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.

080803 Day 86 W Timor, Indonesia–Oebelo & Nefokouk Lake
080803 Day 86 W Timor, Indonesia–Kupang Mayor's Offical Welcome Dinner
Day 87, Year 3: Free At Last
Day 85, Year 3: Day Trip Inland To Traditional Villages