Before we left Darwin, we had been told that schedules, amongst other things, often change quickly in Indonesia so we weren't surprised when we were told that our stop at Ereke on Buton Island was canceled. We had wanted to see Hoga Island anyway and now we had a few extra days before we were scheduled to be in Pasawjaro, also on Buton Island. Our sail from Hoga Island was delightful and we flew the spinnaker almost the entire way, arriving in the late afternoon. A police speedboat showed us to a mooring (which we had been told had been installed for the Sail Indonesia fleet) and we were hardly settled in when a call came over the VHF asking for all participants to please come into shore for the Welcome Ceremony.
All of us cruisers formed a line and some men in very traditional garb did a short dance. Very attractive young women put scarves decorated with fake flowers around each of our necks. In a large, open area, tables under pavilions for shade were set up and around the perimeter were stalls offering goods and services. The place definitely had a festival feeling but it was all set up for the participants of Sail Indonesia. An entire army of interpreters were assigned but they also served as waiters who brought us beer and soft drinks along with local delicacies. After talking, eating and drinking for a while, we started to peruse the stalls that surrounded us. There were many things for sale but whenever we attempted to buy something, we were told that it was free. Several times I'd see a package of something and ask what it was only to have the proprietor of the stall tear open the package, offer me a sample and then insist that I take it with me, refusing any payment. We were flabbergasted. We came back to the boat overloaded with delicious food, including some very potent palm wine.
In order to secure the area for our boats, the Indonesian Navy had a detail on patrol of our boats 24/7. The Indonesian government made arrangements to have our laundry done at no charge. The translators who were assigned to us apparently had been told that they were to be at our beck and call. It was extremely important to them that nothing bad happened to anyone while we were here.
This morning there were two separate celebrations going on simultaneously. One of them had to do with babies and there were about 1,000 of them with their parents. The other was an ancient celebration of warriors returning from victory. As soon as we came ashore, we were directed to a large tent where all the participants of Sail Indonesia were dressed in traditional clothes. I tend to overheat easily and it doesn't take much effort before I'm soaked in perspiration but wrap me in a sarong and put a long-sleeved black coat on me while I'm less than 300 miles from the equator and it will be a good test of my body's cooling system. We were given front seats under a large shaded area and began to wait for the speeches to begin. A steady stream of people would come by to take our picture, some sitting with us so they could have their picture taken with the White People. The governor of Sulawesi spoke and then the Minister of Tourism, who gave a part of her speech in English. Obviously, I couldn't understand any of what she said that was in Indonesian but it was pretty clear that she was telling the people of Pasarwajo not to screw things up for the participants of Sail Indonesia.
After the speeches were over, we made our way, albeit slowly as we couldn't walk more than a few feet before someone would stop us to have their picture taken with us, to another large shaded area that was packed with thousands of people. Our translators did their best to keep a path clear for us but there were just too many people. Fortunately, we came to a place where the path was lined on each side with police and we could make our way without being accosted by photograph seekers.
Under the shade, the ground was covered with rugs. On each rug was a very attractive young woman or two and it appeared that they were being chaperoned by their mothers. In front of each of them was an enormous bowl filled with all sorts of local delicacies. As we made our way down these long lines of pretty girls and their delicious foods, we were constantly being yelled at to sit and eat. All of the food was carefully wrapped to keep away flies but as soon as we sat down at a random rug, the covers would come flying off and the pretty girl would fix a plate of food. If that wasn't amazing enough, she would then feed you just like a mother feeds a baby. Clearly, we were celebrities and everyone wanted us to sit on their rug, feed us and have their picture taken with us.
It was a mind-blowing experience and the only bad part about it was that the battery in our point-and-shoot camera died and I only had my big telephoto on my SLR so I missed a lot of great shots. On the other hand, I will never forget shuffling through long rows of fabulous food and being fed by pretty girls.
At 8/22/2013 10:49 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°30.69'S 122°50.81'E
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com