Thursday, November 20, 2014


As promised, we began the approach to Sorong around 10 o'clock on Sunday morning. We had been sailing for 9 days and this would be the Manta Mae's final port of call for this trip. Here the boat would anchor for more than a week as it waited for it's owner to arrive from Europe. The crew, in shifts, would fly home for a few days each, leaving someone always on board to keep an eye on things.

The entrance to the harbor was dominated by a rock island with a lighthouse.

Beyond the lighthouse lay a large and congested harbor. Freighters, tankers, cargo and fishing boats, quite a few dive boats much like the one we had been living, on were anchored in the harbor or tied up to the piers fronting what appeared to be a bustling port city.

The air was thick with haze as we entered the harbor and dropped anchor squarely between the busy waterfront of Sorong and a smaller island on the opposite side of the harbor. I later learned that the name of this island was "Doom". We would visit Doom later in the day.

We also learned that this was as far as we were going. I think we all had been under the impression that we would be sailing into the exotic marine preserve of Raja Ampat... another 2 hour ride away by "fast boat". Hmmmm...  A short time after anchoring, we were boarded by some friends of the crew members, in port and working on other boats anchored in the harbor. One of these friends told us we could take a small, fast boat from the docks of Sorong to Waiego Island, the largest land mass in Raja Ampat. These ferries ran twice daily from Sorong to Waisai, the capitol of Waiego.

We quickly made plans to catch the ferry to Waisai for a day excursion the following morning. Later, we talked Nikko into taking us to shore on Doom Island to do a bit of exploring. From the boat, Doom looked more primitive & rough than Sorong... a couple of large old buildings, a large mosque and some small homes lining the shore. 

We disembarked from the zodiac and entered the marketplace for Doom. There was little activity and only a few shopkeepers there to ply their goods. We later found that even though there was a big mosque on the shore, the island was mostly christian, no doubt due to early Portuguese or Dutch influence, and most businesses took the day off on Sunday.

The occupants of the village seemed to be out for a lazy Sunday stroll or were pedaled around on brightly colored pedicabs know as becaks. The sun and heat were brutal at midday so we wandered into the cool shade of the market for some relief and to have a look around.

 Later we wandered away from the market and down a small lane dotted with brightly painted houses running along the waterfront.

At the far end of this lane, the homes became decidedly rougher in appearance, wooden structures up on stilts jutting out over the water's edge.

Children played in the shade along the lane or at the water's edge. After an hour or so of walking, being given a tour of the local cemetery and chatting with a few of the locals, we decided to turn around and walk back to the docks fronting the market and catch the dinghy back to the boat and then check out the other side of the harbor... the town of Sorong.

Sorong appeared to be much like any other bustling asian seaport town, a cluster of buildings along the waterfront, the ubiquitous mosque or three and whatever else a town depended on ship and cargo traffic thru it's port might need. We did learn that there was a supermarket nearby the docks... a KFC too! So Nikko dropped us off at the docks and we walked almost a kilometer to the supermarket alongside a relatively modern highway along in a relatively modern city. We learned that there were several hotels, the best being a Le Meridian. There was an incredibly efficient and cheap system of public transportation by bemo... small minivans painted bright yellow and constantly moving back and forth, up and down the highway, picking up passengers and depositing others, virtually anywhere they were seen or needed to stop... all for the equivalent of far less than a dollar. There were hundreds of them and they were everywhere.

At the supermarket, we were very happy to find fresh baked goods. We had eaten no bread or pastries for over a week now and we loaded up on almond flavored treats, more fruit and bananas and other snacks. Another giant KFC was attached to the building but we decided against it even though we were tiring of fish.

Comparing our purchases, we opted to return to the docks by bemo and were met by Nikko and the zodiac and quickly ferried back to the Manta Mae.

That evening, we agreed to rise early and catch the 9am ferry to Waisai and have our first look at Raja Ampat.

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