The last posting got us as far as Bali but did not really cover the island at all. A few Bali comments are in order. First, it is not at all like the romanticized image we have of it. The island itself is quite beautiful with high mountains and even a smoking volcano. Secondly, it is not like the rest of Indonesia. The population is largely of Indian ancestry and hence Hindu. Add to this the fact that there are still many Moslems and a big expat and tourist presence and it is a very busy, interesting place. Traffic can be terrible with many cars and trucks and an incredible number of small motorcycles There are dozens of large hotels and it surely must rank as one of the world's largest tourist destinations with huge numbers of Aussies and Europeans - when you wander down the street of the tourist area there are restaurants advertising Foster's beer and 'great tucker', that have satellite TV showing foreign sports. Perhaps it would be best to describe it as an interesting place - if not an entirely pleasant one.
From Bali our first stop was to be at Christmas Island which is an Australian possession about 530 miles away. The Aussies have demonstrated some common sense here by not having the ridiculous $330 quarantine fee that they have on the mainland. All you need is a visa (ours had run out and we were able to get one online in Indonesia. You also have to send them an email at least 96 hours before arrival to say you are coming.
This short passage went very well. We had an unusual second day. We picked up a terrific current and were moving at 8.5 to 9.5 knots. The problem was that this pace was going to get us there in the early part of the night, and I am never comfortable going into a strange harbour (or anchorage) in the dark - although in this case we could have done so. Anyway, I decided that we needed to slow down which was a bummer because we were going so fast and comfortably. Even with 11 hours of slowing down we still did 183 miles for the day. Without slowing down I suspect we would have had about a 210 mile day which is 17 miles more than our best ever. Oh well. We managed to get to the island at about 7 am which is what we wanted. The bottom there is very rocky and deep and the government have banned anchoring to protect the coral. Instead they have installed about six very good moorings which was helpful.
|This is the anchorage (actually mooring field) at Christmas Island. We are on the right with Beach House, an American catamaran next to us.|
The economy of Christmas seems to be based on two industries. The first is the mining of phosphate rock. During our time there two relatively small freighters loaded. The process took less than a day. The other 'industry' is dealing with illegal immigrants, largely from Indonesia, although others are from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. The immigration officer we talked to said that it is not unusual for some of these people to have first class stickers on their luggage from their flight from home to Indonesia. There is a large detention camp on Christmas that holds a couple of thousand asylum seekers, although just when we were there the government passed a new law that would have most of these people held in camps in Malaysia and Niue (a now mined-out phosphate rock island in the Pacific). Most refugees are granted admission to Australia but it can take several years for the processing.