Tag Archives: boats

That Rockstar Feeling

25 Oct

Z's face cropped against sea background

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]We saw some amazing things from the roof of the slow boat the other day.

Flying fish. Not just the big, silvery ones, threading running stitch across the sea like giant needles. But little dark critters, gliding low, low over the wavelets like flocks of aquatic sparrows, slender wing-fins carrying them for as much as a hundred metres before they splash into water which seems –- well, quite the wrong element for them.

No dolphins or turtles, this time, though on every other boat journey around Maluku we’ve seen one or t’other.

But, here, just north of the equator, an entire pod of killer whales, soaring and playful as dolphins, their giant dorsal fins pincushioning the water, gigantic black and white shadows sliding under the boat, hissing mushroomy fountains of spray…

Photo opportunities aplenty (had one a camera). And our fellow passengers had their mobile phones out in force, shooting for an entire hour.

Their subject, gentle reader? Not the wildlife. Ten a penny here.

But us… Continue reading

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Rafting the Maiting River

15 Sep Maiting River swirls around dark rocks in gorge. Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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We spent our last day in the Tana Toraja whitewater rafting. An activity, which in the mind of the child, now forms a kind of holy trinity with zipwiring and zorbing, as sheer, adrenaline-fuelled, screeching fun.

As he put it, “Zipwiring is aerial. Zorbing is, ummm…, terrestrial. And whitewater rafting is the aquatic equivalent.”

Or, “Wooooooo! Wapids ahead!!! Woooo!!! More wapids!!!”

Whitewater rafting is, actually, an almost flawless combination of adrenaline, nature and physical activity. Continue reading

13 Things You’ll Learn Travelling Indonesia

15 Sep Ferry at sunrise in Ampana Port, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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1: There is a Nadir for In-Vehicle Entertainment
Audio-visual torture of various kinds is an intrinsic part of the South-East Asian travel experience. From bootleg DVDs with subtitles straight out of Finnegans WakeContinue reading

Monday Photo Essay: Colours of Makassar

30 Aug

Orange green and pink lorry parked in front of green building. Makassar, Indonesia.[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

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Makassar, Indonesia. The capital of Sulawesi. A hectic, noisy port city, where even the scuzziest scenes are full of equatorial colour. Like these trucks, parked near the old port where the Bugis sailing ships unload. Continue reading

Welcome to Indonesia!

19 Aug

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]We left Tawau, the port in north-eastern (Malaysian) Borneo, this morning. For Tarakan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo.

The boat was late. Terminally late. Clearly an hour or more late, rather than a few minutes late.

So I was relaxed when I got off it to buy snacks at the port side, leaving Z perusing 1066 and All That in the cabin.

Rather less relaxed when I turned round, in the throes of making change, to see the boat pulling out to sea. Continue reading

Fighting Cocks and Jungle Ferns

4 Aug Fiddlehead ferns and shoots of jungle plants laid out on a blue tarpaulin. Kapit, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]We took three boats to Gunung Mulu, the serene and beautiful national park deep in the forests of Sarawak, with ancient caves carved deep into Borneo limestone and jagged karst pinnacles towering over the whole.

One of the best things about travelling upriver in Sarawak is watching what folk buy and sell in the trading towns en route.

In Kapit, on the Batang Rejang, you can buy pretty much anything you’d care to think of. From badminton rackets to sofas, from hunting rifles to rubber rings. And sell, too. Upriver folk come down to Kapit in narrow longboats, almost daily, with goodies they have foraged from the forest and the rivers. Continue reading

The Big Race

29 Jul

Men from the Kayan tribal minority of Borneo carry a 32-man war canoe down to the Balui River.[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Watching two women’s eights, one women’s sixteen, and a mighty war canoe paddled by thirty-two men powering their way up the Balui River in the interior of Borneo, with a cox yelling instructions through a megaphone, has to count as one of the most surreal experiences of our travels so far.

Training for the Sarawak Regatta is Sunday’s big event in the tribal communities of Malaysian Borneo. And, for all its Oxford & Cambridge veneer, this river race dates back to the very different days of 1872.

And one of the earliest peace treaties between the warring head-hunters of the interior. Continue reading

The Vanishing Forest

28 Jul Three platforms laden with forest timber plough their way down the Batang Rejang, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

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Some things, simply, look too big, too plentiful to ever be used up. The herds of bison that clouded the American plains; the trees of Easter Island; the ice sheets of the Arctic; the world’s great rainforests… Continue reading

The Man who Mistook his Capital for a Cat

20 Jul

Astana, the fortress-like state residence of the Governor of Sarawak, illuminated at night, reflecting in the Sarawak River. Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]This is Astana, the little place which James Brooke, the first “White Rajah” of Sarawak, built for himself in his capital, Kuching (“Cat”).

A Victorian adventurer somewhat in the mould of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, James Brooke spent his inheritance on a schooner, The Royalist. He stuffed it with cannons; crewed it with sailors who didn’t think he was insane (or weren’t that fussy); and headed to Borneo to remake the fortune he’d spent on the boat.

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Round Halong Bay by Junk

2 Jun

Junk moored on beach of Monkey Island, near Halong Bay, Vietnam

Our junk moored on the beach at Monkey Island, near Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Halong Bay, North Vietnam, is one of the most dramatic seascapes the planet has to offer. Five hundred million years in the making, twenty million in the shaping, and still evolving before your eyes, it’s a rare chance to see geology in action.

Pillars of limestone, once the supports of vast underground caves, spike surreally out of nowhere. Fissured cliffs slide vertiginously into the jade green sea. Magical vistas of pyramid hills appear fleetingly between rocky gateways, flawless beaches peek through low archways, dark, low, caves lead through to marine valleys carved by underground rivers over millions of years, while brand new islets, ominous overhangs and decaying rock bridges indicate the shape of landscapes yet to come.

Seen from the deck of a classic junk? Amazing. By night, with sheet lightning flashing between surrealist outcrops, fengkong karsts shedding pyramidal shadows over smooth, dark water, as you lie on the basketwork roof of a gently-swaying junk watching the storm through the rigging? Words begin to fail. Continue reading