Day 15 – Badas Port on Sumbawa Island.

Badas, pronounced by locals as in; “as” == arse. For the first time this trip a dry landing was called for as the Orion tied to the wharf. Badas Port is busy with island cargo vessels, tankers and container ships. But don’t expect a 40 footer to be used. The container handling forklift is only for 20 footers.

Also, for the first time,  we had to use our cabin cards exit the ship. Four buses were laid on and the first person down the gangway copped a ceremonial scarf and the rest of us copped red rice on our heads from a very cheery local women.  Again, it turns out we were the 2nd ship this year at this location. Just as a rugged day was promised yesterday we were briefed that the buses were not air conditioned. Imagine our joy when the AC was on!! A 25 minute ride to the village of Pamulung showed us that this was not a small town but really a full blown city and we were most definitely the only Westerners in town. But more of that later.

Turning off a real duel carriage way with armco fencing and international road markings we headed along a valley until the road reduced in width so that only foot and scooter traffic could continue. Debussing we were formally welcomed by the village band. Several drums and a snake charmers flute (honest) and a women that looked as if she had had white pancake makeup applied until it was explained that this was a local concoction to ward of mosquitoes and sun burn. Once again we were sprinkled with red rice in welcome and then it was a short walk along narrow streets, some cobblestoned, some ashphalted and some dirt to an area next to the river where various demonstrations of local stuff were to happen. Here we watched as various demonstrations of rice preparation, that is husking with bamboo poles and winnowing with large woven platters took place. A couple of the Orion people tried the pounding and winnowing and were somewhat surprised at how much strength and stamina was needed for both tasks.

Yet again, another wedding preparation ceremony was delivered and we watched as the blushing bride copped a make up job from a village elder that would make Max Factor look like amateur hour. A wide variety of woven cloth was out for display and purchase and here gold thread was in great evidence and many of the colors and designed had a Thai look about them. Of course the incongruity of the local cloth hung from a wire that was attached to a local satellite dish was not lost on us. However, we had next to this one of the weavers hard at it warping and wefting away and the colors and design she was producing as we watched matched those on display so it was all their own work. Plus in many of the front porches of the houses we passed we could see a variety of looms so this is quite an endeavour for them. The houses were small, on stilts (tall pilings) and went from pretty run down thatched and wood construction with a bit of a lean to well built with modern materials and all with neat and tidy grounds.

An edict must have been made and money found from somewhere as every house, regardless of quality had a small wooden structure with a pink plastic bin on it, in the bin was a a palm frond whisk and a long handled pooper scooper style dustpan. Was there any rubbish on the street/lanes? No. It was in the bins. This lot have raised civic pride to a new level. Satellite dishes with every house? You bet.

A 10 minute walk out of the village and back the way we drove in saw us mixing with the locals on their scooters and, for the first time, sedan cars and more SUVs than we had seen on any of the previous islands. River washing of clothes was also going on as we crossed the large concrete bridge. One thing of interest to me is that archways are big in this place. From the entrance to the port, at various intervals along the road to the village and as entrances to government and private buildings there was an archway proclaiming what lay behind. All in good nick and freshly painted. Even this village had an archway team on the job as we arrived. Although this one was made from locally fired bricks.

The use of roofing tiles and bricks here is a feature as they discovered generations ago (probably from the Dutch and others) hwo to make and fire these items and we passed some pretty big buildings producing just those items. The kilns are fired with rice husks and palm tree debris unless the brick/rile place is very flush and can afford wood. This meant that thatched roofs and corrigated iron were few and far between.

The end of our walk occurred through an archway that led us onto a foot bridge across what in the wet season is a gusher of a river to a place that is used for buffalo racing! This is done twice a year, prior to planting and is really used to carve up the soil and oxygenate the fields and then at the end of harvest to let of steam. But before the races we were guided to shaded seating and again treated to part II of weddings. Here the bride and groom with band and some female dancers performed a graceful set of moves with intricate hand gestures that were meant to make the union last forever. Our guide was emphatic that although Sumbawa is 4 times as big land wise as Bali it has kept its population in check to a quarter of Bali with strict family planning: One wife and two children is the mantra she gave. Remembering that 80% are Muslim with the rest a plethora of various faiths both western and eastern. The family planning message is loud and clear as huge banners promote the use of prophylactic devices with 3 benefits to all concerned, but that was as far as my Indonesian went 🙂 The pictures were pretty graphic.

With wedding ceremonies now out of the way about 8 pairs of buffaloes were yoked together and an A frame riding frame attached to the yoke were now in the rice field track. The local Sharman gave his blessing and is responsible for planting a wooden carved figure at one end. If you or the beasts knock it over or the rider can grab it they are the winner.

And they were off. The race was over about 100m and it was muddy, splashy and wild. The buffaloes didn’t always cooperate and riders fell from their “sulkies” and were left in the mud or hung on trying to steer from the lying in the mud and dragged postion. The totom was hard to hit as the buffalo wont naturally run into something sticking out of the water as they are charging down on it. After about the 4 team of two buffs and one rider had missed the 5 team scored the trophy. A replant by the Sharman and racing continued. The surprise starter was one of our expedition team, Harry (the one that felt the full majesty of the Law for trying to ride the truck roof a couple of day ago. For a rough rider he was pretty good and hung on until the end although he missed hitting the figurine. A second round was called for and I hope some spectacular shots have ensured for possible inclusion in the MiP November, Sydney Exhibition or our Personal Favourites (/)

Back on the buses we went right into the center of a 400,000 strong city. It has traffic lights. Although obeying them seemed a bit optional. Shops abounded, scooters, full motorcycles and cars flooded these streets but with no (or quiet) horn action and low speeds for all it meant that the really local public transport of a small horse and shaded carriage or rickshaw had a chance of competing.

We visited two more sites to round of the morning. The Sultan’s original palace, a monstrous bare wooden massive house on stilts alongside a huge white house that he occupied until 1959 and then The Yellow House that his son and family still live in. The wooden palace was bare of all but a couple of elaborate carved wooden man carried seats (think Roman) some photos of the early days of finely dressed men and women plus a Jazz band! The Yellow House was filled (12ft ceilings and then some) with the life and times of the Sultan, Sultana and his offspring. We were welcomed by the son. He was well spoken and showed us what would be a fortune in carving, swords, kris, clothing and other ornaments that his family have acquired over the years. The wedding attire alone must have been heavy as it was spun through with real gold and the Sultanas wedding shoes had solid gold buckles.

Back in the buses, back to the ship and back around the corner to a small bay where a final snorkel and swim could be had.

It is over. When we wake up tomorrow it will be in Bali.

Was this trip worth it? Every last minute of it. If you want to see “real” Indonesian life you couldn’t go far wrong in coming to Badas (there are hotels here and an airport) and you would be as far from the madding crowd as it gets (and the only white people too). Be an adventurer. This place is great.

Tomorrow Patti heads for Denver and Landing recertification, Heather takes another 7 days in Bali to recover from this and I head back to Sydney to prepare for an AGM of the Narromine Gliding Club (all welcome to come and have a flight with us), do some work and prepare for the exhibition starting on the 2nd November (another shameless plug).

Day 13 – Big Volcano, Small Volcano

Indonesia is a land and people of contrast. For the first time the shore excursion sees us in a village that is predominantly Islam but with strong ties back to Hinduism. A dress code applied to those going ashore. The village of Labuan Kenanga on Sambawa Island is a neatly laid out grid of clean and tidy dirt side streets and paved main streets. Very neat houses built on raised pilings with nothing out of place in their yards as far as the eye could see. Each house had shade trees and some form of garden planted. This was the 2nd ship to call into their port this year and as word spread the village people, young and old (we suspect that school was suspended for the morning by the number of children in school uniforms) came over to the area that had been set aside for the various displays and found vantage points.

Well rehearsed and costumed dances performed by all ages did the usual performances for welcoming and good harvest etc. They really did put on a great show and the unforced smiles of welcome from everyone were in complete contrast to the last island where the locals were somewhat pushy in their desire to sell their wares. Patti took a great series of shots of really young ones peering through a slatted fence such that just their eyes and fingers were visible (definitely gallery material). The women’s clothes and head dress were again a restrained but well designed combination of color and pattern. The women also had a complex hand movements in perfect sync to the music. Retuning to the Zodiacs we encountered a dozen of so naked children splashing around the boats helping to load us and push us off the beach. A couple hitched a ride until they reached their limit of swimming back to shore and jumped from the speeding Zodiac. Much hilarity amongst the children and adults.

The main geological feature of this island is Mount Tambora. This is still an active stratovolcano ad was once estimated to have a peak at 14,000ft (4,300m) but in what all geologists believe is the biggest blow up since 180AD it took off its top and reduced the cone height to 7,000ft (2100m) in 1815. Krakatoa is estimated to be but a quarter of the power of this one. The northern hemisphere experienced a “nuclear winter” that summer with all crops failing and livestock dyeing due to the ash cloud. The estimate is over 35 cubic kilometres of ejaculate hit the atmosphere that year. The sound was heard by people and animals 1,200 miles (2,000km) away and recorded in written histories of Sumatra Island. This ash cloud producing the worst famine of the 19thC A low estimate of 71,000 people killed as a direct result of this change in climate.

After lunch we were promised a very rugged experience on Satonda island just across the channel from Kenanga. This island is also the remains of a volcano and has its caldera filled with sea water, allegedly from the tsunami that came from the big one. But most geologists suspect fissures through the limestone corals provide both the alkalinity and top up water to the lake. We had a choice of reef snorkelling and/or hiking over a small berm to view the crater lake. The rugged bit promised was the walk through lantana on barely visible paths. Well that is what expedition leader Mike said. Surprise, surprise since the last visit a couple of years ago the back beach has been cleared of vegetation. Shade trees planted, paths added, cabins constructed for a new eco lodge !!! Our tough walk now consisted of a concrete path and steps up and over the berm ridge to a viewing platform. Next to this wishing trees sprouted various bits of stuff tied to their branches. The belief is that a string with a facsimile of the object of your desire is hung from a branch. If your wish comes true you come back and retrieve your bit of string and thing. The trees were heavily festooned.

Yet another great dinner capped another most interesting day.