Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nembrala, Roti

September 6, 2007
coordinates 10.52.980S,122.49.121E
Nembrala, Roti East Nusa Tenggara

We have found a little piece of heaven here in Indonesia. The absolute opposite to Kupang in a little anchorage called Nembrala on the island of Roti. After a most pleasant overnight sail from Kupang we drifted into the anchorage to find our pals on Luna and Pelikaan holding our place here. Of course they were already out surfing on one of 3 breaks that would keep us entertained for the next week. We dropped the hook and were out on our boards before the boat had settled. The swell was up and
all 3 breaks were going off consistently so you had your choice of sessions, sunrise to sunset. Everyone had a great time and at the very least got some great exercise.

Shore side was the next surprise. The town was more developed than we had imagined with a paved road but still remote, clean and quiet. Most homes consist of a surprisingly large concrete building with a few rooms and lovely paned windows and many smaller thatched huts behind. The bathrooms or waysays often have a large tub of water that is only used by scooping out the water with a cup and pouring it over yourself for a shower or down the toilet. Many of the homes here are also "losemen" or
homestays like a hostel and for only $3-5/day you will be well cared for and 3 warm meals. Goats and pigs walk freely about the town and though we could never tell, I am sure the owners know who belongs to whom. Many homes also make crafts such as jewelry and ikat, a hand woven cloth where each strand of thread is dyed first and then the design woven into place. We did quickly discover that they have a sales technique we hadn't yet encountered. They simply board your boat ready or not. They
are always very pleasant and happy to just sit and stay a while, even if you are not purchasing. Happy to go eventually and never seemingly offended. The first true Indonesian phrase we have learned though is Thank You, I Don't Want It - say it with me, "Terima kasih, Tidak mau" - very good!

The only true noise to be heard around the island is the "tuk tuk tuk" sound that their colorful and diverse fishing vessels make as they pass by morning and night. They head out each evening to begin their fishing and "tuk tuk tuk" back in each morning with the sun for some sleep. The smaller vessels are a marvel at how they even float first for being so narrow and tippy looking, secondly for holding so many men. How they maneuver and fish is a wonder. The larger vessels are a combination of
gigantic outriggers held together with a weave of lines that could equal any suspension bridge. Despite all this fishing going on though, we never saw any fish to eat at the market aside from the piles of dried sardines.

What they do have on shore are seaweed farms. Low lying mesh fences staked into the grounds like a garden that sit under water in everything but the lowest tides. They grow this plump twig like sea weed that they collect daily. As soon as high tide turns to head out the women are out there to collect pieces that start to wash up to shore. As low tide emerges, they spend hours of bent over back breaking work collecting this green crop and placing it into 2 large mesh bags that they then carry
over their shoulders with a long stick, yoke style. Once it is cleaned up, it is laid out to dry on large tables of palm leaves. For their efforts, they receive 15,000 rupiah per kilogram. That is less than $2.00 a bag for you and me at home. Their water is retrieved in much the same fashion from fresh water wells around the island, double bucket yoke style. I mention this because this is the woman's job around here. Never did we see men carrying either. All this back breaking work leads to
lot of sweet little old women hunched over and in a fair amount of pain we imagine. Well if Vanuatu and Fiji had their kava to forget their woes and ease their pains, Indonesia has their betel nut.

Evident by their red stained lips, teeth and gums, betel nut, or sirih pinang is a combination of 3 parts of the betel palm tree. The green stalk looks remotely like a limp green bean with a funny texture, the nut looks like a tiny immature coconut seed and the lime, a white powdery substance. Combine all three in your mouth often with a bit of shredded looking tobacco, chew like a mad man and you will eventually have a mild stimulant like effect of nicotine, and a mouth full of red spit, which
of course ends up on the ground. Watch where you step. The market in town holds as many piles of this for sale as any other product or produce available.

Two perfect weeks quickly passed right under our noses here in this little paradise. The kids all enjoyed afternoons of body surfing and sand castle building. They even managed to get the local kids to finally break down and join them. Always eager for a photo opportunity they were a little more hesitant to actually join in the play. The adults enjoyed the occasional drink at the local hut on shore to watch the sun set. We placed our orders for fresh bread and somewhat begrudgingly pulled anchor
to find our next adventure. We are all heading north to the islands of Rinca and Komodo, as the name suggests, in search of dragons. We'll let you know what we find.
until next time,
Selamat tinggal,
your crew on Ohana Kai

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kupang, West Timor

August 23, 2007
coordinates 10.09.600S,132.34.533E
Kupang, West Timor, Indonesia
Selamat Pagi,

We entered Indonesia last week through the port of Kupang in West Timor. It was a little sad to see the bread crumbs of litter that led us into the bay and to the anchorage. You can hear horns honking from shore to the boat, it is a form of communication that they have mastered. The city itself is crowded, dirty and extremely noisy but with all that buzz comes it's own excitement. At the boat we were greeted by a young man named On who was to be our guide the next day and help us navigate the
system. Let's just say he is worth his weight in gold. For starters, we had reset our clocks incorrectly to the new time zone and showed up an hour early, at 6:30 am on shore, and there he was. To kill the time before Immigration and Quarantine offices opened up, he helped us to learn how to navigate the buses (bemos) and hop an early morning ride on the back of his friends scooters to visit an abandoned money zoo of sorts. There is nothing like sitting 3 people deep, on tiny scooters, with the
wind in your hair, at 7am through the streets of Kupang to visit monkeys! An amazing experience while we sat there for a couple of hours and fed them corn kernels, some brave enough to take it from our hands.

Once we cleared customs, On continued to help us navigate no less that 9 of these buses, which by all purposes are interesting sized and shaped mini van, in which you sit sideways on a long bench, bent over if you are any taller than Lisa, with 10-12 of your closest Indonesian friends, all the while trying to keep your ears from bleeding due the techno beat that is shaking you to the core. Heaven forbid the bemo next to you is playing louder music, your bemo will only match the cacophony. We have
entered the land of smiles though and your neighbor sitting next to you is always eager to share a grin, maybe a "Halo Mister, halo misses", and for the boys a good pinch or stroke of the hair. They can't keep their hands off the boys fair bodies. Too make them feel better about it we made it a game that each time someone touches them they are giving off good luck. They are not really buying it but tolerating it still.

On took us to the market where we tried our hand at getting the hang of the new exchange rate. With an exchange rate of approx. 20,000 Indonesian Rupiahs to $1 Australian dollar, it is hard to wrap your brain around paying $15,000 for a plate of food. Even stranger to think that we have entered this country with billions of their dollars and yet everything is so inexpensive. We are quickly getting the hang of their language, which right off the back was a fun challenge when there are 5 or more
different ways to say hello depending on where the sun hangs in the sky at the time of your greeting. We thought we were really doing well when a man patted the boys and said "Bagus, Lucky". We understood him and in all our wisdom, we replied, Yes, we do have good boys and we are lucky. "Bagus" we knew to mean good but later while reviewing my book I found the word "Laki" pronounced "lucky" which actually means "son". Well, we were close.

A full day in town and our host made it known to us that the Customs agents were reportedly heading toward the anchorage and were told we should make haste out of there. There have been some boats stuck with expensive and unnecessary fines for checking into the country or else head back to Australia. Instead we were told to check into Bali when we arrive. Don't have to tell us twice and by sunset we were on our way to our next destination in the East Nusa Tenggara Islands Chain, Nembrala, Roti.
until next time
your crew on Ohana Kai