25 June, 2008

The Rally continues......

21 June 2008

We are four weeks in to the Passage to the East rally, and things are going well! Ten boats eventually started in the rally. Although there were early stops at Penang and Port Dickson, the rally ‘proper’ started in Sebana Cove.

Our day trip in to Kuala Lumpur (with Sazli, our rally host) was interesting. We went to the Batu Caves, a special area to followers of the Hindu faith. A flight of 272 steps leads up to Temple Cave, which has Hindu shrines in it. Each year during the Thaipusan festival in January or February, up to a million Hindus come to the area near the caves. Some of the truly faithful devotees subject themselves to body piercings; they have spikes, skewers and other piercings through their skin, attached to which are offerings such as milk pots, feathers and flowers. Although it looks very painful, a trance-like state aapparently stops the followers from feeling pain. We were actually in KL during Thaipusan, but didn’t really fancy either the crowds, or seeing people with numerous body piercings with hooks from them, dragging things along the road!

We arrived at Sebana Cove early, and got the ferry over to Singapore for three days. We had to buy a few boat spares, and it meant we could also spend some time with my cousin Jo-Ann and her husband Terry again. Each Thursday evening they go to Scottish dancing, so off we went too! Shane’s and my ceroc and salsa dancing in Wellington must have stood us in good stead, as for rank amateurs on the Scottish dancing front, we didn’t do too bad!

While we were in Singapore, the Great Singapore Sale was on. I was very well restrained though, and didn’t buy anything! We also went to the movies and saw “Sex and the City” which we really enjoyed.
For our rally gala dinner at Sebana Cove, we were all presented with the traditional Malay dress to wear for the evening. It was lovely woven cotton, and very cool to wear. In the heat here, it makes a lot more sense than the tight-fitting clothing we are used to wearing.

Our day trip the following day took us to the Desaru fruit farm. We had a tour around the orchard, and then got to sample lots of the different fruits, some of which we had never had before. We had the chance to sample all the different fruit; we took it easy as we still had to visit the homestay village where we were having lunch! And that proved to be another feast…….

A friend has commented to me that these rallies seem to involve a lot of gala dinners and eating – she would be right! Fortunately I am keeping up with my running, otherwise I’m sure I would be not far off signing up for Jenny Craig!

Our next rally stop was Tioman Island. A lovely little island, with white sandy beaches and clear blue water. Let’s hope commercialism doesn’t move in and spoil the great atmosphere the island has……… While we were there, we went to the local school’s karnival, a bit like the school sports day we all participated in when we were at school years ago. Just before prizegiving they marched around the field in their house colours.

Another rally stopover, another gala dinner……. At least we did have a bit of a walk before dinner this time. A big squall blew through a couple of hours before we were due to be picked up, and a tree was blown over, blocking the main road on the island. Tioman only has a relatively short stretch of road; transport to most of the bays and villages is by water taxi. Tioman has become very popular because of its lovely clear water (great for diving and snorkelling). It’s duty free status hasn’t harmed it either – all the yachties stocked up on liquid refreshments.

After Tioman we went to Kuantan, the capital of Pahang state. Our anchorage there was in front of the very flash Hyatt Hotel. It was just a pity that it was quite a rolly anchorage, as most of us only stayed two nights. The Hyatt put on a wonderful night for our gala dinner – a great meal and some wonderful traditional dancing. Plus we all got a lovely woven carry bag each.

Our day tour took us to a batik factory, where we saw the intricate work being done. It is very labour intensive. The wax is put on by hand; after that most of the painting is hand-done by small paintbrush, rather than the whole piece of cloth being dyed. We also visited a traditional village where fish are dried, and rubber and palm oil tree plantations.

After Kuantan we stopped at two islands on our way north. The islands on the way north had lovely clear blue water, great for swimming and snorkelling. Not so great was the view that greeted us this morning – off Pulau Kapas the water is thick with jellyfish. Some of them have long tentacles at least 2-3 metres long. Shane is not looking forward to what is hanging off the anchor chain when we pull it up……

Later on this morning, we will head in to Terengganu marina. Our first mission is to find somewhere to watch the second All Blacks vs England rugby game. We missed watching the game last week, but the marina manager (an Aussie) assures us the game is on. We should be kept busy for the week we are going to be in the marina, as Shane has a few things to do on the boat, and there is a bit of work to be done by both of us before we do our five day passage over to Kuching, where we will spend 2-3 months over in Borneo Malaysia.

We both agree that the east coast of Malaysia leaves the west coast for dead – we can swim over here, and the water is lovely and clear. There is far less rubbish in the water, and way less fishing boats. The Passage to the East rally will certainly become more popular in years to come.

Heather and Shane