Farewell to Lombok

Once we returned from our visit to the US, we dutifully unpacked and somehow found places for all the things we’d brought back with us. The ultra-leather material we’d need to reupholster our salon cushions was carefully rolled up and stowed under our bed, the new breadmaker found its place in the galley, the schoolbooks and supplies for the upcoming school year replaced the completed books in the cabinet, and the spare parts were replenished in their appropriate storage containers. The inside of the boat needed a wipe down to clear away any mildew that had accumulated in the enclosed humid interior, and we all did our part to get the boat opened up and livable again.

During the two months we were away, the folks at the Lombok Marina had been extremely busy. Retaining walls had been built, docks put in with water access to each slip, and mosaic walkways had been installed. What had caused such sudden progress, when just months prior it seemed the marina may never actually become a marina? Turns out, a large rally of Oyster sailboats had been promised a working marina in which to congregate before heading to Cocos Keling. This deadline meant the marina construction crew worked day and night, even running a generator to power lights when the sun set. Like a college student, the attitude of lackadaisical procrastination had suddenly become frantic cramming, and we were amazed at what had been accomplished while we were gone. Just in time, the marina was barely workable, even if not quite the organized, established, well-run machine that many of the rally boats expected. Each day a few more boats would come in and tie up to the docks, until nearly every slip was full.

One afternoon while we were working on the boat, we overheard radio chatter between the marina and a boat, True Blue. Could it be the same True Blue we’d spent time with in New Zealand and Vanuatu nearly two years ago? Yes! What a surprise! It would be the first of four boats within the following weeks that we would reunite with from our past cruising years. We spent the next few evenings with them, reminiscing and connecting in a way I’ve found to be especially unique to cruising friends - sharing experiences in faraway places and living a lifestyle that is often viewed from the outside as luxurious, but in reality is more ‘hard and crusty’ (a term coined over drinks one night) than anyone could imagine.

Mark and I tend to steer clear of rallies, just because they stick to a very tight schedule and often barely get a glimpse of a place before moving to the next one. However, rallies do have perks. There is always a community of sailors around you which offers both practical and emotional support. The rally coordinators take care of all the required paperwork throughout the trip, which can be a bit of a challenge with Indonesian immigration regulations. Also, rally participants are treated to special performances and cultural experiences by the local people to showcase their customs and extend their appreciation. While in Lombok, we were invited to attend an evening at the marina with the rally folks to celebrate the grand opening of the Lombok Marina. Dancers in traditional Balinese dress gave a lively performance, accompanied by a gamelan band. Cymbals clanged in unison with the deep thump-thump of drums as the dancers stepped together, knees bent with their feet turned outwards and toes flexed in the typical Balinese style. One woman entranced the crowd with her contorted fingers splayed out and hips swinging from side to side. The sights and sounds indicative of Central Indonesia.

The following day Mark spent on shore underneath a palm tree. He’d tied a pulley high up around the trunk in order to hoist a heavy can of propane above his head. We needed to refill our propane tanks, and the only way to do it here was by using gravity. Thankfully, he had somehow found the elusive nozzle fitting that worked on Indonesian tanks while in Sorong months ago, so he offered to share with the rally boats, too. Soon, there was a long line of tanks waiting to be filled and a few fellow sailors offering to help get the job done.

Finally, it was time for us to set sail again. Ultimately, we wanted to get back to one of our favorite dive spots just west of Komodo, but first, we had a stop to make. While in the US, Mark received a notification on his phone about a tsunami alert resulting from a major earthquake on the island of Lombok. Initially, we feared for Field Trip, tied to a mooring ball off an island on the southwestern tip of Lombok. But after sending a quick email to the marina, we received a response that everything in that area was fine. It was the north side of Lombok that had undergone catastrophic damage.

On our way to Komodo, we decided to anchor in a bay near the effected area. As we walked along the streets that afternoon, the remnants of the disaster were evident everywhere. Many of the buildings, made from local cement blocks, had literally crumbled to the ground, reduced to heaps of gravel and dust. The flapping and clanging of makeshift lean-to shelters haphazardly constructed of tarp or corrugated tin punctuated the otherwise quiet that settled over the town. The quiet. That was what spoke loudest of the devastation. These Indonesian people who were normally so energetic and jovial, instead shuffled along with slumped shoulders and blank stares, discouragement hung like a heavy weight around their necks.
Michael broke the silence, “Mom, its so solemn here.” Yes. That was exactly the word. Solemn.

We spoke to many of the men sitting around the cement dock and learned that nearly all of them had lost their homes, and the throngs of tourists they depended on for their livelihood had vanished, fearful of the reoccurrence of another quake. Many of the gardens had been destroyed, loiters threatened to steal what little anyone had left, and the water was just beginning to be clean enough to drink again. It was not only the land that had been shaken, the spirits of its people had been shaken as well. Everyone seemed, in some way, to be holding their breath, waiting for another tremor. One man told me about how frightened his children were and asked, “What can I tell them?”
On our drive into town, street-side village after street-side village showed the same damage - piles of dusty rubble where houses and businesses had once stood. But something struck me as we continued passing these communities. Yes, there was devastation, but still an underlying strength pressed through. Determination and unity emerged as I observed signs of them beginning to rebuild. An old woman sorted through the mess to find any bricks that were still intact. A young boy moved a wheelbarrow full of rubble. In one village, the teenagers had tied a line from one tree to another and were laughing and playing a game of volleyball with the smaller children - offering joy and distraction and hope.


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