Friday, 12 August 2011
8 to 11 August 2011
Although we arrived in Lembata around lunch time we elected to kick back on the boat for the afternoon and go ashore that evening for the official reception. The local people certainly try hard to make visiting sailors feel welcome. No less than eight different cultural dance groups were assembled to greet us when we landed at the obligatory rickety dingy wharf and joined the crews of the 40 or so rally boats who had gathered in Lembata. After officially welcoming the sailors the dancers lead us in a procession down the road, closed by police for our arrival, to a waterfront open air restaurant about 400 metres away.
Here we were treated to the usual welcome speeches by the local politicians and then more traditional singing and dancing by all eight groups along with dinner. This being a predominantly Catholic population we were able to buy cold beers making the evening far more social. The highlight of the night occurred when the official program was over and many of the different dance groups took to the large stage for an impromptu Indo jam session. The wide array of traditional drums, gongs, wind and stringed instruments from the cross section of musicians produced a brilliant cacophony of sound which had locals and sailors alike up and dancing. We stayed on enjoying the show for another two or three Bintangs (Official measure of time on the Sail Indonesia Rally) before making our way back to the boat to be serenaded from the shore as the locals partied on until well, well into the new day.
Lembata is home to the village of Lemalera and their men of the sea. This community on the south side of the island have been deep sea fisherman for centuries and still stick to their traditional ways which include hunting shark, giant rays and, from May to September, whales. Much as the commercial whale trade is abhorrent, one has to have a degree of admiration for the bravery of these men who go out in unpowered, open wooden boats to chase down giant sperm whales by oar before the “Lamafa” or whale stabber hurls himself off the bow to harpoon the whale by hand. No figures were available for the mortality rate amongst these specialists but we imagine getting life insurance would be an issue.
A tour to the village was provided for the cruisers but after getting word that a whale had been caught two days previous and a highlight of the trip was going to be seeing what was left of the carcass on the beach Karen’s already limited desire to attend evaporated completely. We decided a better day would be had wandering the town before settling into one of the small eating establishments by the dingy dock for a 9,000 Rupiah ($1.00) meal and many 25,000 rupiah ($2.80) large bottles (Tallies) of Bintang.
We actually had such a good time that we repeated the process the next day apart from we left out the wandering around town part. We really enjoy these small, family run establishments. Usually they will have two or three tables out front under a palm thatched awning, a small display cabinet of a wide range of goods and a small drinks fridge. They offer a limited range of traditional meals which are small but very tasty and filling. Inside is the kitchen and a tiny bedroom or two and out back is the laundry lean to which includes a squat toilet. There are no doors anywhere so when using the toilet it’s advisable to whistle or hum a tune to avoid being walked in on. The whole family works and lives here and without fail we found them all delightful. The school age kids and teenagers are all very keen to practice and improve their limited English skills while asking all sorts of details about where and how we live. The parents and grandparents are super friendly and brilliant hosts. As a result lunch turned into dinner before we knew and yet the total bill for three of us for all afternoon and evening was still only a few dollars. The dingy trip back to the boat in the dark was a bit challenging though. No RBT’s here.
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