Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lembata

We sailed from West Timor to the Island of Lembata and anchored the first night in a quiet bay near the village of Lamalera where they still hunt whales using tiny boats and spears. The water was crystal clear so it wasn’t long before we were in the dinghy and off to the reef for a snorkel. The coral was decent but the highlight was sighting a Giant Moray Eel (it wasn’t giant in size…that is just it’s name) and the next day I saw a Blackspotted Puffer fish (which has a face like a baby seal).

After a couple days, we headed further up the island of Lembata to the small town of Leweloba. We loved it! The people were very poor but so excited to see tourists. There is very little tourism in this area of Indonesia so we were just as much a novelty to them as they were to us. People wanted us to take their pictures which was funny because they didn’t have cameras so we just took their picture then showed them the photo on our camera. As we walked down the street we heard many shouts of “Hello Mister” and “Hello Missis”. In most cases, that was the extent of their English.

On one of our walks downtown, Steve noticed a large crowd of men jockeying for position on the side of the road. When he elbowed his way into the group, he saw two men with sacks of live snakes that looked like cobras. The men were cooking the snakes and selling the juice in little bottles.

The shops were simply tin shacks but pretty much anything we wanted to buy was available somewhere in town when we looked hard enough. Fuel was a bit of a problem. All day, every day there was a line up of a hundred motorcycles at the fuel shack. We don’t quite understand whether the fuel was rationed or if it just took a long time to dispense from the big barrels it is delivered in but the price was reasonable…only 8,000 Rupia/litre ($1 Cdn). Luckily we were able to buy the fuel we needed easier at the port.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, we took an Ojek ride out into the country to the rural market. Ojeks are small motorcycles for hire. The poverty outside the town was quite sad but again the people were extremely friendly and happy to see us. Bartering in the market was quite a challenge but with the help of a phrase book and lots of hand language, we managed to buy everything we needed. Strangely, there was one stall with oranges that we wanted to buy but the lady refused to sell them to us and we couldn’t understand why.

The anchorage at Leweloba is very calm and protected with a spectacular view of a volcano which continually has a puff rising out of the peak. There are small huts built on stilts along the water’s edge and inland from them is the town which is predominately Catholic. Somewhere in town, there is a mosque which woke us up at 4:30 am every morning with chanting. The chanting was repeated several times a day which we quite enjoyed but we could do without the early wake up call.

In the evenings, many small fishing boats made their way through the fleet of anchored sailboats on their way out to catch some fish. They have the loudest engines you can imagine. When sailing at night, we could hear them long before we could see them since they were often unlit. Unfortunately, one of our friends, was sailing at night and hit one of them. Luckily there was only a small amount of damage to both boats.

Another one of our friends had been quite sick since Kupang and finally visited a doctor when he arrived in Leweloba. He had Malaria. The doctor gave him some medication and within two days he was starting to feel better. (Not totally recovered by any means but he was on the mend). We have been taking our anti-malarial medication regularly and using mosquito lotion. So far, so good. We are a little droopy from the heat but otherwise feel great.

We took a bus trip to a nearby fishing village called Lewellein. It was only 20 km away but it took almost 2 hours because the roads are so bad. The village put on a show of dancing and demonstrated their daily life including Ikat weaving. The highlight for us was the fish catching ceremony. We were standing on the beach along with hundreds of the local people. A couple men waded into the water and put a net in a semi circle about 100 feet off the beach. Then on cue, the entire village ran into the sea screaming and caught the small fish that were trapped within the semi-circle of the net. The fish were about the size of sardines. The women held the fish in their mouth by the tail or stuffed them down their dresses to hold them while they caught more. Young children threaded them on a strip of palm leaf or stuck them in their shirts. Little children caught only a couple but some of the elderly women caught 30 or more. I would have loved to see how they cooked them but we weren’t invited to dinner.

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