24 hours away from the boat

I left early on Tuesday morning to catch a flight from Sorong to Jakarta. What? Back to Jakarta again? Yep … Our new passports were ready and I went to collect them in person. It’s a 4-hour flight and I managed to book a return for the same evening. It made for a long day as I didn’t arrive back until the next morning …

When you spend 24/7 together as a family, it is weird to suddenly be on your own. I made the most of it by doing some shopping and having a leisurely lunch. I lost track of time and almost missed the 3pm closing time of the British passport centre… Luckily, after much begging, they still let me in. Phew. The contrast between the Belgian and British passport places was striking. At the Belgian embassy, I received a warm welcome and had a chat with the consul and the ambassador. The British passport applications are outsourced and managed by a local service centre for the Commonwealth nations. It’s all very impersonal with registration desks, a huge waiting room, ticket numbers and queues. But never mind, I got all the passports and we are good for another few years 😉.

Late afternoon and time for a bit more shopping (Christmas and another birthday coming up after all). I recharged myself with a reflexology treatment and finished my day in Jakarta off with a drink at the Park Lane hotel bar. I managed to grab some sleep on the return flight and was very happy to be back on Rehua the next morning! We lifted anchor straight away and it’s off to Misool. Bye bye Sorong!

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approaching Jakarta, again!

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 The tourists are in town 

It’s a strange thing when you leave your boat and you become a regular tourist. Don’t get me wrong, we love a bit of adventure off the boat, exploring cities, going on a road trip. Although Seathan doesn’t enjoy flying (my theory is that it’s a control thing), we had to get there by plane as Jakarta is a long way from Sorong. And not an ideal place to visit by boat. And Yogyakarta you simply can’t reach by boat. We had booked everything last minute (one way flights, last minute hotels) which is not a problem in Indonesia and can easily be done from a smartphone. It’s a great way to travel and, although I was keen to book flights and hotels in advance, Seathan preferred to leave it to the last minute. And I have to admit,  I loved the freedom of not knowing where we would end up the next day.

When we arrived in Yogyakarta, locally referred to as “Jogja”, we stayed in Malioboro area, THE tourist street in town. We soon discovered we didn’t like it at all. Pickpockets everywhere, cheap crappy food, souvenir shops, pushy becek drivers. So once we discovered Prawirotaman area, we moved hotels and our entire perception of Yogyakarta changed with it.

Prawirotaman is the hip neighbourhood of town with many good restaurants, cool shops, antiques, artist workshops, a beautiful market and friendly locals (ok, I admit, there still were pushy becek drivers around). We ended up extending our stay with a few more days, relaxed and enjoyed this beautiful city which has so much to offer.

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Prawirotaman, the hip area of town


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Prawirotaman


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local fruit and veg stall


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I wonder how many get broken


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traditional becek


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many bars and restaurants in this street


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antique shop full of interesting curiosities


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late afternoon in Parwirotaman


There’s not just Borobudur temple (see previous blog). In fact, there were too many temples for us to see them all. But we did visit the second most famous one: Prambanan. A Hindu temple from the 9th century and equally impressive as Borobudur. But in a different way. Personally, I felt Borodur was more magical, but perhaps that was because we were there at sunrise and Prambanan we visited in the middle of the day.

Pramabanan is beautiful and it’s incredible to think how someone was able to build this enormous complex with 250 temples so many years ago. We had gone to the Ramayana ballet a couple of nights before. This traditional Javanese dance was mesmerisingly beautiful, with gracious movements and symbolic hand gestures. It had taught us the epic Hindu-based love story of Rama and Shinta. We learned a lot more from our guide who pointed out the carvings and explained the symbolism they depicted. Fascinating history and we are all keen to learn more about Hinduism now. I feel a new school project coming along.

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Prambanan temple


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at Prambanan


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up a little bit


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Prambanan temple complex


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the entrance to one of the temples


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beautiful stone work, dating back to the 9th century


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one of the temples in the complex


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our guide


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the dudes


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inside Siwa temple


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stunning carvings


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beautiful stonework


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inside Nandi temple


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Brahma


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end of the tour


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Ramayana ballet


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Javanese ballet with Prambanan in the background

Yogyakarta still has a sultan and is a bit of a political anomaly. We visited the Sultan’s water palace, Tamansari, a beautiful place but quite busy with tourists, especially Indonesians. Apparently both Obama and Zuckerberg have recently visited the site and people from all over Indonesia now flock to see this national treasure. We still enjoyed seeing the gardens, swimming pools, baths, underground mosque and the many narrow streets inside the complex.

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the entrance to Tamansari


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many tourists


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the bathing pools


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The Tamansari dates back to the 18th century


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at one of the gates


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inside the underground mosque


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capturing the light in the underground mosque


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two little angels


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one could imagine being in the Med

We found less tourists in Kota Gede, the original old part of town. Inside the ancient walls, there is mosque now and the small streets sourrounding are bustling with local activity. Many silver artist are based in this area and you can buy silver jewellery and artefacts. It was lovely to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.

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Kota Gede, the old part of town


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Kota Gede


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the mosque inside the ancient walls


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narrow streets


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local bird market


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bustling streets


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a local silver smith at work

But all good things must come to an end and after 8 nights away we felt it was time to head back to Rehua! Time to book some flights and head back to Sorong where our home is waiting for us.

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which way home to Rehua?


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ready to fly back to Sorong

 

Buddhism rediscovered

After a 10-hour trip from Jakarta the train rolled into Yogyakarta station. The train journey itself, watching the Javanese countryside slide past, was a pleasant experience. Our hotel was only a short walk through the bustling Malioboro area and it allowed us to stretch our legs before grabbing a taxi over to the other side of town to a recommended French restaurant. We weren’t disappointed. Tartare de bœuf, gratin dauphinois, magret de canard, fresh baguette, rocket salad, … and affordable delicious wine. Something which is unheard of in Indonesia. What a treat. It was so good we went back twice more in the next few days. Our bellies full, we returned to the hotel for an early night and woke up at 3.30 am to head to Borobudur for a sunrise visit.

Borobudur temple. The largest buddhist monument and one of the world’s wonders was built at the beginning of the 8th century, during the golden age of the Syailendra Dynasty. When Europe’s greatest cathedrals were just being started, Borobudur had already stood for 400 years.

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you walk around the many terraced levels. There’s an energy and beauty that makes you pause. Our guide, a great story teller, managed to enthuse the boys and as we went up, level by level, he explained the symbolism and the history of this ancient place. He had grown up near the temple and used to play hide and seek with his friends amongst the ruins.

Buddhism is such a pure and beautiful set of teachings, a way of living, that is inspiring.  When the sun finally rose and shone its rays right on Buddha’s head, I felt very privileged to experience it all. A magical moment.

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sunrise visit to Borobudur temple

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early morning

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sunrise over the stupas

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Walking a full circle around the top level and touching the temple brings good karma.

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panorama shot

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one of the terraced levels

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capturing buddha

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stupas

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on the top level

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rays on buddha

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interlocking stones, no cement needed

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stunning archways

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every carving tells a story

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our local guide was a great source of information

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early navigators

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at the base of the temple

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Borobudur seen from the distance

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happy tourists

Embassies and Shopping Malls

Arriving in Jakarta and driving into town from the airport you immediately notice the smog. There’s a haze hanging over the city. And traffic, so much traffic everywhere. And skyscrapers. Jakarta is huge, one of the biggest cities in South East Asia and you can get everything here. There are malls for luxury brands (think Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex, etc), for trendy clothes, for electronics and gadgets, toys (Lego store!), food and wine (carrefour), and it goes on and on. All the European brands are there: Zara, H&M, M&S…. We even found a Pizza Express, a London-based chain serving authentic Italian pizza 🍕 👅.

Anyway, it was all a bit overwhelming and walking through these malls we realised it was full of stuff we don’t need. Onwards to the Belgian embassy were we had an appointment to renew passports. Based on the top floor of the Deutsche Bank building in the business distric, we received a very warm welcome. The Belgian consul even came out to meet us and have a chat.

Next day we had an appointment with the British passport office, no special treatment there, but very efficient of course. Passport renewals submitted and no reason to stay any longer, we decided to organise another trip. Rehua is in good hands and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the famous old temples of Borobudur and Prambanan and experience the city of Yogyakarta which friends told us is a must to visit. We were keen to take the train, an 8-hour journey across Java. Booking last minute tickets in Indonesia is easy but the train site was a bit of a challenge. Indonesian language only and no foreign credit cards accepted… Luckily Seathan had met a helpful Australian expat at the hotel and he booked it for us. So off to Gambir station, new surf board in hand, to catch another adventure! 🏄🏻

Jakarta !

Traffic, traffic, traffic

And many shopping malls

Lego store

Admiration…

Lego art

Beetle art

All squished up

Business district

With the king and queen

At the embassy

Pizza express

Boys taking selfies….

Cool way to decorate the fire extinguishers

Our hotel

Evening traffic

Real bacon for breakfast , a rare treat in Indo

Birds at the hotel, not as free as their Papua cousins

Quick dip

In Gambir station

Off on another adventure

Waiting for the train ….

Leaving on a jetplane

Yep, we’ve left Rehua. She’s safely tied up in a small marina up the river near Sorong which has good weather protection. It’s always a bit scary to leave her behind, she is our home after all.

We’re off to Jakarta, more out of necessity than desire (we hear it is extremely large with too many people and too much traffic). The main reason is passports. After more than three years away it’s time to renew and we need to go to the embassy in Jakarta.

The kids are super excited to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights …. I’m not so sure and wonder whether I will be able to sleep without feeling the gentle rocking motion of waves and water below me … I’ve become so used to sleeping on a boat, I can’t imagine sleeping on land again. Hmmm. Too long away or just not ready to go back yet ?

The boys are also excited to get on a plane and I quite like flying too. Seathan, on the other hand, hates it. I guess as a captain he just doesn’t like it when he’s not the one at the helm. At the moment he is wandering around the hotel here in Sorong looking for things to fix, let’s hope the plane is in good order!

Batanta, Raja Ampat

On our way back to Sorong (yes, unfortunately we need to head back into town) we had a brief stop in Batanta. It’s one of the four main islands in Raja Ampat, made up of countless bays and deep inlets lined with untouched mangrove forests. The island is mountainous and covered with Papuan rainforest. Seathan picked a deep inlet with 360 protection and we headed 6 miles up the river to find a stunning large bay with water as flat as pancake. It’s just heaven waking up in a place like that, with the mysterious sounds of the jungle and the cacophony of morning songs performed by many different bird species. I woke up early, grabbed my yoga mat and spread it out on the front deck for some sun salutations. Perfect start of the day.

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Early morning in Batanta

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Sunrise

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Mist over the jungle

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Spot the dinghy

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Water as flat as a pancake

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A stunning wide bay with 360 protection

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Dolphins on our way out of Batanta

Yanggelo Island, Raja Ampat

Tyrii has been working on a school project about biodiversity with a case study on Raja Ampat. He learned that this area has over 1,400 reef fish species and 550 coral species, an outstanding number. The coral reefs are extremely healthy here and have not yet suffered any major impacts, unlike many other reefs around the world. The diving and snorkelling has been truly amazing and we probably had our best snorkel EVER in Yanggelo Island. The colours, the variety and the quality of the corals were exceptional. And it wasn’t even sunny. And the fish! I’ve never seen so many fish and so many different ones. We just downloaded a new fish and coral guide book and it’s fascinating to learn about this wonderful underwater world and to try and identify the beautiful things we saw. It was hard to choose from the hundreds of pictures we took, so many good shots even without the sunshine. So much beauty… And not just under the water. The anchorage inside the protected lagoon has mangroves and jungle all around and the birdlife is plentiful. Parrots and cockatoos are squawking away, large herons are nesting in the mangroves and we saw and heard many other birds we couldn’t identify; wonderful weird and different sounds. Raja Ampat truly is a special place.

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Rehua sailing to Yanggelo island (photo credit s/v Rampetamper)

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The quiet anchorage in Yanggelo

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Sternline tied to the mangroves

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Early morning fog in the trees; the birdlife was amazing

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Snorkelling trip

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Giant clams

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Anemone soft corals

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Can you see the cuttlefish?

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Here is he is without his camouflage

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Colourful Christmas Tree Worms

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Christmas Tree Worms

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Yellow leather coral

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Fishes galore

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batfish

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Coral detail

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So many different and healthy corals

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cauliflower and staghorn coral

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Hard coral

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Fire coral

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This is the location of our best ever snorkelling trip!

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Colour explosion

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Beautiful compositions everywhere

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Many different varieties

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Angry Moray eel

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and it wasn’t even sunny!

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batfish

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fire coral and hard coral

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pillar coral

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Basket coral

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The colours were so vivid, even on a grey day

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Pink cauliflower coral

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Soft and hard corals

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not sure what this one is called but it looked cool

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Leather and pillar coral

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Another bunch of corals

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Starfish

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Table coral

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Angelfish

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Not sure what these cute little things are called

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Staghorn coral

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Soft corals

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Staghorn, tube and table corals

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Looks like a giant ice-cream

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View from above

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Fish explosion

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We discovered a small beach inside the lagoon

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My favourite type of tree

Friwen Island, Raja Ampat

After a few busy days in Sorong, we were happy to lift the anchor and sail in search of some clean turquoise water to swim and snorkel in. We found it nearby in Friwen island, another gorgeous Raja Ampat anchorage with several great snorkelling and dive spots nearby. The perfect place to spend the weekend 😎

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Sorong

Our supplies started to run low so we headed into the busy port of Sorong and anchored near Doom Island (whoever came up with that name?). Two of our buddy boats were anchored there already and it was lovely catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. However, Sorong is not somewhere you want to hang around for too long, friends or not. It is busy, dirty and crowded, but a necessary stop for stocking up on food, diesel, petrol, new oil and fuel filters and we also had to renew our visas. And not forgetting: 4G internet! We had been offline for a while so made the most of the cheap internet available here; the kids got to play some of their favourite online iPad games, we downloaded some new movies, skyped our parents and caught up on some news. Next stop: Friwen Island for some much deserved swimming and snorkelling together with our two buddy boats.

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Approaching Sorong

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It’s a busy port

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s/v Rampetamper with Sorong in the background

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s/v Cardinala

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Some crazy looking boats

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Doom Island

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Sorong

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Telekom and mosque

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queuing up at immigration

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Sorong city