We were to launch the Zodiac flotilla at 08:00 today for a beach landing followed by a welcoming ceremony before bemusing for a shortish ride to a village to be treated to some native dances followed by a bus ride back to the main port for returning to the ship.
Things did not go quite according to plan. The landing site was deemed unsuitable so we waited while the Zodiac recon located another landing site. This turned out to be the port we were due to return from. Since an interisland ferry was tied up no access to the wharf was possible. But, after some quick negotiations with the Harbour Master the Zodiacs were allowed to run under the mooring lines of the cargo and fishing vessels tied up at the wharf and run onto the beach in a prototected corner alongside the jetty. When all were ashore the transport arrived, which were a fleet (6) trucks with bench seating and a roof – I suspect by the color and writing on the front these were acquired from the local police force and would normally transport police. A couple of the fleet were a bright yellow and one was fitted with a sound system, but more of that later.
The thing to know here is that this island is rarely visited by “tourists” so word had got out that strangers were coming ashore and both the jetty and beach were crowded with locals whoe had coe down to s sticky. All was smiles. Local personal transport is either by mini van (bus) or scooter, I suspect you were fitted for a scooter from the time you could walk as the riding skills on show were death defying and yet calmy carried out by the riders (and their pillions) with crash helmets a very voluntary option.
Travelling out of the port we passed through the market that had sprung up and I did wish that we could have walked through this part as it was a genuine local market for the locals – For example all petrol is sold in plastic containers that have been filled from a bulk tank that arrives once a month. It was colourful and everything you could want seemed to be out under a shade or tucked into some simple three sided buildings lining the exit road. We came to a prolonged stop and not being in the lead vehicle we didn’t know, at the time, that this pause was by the police as they had noticed one of our expedition staff riding the roof of the lead truck. They were not amused and arrest and jail time were muttered loudly if he didn’t relinquish his spot. He did, we continued. Driving along real one lane roads that supported two way traffic didn’t faze the participants one little bit and here we saw passing manoeuvres that would have made GP bike riders blanche – ragged road edges and trees that leapt out and grabbed the trucks sides, culverts that were impossibly narrow and speed bumps that really did make you slow to a crawl (not that we were going faster than about 30kph in any case) saw us reach the village of Bo’Do. Getting out we were met by village elders and the stalled beach side welcoming ceremony now took place high on a hill. Suitably blessed and now part of the village “family” we trod the isle between two lines of traditionally garbed villagers who did have a big smile for us all.
For those who wanted to slake their thirst with real green coconut water fresh from the shell. A straw was provided so that you didn’t do it truly native style soon saw us all seated under the expansive arms of a “skunk” tree, so named for the smell of it’s flowers. But as was explained the seeds of this tree provided many things, including “candle” wicks, juice for fermenting and other uses.
Now we sat through several dances that gave good harvest, protected the villagers from the spirits and I suspect had more than a little to do with a moating ritual. The clothing worn is all hand woven by the villagers and is most intricate and colored in earthy tones with a bit of dark blue thrown in. The men scored head dress that looked like fans and did look good. The fabric is a very heavy weave, which surprised us all but is really hand woven by the islanders. Closer to Bali the same can’t be said – machine weaving has taken over.
The dance moves can only be described as slow but the women had well practised hand gestures to go with the music provided by one drum and several gongs and there is also a two stringed instrument that uses a palm frond as a sound amplifier – One of the dances included a lead singer with answering chorus and for acapella (?sp) they really held their tune and sounded very good. Once the dances were complete the group moved a short distance away where several horse riders mounted on what looked suspiciously like Mongolian tiny horses did some trick riding a la Andalusia (?sp) Spanish style. Next to this display a man had raced up a palm tree and from about 30ft up he was milking the sap into yet another use for a palm frond. He brought what he had extracted down and again those who wanted to could try a mouthful. This island is very dry and apart from the month to 40 days of their wet season all water is from wells or from this palm tree source.
Time to board the trucks for more climbing into the hills where the villagers lived in everything from thatched roofed long houses to homes built from western materials. This was the site of a ceremonial stone area. These stones were used for all sorts of rituals and are 9ft diameter (round) and about a 3ft thick or squarish. And all are mounted on a platform built of hand sized rocked bound by cement (these days) sized to each stones measurements. An elder had died a couple of days ago so the preparation for his burial was in progress so that at the stroke of midnight he would be buried. If you were not an elder (or important) your family could bury at any time.
Boarding the trucks I decided that I had had enough of eating dust so headed for the lead truck and Patti and I climbed aboard to discover it was the sound truck and the speakers would have done any dorf, dorf enthusiast proud. The sub-woofer alone must have added to the trucks weight.
Returning to the port we passed (again) various schools – the students were all as neat a pin in their various uniforms, the colors of which, I suspect, denoted infants, primary and high school. Churches – this is very much a Protestant island after the Dutch/Portuguese had finished with them – but they mix it all up with a bit on Animism (Hindu) too and a hospital under construction – which had had some of the walls daubed with various bits of graffiti that were uncomplimentary to Judaism – I really don’t know what was going on their.
Loading the Zodiacs saw us able to use the jetty so a return for lunch was made.
During lunch the Orion was repositioned to a snorkelling location but due to the late start of the morning trip this was truncated to a swim. All three of elected to have a second bottle of wine with lunch and hit the cheeseboard in lieu of the swim. However, we did pick the sunset and were shooting madly away at a blood red setting orb.
Then the evening briefing showed another early start to a full day on the next island group (Kodi) and a warning that Komodo followed and we would be off the ship at around 06:00.
Dinner was a full deforestation menu but since we had another early start we all elected to forgo the evenings entertainment that would follow. After preparing our camera gear it was lights out.