The bureaucracy in Makassar is probably no worse than elsewhere in Indonesia but it was a full day’s work to get a clearance both inwards and outwards. I wasn’t counting but the skipper of another Australian yacht claimed that 64 rubber stamps were involved. At one government office he was refused service until he got a haircut.
We left Makassar in the early evening for a glorious moonlight sail across the Java Sea, avoiding fish traps along this shallow coastline: bamboo structures bigger than a house. Bright pressure lamps lured the fish, which were then lifted in a net raised on a windlass.
It was dawn when we raised Bali’s holy mountain, Gunung Agung, rising out of the mist. Sunlight touched the peak and moved down the slope like an artist’s brush, bringing to life the greens of the forest, the red roofs of houses, wisps of blue smoke from cooking fires and then daubing the mist with a wash of pink watercolour, delicate as porcelain. The breeze was fresh and cool as we reached through Lombok Strait among a myriad of insect-like fishing boats with rainbow sails, brighter than the spinnakers of racing yachts. Wathara sliced through the water and the only sound was the hissing of the bow wave.
“Golly gosh,” Robin said with a look of awe upon her face.
All we read in history books about early explorers are the dangers and hardships of voyaging under sail and none of the pleasures.
Magellan’s cousin Francisco Serrano was part of the first European expedition to visit Bali, in 1512. He later went on to Ternate where he became an adviser to the sultan and provided Magellan with information that persuaded the king of Spain’s advisers to back the expedition.
Wending through the serpentine entrance to Benoa Harbour a few centuries later we found more than a dozen yachts from all over the world lying at anchor. Bali is one island that cruising yachts do take the trouble to visit and the centre of most activity is Kuta Beach, where you can buy everything from a massage to a motor car. Tourism is these days a bigger earner than cloves for the Indonesian economy.
Hoping to ease the burden of paperwork, I decided to try my hand at a little graft. The most formidable regulations can be circumvented for a price, not necessarily money. Here we found officials craving buku sex. In Indonesian, buku means book and buku sex means Playboy magazine. The centrefold blows their minds, seeing their women dress so conservatively and half-naked foreigners on Kuta Beach no doubt stimulate the hormones. I am not normally a consumer of Playboy magazine but I had a few copies on board because they had published one of my stories. This foray into the murky world of bribery probably saved us several hours of paperwork. The experience was to come in handy at a later date.
Next: Shaky ground.