Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Out and About in Kupang

After spending the entire day checking in on Wednesday, May 31st, it was a treat for all of us to finally be able to leave the boat, and explore land for a change. The check-in process was laborious to say the least, and Dave was exhausted at the end of the day. He had been ferried from one official to the next, back and forth, our ship’s stamp, which up until this point we had hardly used, being used to stamp a million papers. Two quarantine officials came to the boat, and one of them was almost sea sick, the boat rolling around due to the consistent side on swell, and strong winds we were experiencing. Two customs officials, upon seeing the state of the sea, and the dinghy ride they would have to make, declined to visit the boat, and completed all the paperwork on shore! 

Our trusty boat stamp finally got used for the all the paperwork it took to check into Indonesia!

Early on Thursday morning we took the dinghy to shore and left it in the capable hands of Lambert. Before we had even set foot on land, a swarm on local girls came running up, grabbing Benjamin and Gaby by the hand and shouting “Selfie! Selfie!”. They proceeded to take photos in all manner of combinations: with Ben and Gaby together; with Gaby alone, with Ben alone; dabbing (shown below) and posing. We were the attraction, not the other way around! Kupang doesn’t get many tourists, and especially not a lot of westerners, so it was a novelty for them to see the blond hair and pale skin! The kids in particular were treated like rock stars!

Kupang from the water

Ben was popular!

Dabbing on the beach in Kupang
Our guide for the day, Frenky, the same man who had helped check us in the day before, had a car waiting, and off we went to our first stop, the local market. It was a feast for the senses! There were stalls upon stalls of everything imaginable: sacks of different herbs and spices, bright red chillis and mud brown cinnamon. There was an explosion of color with fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, grains, rice and then stalls with fish, pork, beef and chicken. There was even a stall selling pig’s ears (we declined!). But it was the people that were so fascinating to watch. Little children hid behind their mothers while taking a peek at these strange looking people. Old men and ladies with wrinkled skin and no teeth just watched us with weary eyes. The younger generation jumped out and took photos while we dodged the scooters, pedestrians and men pushing wooden carts alike. It was a melting pot of new and old and definitely one of the highlights for me.

Friendly faces and fruits and veggies!

Eggs galore!

So many grains

Scooters whizzing through the market

A feast for the eyes!

This rooster was in charge of the tomatoes!

After our walk through the market, we got back in the car, and the driver started driving through the city of Kupang. We were in awe of the thousands of scooters whizzing around, everyone overtaking left, right and center, in total disregard for, or more likely simply because of a lack of, any obvious traffic laws! Our driver was constantly on the horn/hooter, “Beep! Beep!” and the replies came, “Beep, Beep, Beep!”. The kids loved hearing the little scooters tooting their high-pitched hooters, “beeeep, beeeep!”. I held on for dear life, and when I asked if there were ever any accidents, Frenky laughed and said “Of course! Everyday! Lots of them!”.

Soon we were on the outskirts of the city, watching how the water trucks pumped thousands of liters of water from a river, which they would later deliver to houses who had water tanks. Timor is one of the driest areas in Indonesia, and water is quite a luxury, especially during the dry season. Soon we noticed little stalls on the side of the road displaying what we soon learned was salt. Each house had it’s own little salt pan in the back yard, and once the salt had dried, they hand wove little baskets from bamboo leaves, and packaged the salt. It looked so pretty, I just had to buy one, and paid Rp 2,000 for one (approximately 15c (US)). 

A bag of salt - how could I resist?
We were soon in Oebelo village and our driver pulled off to the side of the road and we entered a pretty nondescript building. Inside, we found displays of a musical instrument called a Sasando. This is a local instrument that is played, and the sound is similar to a guitar, but somehow more beautiful! We met Dgitron, who is considered to be one of the best Sasando players in Indonesia! He had been invited to play at the Indonesian Embassy in the United States, and his awards were proudly displayed in a cabinet. We were all kitted out in traditional garb…the hat and an ikat scarf, and then were treated to Dgitron playing some music for us. It really was fantastic. The kids were then also invited to try it, and both of them had a pretty good go of it!

A Sasando

Djitron playing

Together with his father, who taught him how to play
We were dressed in traditional garb...the hats were the result of some amusing comments when I posted this picture on Facebook...

Ben and Gabs with their hats and scarves

Gaby has a go
Next to where the Sasandos were displayed, and where Dgitron played, was the workshop, where they hand made the instruments, and where women were hand weaving the traditional ikat cloth. The cloth is made from handspun thread and the dyes are made with bark, roots and leaves. We saw the traditional loom that they used to weave the cloth, making large pieces of cloth with beautiful patterns. 

The cloth being woven on the traditional looms

Some of the beautiful finished products

Our next stop was Lasiana beach, where wooden fishing boats sat high and dry on the sand, as the tide went out. We met Frenky’s wife, who prepared a traditional snack of fried banana (over an open fire), served with cane sugar syrup, chopped nuts and a mild, grated cheese. It was quite delicious, and far more than just a snack! We also had fresh coconut water from big, green coconuts that were chopped open right in front of us!

Frenky's wife gets ready to chop the coconuts

And we get to drink the coconut water!

Our fried banana snack

Wooden fishing boats aground on Lasiana Beach

On we went, now following a different route back through Kupang and the administrative area, where all the government buildings were located. Some were very fancy, especially in comparison to some of the shack-like homes and crumbling buildings we’d seen in and around Kupang. I asked if a government job was a sought-after position, and Frenky said yes, but the only way to get one, was to have connections. So, if your father, uncle or brother had a government job, then you could get one. Frenky, even though he spoke excellent English and was computer literate, could never hope to get one, as he didn’t have the right connections…what a shame.

One of the new, fancy government buildings.  It's inspiration is actually the Sasando musical instrument
Even though we were all quite full from our fried banana “snack”, we stopped for lunch at a traditional Indonesian restaurant. We were served some rice, and then stood at the window, and chose our remaining meal: chicken, beef, omelet, jack fruit and what we thought was spinach, the choice was quite vast. It was all delicious with a slight curry flavor. Indonesians eat mainly with their hands, but we were given a fork and a spoon to deal with our meals! We were surprised to learn that this place was open 24 hours a day!

Ben chooses his meal

The restaurant from the outside
On the way to one of our last stops of the day, Oenesa waterfalls, we pulled off to the side of the road, to see a bunch of monkeys frolicking around! Having grown up with monkeys in our backyards in South Africa, it was not a “wow” moment for Dave and I, but the kids loved it, especially the mommy monkeys with the babies hanging on tight to their under bellies and backs. The sad thing was, though, that people feed the monkeys and the litter in the area was really bad. The monkeys have become scavengers and have no fear of people, coming right up to you, to try and get food. There were chip packets on the ground, and the monkeys grabbed them, to rummage for any scraps, and then tossed them aside when they couldn’t find any. 

Learning to beg at a very young age :(
On we went, the road now winding up a mountain, through rice fields and small farms, higher and higher, and eventually turned into a bumpy, rough track. The Oenesa waterfalls were a lovely surprise. Huge, smooth boulders formed three tiers of “steps” over which vast amounts of water flowed! Between each “step” were lovely cool pools of water, before the water carried on over the next tier and then the last, eventually trickling back down into a tame stream. Huge trees and massive palms provided shade, and a rainforest-like environment. It was a public holiday when we went there, so there were quite a few people there, swimming in the pools. Walking down the path, a group of young girls giggled and pointed at Gaby, taking out their phones, but too shy to ask to take a photo. When I saw them, I offered to take a photo for them on their cameras and they eagerly posed with Gaby and then thanked us profusely, “Terimakasi! Terimakasi!”. An older lady was not so shy, and upon exiting her car, saw Gaby, and marched over, pinching her cheek over and over and taking selfie after selfie! The rest of her family saw the opportunity, and more photos were taken with both Ben and Gaby! We were eventually able to escape into the safety of the car, and Ben and Gaby both got a taste of what it must be like to be a celebrity!!

Subsistence farming.  Some rice fields and crops

The Oenesa waterfalls
Our trip back to the boat included a quick stop at another market where I stocked up on eggs (each one was checked against a light to ensure it was good), potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber and some oranges. We also stopped at a bakery to get some bread. Re-stocked and ready to go, we wearily made our way back to the beach, where Lambert had been looking after our dinghy.

Dave with Lambert, who lives on the beach with his family, and watched our dinghy for us when we went ashore

We had bought diesel from Lambert the day before, and unfortunately it looked really bad. He insisted he had bought it from the Petrol Station, where the diesel is reputedly OK. However, our diesel was as dark as mud, and there was no way we were going to take a chance and put that in our tanks. We still think he got it from drums, where many roadside sellers will get diesel from, and when Dave asked for his money back (we gave back the diesel), we only got Rp600,000 out of the 1 million we gave him. So we lost about $35 on the deal, but decided it was a price worth paying not to mess up our engines. It was unfortunate to leave on a less than happy note, but it was a lesson learnt, and one we should have known, having been warned about bad diesel in Indonesia by many, many people before coming here.

Normally you can't see the diesel through the yellow plastic jerry can

Bad diesel

We left Kupang early the next morning, eager to get out of the rolly anchorage, and to start exploring the rest of this amazing country!

Our view of Kupang

Enjoying the sunset

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Benjamin and Gaby, can I get your autographs? And guess what, I can dab... but Max won't let me do it in public.