15 July 2012

Pulau Bumbun Besar (I love the name of this little island)

6 17N 99 52E

Dear friends,

The last newsletter was February and it is time for a catch-up. I, Dave, have been in Thailand or Malaysia since then, and too much of the last 4 months was in boat yards watching some jobs going right while others went wrong. Phuket has a great reputation for getting boat work done, but over the last few years it seems that the number of boats has increased, the cost has gone up, while the quality has gone down.

Jan flew out from Canada 6 weeks ago, just after Dulcinea was launched from Wavemaster in Langkawi with new engines installed. We are still doing lots of jobs on her, but she won't be out of the water again for a couple of years, and we are on track to cross to S Africa in September / October. Jan will fly back to Canada from Jakarta in time for Gemma's 1st birthday, but Dave will proceed west with our friends Bob & Deirdre.

Jan arrived in Kuala Lumpur and Dave rented a car and drove down to meet her from Langkawi. He crossed into Thailand and back to extend his Malaysian visa. The roads are good and the long drive in the little rental car went smoothly. We spent 2 days seeing the traffic jams of Kuala Lumpur and visiting the Petronas Towers (which used to be the the tallest buildings in the world), before driving north to Taman Negara park. The final 3 hours of the journey were by river boat, which seemed more fun although there is a twisty road that would have got there. We spoiled ourselves and stayed in the expensive (by local standards) Mutiara Lodge where we slept and ate well between long walks into the jungle. Wild elephants and tigers are supposed to be around, but we met none this time. The large mounds of animal droppings seen around the cabins in the morning we were told were left by Tapir. Dave, on his 25km major walk into the jungle, which involved getting lost a few times and bitten by leaches several times, met a local tribesman heading back with blow-pipe and darts. There were deer, wild pigs, agouti, butterflies, insects and many wonderful birds. This forest claims to have been jungle for 200 million years since the land has not been inundated or subject to volcanic activity, but we saw no ancient records to confirm these dates, and the hills behind looked distinctly volcanic. The soil was surprisingly clean and sandy for such old forest. It was well worth the visit.

Next, we drove to the Cameron Highlands which were famous as a cool retreat for Europeans in the 19th & 20th centuries, and have become well known for market gardening and tea plantations. The latter are very pictureque and it was lovely to be cool enough to enjoy walking between the tea bushes on the steep hills there. The single through-road was clogged with buses and cars, but it didn't take much walking to get away. (In Malaysia a bus is a "bas" and a taxi is a "teksi"). We ate the local recommended dish called "Steamboat". A large pot of boiling, clear stock heated by burning coals is placed on your table. We then cooked seafood, vegetables, meat, noodles etc in the broth. We were not sure whether to cook the egg in its shell or break it into the broth! Malaysia's version of a fondue.

After 4 hours drive back to Alorstar, we realized that Dave had probably left a bag on the roof of the car, and, worse, his passport was inside. That has delayed our crossing to Indonesia, but not by much and the new one should arrive next week. It allowed another trip to KL during which Dave bought a little Casio piano.

While in Langkawi one evening after dark waiting to cross a side road, Jan had a small purse worn round her neck snatched by a passing motorcyclist. It broke away easily which was a relief. Fortunately it only had a very old cell phone in it. We had always felt safe here and the Malaysian people very friendly and helpful.

Tropical downpours are common here. One night on anchor with 3 other boats we were woken to wind and rain and Dulcinea's anchor dragging close to another boat. We seemed to have stopped at that point so waited and watched the spectacular lightening storm until we had enough light to move by. Previously, in the same anchorage we had problems getting the anchor up. After blowing two fuses on the windlass and powering backwards and forwards, the anchor came up fouled on 1 1/2" line. Jan was all for cutting it off but Dave thought it could be something to do with the floats and fish farms in the area so we managed to unhook ourselves and go on our way.

This happened the day we sailed to Penang (Georgetown) on the mainland. A day sail one way to check everything was working. We managed to catch the head sail on the spreader which resulted in a small tear other wise all went smoothly. Dave has since been up the mast to sew a spreader boot on the offending spot. We reached Penang during their annual arts festival and got given tickets to a concert called the "Circle of Sound". Two well known performers from UK/India and Austria. One playing the Sarod in the Indian classical tradition and the other a unique drummer. It was quite mesmerizing and haunting.

A friend from the dock was also in Penang for surgery to replace a prosthetic hip joint. He needed 4 units of O+ blood so Dave volunteered his. We walked to the hospital on the named morning only to be told that blood is only accepted if the donor is less than 60. Dave's was past its "best before date"! The other three donors were ruled out because of visits to Europe at the time of the BSG concern and one having had malaria 50yrs ago.

By the time the new passport arrives next week, Dave, Jan, Bob, & Deirdre should be in Penang checking out of Malaysia to head for Batam, Indonesia and back into cruising life. Some Europeans, Australians, and Americans like this part of the world enough to move here for work or retirement. For us it is too hot and we need to get to higher latitudes again.

We shall try to keep regular position reports as we move. We get worse at posting correct URLs as we get older but hope to be seen at www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=VE0DH

Adventures to follow

Love from Dave & Jan