honour. Everywhere we went people smiled, waved, shook hands and wanted their photos taken. The island laid on three days of festivities starting with a welcome ceremony where we were blessed by the shaman and traditional dancing and singing. This was followed by visits to the local schools for singing with the children and then in the evening more welcome speeches, dancing and our first taste of Indonesian food.
Davo, our nephew, arrived in time for the evening celebrations. He is finishing his gap year travels with a couple of weeks on Tulu. Getting to Debut was quite a feat so we were very relieved when he arrived safely. The following day the festivities continued with a carnival in the main town of Langgur - again, lots of different dance groups, mainly children, all in very elaborate beautiful costumes with the most earnest of expressions as they concentrated on their steps. After more speeches and dance displays we were advised that we were to follow the dance troops through the streets of Langgur for a carnival procession - we soon realised that in fact we were not only there to see the local people perform, but we were also the ones on show to the locals - lots and lots of photo taking and shaking hands and waving - great fun, heartwarming but rather hot and tiring! Some of the children carried locally produced food to showcase what the island grows and how they cook it - at the end of the parade (2 hours) we were told that we could try the food which the children very proudly offered to us - trying to be polite but not really wanting to eat the fish and other food that had been lugged around town all afternoon was a bit of a challenge.
Whilst in the Kei Islands,as well as all the organised activities, we were able to look around the island and go to the local market - everyone greeting us warmly. Unexpectedly the mothers of Debut laid on a magnificent feast for us on the quayside and there was dancing late into the night - I’m getting quite good at the local moves! The only unwelcome aspect of our visit to Debut was that most of the fleet either picked up a stomach virus (or food poisoning) or a heavy cold and sore throat (we got the latter) - goodness only knows what we left them!
If our initial experience of Indonesian hospitality is anything to go by we are in for a treat as we make our way west with the rally - anyone interested in the rally route and website can go to www.sail2indonesia.com