Day 88, Year 3: Farewell to Kupang
Date: Hari Selasa (Tuesday), Bulan Agustus 5, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Sunny with No Wind . . . Again
Latitude: 09 degrees 44.211 minutes S
Longitude: 123 degrees 36.480 minutes E
Location: Overnight Passage from Kupang, West Timor to Kalabahi, Alor
Kupang Harbor always seems to have way too much wind, but the minute we were clear of the harbor the wind just died. So once again we are motoring. We will travel about 130 miles to the northeast to reach the island of Alor tomorrow. For the next month, we will be traveling in the province of Nusa Tengarra. Alor is one of the eastern islands in the province. We will island hop from east to west from Alor to Pantar, Kawula (also known as Lomblen and Lembata), Adonara, Flores, Rinja, Komodo, Sumbawa, and finally to Lombok. We exit Nusa Tengarra in Lombok and head from there to Bali and Java. We had a wonderful introduction to Indonesia during our stay in Kupang and we are looking forward to traveling through these islands. I don’t think I ever really understood the geography of this part of the world until this past week when we started seriously planning our route. According to the Lonely Planet, Indonesia is made up of 17,508 islands that are home to 242 million people. It is the world’s fourth most populous nation after China, India, and the United States. So we have lots of places to go and people to meet!
Day 87, Year 3: Free At Last
Date: Hari Senin (Monday), Bulan Agustus 4, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: No Change – Still Sunny and Windy
Location: Kupang, W Timor, Indonesia
Customs came to Windbird today to rip off the impoundment sticker, so we are now free to leave. Unfortunately, Customs came while we had guests onboard and it was very busy. Mark had gone to shore earlier to pick up Cece, the young university student who has been a guide for us over the past few days, her mother Elisabeth, and a young man named Alex. They had no sooner arrived than Alex and Cece got a bit seasick, so Mark had to take the Customs agent, and our guests back to shore very quickly. We felt so badly that it was so rough this morning, but the Kupang anchorage is just that way.
We spent most of the rest of the day onshore today. We finally broke down and bought a cell phone. I think we might be the only boat out here without one. It was when Joe on Rendezvous Cay told us that people from the US could call us via Skype on their computers at very little cost that we decided to do this. For the next two months we will have no internet, so our only contact would have been via email. Now the cell phone gives us another possibility.
It is now after sundown and we are still onshore, so I will send this log via internet rather than HAM email. We will have dinner and then head back to Windbird to get ready to leave in the morning. We have had an incredible experience here and look forward to the rest of Indonesia.
Day 86, Year 3: Sasandos and the Welcome of All Welcomes
Date: Hari Minggo (Sunday), Bulan Agustus 3, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Still Sunny and Windy
Location: Kupang, W Timor, Indonesia
We now believe it when we are told that this trip through Indonesia just gets better and better and because each island and each village where we will have official rally stops along the way work very hard to outdo the one before. So we thought we had been given the ultimate royal treatment yesterday in None and Boti, but today hundreds of locals came out to give us a traditional welcome at Nefokouk Lake. It was overwhelming.
Our day started with a visit to the Oebelo to a sansando workshop run by Pak Pah and his family. The sasando is an twenty-stringed instrument made from a fan-shaped palm leaf that forms the cup-shaped body that is about eighteen inches across, two feet tall, and about a foot deep. A bamboo pole is run down the middle of this and the twenty strings run from the top of the bamboo pole down to the base of the instrument. The young man who played this for us just wrapped his hands around the base of the pole and his fingers gently plucked the strings producing a beautiful sound. This instrument is played just like the kora and our son learned to play in the Gambia in western Africa. The two instruments also produce a similar sound, but are made from very different materials. The kora is made from half of a huge hollowed out calabash gourd that is covered with a goat skin with a wooden pole with the twenty-one strings run down into the top of the instrument. This instrument along with the lontar-leaf hats (ti’i langga) worn by those at the workshop come from the nearby island of Rote. Once we were treated to the traditional music the young sasando player launched into a country and western format. And at the top was one of my favorites, John Denver’s “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” which they sang in English. When they finished, I ran up to tell them that I am from West Virginia and they were delighted. From Oebelo we went just a bit further up the highway to see the Oesau war memorial dedicated to an Australian Infantry Battalion. And from there we backtracked a bit to a pastry shop to sample cucur (sweet pastry). Here the blaring music was of the Willie Nelson variety. Mark and I started dancing to the one of the songs, and then others joined in until we had everyone dancing. We learned some of the local steps and they learned some of ours.
We were then told that we were going to see traditional dancing, and we drove and drove and drove back up into the mountains. Soon we began to notice that the road was lined on both sides with colorful flags and everyone was once again out to wave to us as we drove by. When we reached the end of the road, we got out of the buses and we were immediately greeted with traditional dancers and hundreds of locals dressed in traditional dress. Many of us were given scarves as part of the welcome and I was one of the lucky ones today. There were policemen posted around us crowd control and as the dancers faced us and backed up slowly, dancing all the way, we were led to Nefokouk Lake. The local dancers then joined hands in a circle and slowly took the hands of the visitors until we were all dancing to the traditional music. The welcome ceremony ended and the local people rushed to meet us and shake our hands. We were led to another venue where we feasted for lunch and watched more traditional dancing. Once again we were pulled into the action and an older woman chose me and taught me the traditional steps. One of the steps requires that you slowly bend your knees until you are almost sitting on the ground while doing particular hand motions and then rise slowly. I had to do this over and over with her and was sure my knees were not going to hold out, but thankfully the gods intervened and I made it. We had a beautiful walk along the shores of serene Nefokouk Lake where our guide, Cece, told us the history of the place. At one time a huge crocodile lived in the lake but it was killed and buried under a big tree at the edge of the lake. There was more to the story, but I’m not sure I understood it correctly. But today locals sit on bamboo platforms over the water and fish. You are not supposed to swim in the water as it is now a sacred place. But the important thing here was not the history, but the warm welcome we received by the local people. The governor of the province was there and before we left, we each went to thank him and have our picture taken with him. I’m not sure it can get any better than this, but that will have to await judgment until we reach the next rally venue.
In the evening we were treated to another dinner feast by the mayor of Kupang. Every single cruiser was given an ikat woven scarf and we were treated to more traditional dancing and music. It was quite a gala affair enjoyed by all.
Tomorrow we have a bit of down time before heading out of Kupang on Tuesday. We have been promised that Customs will come tear off the impoundment sticker in the morning and we will be free once again.
Day 85, Year 3: Day Trip Inland To Traditional Villages
Date: Hari Sabtu (Saturday), Bulan Agustus 2, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Still Sunny and Windy
Location: Kupang, W Timor, Indonesia
Today’s trip took us inland about halfway from Kupang to the East Timor border, and then we headed through the mountains on the southern coast to two wonderful traditional villages. This trip was free for all Sail Indonesia participants, so by 7:30 am many of us piled into the waiting bemos and took off with police escort. We first visited a village called None (no-nay) where we were greeted by villagers wearing their traditional clothing of ikat woven cloth. This is a heavy cloth made from locally grown cotton and died with natural dies. The patterns are intricate and the colors are fantastic. The men and women both wear a huge sarong wrapped around them as a long skirt. Narrow pieces of cloth are worn over the shoulder (shawls) and another narrow piece is worn by the men wrapped around their heads. Timorese people are petite and graceful and their music and dancing are mesmerizing. We were formally greeted and a representative of each country was asked to step forward and receive a scarf (the narrow woven piece) as a token of friendship and welcome. We then watched the dancing and when that ended, we walked to an area where the women were carding and hand spinning the cotton, and where others were doing the weaving. It was fascinating to watch. Most of the women were young and had their babies and toddlers sitting in their laps or at their feet watching them work. There were woven pieces for sale and we couldn’t resist buying a couple of the scarves.
With one comfort stop for more than a hundred people, the first stop was about four and half hours out of Kupang. After our stop at None, we traveled another hour on VERY a very steep mountain road with unbelievable hairpin turns going up and down and up and down. The views were phenomenal but it was a harrowing ride. Along the way there were traditional homes perched on ledges with million dollar views and almost everyone living along the road was out to greet us. The children waved and when we waved back they squealed with delight. There were at least ten bemos flying past them and for them it was a parade. The last twelve kilometers of road were unpaved and very rocky. The conditions got even steeper and we truly wondered if we would ever be able to climb out way back out. But when we arrived in Boti, we forgot about all the travel travails and enjoyed the welcoming villagers. The kepala suku (chief) is called Benu and when he took over as leader from his father in 2005 he vowed to keep his villagers following the laws of adat (animist beliefs). We were once again welcomed, but this time every visitor was presented with a scarf or shawl. Boti is one the only places left in Timor where men let their hair grow long, but his only happens after they are married. We witnessed a hair cutting ceremony today where a beautiful little two year-old boy’s head was shaved and a pig was then sacrificed in his honor. There were blessing bestowed upon us by the chief or rajah and then we were led through the village to his home where a luncheon feast awaited us. Before we left, there were ceremonies to bless our journey home and then we headed back to Kupang. We had a comfort stop in Soe (Sew-ay) on the way home where were treated to a boxed snack and there was one last stop in a town called Batubuti. Traffic was stopped while we witnessed more blessings as we were exiting the Soe province of West Timor. There was dancing and gamelon music and then back to the bus for another boxed treat which was dinner. It was almost 10 pm when we got back to Sail Indonesia headquarters. We were tired but our heads and hearts were filled with wonderful memories. And we thank the government of West Timor for today’s wonderful treat.
Tomorrow we go on a paid tour back out the same road to Soe, but this time we will only have to travel an hour to reach our destination of Oebelo. Here we will visit a workshop were sasandos are made by Pak Pah and his family. These are 20-stringed instruments originating from the island of Rote, just across the pass from Kupang.
Day 84, Year 3: Crumbling, Bustling Kupang
Date: Hari Jumat (Friday), Bulan Agustus 1, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Sunny and Windy
Location: Kupang, W Timor, Indonesia
We actually got out about the city today and what an experience. The streets are fairly narrow and there are just hundreds of motor bikes and mini-van (bemos) flying everywhere honking their horns constantly. And the horns don’t just honk, they have some sort of repeating sound system that I think would drive me crazy if I had to live here and listen to it constantly. The waterfront is decorated with flags but when you look past the decoration, you see the crumbling concrete. It looks as if all the buildings along the shore could easily fall into the ocean with just a little push.
After checking in with the Harbormaster and completing our Quarantine process we headed to out of the Sail Indonesia headquarters area and tried as hard as we could to also escape all of the wanna be guides. We really just wanted to walk around the city and see the sights without assistance. But no sooner than we headed up the street, a young man approached us and followed us for a while. We walked faster and he lagged behind, so we thought we had made it. But then an older gentleman who didn’t speak much English started tagging along. We explored a part of the city away from the waterfront and saw lots of uniformed school children who squealed with delight when we greeted them with “Selamat Siang.” We stopped to have a cold drink and our tag-along guide enjoyed a Coke with us. We then walked back toward the waterfront and visited L’Avalon, a really rickedy looking shack by the sea with an owner that is quite knowledgeable about all of Nusa Tengarra. We had read about Edwin in the Lonely Planet and we just wanted to meet him while in that part of town. He has a great website and pointed out some of the beautiful spots on upcoming islands that we should not miss. We then continued down the main street back toward the Sail Indonesia area. We were looking for locks and finally found them in one of the street cart “stores.” After haggling a bit over the price, we successfully purchased eight locks that a little smaller than we wanted, but they will do. I wanted to stop in a fabric shop and look at some the beautiful material, but unfortunately we had not brought enough money to shore with us. We had lunch back at Teddy’s Bar and made a decision to go back up the main street to the bank where we had withdrawn money just yesterday and get seven million more. I love these Indonesian Rupiahs. They make you feel so rich talking about withdrawing millions. Unfortunately, the millions don’t go very far.
We came back to Windbird, after getting soaking wet trying to get the dinghy away from shore in the pounding surf, and in just a bit we will try to return to shore to go to the official welcome dinner. The surf is still running pretty hard against the shore, so most of us out here on our boats are having to wait longer than we hoped to go back in. Someone earlier today actually flipped their dinghy and we are not interested in that kind of activity. Tomorrow we leave by 7 am for our trip inland to Boti village. A young man we met today from Boti told us that it is a very long trip and that we should take headsets to listen to music, lots of mosquito repellent, and at least two memory cards for the camera as there will lots of photo opportunities.
There will be an announcement tomorrow morning about the political situation in which we have found ourselves. We were told late yesterday that an agreement has been reached, but the details are still forthcoming. We think we will be free to leave here by Monday, but I think we are going to need a day of rest before we head out. Evidently there is great internet here but we haven’t had a chance to use it. Somehow we have once again kept ourselves just too busy.
Day 83, Year 3: Tidak Apa-Apa (No Worries)
Date: Hari Kamis (Thursday), Bulan Juli 31, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Partly Cloudy and Too Much Wind
Location: Kupang, W Timor, Indonesia
The day starts early here with fishing boats plying through the anchorage before dawn and the mosque’s 4:30 am call to prayers. And that the radio traffic starts. Everyone has questions but there are no answers because “we are in Indonesia now.” At least that is what the rally organizers keep saying on the radio. The concept of time as we know it is just not practiced here. Indonesians wear watches but only for looks. The phrase here of “Jam Karet” is translated as rubber time and we have to learn to live this way while here. I don’t know how to say “chill out” in Indonesian, but that is what needs to happen here. The Australian “No worries, mate” is now “Tidak apa-apa.”
So while we were not worrying today the anchorage became real-life bumper car ride. In the early afternoon the winds became wicked and as the tide came in it was like we were in boiling cauldron. Boats started dragging everywhere. And of course, no one was on the boats that were dragging. The cruiser call went out and dinghies converged on the dragging boats and got them under control. This went on for more than an hour and then things calmed just a bit and no more boats were free floating. Mark and I needed to go into town to withdraw money from the bank, so we asked the boat next door to look after Windbird while we were gone. We found a guide that could walk to the bank with us and interpret if there were issues with the withdrawal. Cece (cheche) was our guide and she teaches English to students in junior and senior high school. She hopes to come to the United States to teach English to Indonesians. She became an instant soul mate and we hope to be able to bring her out to the boat when the winds calm down. She really wanted to see what a cruising boat looks like inside.
On our way back to Windbird we were going to stop by Rendezvous Cay to ask about their fuel delivery today. Mark had made arrangements with the same guy delivering fuel to Rendezvous Cay to also deliver to our boat. But when we got there, Marko was just leaving and he motioned for us to come to him. We paid him 3 million 900,000 Rupiah (about $460US) right on the spot and he promised to deliver 550 liters of diesel to our boat ASAP. Well, ASAP isn’t in the language here, but Marko said he would see us soon. This is business as usual in Indonesia. It wasn’t long until he arrived and then the true chaos began. Marko had obviously had a little too much to drink during the day and was a little just a little boisterous, but then this is what you get when you contract for services out of the main stream. If we had arranged for fuel through normal channels we would have paid almost twice this amount, so we just enjoyed Marko’s colorful character and chalked this one up as just one more interesting local experience.
Our evening was also just one more interesting local experience. We went to shore to have dinner and we were met by one of the young university guides that really wanted to take us to a great restaurant. We got in one of the bemos (small mini-van buses) and drove for what seemed like forever to a nice restaurant that ended up costing us much more than it should have. Plus we had to pay for the guide, but the amount we paid will go for his education so we couldn’t feel too bad about that. The bemo ride was quite an experience and made the whole evening worth it for me. When we returned to the waterfront, we stopped by the seaside bar to have a drink and watch some traditional dancing. The women wear the most incredible costumes made of the locally woven material. We also got to watch the men get into the act. They performed a dance where the object was to pick up the equivalent of a dollar bill with the mouth by bending down without letting knees touch the ground, all the while dancing. It was great fun.
We still have no word about when we can remove the impoundment sticker, but “Tidak apa-apa.” Tomorrow we will finish the check-in process and spend some time ashore exploring Kupang.