The trick to enjoying a trip such as this is to brush aside any inconveniences and just go with the flow. That being said, I probably need a new brush…In the morning, woke up at 8 (slept at 3am the previous night) and proceeded down to get my Internet fix at an outdoor coffee joint that opened early. “Laptops for hire for 50,000 Rp/half hour”, muahahaha, I love my netbook.
There was one old chap who was nice enough to chat me up because he thought my accent sounded like his, from Sumatra (huh? Lol). We had a bit of a chat on economic downturns, damn touts monopolising all the tickets and the usual where I’m from thread. By the end of today, I had fabricated my backstory: I was taking two weeks break because the economy sucks, I was meeting up to travel with my (imaginary) friend in Maumere and I’m not married but have an (imaginary) girlfriend back home. This combination creates enough conversation topics and ensures I don’t have to answer awkward questions. The old guy was helping out a couple of missionary nuns, two Sisters who couldn’t get tickets to Tambolaka either, and negotiated a good deal for them 950,000 Rp each I think. By the time it was time to fly, I had made friends with the two Sisters, as well as the old chap’s friend. This guy decided he would help out the blundering Singaporean and we proceeded to check in as one big group, ensuring that my backpack arrived in Tambolaka in one piece and my dodgy last minute ticket went through the customs check without any problems. And speaking of dodgy, during the transaction, the tout intentionally miscounted my stack of 1,000,000 as 900,000 Rp (twice!), and even tried to convince me the agreed deal was 1,200,000 Rp.
Lastly, I bought my ticket from Waingapu to Maumere on the 19th. This effectively left me with 6 days for the journey across Flores. I also learnt that upon Internet booking or SMS booking, you are given a booking number and have 3 hours to make payment or the booking is released. In that case, it makes sense to book these tickets through a travel agent whenever possible. Not only can they get cheaper deals, the tickets get mailed to you beforehand. The other point to note is that for all the flights, one rule exists. “Confirm and reconfirm your flight”. That’s I what I’ll do when I reach Waikabubak.
The flight took an hour (full route is Bali → Tambolaka → Maumere → Kupang). Merpati’s in-flight meal is a mini-cheese bun and a tasty fruitcake. I had the entire last row to myself, which is pretty daft considering there was a bunch of people back then who didn’t manage to get seats for the flight.
Reached Tambolaka airport, which wasn’t much more than a runway and a standalone single storey building. I helped the nuns and the friendly guy unload their luggage before parting ways. To sidetrack a bit, the term “luggage” for this flight had a very broad definition, ranging from boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts, gladwrapped tubs of KFC, printers, other boxes of god knows what and even cartons of live chicks! I struck a deal with a friendly 4WD driver to take me to Waikabubak (40km, 1hr, 50,000Rp) and on the way, got my first real whiff of Sumba. It is VERY off the beaten track, and besides the locals, there was only a French couple who got off the plane. They looked lost, so I went over to help out. They came for the Pasola festival too, saying that the Merpati people were to pick them up and send them to Mona Lisa Hotel (too far out of town, so I suspect it’s only for package tours, don’t stay there). I let them go through my Lonely Planet, and left them to wait for their (non-existent?) pick up.
West Sumba vegetation is very typical of Malaysian tropical rainforest, except that it’s cooler, probably because Waikabubak and it’s surroundings are 600m above sea level. Waikabubak itself is interesting, there is a church and a mosque, a football field, a small market and a bus station. Of greater interest however, are the 3 traditional Sumba kampungs that exist in town. Architectural-wise, the buildings are thatched squarish roofs which a sharp pointy loft at the top. Some of the locals are wearing tudung, some of the older men are walking around withkeris sheathed in their belts, and some are chewing betel and sirih, which explains the blotchy red patches on the pavements. The town is devoid of tourists. In fact, the only non-locals I saw the entire of today are the French couple, a Spanish guy (Nacho) who was looking for directions to my hotel (he didn’t appear there though), another set of 2 old French couples, and Bitter Slovenian guy, who I’ll mention later.
Friendly 4WD driver dropped me off at Hotel Artha (150,000Rp, though I think it could have been cheaper), which is on the outskirts of town center. I would suggest Hotel Pelita or Hotel Aloha instead, as both are nearer to town. After unpacking, off I went to check out the town. First was to look for the Transnusa and Merpati agents, so that I can reconfirm my flights. Merpati moved by the way, so LP is wrong, they can now be found at No.20 Jln Bhayangkara, in front of Toko Imanuel.
Next was to get the exact festival dates. Found out that Sunday 15th is in the Wanakoka region ritualistic boxing (late 11pm) and augering the nyale worms washed ashore, 16th is when they ride their horses “Palaingu Java di Pajukatoda desa Taraman” and the 17th is the actual Pasola festival “Pasola di Kamaredun Desa Waihura”. Typically the entire festival is done over 3 days. .
I had time so I wandered into the Kampung in town, met with the really traditional marapu village, complete with stone megaliths outside and authentic interior. Somehow I got invited in, talked with them a bit, took some photos and got their address so I can mail them the pics. I hope it actually gets to them when I do that. It’s all about Marapu here in Sumba, a lot of beliefs, processions, stone megaliths slabs.
Dinner was at a roadside warung. Fried rice and fish, the chilli was fantastic. Talked to the Slovenian guy during dinner, who came into Sumba, got stranded for 10 days because there were no tickets out, and missed all the Pasola schedules in those 10 days. He had rode all over the island, visited countless villages, attended 3 funerals and sounded thoroughly sick of the place. Ahahah. Furthermore, his Visa expires tomorrow and he had to leave Indo, but Pasola is the day after.
I don’t know what I’ll do yet tomorrow, possibly find a way south to Wanukaka, but I’m not sure if I can find lodging there, maybe I should make it a day trip. Otherwise I will get some help to explore the region, maybe hire a guide with anojek for a day. It sucks that I don’t know how to ride a bike, I really should complete my bike lessons back home This entry is getting way too long. Some other events today briefly are that some fella who gave me lift back on a ojekattempted to feel me up, and the hotel electricity is down so I showered in the dark by torchlight.
The ojek guy offered me lift, i said “no thanks” as usual, but then he offered a free ride. it was dark and i wanted to get back to hotel, just down the road, fast, so i agreed. then he started to ask ” mister u want to go jalan-jalan somewhere” and starting feeling my knee, and crotch! i demanded to get dropped off, by then i was freaking out. He dropped me outside my hotel and vanished. The icing on the cake is when i reached the hotel, there was a blackout. There was this dude who shoved a handphone into my face, effectively blinding me. on the handphone was a picture profile of a child. After i looked back at this incident, i think he was one of the hotel staff, trying to shine a light into my face to see who it is –> plus he had his kid’s pic on his phone. But at that time, i was semi-traumatised, and all i thought as i sprinted away to my room was “no thank you, im not interested in paying for child sex….”. wahahahaha.
Useful tools of the day: My LED torchlight, for the bath in the dark. Lonely Planet, without which I’d be completely lost in Waikabubak.
Words I learnt to today: Calo is a tout. Baggasi means baggage → that after me going around all morning asking “Pak, baggasi itu apa?”