So we’re finally back underway after more than six weeks of being stalled around Bali. The length of our stay there was unscheduled, but also not a big surprise, as we had arrived in Bali without a clue regarding where we were going next. Our menu of options seemed ridiculous and frankly, we were feeling a bit lost: North to Singapore, west to South Africa, south back to Australia, and even east to Japan….none of those options were off the table. The nagging problem, of course, has been the piracy related problem around Somalia which has effectively closed our desired Red Sea route back to the Med for private sailing yachts, leaving us wondering what on earth to do next. Without a plan for leaving SE Asia, we couldn’t head into it, and Bali was the final junction where a decision had to be made.
So we eventually made our decision and sailed away from Bali heading north, destination: Singapore. Implicit in that decision was a commitment to transit the 2000 mile piracy affected area surrounding Somalia early next year on our way back to the Mediterranean Sea. The details of how we’re planning to accomplish that (safely, we hope) took months to iron out, and for now will need to remain private for obvious security related reasons. Suffice to say, planning an entry into the Red Sea resembles a military operation more than it does a sailing cruise. That’s because the troubled history in the Gulf of Aden area clearly shows the only effective deterrent to a desperate group of incoming Somali pirates is the threat of immediate death. That, simply, is the sad state of affairs that every Red Sea bound mariner today needs to reckon with. And so it goes.
But with Somalia still months away, we’re free, for a while anyway, to get back to what this journey is really all about: exploring. Borneo is Indonesia’s largest island and is most famous for its large population of orangutans. Borneo also happens to be directly in our way as we move towards Singapore, so naturally we’ve decided to take a quick stop to investigate the orangutan situation here. There’s a 40 mile orangutan river ride starting from Kumai where adventure-tourists take three day orangutan tours through a protected national park with nature walks, orangutan feeding stations, and lots of wildlife to see along the way. Short on time, we’ve found some locals to take us up the river on their speed boat, so we’ll hopefully get the full orangutan experience in a single day, and will use the time we save to make progress towards Singapore in coming days.
So with Bali finally astern, the next leg of our adventure now begins. At just three degrees south of the Equator, and with lots of north in our compass heading, we know this is the end of our time in the Southern Hemisphere, a fact that brings mixed emotions. We’re leaving this half of the globe greatly enriched by our experiences, with new friends and countless unforgettable memories. Mostly though, we depart with a new-found respect for the islanders of these southern oceans and the simple and unspoiled way of life that’s so native to them and was so foreign to us as westerners. As we move north and west from here into more developed parts of the world, we’ll be trying our best to remember their simplicity and make it into a part of who we are.