Anchored at Lewoleba
Solor Alor Archipelago
East Nusa Tenggara
Salam ("Hello" in Indonesian) from Lewoleba, Indonesia!
We arrived in the anchorage after a 5 hour motor/sail around Ili Api volcano to anchor amongst about 50 other rally boats that had already arrived. Ili Api is a really cool large volcano that has steam pouring out of the top and lots of small villages scattered along the bottom. The locals say it has not erupted since any one can remember. We are hoping that it stays that way for awhile.
Having all the rally boats anchored here is quite a sight for the locals. When we arrived, there were people all along the shoreline just staring at all the boats. We went ashore the first night to attend the gala dinner that the village put together for the rally fleet. There was a welcoming speech by the governor and singing and dancing by different groups of villagers.
The dinner was free and we got to eat quite a few unknown dishes that contained goat and small, broken up, crabs, with the mandatory rice. The good thing about the food here is that it goes through you quite quickly. As soon as you eat it, you try to get back to the boat as soon as possible.
Indonesia is truly a time from the past. Last night while having a 'few' Bintangs with the documentary film crew (Samuel and Martin), we met their Indonesian interpreter. They had just hired him for a trip they were taking to the other side of the island. The interpreter told a great story about the island of Sumba.
Every March, during the Pasola Festival, two different villages line up against each other in a line of 20 horses, and then charge at each other while throwing spears. It is considered bad luck for blood NOT to be spilled. It is a sign that their crops will fail.
The interpreter said that he had participated in one of these battles. He said that he was very scared and tried to make himself as small as possible on his horse. Our Lonely Planet guide book says that two villages went to war on Sumba in 1992 when one of their 'mock battles' became real, leaving several people killed and 80 homes burned down.
Today we got to take a bus trip to the town of Lamalera. This town is not for the environmentalists. You probably should not read the following if you are one.
Lamalera is the last traditional whale hunting village in the world and the whole village is involved in the whale hunting. Villagers in Lamalera still use small wooden boats that they paddle out when whales are spotted to hunt them down.
We arrived after another crazy four hour ride straight up a mountain in a bus that is better described as 'A truck, with seats in the back, and people riding on the top.' We arrived in a small village where all the houses have whale meat drying outside. Some are in quite large pieces. We were greeted by the whalers in the village and were shown a display on the beach of how they launch their boats to hunt down whales when the are sighted near shore. Most the families own boats, which are stowed in sheds on the beach.
When a whale is sighted, an alarm is sounded, and everyone races to the beach. Then there is a race between all the boats to see who can get the whale first. When the first boat gets to the whale, a man stands on the front with a long bamboo harpoon complete with a homemade steel blade on the end. As soon as they are next to the whale, the harpooner jumps on the back of the whale while driving the harpoon down into the whale. Several more harpoons are then driven into the whale, which is then towed back to shore.
The whale meat is split up between the families that rowed out the fastest and harpooned the whale. I got to meet the village's best harpooner and visit his house, where he showed me a collection of sperm whale teeth that he had for sale. We also had a lunch given to us where we were offered whale meat. Team Sandpiper stuck to the rice.
On the ride home I got to sit up on top of the bus with the locals, which was quite fun. I did have to dodge quite a few tree branches, and I had lots of people wave to me as we passed through their villages.
Team Sandpiper's current plans are to head west for a day hop up to the next anchorage. Sailing at night here would be extremely hazardous. There are bamboo fishing rafts moored permanently offshore that have no lights, not to mention all the unlit canoes, fishing boats, and other assorted junk in the water.
Sampai jumpa lagi,
Tom and Amy
13 August 2007
Anchored at Lewoleba