The scale of Indonesia

Street food for supper
Street food for supper

Like French Polynesia, Indonesia is an island nation spread over thousands of miles, 3000 nm east to west and 1200 nm north to south, just its bigger. There are apparently over 13,000 islands making this the world’s largest archipelago, 3000 of which are considered large islands. Some of the largest like Borneo (part of which is the Indonesian state of Kalimantan) have lengthy rivers navigable for many miles inland.

The archipelago lies mostly between the Equator (how long ago is it since we crossed that?) and ten degrees south, the climate dictated by the monsoons or winds – the dry North East originating from the Asian continental high over Siberia (actually NW below the Equator due to the coriolis effect) from December to March and the wetter South West winds that are driven by the Himalayan low (below the Equator these are our old friends the SE Trades) from June to September. The periods in between are known as the transitional periods whose wet and thundery weather we know only too well from Singapore.


Refueling in Kupang - with help from Napa, Bobby and friend
Refueling in Kupang – with help from Napa, Bobby and friend

The population is around 190 million, which includes the largest Muslim population on the planet, yet the government is secular, the three million population of Bali is mainly Hindu or Buddhist and the eastern islands mostly Christian. The Portuguese arrived in the eastern “Spice Islands” in the sixteenth century followed by the Dutch East India company who established a base in Java a hundred years or so later. The British were here too but in what has been described as an “astute” transaction swapped their holdings for Manhattan! Full independence from the Dutch was achieved after WWII.
To make statements about piracy or political unrest in these islands is to make the broad and mistaken assumption of a continental dweller. The country is so vast and so varying that what goes in one place doesn’t in another. Yes there are areas where cruising yachts may endanger their crew, currently the north east close to both Papua New Guinea and the Philippines is considered no go, and yes there have been terrorist bombs in places like the tourist hotspots of Bali and the capital Jakarta but the scale of Indonesia means there are plenty of islands that welcome sailing boats and even places where the local inhabitants see very few westerners. A life time of sailing won’t enable a yachtie to visit anywhere near all of Indonesia, all we can hope for is a taste as we pass through. As always Temptress keeps an eye on the FCO website and on current news when planning and travelling our route.