After three days and nights, we anchored in the Santubong River, along with about 20 - 30 other rally boats. We were about 35km from Kuching, so had to organise a hire bus to get into town to deal with the paperwork.
Fri 9th July - Sun 11th July The main reason for being here was the "Rainforest World Music Festival" which was held at the Cultural Village site, a few km's from Santubong. The rally organisers had ordered tickets for us, but we had to get to the office by 4pm and pay cash for our tickets.
Transport was a bit of a shambles as our mini-bus could only take us a part of the way; we had to get another bus from the roadblock.
The program for the Festival ran for 3 days, with workshops held in some of the longhouses during the afternoon and the main performances beginning at 7pm. There were two stages, the bigger one for the major acts, and a smaller one alongside for the lesser acts.
The general consensus was that the workshops were the highlight of the festival. These had titles such as 'Fiddling Around' for fiddlers of various persuasions from the many groups. Others were 'Happy Feet' for dancers, 'Sticking their Necks Out' for guitarists, 'Its in the Bag' for bagpipers, 'Striking Performers' for percussionists. There were three sessions running concurrently so choices had to be made - some were exceedingly popular and it was hard to get in. The format was usually like this: the leader would introduce each player who would talk briefly about their instrument, then give a small sample of their playing. After this, the leader would kick off with a beat or melody, and the others would join in for a great jam session. Some of these were spectacular and indeed better than the performances of the various groups.
The first night's performance was marred by some rain mid-way through the night. We were under cover so weren't too worried by it. Many of the crowd in front of the stage weren't worried either, they just danced on in the fetlock-deep mud. The second night we went back to the same spot, but as the night wore on, too many punters came in, buying beer and generally drowning out the performers. The third night, we moved to a food tent near a big screen and sat there at least able to see and hear, while the rain poured down.
Highlight performers were: Ensemble Shanbehzadeh (Iran), Leila Negrau (Reunion Island) Musafir Gypsies of Rajastan. Less well received were the Bisserov Sisters (Bulgaria) with their open-throat singing. Other acts were: Debu (Indonesia), Layatharanga (India), Reelroad'b (Russia), Watussi (Cobumbia/Australia), Minuit Guibolles (France), Farafina (Burkina Faso) Pingasan'k (Malaysia) Yerboli (P.R.China) Novalima (Peru) Bakih (Malaysia), I Beddi (Italy), Kimura Ono Duo (Japan), Braagas (Czech Republic), Monster Ceilidh Band (UK), Bakir (Malaysia), De Temps Antan (Canada) and Galandum Galundaina (Portugal).
Following the festial, we were taken to the Orang-utans Sanctuary outside Kuching. Here we saw many orang-utans, but at a distance - we were kept well behind barricades, unlike in Kumai where we were able to walk with them.
Paul had a birthday on the 15th, celebrated the previous night at the local Chinese seafood restaurant with the rest of the rally crowd. Next morning, we were on our way east towards the Rajang River mouth. This was a day hop of about 40 NM so we arrived in the late afternoon. The Rajang River is huge, and 200m ships were travelling up and down to the city of Sibu. We considered going up the river next morning, but the tide was against us, and it was raining, so we decided to give it a miss. One of the hazards of the rivers is the number of sizeable logs that float down; they can cause serious damage to a yacht.
Our target was Miri, the starting point for the Borneo International Yacht Challenge. The marina wasn't taking bookings; 'first come, first served basis', so we wanted to get there early to secure a berth. It took 3 overnight stops to get to Miri, motoring all the way (210NM). While en route It looked like Danny was making oil, not using it, and the waterpump was leaking when we were stopped. I wanted to get these fixed and therefore we wouldn't go in the race. Another factor was that Sutera marina ar KK also wouldn't take a booking. We were planning to go off to France and wanted to leave Meridian in a secure location. We were advised that Miri was much better than KK, and we were assured of a berth after the race fleet had departed.
We wanted to go to KK to take part in the Rally concluding events, so put a "Crew Available" notice in the window. Soon we had the offer of a ride on "Truest passion" with Stuart and Nanette. T.P. is a Seawind 1160, and both Stuart and Nanette are keen racers. They accepted our relative inexperience with racing cats, and were keen to have extra on board as some of the races were overnighters.
The BIYC had a welcoming dinner and prizegiving dinner in Miri, a welcoming/prize giving dinner in Labuan, and a welcoming and prize giving dinners in KK. The first race off Miri was boistrous and we managed to get a second place for our class. Next was a race to Labuan which took many hours because the wind died. Eventually Stuart fired up the engines and we finished about 3am, then had about 10 NM to go to the marina. After the dinner the next race to KK started at 11am, after the nice morning breeze had died. We had mixed winds but were making good progress until about 11pm when the wind died completely and we were stopped. Stuart steadfastly refused to start the engines because no matter where we finished, if we were the only ones without engine assistance we would win. For hours we drifted, even going backwards at times. We finally finished at 6:30am. In the event, the winner in our class hadn't used his engines, but being bigger and faster, managed to keep some wind. A couple of races out of KK finished the regatta; we finished with a first, a couple of seconds and thirds.
The dinner which was in a spectacular setting, we were entertained by various cultural acts before the prize-giving by the Minister for Tourist (and a few other portfolios).
Next morning we caught a plane back to Miri to start packing for France!!