After more than two years in the South Pacific, we arrive in South East Asia. What a culture shock: different people, smells, colours, noises, food, language… It’s buzzing and vibrant and everything becomes alive in the evening. Even the fruit and veg markets are open until ten pm. English is hardly spoken here and we are fast learning as many Indonesian words as possible. We try to get by sometimes even with Dutch or French but mostly with crazy hand gestures and our translator app.
First things first: clearing into the country. Biak is an official port of entry but is not a big town and not that many yachts come this way. We start with Immigration since they are the easiest to locate, right next to the fish market, in the centre of town. What forms do they need? They’re not too sure either, so we give them a bunch of photocopies of boat registration documents, passports, crew lists, etc. All good, passports are stamped and the officer asks if I can please bring some Belgian chocolates next time.
Then it’s off to Customs. More difficult to find and none of the locals seem to know. Eventually we find their office in one of the side streets after a twenty minute walk. Customs want to inspect the boat, so Seathan hopped on the back of the officer’s scooter and headed back to the fish market, were we left the dinghy, and then back to Rehua. The Customs officer, a young and eager guy from Jakarta, went through all the cupboards, looked under the floors, even checked the engines. Unfortunately we had a couple of bottles of wine too many and two were confiscated. Pity as we can’t buy wine anywhere here. More than an hour later, Seathan arrived back at the Customs office. We were all offered cold drinks and snacks while we waited for the final paperwork to be completed and several officers wanted to take selfies with us. Gotta love the Indonesians for their enthusiasm and big smiles.
Clearance papers in hand and all that was left to do was Quarantine. This time we took a taxi as they were on the other side of town, close to the airport. The taxi dropped us off at the wrong place (but luckily was still waiting outside) but eventually got us there. And yep, they also had to come to the boat. We were done with officialdom by this stage as we had been running around since 8am and it was now 3pm (and the kids needed lunch). Appointments were set for the next day. Biak has nowhere easy to land the dinghy, so we were limited to an early morning or late afternoon appointment as the tide has to be high otherwise the harbour is dried out. So early morning Seathan went to pick up the officials and brought them onboard. Big friendly smiles and an inspection of the galley, the heads, our stores, and especially the medical kit. They went through every packet and made a list of all our medication. All was ok, many more forms were completed with lots of stamps and signatures and we received our health certificate. Phew. Two days to complete all the formalities is apparently a very good result.
PS Make sure to check out the kids blog to read Tyrii’s first impressions of Indonesia 🇮🇩