Mr Thomas and friends
Trip Start Oct 27, 2004
35Trip End Aug 17, 2005
We arrived in Kupang to discover that all of the boats out of Timor had left the day before and none would be leaving for another 8 days
The town of Nemberala, in the south west of the island, is truly beautiful. A real break from the tourist trail. No-body offered us anything or tried to sell us anything, the smiles were genuine and the traditional arts and crafts were being created not for the tourist market, but for clothing and shelter. Ikat cloth weavings showing flowers, horse riders and crocodiles could be seen, half-finished, hanging from the palm trees by the beach. The shore was lined with bamboo huts where fishermen and their families, not backpackers, lived and eked out a wage from farming agar (seaweed used in cosmetics), fishing and selling the occasional Ikat weaving to traders who sell them on the beaches of Bali.
Not that Nemberala had no tourists, in fact there were quite a few. It's just that the tourists were mostly hippie-type surfers who all spoke fluent Indonesian and who seemed to fit right in with the locals. Because of this, no real "tourist" industry had sprung up. Many of the people there were staying for 6 months of the year and I think the locals knew that these people would go elsewhere if the place started to look like Kuta beach
During our time in Nemberala we stayed at Mr. Thomas' guest house. Five USD per person for a bed and three-meals, with tea and cake included! Thomas himself (It's his first name, I'm often referred to as "Mr. Kris") was a living legend, he'd lived in the village all his life and been the headmaster of the school for 47 years until his retirement in 2002. When he decided to be headmaster of the local school, there was no school. He just scared the kids into learning and eventually they all started to come to his dirt patch and learn. About 15 years ago he applied for a grant from the Australian government and they gave him 5000 Ozzie dollars with which he personally built a primary and secondary school
He told me on more than one occasion "Very sorry, English no good, I'm a little crazy. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!", before running out of the door to chase his pigs.
The town was full of these characters. Next door to Mr. Thomas lived Jenet, the proprietor of the first and only "cold drinks" store. Most of the time Jenet was in bed because she couldn't handle the fast pace of life in Nemberala, so you were left to the devices of her crazy, beetle nut chewing, mother. Her mother had no teeth because of her love for Pepsi's "Enrique" edition cola. You could ask for whatever you wanted, but nine times out of ten she couldn't figure out why you wouldn't be asking for "Enrique's" Pepsi, so she would bring you a can of that. A visit to the shop usually ended with one of us raiding the fridges and cupboards and leaving a note for Jenet saying we'd come back and pay when she woke up.
The surf in Nemberala was probably the best I've ever seen in my life, unfortunately one of the first waves I took off on left me ditched and managed to rip off one of my fins, complete with fin-saver. This wasn't the sort of place you could paddle into with one fin, so we drew up our own 'risk' board, a project co-ordinated by our Brazilian friend Ricardo whom we met in East Timor. It wasn't really a substitute for surfing but it was quite a way to burn off the hours.
We left Nemberala relaxed and happy, a perfect way to kill a week!