Beautiful Belitung, Indonesia
Peter and Margie Benziger
Mon 31 Oct 2011 02:38
Position Report - 02:33.173S 107:40.686E
If you happen to be sailing in the Java Sea towards Malaysia, there is a pretty good chance you will, like Peregrina, make the island of Belitung your last stop in Indonesia.
The island of Belitung is about 48 miles longs and wide. It is surrounded by 189 small islands which make navigating quite interesting.Peregrina arrived during a local festival “all decked out” in an array of flags.
Here’s some background information…
“Belitung is a large producer of tin and white pepper. The Belitung people adhere to Islam which came to the area around the 17th century. Besides Islam, many Belitung also believe in animism and superstitions. These beliefs are focused on seeking protection through magic by either appeasing or controlling both good and bad spirits. This can be seen in their ceremonies for working the rice fields, fishing, and weddings. They still believe in magical forces that inhabit sacred places. They also have many taboos. One of these can be seen in how they believe tin must be mined. They believe that tin is a 'hot' object and guarded by a spirit. If the miner is not from Belitung, he will not be successful.” [Source: Indonesian National Research Network]
Belitung is bordered by the Gaspar Strait, the South China Sea and the Java Sea. Its turquoise waters are moderately calm and shallow, making for great sailing, snorkeling and swimming. Belitung is known especially for its abstract granite boulders and brilliant white sand beaches
It was truly a beautiful island, full of wonderful memories – especially the friendly and spirited children.
During our visit, we stopped at a high school and the teachers asked us to come into the classroom and talk to the students. While shy in English at first, they lost their polite reserved nature after Margie and I sang an off-key version of “You are my Sunshine.” Guitars came out and the class launched into a series of local songs and international hits by superstars.
Afterwards, we had a tour of the campus. Below is a photo of Peter who managed to attract all the pretty girl guides.
We then visited a park which was hosting a “Kite Flying Day” which included a competition for the best home-made kite. Below is one of the youngest competitors.
During the weekend, we joined the Regent of Belitung and about a hundred school kids for a “Pick up the Trash Day”. We walked about 4 kilometers along the beach with bags picking up aluminum cans, plastics bottles and other trash. Plastic is becoming a major problem in Indonesia. Many islands are inundated with trash and waste bins are few and far between. Thus, the streets are littered with trash. For those near the sea, their misguided solution is to throw the trash in the rivers during low tide and then hope that, when the high tide comes in, the trash will be washed out to sea.
Onboard Peregrina, we frequently have to clean our engine strainers and free our propeller shaft when they become clogged or tangled in plastic. Throughout our travels around the world, we have seen how plastics and garbage of all sorts are polluting the land and the oceans. Often, while sailing, we will encounter floating “islands” of intertwined trash moving on an endless journey across the open ocean. Pollution of our seas is a serious global problem. In Belitung, it was refreshing to see a public awareness program to teach the children environmental concern. The photo below shows my “All Pink Pick Up Partners” with our trash bag.
A few days later, the sailing cruisers got together and sponsored a “Kids Day at Sea” on our boats. The kids arrived dressed in their school uniforms. We had five children aboard Peregrina and they practiced steering, pulling ropes, using winches, raising sails, talking on the VHF radio to other boats and eating cookies. (They were not so accomplished at the sailing skills but they highly excelled at cookie eating!).
We finished our visit to Belitung with a meal at a traditional “Long House.” (See below) These are ancient “community centers” and some have residential and visiting guest quarters. Sitting cross legged on the floor is NOT so easy. (Margie needs to do more yoga!) The food arrives covered with a large fabric top to keep it warm. It is a communal meal and you are expected to eat with your hands right out of the serving bowls!
In front of the Long House, young girls demonstrated the traditional dances they are taught by their elders. It is wonderful to see the colorful traditions of the past carried forward by the younger generation.
So, if you are ever sailing past Belitung, throw your anchor out and stay awhile.
And please say hello to the kids from Margie and Peter on Peregrina.
For our blog with more stories visit: http://blog.mailasail.com/peregrina