Hunger pangs in Kupang

Instead of yacht repair in exotic places, today we had a full day of bureaucratic paper shuffling in congested places.
It actually started yesterday around 1430 when we arrived Kupang and anchored off the city. The anchorage was not ideal, with medium-sized waves rolling through, so Travis went ashore to scout out customs while I stayed on board making sure we didn’t drag anchor and end up on the beach. Upon landing the dinghy, Travis found nobody spoke English, but he finally encountered a guy on a scooter to drive him out to the airport to make an appointment with Customs for 1000 the following morning on our boat, but we were required to pick them up in our dinghy. He finally got back to the boat after 1700 to his anxious father, who was getting frantic because he had a hand-held VHF radio with him but never answered my calls. I thought he’d been Shanghaied. The VHF battery was dead, as it turned out.
Anyway, I was glad to see him, and the next morning he headed to shore to pick up the Customs, Quarantine, and Immigration folks, who told him they didn’t need his dinghy ride after all, and would be out shortly in their own boat. 90 minutes later, 1130, they showed in a 40′ cruiser, 8 strong all taking photos with their phones like they’d never seen a sailboat before. They also looked in all the cupboards, wanted serial numbers for our engine and electronics, and wanted 4 copies of all the forms Travis had prepared from their website. They left after an hour, but we were told we had to come back onshore to Quarantine, Customs, and Port Captain, all in different buildings a short drive from each other, to get “stamped” documents. Why they couldn’t have done that on board when we met is a mystery. Anyway, around 1300, without eating lunch (big mistake), we dinghied back to the beach, scrambled ashore in surf, and met Rollie, our new best friend who worked full-time as “dinghy security,” and agreed to shepherd us around the bureaucracy. He was a good man using his friend’s car. First we drove 20 minutes through streets clogged with cars, truck, and scooters to Quarantine (Biosecurity) where 3 guys sat at their desks in front of us and played with their computers and cell phones for an hour. We finally got our documents stamped and released to go to Customs, where we waited ten minutes before anyone came out for us, then watched that official play with his computer for at least an hour before he admitted the system was down and he’d have to manually complete the forms. I think we finally got out of there at 1530 and headed to the Port Captain, where a guy dressed in official-looking uniform plus 2 characters who looked like they just came in off the street smoked cigarettes, played with their cell phones, watched videos, and made us wait. Eventually, the uniform guy, who spoke limited English, asked for our stamped “crew list. ” We had given that to the guy in Quarantine, which we explained 3 times, and suggested they call to confirm. More time passed as we futilely argued our point, so I said we’d go back to Q and retrieve the form, which we did. Q said they asked for a copy and we gave them our original, which should’ve gone to Port Captain. Back we went to the PC and the 3 smokers copied forms, searched through boxes of multiple rubber stamps to find the appropriate ones, stamped all our papers, and after 90 minutes of this torture, they had a raft of docs collated for “The” Port Captain, who breezed in looking like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” wearing a Bon Jovi tee shirt and sporting a “Guns and Roses” tattoo on his bicep. I told him my favorite song is “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” hoping to ingratiate ourselves and expedite the process. He apologized for the wait, the first official to even acknowledge our ordeal, and in five minutes blessed our packet and said we were cool to go, but first he requested we sit for a photo with us on either side of him. We obliged.
It was now 1700, Travis and I were deliriously hungry. and I was about to start screaming and tearing off my clothes, I was so annoyed at these people. We had been dealing with their system since 0930 and wasted the entire day watching public servants play with their phones.
We were dying to get out of this congested, dirty city, which looks a lot like Calcutta. Many people wear masks because of the pollution. However, I still needed a SIM card, money, and fuel for Noreaster. Our driver had 2 35 liter jerry cans he said we could use, and we had 2 20 liter ones of our own. He drove us back to the dinghy so we could fetch our cans, then to the filling station where he told us to stay in the car while he got fuel, otherwise we’d be charged the “White People” price. We did as instructed and the fuel was indeed quite cheap.
We dropped off our four filled cans with Rollie’s posse who live under the pier (seriously), and drove inland where I could get a SIM card. I had tried earlier at a store near the docks, but after 30 minutes of watching 3 women punching numbers into my phone and receiving error messages, I took back my phone and ran. Anyway, the telecom office downtown was modern and competently staffed, but the clerk still took 20 minutes filling out forms and playing with his computer. Now it was after 6, dark, and I was going nuts from hunger and frustration, We asked Rollie about the best restaurant in town, at a big hotel, but he said it was too expensive and took us to “Night Market,” an expansive open-air bazaar with fresh fish on ice, barbecued chicken, squid, and other delicacies. We all had a cold Indonesian beer, I had a whole snapper, and Travis a tiny quarter chicken, which made him lust over my delicious snapper. I offered Rollie dinner as well, but he demurred, as his wife wanted him to eat at home. It all cost $10 and was enough to stave off our collapse. Then we headed back to the beached dinghy, which Rollie’s posse had kindly moved 30 yards down to the low tide waterline for us, and they insisted on carrying our 110 l of fuel as well. Rollie said we could return his cans tomorrow before we sail. I asked him what I owed for his full day of loyal, competent, and friendly services. He said the car in which he drove us all day was $7/hour (100,000 Rupees), which went to the owner, so we paid him $42. I asked him what his own services cost and he said “whatever you want, cigarettes, whatever.” I peeled off another 600,000 Rupees ($42). He seemed pleased.
Miraculously, with 4 big Jerry cans full of diesel and a case of fine Bintag Indonesian beer in our 11’ dinghy, we got back to the mother ship safely and spent the next hour siphoning the fuel into our tank. Then we ate dinner again (from cans), had 2 beers each, and are both now in bed at 2100.
Tomorrow we sail for Komodo Island, home to the eponymous Dragons. We will do a scuba dive and also a nature hike to see the big lizards. Travis runs a lot faster than me, so I may not survive the hike. Then on to Lombac, where we check out of Indonesia, a process the guide books say takes 4-5 hours. In light of our experience checking in, we are planning a full day. How did my doctor forget to include Valium in our medical kit?

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15 thoughts on “Hunger pangs in Kupang

  1. I am in awe! You boys not only sail the seas, but bring it to life for us! So glad you are living the dream, and we can do it vicariously.
    Wishing you good weather, safe seas, and happy adventures ahead . . . . .

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  2. Hardy, Once again I read your post and just shake my head – you guys are cray-cray! First I had to look up Kupang just to see where the hell you are. West Timor, Indonesia. Yikes. What happened to Australia? Did you just zip past the Great Barrier Reef and the beauties of Queensland? Did I miss a post? All we see is the heart-stopping harrowing adventures of you guys in nature, at sea, of wrestling with intractable bureaucrats. I’d enjoy it more if I didn’t worry so much about you. Aren’t you afraid of leaving the boat moored in one of these harbors unguarded while you are ashore ? I would think it’s a tempting target for any poor local with a boat.
    But I don’t want to be a scare-monger – it’s a grand adventure of a lifetime. Bravo to you both for taking it on. I can’t wait for your next chapters. Be safe – it’s a long journey across the Indian Ocean.
    I’m with you in spirit!
    Best, J

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    1. We spent a couple weeks in Australia, including Thursday Island and Darwin. Loved both places. Right now running on fumes motoring last 20 miles to anchor near a Komodo Island. Had 3/4 tank leaving Kupang, but no wind the whole way so here we are, ready to drop the hook in we flame out mid Channel among all these islands. We’ll make it or else just anchor, go to sleep, and take fuel cans to shore in the dinghy tomorrow.

      People in Kupang we dealt with were all nice, nobody tried to scam us and we felt no threats from anyone, it was just so much like Calcutta with all the crazy people on scooters and monkeys all over the place, goats, but urban as hell. Not my thing.

      Sent from my iPhone

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    2. Hi John, my dad jumped the gun a bit posting this one, we have some Australia posts coming and he hopefully will write one about his volcano adventure in Vanuatu, but he had such a strong emotional response to that day that he couldn’t help posting It!

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  3. Well, Hardy, you seem to have added one more accomplishment to your already impressive record . . . in addition to sailing expertise and mechanical repair proficiency, you’ve added international diplomacy. All require skill and patience, especially the latter as you observe total international strangers looking at their computers . . . while you wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. I appreciate you and Travis sharing the continuing adventures and wish you safe travels on fair seas with favorable winds . . . and less international red tape!!! 😉

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    1. Thanks John, we are just now closing in on Komodo and it’s a beautiful moonlit night as we navigate by radar and GPS among lots of little islands. Currents run strongly pushing us 10 knots awhile ago.

      Sent from my iPhone

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