Day 6 – Waingapu to Maumere

The day started with me confirming my flight at the Merpati counter, before a breakfast of sate. Then it’s off to Maumere (pronounced mao-may-ray), bought some souvenirs from the airport counter. 
On reaching Maumere, this guide guy came up to me and recommended Gading Beach Resort. Maumere and Flores are a definite change from Sumba. It’s mountainous and seems cooler. Much less remote. Was driven down to Gading, which opened in Aug’08, and is a very nice quiet place (90,000 Rp, with western toilets and showers. They even have a TV, though there is only one Indo channel. There’s still some building going on, the main reception building etc hasn’t been completed.. It should probably be listed in the next version of LP. A Danish couple, a German lady were the only other inhabitants on the resort. 
I sold out today – Guide guy (Hironimus Manek) based in Gardena Hotel manages to sell me a package thats like 400 SGD. That includes driver, petrol over 3 days, covering travel from one end to the other, stopping by at all of the major attractions along the way. Took me like an hour to decide, I got the price down from 7,500,000 Rp (!!) to 3,250,000 (still!!) cutting down to all the basics (no guide, settle my own accommodation and food). It sucks, and could have been much cheaper if I was traveling with more people to split the cost with. But I figured, rather than trying to squeeze everything into 3 days, only seeing Kelimutu Lake, and maybe even not making that time, I’ll just plonk down the cash, travel in comfort, and catch all the sights. No waiting for buses, no squeezy bemos, plus I can stop anywhere, detour wherever I wish with the 4WD.  This way too i’ll reach Labuanbajo with at least 2 full days. On the downside, I will lose out on roughing it out amongst the noisy bemos and buses. Seems like i’m still trying to convince myself that it’s money well spent. Let’s just see how it goes. =/

Day 5 – Wanukaka to Waingapu

Today is a rest day for me. Woke up at 8am, washed up and paid up. It was pretty decent, 300,000 Rp for the two of us for two days. Meaning I paid 75,000 Rp (SGD$10) per day for accommodation inclusive of all meals. To go there, take the bemo down to Wanukaka, ask to stop at Rumah Ibu Yark Weru, the one opposite the church, just after the split road to Waigalli. The bemo drivers should know. It’s a good location to base yourself for the Pasola activities in March in Wanukaka. 
We flagged a truck down (5000Rp!) and traveled back in style to Waikabubak. Can’t get any more local than that. Said farewell to Nacho from Barcelona, and I loaded up the next bemo to Waingapu (30,000 Rp, 4 hrs). It took much longer, though, we transferred to another Waingapu bound bemo (from Waitabula), went round town a few hundred times, picked up more goats and chicken, found someone’s lost hat or something etc. The bemo driver, his half-time replacement and the ticket guy were friendly enough though. Bemo was packed, I had my backpack on my lap half the trip. There was this family to my left with 4 kids. The second kid had features that, when she grows up, would probably make guys swoon when she smiles or frowns her way into their hearts. They spit a lot though, the entire family. :)
Other stuff: There’s a goat on the roof of the bemo, a few chickens under the seats.The transition in vegetation from lush green trees to dry grassy plants was quite obvious, highlight was when Waingapu and the sea appeared in the valley below. 
Waingapu has this weird layout where the the town area is split in two clumps. One is the port area, where Merpati and my dinner was. And another is the Hotel Sandlewood, Hotel Merlin, pasar, bus station area. Walking from one area to the other is around 1.5km, but bemos can be flagged. Compared to the laid back feel of Waikabubak, and the past two days staying in the middle of rice fields, Waingapu is very urban. I stayed in Hotel Sandlewood; it  is cheap, nice and quiet (100,000 Rp), with large rooms. 
It was quiet running around Waingapu by myself, unbothered by anyone. I think i’m sufficiently tanned to pass off as a local. There wasn’t much to do in town, and since I reached at 4pm, it’s probably too late to start exploring the surrounding region. Instead I took a walk down to the old harbour, and took some scenic harbour sunset shots. Talked to one of the hawkers there, he’s from Makassar. I tell him I want to go there as well as Maluku. Then he sets up his store, his workers and family arrive to help. I ordered ikan bakar from him (32,000 Rp total with drinks). The chilli sauce blend is a real perk-me-up, whatever they used to make it is really hot and lovely! This eating spot didn’t appear in LP; they set up shop after 6pm. 
Nothing much to do in Waingapu, tried to go to the Merpati agent at 5pm but they were closed. Took a stroll back to the hotel after dinner, along the way passed by the stretch of pushcarts set up in one neat line, complete with tables and stools. The menu looks good (sate, soto, gado gado, all food I haven’t seen so far in Sumba), but I was way too full. Instead, I bought more of those fried fritters, some peanuts, and a terang bulan from the various pushcarts along the 1.5km trip back. Now, almost every country I go to has their own variation of pushcart pancakes (think malaysia, laos, thailand), and for Waingapu it’s the Mr Bean version called terang bulan (which literally translates to “bright moon”), with lots of sugar, chocolate and condensed milk. Healthy and delicious ;)  
Dropped by the pasar, it was already dark but the locals were still selling their produce, mostly vegetables. Each stall had a candle in front, the street had no street lamps, giving an entirely new meaning to the term “night market”. Haha. 
Most of tonight was spent trying to plan Flores. It’s a bit of a mess now, with the overland buses leaving early mornings which do not make efficient use of my time here. That and coupled with one lost day due to the holiday on 26th (Hindu Silence Day). I foresee wasting an entire day in Ende, which is not one of the highlights of my itenerary. I really need the Internet now, tomorrow morning I will go down to the Telkom building and see if I can get stuff done. Also, I’m thinking of getting a flight down from Maumere or Ende straight to Labuanbajo to save one day. That will cut down on at least 15 hours of overland bus riding, though I will miss Bajawa as a result.

Day 4 – Pasola in Wanukaka

Woke up early at 4am today, made our way down to the beach. Along the way, many many ojeks passed by us, wanted to flag one down but all were carrying passengers. It was good morning exercise and kept me warm. We reached Wanukaka beach where there’s a big crowd camped overnight. As the sun started to come up, people started going down to the water and began nyale hunting. I was more entranced by the postcard quality views i’m getting and preferred taking shots of the sunrise to hunting sea worms which I’ve never seen and probably won’t recognise even if I do see them.
 The package tourists started popping up as well, but compared to elsewhere, there were much less tourist types for such a big festival. Rather, we had the Sumbanese and lots of city people, some well dressed Jakarta types, those from Bali etc. Throughout the day I had many conversations the rest of the spectators. It’s a really grand event, and Rudy later mentioned the official count was 30,000 people. 
Someone mentioned that if the nyale doesn’t turn up, there won’t be Pasola. Another guy said he was here before and tried eating the nyale. Things got exciting though when someone finally found nyale and showed me a mineral water bottle with nyale inside. There was going to be Pasola after all! Later I found out that the rituals had taken place further up the beach, we missed it completely while engrossed in photo taking. 

Next was the Pasola itself, this was held on a sandy patch by the beach Trains of horses and riders started arriving, village by village, each making a grand entrance riding across the sand. They split themselves on two sides, and the event started with both sides charging on horses at full speed till near the haflway mark where they threw their spears at the other side. The spears now are blunt, after the government banned the use of sharp pointed end. The entire significance of the Pasola can be read online or in good books, it is a ritual to draw blood and give it back to the earth, dying during Pasola used to be a real possibility. After the wooden bamboo spears have been thrown, they retreat to their half and prepared for the next throw. It is very exciting, with the crowd pushing forward to get a closer look, with exclamations of oohs and ahhs each time a spear narrowly misses. If a spear DOES hit however, there will be cheers from the crowd, the successful rider makes a high pitched victory cry and  raises his hands high in the way, waving his fingers. One time, the spear hits a horse’s flank, and the beast rose on his two hind legs, nearly throwing the rider over.
 Everyone then proceeds to the main location, a grassy field about 2km away. The place was packed, West Sumba isn’t normally a place where you would find so many people in one location. There were people from all over Indo, tourists, police, a grandstand for VIPs. It was a very carnival atmosphere, with makeshift shops set up everywhere, selling Fruitamins, doughnuts, drinks. The homemade frozen ice lollies are fabulous in the hot weather. Another ritual took place with elders from both camps involved, facing each other, dressed in full colourful gear. The crier traded insults at each other in their own tongue, and each insult was met with the equivalent of jeers and catcalls from the opposing team. This carried on for a bit, and I think they showed negotiations breaking down, as both side abruptly stopped and the entire horse-riding, spear throwing began. This time, they were even more fierce. The Sumbanese riders  were swathed with red cloth strips over their faces, and their horses wore headgear which made them look menacing, plus danging small bells which ringed as the horses moved. They started going at is again, this time with more gusto and non-stop waves of riders. It was quite a side to see spears flying all over. I didn’t see this, but one guy got cut quite badly when a spear struck his forearm. Spectators pushed forward to get a better view, and this was met with police shouting at us. The Sumba men just in front of us, placed at the perimeter to pick up and replenish spears, actually said sorry then used the bamboo spears held horizontally to push everyone back. Didn’t work very well cos 5 seconds later, everyone’s pushing forward again, laughing it away. Haha. It started raining for a short bit, but this didn’t dampen spirits. People were there for a show, and they got one.

 I spent the rest of the afternoon napping. My neck is sunburnt, my feet are sore, but yeah, it was a good two days. Tomorrow morning, i’m going back to Waikabubak where i’ll catch a bemo to Waingapu. 
Useful piece of equipment: My sunblock lotion, without with I probably will a very uncomfortable next few days. 
For those wanting to see the Pasola, the activities leading up to Pasola in Wanukaka took place over a 3 day period (15th to 17th Mar’09 for me). On the first day, there is traditional boxing ritual that takes place at night (11pm-ish). On the second day, at 4pm, there is a training session for the Sumba men to practise with their horses in preparation for the event. At night, people start gathering at the beach and stay overnight there. On the third day, you can come in to the beach before dawn where they start auguring the nyale, the priests are on the extreme right side of the beach. Then the Pasola begins at around 8am, first by the beach and then the entire procession will move to the field at 9am. The locations for the activities are different, though within walking distance of each. You might want to rent an ojek for an entire day (around 75,000Rp for an ojek and same for a guide) to drive you around if you’re not the adventurous type.

Day 3 – Waikabubak to Wanukaka District

I woke up and found the Spanish guy Nacho having breakfast outside his room. He was there for Pasola and had been in Sumba for the last 20 days, staying in Tarimban, a quiet corner of East Sumba with beaches and no lights and electricity. We decided to walk down to the bus station in town, and ask for a bemo to Wanukaka (regular trips, 10,000 Rp, 1 hr). Over next two days I traveled with him. Anywhere we walked, and we walked a lot, since we had time and were not following the (minimal) tourist crowd he was getting “Hello Mister”. One guy told him: In Sumba, Sumba is not the attraction for you, but you are the attraction for Sumba. I agree completely. =) 
At the bus stop, we boarded our bemo almost immediately and reached Wanukoka area, along the way passing a scenic hilly area surrounded by the morning mist. We stopped just after Waigalli. There were no hotels, guesthouses anywhere in this area, but the bemo driver dropped us outside a home that they knew rented out rooms. The owner is a nice lady with a big extended family staying there. The house itself is interesting, its a Christian abode, but with many remaining marapu elements like a stone megalith tomb, pigs jaws hanging on the verandah, contrasting with the wall rug showing the Last Supper. There were no rooms, a french couple, Bernard et Kristine, were already there from the previous night taking up the only available room. The lady was kind enough to offer to put us up in her son’s room, insisting that since we were guests, we should use the room. Her son Rudy, works at the Nihiwatu resort, owned by an American, which is the best resort to stay in Sumba, though by Sumba standards, prices are really ex. (2,000,000 Rp). He also mentioned that they are building additional rooms in their own garden and by next year, we can rent them. The location is great, because it is within walking distance of all the Pasola activities. If you ride a bemo from Waikabubak, just ask them to stop you after the fork to Waigalli, the place is opposite the road to a church. 
We dumped our stuff and decided to check out the Wanakoka beach, some 4km down the road. It was a scenic walk, rice fields, bypassing several traditional houses along the way. The beach itself was empty, there were some locals just done with fishing on the perahu boats. Rested a bit, talked some more and headed back. After lunch, we went out again to catch the Pasola men train for their event.
We walked up 3 km to a small field with tall grass. This was where they practised with their horses and prepared for tomorrow. A sizeable crowd of locals from the surrounding villages were there to catch the show. This section and the events of the next day are best recounted by looking at the photos.
Came back for dinner, sat around and chatted with the French couple and Nacho. French couple are retired and have really been to a lot of places. Nacho had spent the last 2 months in Laos before going to Indonesia. Next he is going up to Makassar in Sulawesi. If only I had that much time and freedom to travel. This trip has been good so far though, so I shouldn’t complain.
 Useful item to have: My groundsheet for sleeping =)

Day 2 – Kuta –> Ngurah Rai Airport –> Tambolaka Airport –> Waikabubak

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.

Checked out of the hotel, took an ojek down to the airport, and prepared for the same ritual as yesterday, getting on the wait list and hoping that someone cancels. Except today just outside the Merpati counter, there was the ticket selling tout waiting. I checked over the counter, as expected, there was an even longer wait list, also, counter guy mentioned that standard flight from Denpasar to Tambaloka is 825,000 Rp. The tout offered me tickets at 1,300,000 Rp, exorbitant, but it was better than getting stuck for another day in Bali. Btw, check out this signage below, translated it says “Thank you for not dealing with touts.” Irony. Anyway, I managed to bargain it down to 1,150,000. Fellow took down my name on a piece of paper, went to the back to do some under the table cancellation and replace the ticket holder with my name. That took maybe two hours, with me standing around outside hoping it will turn out fine.

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?”


Notice how these posts only come up when I’m running off somewhere.  This time round I got 14th to 27th planned out for Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia, specifically the Flores and Sumba islands. (I had Cambodia too last month, Jan’09 but will talk more about that another time).indonesianusatenggara
So that bright green bit at the bottom is Nusa Tenggara. From the western end it starts off at Bali, then Lombok and then Sumbawa, that’s the rabbit-shaped one. These islands make up West Nusa Tenggara. Me I’ll be gallivanting off to East Nusa Tenggara, which comprises Flores, then Alor/Solor archipelagos,  Sumba (the blob that dropped off below the main chain of islands) and West Timor (half the big chunk on the bottom right, the other half’’s Timor Leste).
Specifically, I’ll be visiting Sumba and Flores. After much reading, time constraints, flight path evaluation, current events, time zones differences and allocating extra time for screw-ups (my screw-ups), these two seem the best and most sensible to visit with the measly 2 weeks I have. The Sumba Strait, btw for those Lost tv series afficionados, is the waters off Sumba where the Oceanic 815 reported sunk.
Highlights of this backpacking getaway will be the Pasola rituals in Sumba. This happens once a year in Feb and Mar and coincides with the full moon, and arrival of nyale worms on the shore. Timing is just nice for me. Next is LakeKelimutu on Flores, triple crater lakes each with varying colours. Crossing overland will end up in Labuanbajo where its the base to launch into giant lizard land in Rinca and Komodo islands . Probably slot in some diving if the water’s good here or back in Maumere too.
Here’s the rough itenerary.  I’m sleepy and I can’t figure out this frigging formatting…so here’s how it goes. The number’s the date, the first word is the location i start off from on that day, and the second word’s the location i should end the day. (should being the all important keyword here). Barring cancelled flights, missed once-a-day buses, and the occasional natural disaster, the itenerary should be a fairly relaxed one. No point booking lodging till I get to each town, and 3 out of 5 flights have been booked.  Stay tuned. =)
 Date  Start  End 14   Singapore  Denpasar 15  Denpasar  Waikabubak 16 Waikabubak  Wakanoka 17  Wakanoka  Waikabubak 18  Waikabubak Wangaipu 19  Wangaipu   Maumere 20  Maumere   Moni 21  Moni (KM)  Ende 22  Ende  Ruteng 23  Ruteng  Labuanbajo 24  Labuanbajo  Komodo 25  Komodo Labuanbajo 26  Labuanbajo  Denpasar 27  Denpasar  Singapore