A Whale of a time

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Where I stayed
swanky Hotel Lewoleba

Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, January 6, 2006

Leaving behind the city of Maumere we took a 4hr bus ride to arrive at Larantuka, a small port town at the Eastern tip of Flores. The journey was uneventful apart from the occasional 'clucking' from the chickens underneath our seat. A lot of the hotels here were full so we opted for a room at the Hotel Rulie with its 'sunken' beds while we awaited a ferry the following day. With an early start we were down at the harbour by 7.30 - just early enough to get a seat on the boat to Pulau Lembata - the boat looked more suited to going fishing than ferrying passengers but lots of the locals were happily crowding on with sacks of rice, chickens and various other prized possessions. The journey was spectacular as we passed between smoking volcanoes on various islands and halfway we stopped at Waiwerang so that all the children could come on the boat to sell us salaks (fruit) and biscuits. We arrived at Lewoleba (Pulau Lembata) and walked 1km to a hotel run by a Dutch/Indonesian guy called Jim. The line of small bungalows here faced the sea and past the garden you can see smoking Gunung Ile in the distance across the water. Jim was a friendly character with lots of useful local information and an amazing collection of pirated DVD's - after a walk around the town we spent an enjoyable evening watching 'Mr & Mrs Smith' on his large television which even had surround sound!!! The following day was New Years Eve and we decided to go to the South of the island. We got a seat in a truck and then spent 90mins driving round and round and round the town looking for more passengers. Once the truck was full we set off although by this time we were wishing we had got some lunch first. Two bone-jarring hours later we stopped at a small village market and bought some rice packets - these normally have a surprise filling and todays was tiny little whole fish like small whitebait. When you havn't eaten all day you can eat anything - especially if you dont look them in the eye!! Another 90mins saw us arrive in the tiny village of Lamalera where the villagers still hunt whales in the traditional manner. First they chase them in small boats - rowing furiously - then they jump on the whales back, stab it with a 3metre harpoon & hold on while the whale tries to dive and pull the boat under the water. A few years ago some villagers were pulled about 60km before their boat sank and they had to be rescued by a passing ship! The villagers had caught a whale the week before we arrived and so there was bits of it hung all around the village - interesting but very smelly!! There were also huge whale bones scattered around the village, lots of them decorating the thatched huts which covered the boats at the top of the beach. With a sweeping bay and mountains behind the village is very scenic and we had a beach house to ourselves at one end - it was very dirty inside as we seemed to be the first visitors for months but they gave it a token clean for us. Sophia one of the local girls brought us our meals there which was very welcome as the village has no restaurants or shops unless you count one small shack which has water, biscuits and (thankfully) bintang beer!! It had been a long tiring day and after dinner and a couple of bintangs later we were heading for bed... The next day we walked up the coast and past the church which looked to have been full earlier judging by the number of people in their best clothes. In the afternoon we went swimming and snorkelling - the sea had lots of colourful fish and also some rotting whale bones!! The next day we headed back to Lewoleba and opted to stay at the swanky Hotel Lewoleba which had big rooms with supercharged fans and a lobby filled with comfy sofas. There were plenty of mosquitos about but the staff had an electrified tennis racket which meant you could swat as many as you like with a satisfying crackle and sizzle! We had one more day left and we took a bemo out to the villages in the North - where the people were amazingly friendly. In Atawang we met an old man of 73 in the street who invited us back to his small house, gave us coffee and biscuits and chatted to us about his seven children, proudly showing us their pictures. Then in Mawa we saw ikat (dyed woven cloth) being made the traditional way and bought a small piece for a souvenir from one of the local women. We had a great time on this island which has hardly any visitors - we didn't see another westerner for the whole week! Then it was a ferry back to the mainland to connect with the Pelni ship the following morning where we met Martin & Annie who had done a visa-run via Kupang to East Timor where it had rained on them for the whole week!! On the Pelni ship they had rented the doctors cabin and there was room for four so we thankfully shared with them - all the 1st and 2nd class cabins were full and we had been stuck with economy tickets (squashed-in below deck class). The journey on the boat passed quite quickly and at one point saw a huge pod of dolphins chasing fish and jumping out of the water. 27hours later we were arriving at the port of Makassar, Sulawesi - a big city on a big island which we will explore over the next 2 weeks.......................
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