We had to sail south to check out of Papua New Guinea at a town called Vanimo which doesn’t have the greatest reputation with cruisers due to robberies that have been experienced there. We arrived at first light and were ready to tackle all of the paperwork including getting a visa for Indonesia. The challenge in these sorts of places is finding the officials who are not often where they are meant to be. Once you do find them they are typically very helpful – well, in the Pacific they are. Luck was on our side – we managed to get the Indonesian visa in half a day and once we actually found Immigration and Customs, we were done. Seeing no reason to hang around at night time we headed off finding ourselves an anchorage not too far from Jayapura in Indonesia where we needed to complete check-in formalities the next day.It was time for a culture shock. We’d left the ‘easi-easi’ life of the Pacific islanders behind to be bombarded by traffic, shopping malls and people fixated with their handheld flat screen devices. Indonesia is also a place that seems to thrive on officialdom and paperwork. You never know what you’re going to get; Customs had piles of paperwork and took forever, Quarantine were quick and efficient, the Harbour Master was more curious about us than anything else, and Immigration had moved and it took us two hours to find them. And then to really impress us they all wanted us to return on our day of departure to complete paperwork to clear out of the port as well.
It’s strange being back in a place where we no longer trade and now have to buy food in a supermarket. That and the Indonesians like a good haggle and a tourist is seen as a rich man. Part of us wanted to dash back to Papua New Guinea as fast as possible. The port was positively dirty, plastic rubbish everywhere and even a dead rat floated past Adina. And while we’re having a good rant, this is the first country in which we can’t communicate easily – up until now English, French and Spanish (thanks to Susie) have served us well.
We woke one morning to find two boats of officials wanting us to move as a passenger vessel and a naval boat were coming in. It’s no problem for us but of course we have to be boarded and have all our paperwork checked, photographs taken etc. And then there was the matter of obtaining fuel. Fuel is subsidised in Indonesia and very cheap but as foreigners we are not allowed to buy it. So you have to find someone who will sell it to you illegal for a nice profit. On the positive side it still works out cheaper than England.We were certainly happy to be off motoring north towards Raja Ampat which promised some of the most revered diving spots in the world. Five days is a long time motoring and when the currents rip it makes for an uncomfortable ride. At night we had to keep a good look out for fishermen in small boats – fortunately they are lit up by flashing LED lights in assorted colours. A group of them looks bizarrely like a disco on the sea!
Next stop Sarong as the officials had told us we must check in there as the main port in the region and we needed to refuel. Another grubby port, we refuelled, did the rounds of paperwork and were out within 24 hours. Our motto is to be prepared and get in and out as fast as possible.
Three ports in a row, we were positively ready for Raja Ampat. Let the good times return!