Across the globe, or from next door. People come to Raja Ampat for the universe above and below the water. And on top of Raja Ampat lies Wayag (Pronounced Why-aa) . We left Kawe (Equator Island) traveling to Wayag. A short hop; about 3 hours away by a slow boat.
The mountains rise out of the sea like green covered spear points. Surrounded by huge pots of mushrooms. We skirted the shore and entered on the SW side. For the most part the seas were flat and we could read the colors of the water for the depth. We only had one detour to stay in deep water before we approached the entrance.
We always check the cruising community when we head to new places. For Indonesia we use online blogs, a Compendium put together by Soggy Paws, and Zulu Waterways. We knew where to go and how to get there. Yet even with the fore knowledge, entering a new harbor always carries with it some anxiety.
We followed the guide I don’t like: Andi Scott’s Cruising Indonesia. We anchored off the picturesque beach in the deepest part of area. Shown in the guide to be primo. Not so. Go Figure! Oh, there are much deeper places in Wayag, but this was to be “the” spot. Craig and Leanne found a much nicer place near the East end. But, it had a shallow bar to cross. Once anchored and secure we rarely pick up the anchor and move.
We settled in, put up our awning, dropped the dinghy and put on the engine, and had lunch. Craig and Leanne stopped by to give us an update. What’s where. Fumi and Luke came in and as cruisers often do we planned on a beach gathering tomorrow evening. Craig had been cleaning up the beach near them and had a bit more to do. W/ volunteered us so tomorrow we assisted in the final clean up.
While this is one of the prettiest places in the world it is also one with… a lot of trash. Referred to in Indonesia as the King’s Crown. Trash on the beach and in the water. We were lucky, while here we saw very little water trash floating by. But, other cruisers had told us of the river of trash. Not all from Indonesia as the trades blow anything in the South Pacific this way.
The following day we joined Craig on the beach head and placed heaps of rubbish in a large tin bin. We talked about having a BBQ in the evening and burning some. That evening we had a fire and one of the rangers stopped by.
He didn’t have any issue with us having a BBQ on the beach and when we told him that we cleaned it up I will say he was impressed. So much so that some photos were taken of the tin (rubbish) in the bin! In rudimentary English; I with my next to non existent Bahasa, I got the idea that some of his people would be by the following day to bag it. They would then send it back to Sarong for disposal. When I relayed that story to some of the tourist boat employees, for the most part they laughed.
No one calls me an optimist but I held out hope. And the following day…. nothing happened. The next day too, nothing happened. What can I say.
There were hikes to the summit of two different mountains in Wayag. One was really tough while the other was much easier. The easier one had a 360º view. The harder one not. Guess which one we choose? And, it wasn’t all that easy. True Blue V and Elysium dinghied over to the trail head at high tide. It shoots up from the waterline. Starting at high tide makes the beginning ascent easier.
Here we were lucky again, a large tender from one of the tourist boats was already there. The captain offered for us to cross over it instead of attempting to climb out of our dinghy and up the cliff’s side. We tied our dinghy off and climbed across.
We made a mistake. Our shoes were not meant for this trek. We wore tennis shoes. Had we worn our hiking boots it would have been a better option. Also neither of us had any gloves. Any further visitors reading this; bring gloves and hiking boots! With the steep incline we often needed to grab the rocks. These islands are eroded limestone and the rocks were sharp. Heaps with hollow porous areas. Leaning against one I received a small cut on my leg. It bled. Picking our way we worked our way up. The tourist boats or the park had installed a few ropes to assist. No ladders here. And I didn’t count the steps. I was to intent on leaning inward and staying upright. The rocky slope would act like a cheese grater should either of us go tumbling down
the hill. Thirty minutes or so, maybe more I doubt less, we reached the summit. There we came across a group of tourists with their guides. I checked out their footwear. One of the guides had bare feet. If I had tried the climb in bare feet my feet by the time I reached the top would have been skinless.
The view was worth it. We could see 360º ! We chatted with everyone we could. One tourist couple; from Jakarta, had attended college in Georgia and been to Tampa. As we travel we are often reminded how small and intimate the world is. And…. the tourist guides (Not the park rangers) actually picked up some trash they found on the trail. They understand the value of the Raja Ampat resource!
You would think descending would be easier. NOT! One wrong step, one misplaced hand and more of my DNA would be left on the island. With hiking boots and gloves we would have been fine. We could lean on the ropes and watching our step move much easier. The problem now were traffic jams. People were still ascending as we were descending. This wasn’t a trail made in Australia or New Zealand, with wide paths and a well cared for trail. We were in Indonesia! We looked for places where we could
stand aside to let others pass. Thinking ahead about where to pass, listening for the exertions of the group ascending we make do. With our tennis shoes and no gloves we were so slow that one group passing us going up caught up to us going down! Well, we were almost all the way down anyway. 🙂
After burning those calories we needed “a feed” as the Aussies like to say. The afternoon was R n R. Two other boats entered the area and discussions centered around where to go
snorkeling and the ranger station. There was internet at the ranger station. Without internet we would use our Iridium Go for weather. But, with internet I could get podcasts and a couple of books I neglected to download. A couple of times I ran to the ranger station just for internet. One thing I forgot to do was down load extra podcasts. We like to listen to world NEWS in the am making sure there is nothing we need to concern ourselves with. While in Raja Ampat a Volcano blew up a few hundred miles from us. We didn’t know it at the time. Fortunately we didn’t have any effect from it. So I ran over to the station and downloaded a few days worth. I had also discovered that I had missed a few books I had purchased in the Lucas Davenport series. (A great read by the way). So off to the station I went.
Sharing info with other boats we sussed out where the coolest place(s) would be to snorkel. Now don’t get me wrong, we enjoy snorkeling. However, having been in French Poly, the Cook Islands, the Bahamas, the Galapagos, Panama, etc we are not as enamored with diving as we once were. We heard about the Superman Snorkel. On the N side of the island during an incoming tide you could float with your dinghy. A great 45 minute ride through a pass into the lagoon. That we did. It was enjoyable. Like most of our snorkeling around the world it was great. It just did not stand out above any of the other “great” places. I often ask people when they are describing a snorkel spot; does Ms. France look prettier than Ms. Argentina?
That evening we gathered at another cruisers yacht and had a good time sharing sea stories. It was quite a gathering, two Americans (us), one Canadian with his Jamaican wife, one Aussie with his Japanese partner, one German couple with their adult son and his Peruvian partner. After we solved all the problems of the world we retired to Elysium. As it was the New Year about to begin some of the tourist boat lit off a few fireworks. And as any cruiser will tell you, 9 pm is the new Midnight. Any fired at midnight we did not see or hear.
After a few more days hanging around it was time to head out. A real negative of cruising Indonesia is that every two months we need to be at an Immigration office to renew our visas. Indonesia is HUGE. The immigration offices are not on every island. For a sailor; that means with good weather they might be 5 days away. Add to the challenge, sailing at night is a risk. True Blue V hit a tree floating in a few 1,000 m’s of water. A tree! They ran right up on it and Craig said it was like running aground. As far as 30 nm off shore in again 1,000’s of m’s of water are unlit fishing huts. They seem to float around there and at times the local villagers use them. Being unlit and rather large, it would not be pleasurable hitting one. We are quite cautious while night sailing and do our best to avoid even the need to do it. With that in mind we planned on heading off to Gebe the following day. About 50 nm away. If all goes well, we’ll make it during daylight.