Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue


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Latdalam Village - Indiana Jones adventures


It was with mixed feelings that we headed out of Saumlaki Harbour to begin our exploration of the outer villages and islands. Saumlaki had turned out to be a wonderful introduction to Indonesia – but other places beckoned and we set our course for a river mouth just south of the village of Latdalam – a two hour sail around the south west side of Yamdena Island. We had to keep a good lookout as there were small fishing canoes everywhere. However, not all yachts were as methodical in their watch keeping.


‘Serannity, Serannity, this is Mandolin Wind on 16’ – we repeated the call several times before we got a response.

‘This is Serannity.’

‘Have you got that guy in the dugout 20 metres off your starboard bow?’

‘Say again, Mandolin Wind.’

‘Doesn’t matter – you just missed a local in a dugout canoe. If you look a few metres to your Starboard you’ll see him.’

‘Oh My GOD…..I didn’t see him!’

Remind me not to get too close to that boat at night!






We were soon anchored off a few fishing huts in a lovely calm bay. It was high tide, making it feasible to cross the river bar to explore, so in company with the crew from 'Southern Mist II' we set off in the dinghy to explore.




What a place. We feel like we are in an Indiana Jones movie with the tropical jungle pushing in from the sides of the river and forming a light filtering canopy that creates an eerily ghoulish haze. 




We stopped the outboard and rowed, enjoying the calls of the birds and the rustling of the wind.




However, the real adventure came the next day when we trekked for 45 minutes along a narrow, well worn path through dense jungle to reach the village of Latdalam.




On the way we passed a few fisherman and their families carrying woven baskets from ropes tied as ‘headbands’ across their foreheads. As we approached the village we noted the many unfinished churches and as we passed by the first one we could hear singing. Being a Saturday we suspected that this was a Seventh Day Adventist gathering. School was in as well and we could see the outline of children through the glassless windows.



Later we came across a school excursion and we spoke to the teacher who explained that the children were cleaning the village. This included sweeping the dirt paths with bunches of twigs and collecting the debris in bamboo leaves.



The entire village, including the dirt yards surrounding the neatly presented wooden shacks , were all immaculately swept with no rubbish in sight – not even sticks or leaves.

There were no trucks or cars to be seen and we saw only a few motorbikes. One boy had a pushbike that was far too big for him but he had improvised a seat by putting a wooden plank across the bar.



As with all the villages we had visited, we were made very welcome and were soon mobbed by excited children. Many adults came out of their houses to wave and shake our hands.




Using the little Basa Indonesian we had picked up, plus our dictionary, we tried to communicate – but this mainly elicited shrieks of laughter.




The word that kept surfacing was ‘Mandi’. At first we thought this might be the name of the village elder – but it turned out to mean ‘to wash’ and we were gradually directed to two watering holes. These were crystal clear rock pools surrounded by lush forest and the people were understandably very proud of their beautiful washing area.




It was clear that these were segregated, with the female pool also doubling up as a laundry area! The water was clearly flushing naturally for we could see where the water overflowed into a channel from a large natural spring.  




After the trek in the sticky heat a dip was very appealing so we split up and joined the locals. The female pool was particularly beautiful for it was the larger of the two and was surrounded by some magnificent trees that could have come straight out of a ‘Lord of the Rings’ film set.


Above: Chris from 'Southern Mist II' cooling off  

Above: Magic Faraway Tree?


Cooling off in the clear water surrounded by happy, carefree children, a westerner could be tempted to reflect on the benefits of the simple life – or even become philosophical and ask whether our excessive life style, focused as it is on possessions, has made us happy. The children here have the freedom of the village.


They don’t have iPods or computers but make do with homemade toys such as cars constructed from plastic bottles with wooden wheels or old bike rims tapped along with a stick. And they always seem to be laughing and happy.  
  However, looking from the outside, it is easy to miss the flipside. Infant mortality rates are high by western standards and medical care is basic, if available at all. Simple birth abnormalities that we gloss over as simply fixed are left untreated.

This was brought home as we shook hands with the congregation as they emerged from the church service. We exchanged greetings with a smartly dressed couple – and a fleeting glance at their baby showed it was disfigured by a harelip. And later, at the next village, we saw a teenager with an elephantine nose – another condition easily treated in the west.



Back on board, hot and sticky again after the trek back along the overgrown path, we relaxed in the cockpit and planned our next destination. Our visit to the village of Latdalam had been the highlight of our trip so far – and we were hoping for more such adventures as we continued our meanderings through the ‘Spice Isles’.