Magic in the night.
Last night something magical happened.
In a magical place that is more beautiful than I think my words can describe adequately.
When you are a child, or an adult, sometimes all things can combine and come together to create an experience you will never forget.
For me, one of these is watching the phosperescence off the yacht my parents had when I was a child. Playing with it, kicking my feet in the water and watching it bounce and shimmer around me.
Well, last night, it was like my childhood memory, but on steroids.
We drove the dinghy home from a fabulously delicious pizza dinner on Lukim Yu and noticed the trail we were leaving in our wake, across the rippleless bay to Waterhorse.
It was as if someone had removed all the galaxies from the sky and trailed them behind the dinghy, glowing blue white as we churned our way through it.
We did several ever-decreasing circles to fully enjoy the show before stepping up to the big boat, where the magic really started.
Sitting on the bottom of the scoops, playing in the inky dark water and watching the glow of tiny one celled organisms glow and sparkle in the bay, as they kicked their feet and splashed their hands. The kids were fascinated.
A bucket was grabbed and dropped to fill and be thrown over the surrounding water, creating a wild explosion of glowing lights, so many that it almost seemed unbelievable to me.
I sat and watched as water was poured over the steps and down to the sea, with glowing blobs being trapped on the surface of the deck, which were then picked up by little fingers and waved around like a troop of ET fingers in a movie.
It truly was an experience I will never forget and I wonder if my children will remember it as vividly as a magical childhood moment, as I did from all those years ago.
They were reluctantly ushered to bed, as we all watched the glowing sky reflected in the water of the motionless bay.
Indonesia has been nothing but magical since we have arrived.
We had heard mixed reports on the people and the rubbish situation (which is obviously disappointing to see anywhere in the world, but especially in marine park – more to come on that later), but we have had nothing but wonderful experiences.
The weather on the other hand, had something against us, until we got to Raja Ampat.
We had an easy, if not frustrating check in at Biak, where we learnt a valuable lesson that you do not listen to people in Facebook groups too much, although it also makes it hard when some of those people are actually paid to help people like us and just don’t give the right advice….
Visas were issued but they are the wrong ones and we now have to fly out of the country to get a long stay visa in a couple of weeks. An expensive and annoying situation.
Biak was a friendly and welcoming town. Everyone wanted to help when we looked confused or lost.
People loved our kids, being blonde and white skinned they were a source of fascination and were often hounded for selfies with the locals. This is a thing we have discovered, wherever we go, the locals like to grab you for photos with them, putting their kids in the frame with yours, standing next to me, handing me their babies….it is funny, until it gets too much – especially for Libby, whose patience often runs much shorter than the rest of us!
Noah had a new best friend with the Harbourmaster and on the several visits there he smoothed the process no doubt with multiple selfies with the man, one behind the desk, one standing with documents, one with bags of lollies and bottles of Coke he kept being given….it went on!
Biak had a supermarket! To say that sentence would seem like nothing more than a practicality to me, had you said it at home. A supermarket, why yes, we have many…
I had not seen a proper, honest to goodness, shelves stocked, variety given, fresh produce supermarket since Port Vila in Vanuatu and even that one was a bit of a grimy, averagely stocked mess…
The shops we had been around had been basic at best. Tinned tuna, corned beef, coke, Fanta, arrowroot biscuits, 2 minute noodles….and imported items like NZ butter or cheese at wildly exorbitant prices, which we had to pay if we wanted to not eat noodles daily (which the kids hate!)
I almost kissed the floor on arriving at our new land of fresh produce and stocked shelves!
The markets were bustling and again, full of produce that we had not seen in months. The variety and quality was exceptional and I was in heaven walking around, seeing the new offerings, watching the sights of locals and their buying, enjoying the smells and experience of a new country.
The street food, the fish market, the exotic and delicious fruit. This is what we had been missing and we had not even realised how much so!
Christmas was spent hiding from the wind at a group of islands we had passed on the way into Biak. A giant lagoon stopped some of the waves and then we tucked behind an elongated island where we enjoyed glassy calm water and friendly locals that helped me dig up some soil to plant the mint sprigs Denise had got in PNG and I had kept alive throughout the passage from hell.
It was a strange and slightly lonely Christmas, we missed our families and friends very much and had planned to video call with all our newfound cheap data (12G for $8NZD!!) and spotted a tower on the island we anchored at, delighted that our internet would work.
Alas, it was not a cell tower and we were back to basic communications on the satellite phone.
The snorkeling on Boxing Day more than made up for it though, and we got a taste of what was to come underwater.
Clouds of fish, bright and colourful coral and a lovely refreshing water temperature, so different from the bath like Solomon’s where you came out of the water almost hotter than when you went in!
From Biak, we jumped up to Manokwai, and had a night there. The much-mentioned rubbish was a little more present there and we decided to take the calm patch of weather that was forecast on ‘Passing Wind’ as we have re named PredictWind, to get to Sorong area, and into Raja Ampat, where the longest passage we will have to do for the foreseeable future may be a day, if that! Perfect!
Plans were made to meet up for New Years with another Kiwi boat who have children too, along with a boat they had been travelling with.
We came together at a small island called Arborek, where the water swirled around us in varying current patches and we gladly dropped anchor after spending the last night at sea on the mini passage dodging the giant FAD’s that liter the ocean here.
These are Fish Attracting Devices, large structures, some able to house people who stay out there for days, fishing and keeping their catch in large underwater nets, until they are ready to head back to market.
Most were lit and some even showed up on the radar, but passing through that minefield of FAD’s during the fading light of the day was something like the scene from Star Wars where the ship is moving through the asteroid field!
Like I said, we were all glad to have the anchor down and be in a place where rest and relaxation proper could begin.
Arborek enthralled us with the Manta Ray’s and a wonderful rickety jetty for all the kids to play on.
Leaping into the clear, refreshing water to play games of picking things off the bottom and hunting for the scuttling crabs that inhabited the underside of the poles.
Days were passed in a sense of peace and calm. Knowing the worst was now far behind us.
NYE was spent on Bob the Cat, the Kiwi boat, along with their French/Swiss friends. It was an early night for me as I was still catching up on sleep after the time at sea. I faded like a wilted flower by 10.30 and we all went home, where Chae convinced me to let some fireworks off the boat….
I would not do it again, but they were pretty darn beautiful, exploding in the stillness of the bay, showering us in colour, light and the boat in ash and dust!
Since Arborek we have spent a week mooching through glorious islands, with mostly clear water. Yes, there is some rubbish here. No, it is nothing like what we had been told, maybe this gets worse as we head to more populated areas, but West Papua and Raja Ampat are still pretty far away from large civilization.
We mixed it up with a 2 day stay off the only marina in the area, enjoying their resort like facilities, their stunning pool and day beds, their laundry service and the drinks and food by the pool. A nice change for a day or 2 to do something different.
We have explored markets and towns, we had motored on glassy seas and played in the rigging, we have been to beaches on islands with no one around, where we lay in the sandy shallows and played Noah’s petanque on gleaming sands.
We have played in warm, torrential rain, collecting it in buckets for the tanks, after scrubbing the boat in it, the kids laughing hooligans as they raced around the boat, dripping with fresh water.
We have snorkeled in 2 of the most incredible spots we have ever seen, the fish and coral here are beyond words in both beauty and diversity.
Every time we enter the water we see more new and interesting species that we had not seen, apart from in pictures.
For the children, it is like an underwater playground, or like being inside a movie. The colours so bright and the fish so fascinating there are hours passed with our heads in the water, eyes wide open, with ‘snorkel talk’ and squeals echoing out to each other as we explore our new underwater worlds.
This part of the world is truly magical.
All areas of our brains are filled with an incredible and beautiful sensory overload.
We wake each morning, to the tranquil bays that we laid anchor in and drink coffee and complete schoolwork in settings we only dreamed of.
Where birds swoop and echo through bays, where fish bubble and leap around our boat, with the local Phinisi live aboard dive boats, majestical and pirate ship like, silhouettes across the bay in the early morning light or lit up like Christmas trees in the dusky and gently warm evening.
And this little slice of paradise, where the true magic happened last night. With its enclosed bay and steep jungle clad cliffs.
With herons, red breasted parrots, beautiful doves and the raucous white cockatoos singing and screeching at us as we explore the mangrove lined reef edges and snorkel the passes, into this horseshoe space we have called home for the last few days.
This will be hard to beat.