After a late start courtesy of interrupted sleep due to a noisy bar, mosquitos and mosques, I still started well in bagging myself the correct fare on a notoriously tourist preying tourist route, my Bahasa did me proud in the driver being unusually helpful and even shaking my hand. Quite refreshing after the day previous. From central Ampenan I traced a couple of Ks on foot to the Museum of West Nusa Tenggara, happily open and for only a 5p entry fee. Of a few cannon outside a discernibly British one was crested with a crown and GR akin to post boxes, it was a mystery as to how it found its way here then. Comprising the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa, an ethnicity map revealed Lombok to be home to the largely homogenous Sasak people, with just a couple of small pockets of Balinese. Sumbawa was split more 50/50, with ethnic Sumbawa in the west and the Mbojo people to the east. A hitherto unencountered map of Indonesia's tectonic zones then revealed the predictable trench lines along the Sumatra-Java-Nusa Tenggara chain, also fault lines to the north and east of northern Sulawesi and to the west of the Moluccas. A second major active zone runs from south of Timor in a loop around the south of Papua to Ambon. It also noted Indonesia's active volcanoes, of which 2 were cited on Bali, Gunung Rinjani on Lombok, and another 2 on Sumbawa. Flores has half a dozen. Excellent professionally produced relief models of Lombok's Rinjani and Gunung Tambora of north central Sumbawa revealed the same amazingly abrupt topography the national museum in Jakarta had hinted at.
The predictable presence of renovatory works around the museum was tempered by the fact that thankfully they had at least put the lights on for once! After the habitual boring procession of geological samples, fossils, stone tools and pottery, vaguely more interesting were ethnic artifacts such as bamboo baskets used for catching fish, ranging from bottle and shuttlecock shaped designs to an unusual boat shaped one used for catching the "swift water fish". There was a diorama of the indiginous twin outrigger canoes with a triangular gaff sail, and even a bamboo harpoon. A section dedicated to hunting revealed unusual artifacts in a Pendiwal, described as a kind of catapult but more akin to an archers bow however straight, also a new introduction into the use of sometimes ornate birdtrap cages. A farming section then revealed a Boru Lemba Oi, an exotic water carrier formed from a palm fond perhaps, it was the shape of a clam shell and used to carry water strung from a pole. Equally original was a Sungkup, a giant palm fashioned rain shelter employed strapped to ones back for farmers supine in the field. A model of a brace of buffalo unusually shackled either side of a plough also revealed how they bore very large appendages around their necks of indefinable purpose. Moving onto a shadow puppet display and orchestra, the limited English captioning was useful in betraying that each character would have its own dedicated instrument of varying design and tone to reflect their demeanour. A live interpretation of "satires or social critics" are performed in a folk theatre with Sasak people porting variously ghoulish or striking face masks. Of the scant English offered, one useful insight was that Islam was introduced to West Nusa Tenggara by a certain Sunan Prapen who arrived in Lombok from Java in the 16th Century, the island had previously been of the Hindu Buddhist persuasion still adhered to on Bali. A second wave of Islam entered eastern Sumbawa in the 17th C. In the early 18th C. for reasons which the museum tried but failed to relay, Islam and pre-Islamic beliefs mingled to create a distinct sect known as the Waktu Telu.
Another unique insight was a comparison of alphabets, with Latin compared to the very similar writing systems of Jejawan (Sasak), Harjendro (Javanese) and Wiyagyana (Balinese), indeed it was interesting to note their affinity. Javanese differed only slightly more markedly in possessing the th and dh sounds. Jontal (Sumbawanese) was distinct however, using simple straight line forms compared to the curly characters of the former. Examples of the Sasak language were displayed in the form of incised stripes of palm leaf similar to Balinese records, and books of a sort were formed by stacking these like cards and fastening a length of string through a central piercing. It was an added bonus to learn that the Pallawa script I had seen so emphatically upon inscribed stones across Indonesia was closely related to old Javanese (Jawa Kuna) presumably a forerunner, though the modern script has changed markedly over time. I loitered to consider various examples of Indonesian currency due to the telltale hammer of rain on the timpany roof, bearing examples of the Nederlandische-Indie era, the Japansche Regeering, also printed as "Dai Nippon Telkoku Seihu", there was even an example of the "Banco Nacional Ultramarino" of East Timor, a "Cem Escudos" note having been issued in Lisbon in 1963. Outside the downpour thankfully soon let up and so I appreciated outdoor examples of indiginous Sasak architecture, most notably a very distinctive warehouse made entirely of thatch, with its cuttlefish-bone shaped gables enshrouded by a crest curling down seemlessly to an outsloping overhang at its very base. It notably resembled how a woman might wear her hair, a blonde naturally! Elevated to a height of 2 metres, it stood upon 4 simple unadorned pillars with a habitual lounging platform underneath. More conventional examples were a square plan bungalow with thatch roof and bamboo latticed walls, and an open thatched shelter with bamboo decking.
The museum had been partially compromised by the renovation work going on and only sporadic lighting, yet the lack of storyboards and the closure of a treasure house section still appreciable through glass mattered little. I was simply glad that after so many encounters to the contrary it had been open and stayed open, revealing insights into exotic islands of which I knew very little. It was a panacea to a month previous of little more than culturally devoid beach resorts. It was a frustration then that I had chosen today to run out of camera memory and so could not snap an outhouse lined with excellent black and white photos of Dutch remains on Lombok, amazingly exotic Sasak leaders bearing round spike bearing shields and very tall lances. There was also a collection of images of the 1894 Dutch Lombok Expedition, with pith helmet and pork pie wearing troops lazing on the beach whilst paddy hat wearing locals unloaded their pinnace. Dutch cavalry sat mounted as their steeds drank from a river as nearby comrades built a rickety bamboo bridge across it. A set photo of Major MB Rost van Tonningen and his fellow officers revealed you were no-one without a beard and bushy moustache in that day. There were portraits of tribal leaders and Rajas. Also revealed was a notable monument to a General Major van Ham in Mataram, left untold by either of my guidebooks, and a sizeable Dutch house by a bridge was shown in its past and present state, the present actually being a spot now strewn with goats feeding on garbage where I had passed en route to the museum, the houses' ruin now being an empty indiscernible shell. Trees planted by the Dutch along dusty rural tracks were now the shady avenues of the city running from western Ampenan to central Mataram. A remarkably modern looking aquaduct built by the Dutch was a brace of very large bore pipes traversing a river valley, it looked more like a modern hydroelectric project than something from 1912. Many bridges built by the Dutch were now sadly deteriorated to the point most were now impassable, though one had forgivingly been bombed by the Japs. A 1935 dam and irrigation project was now a trickle of water compared to the torrent it had once been and the pier at Ampenan was now but a few crooked stilts sticking out of the water marooned.
It was an uneventful traipse from there of 2Ks or more to the promise of the West Nusa Tenggara tourist office where I had hoped to gain from the promise of maps and information on mysterious Sumbawa, and yet the side road promised by the guidebook clearly did not exist. I could only guess that it was the lane through an array of unsigned yet pleasing buildings any one of which could have been my goal, but they were all closed in any case. I spent another 2 to 3K slog thankfully redeemed by Mataram's leafy and not unlovely vibe, trying and failing at every juncture along the way to find someone happy to burn my photos to DVD. Past a padang with indistinguishable memorials I ended up at Mataram central and escaped the returning rain in its major shopping mall, gaining some views from its upper tier foodcourt across to Gunung Rinjani in the process. Even here the one computer shop with DVD burning capability saw my efforts scuppered with technical problems and so it was a frustration to have to return under pressure of failing daylight still unable to take photos.
The urban Bemo run across town was a cinch but in the dark now I retraced Ampenan for the second time in two nights to find the Bemo connection finished for the day, and though a couple of tailenders passed by they inexplicably failed to stop. There was no choice then but to plump for the Ojek motorbike taxi option, but in resisting the repeated pressure from one still in hope of a belated Bemo, I was most fortunate to eventually be approached by another young dude on a bike asking if I needed a lift. He was headed to Senggigi anyway he said, and though normally this might have been considered just one more common ruse, he openly offered to save my frustration free gratis. 7Ks later he dropped me right by the Lina Hotel and though young Ibrahim resisted any offer of payment I forced it on him explaining that I wanted to. It took me back to another night of frustration in Kutaisi, Goergia early in my trip whenupon another of the worlds young stars had gone out of his way to help me devoid of ulterior motive, a breed of beautiful souls which made the world a good place to live in. This latest encounter was even more unexpected being as it was along a notably cutthroat route well established in fleecing tourists. In what had been a bitter sweet day availing me of an interesting museum, heat and rain in equal measure, few photos and no time to check out a brace of ancient temples, Ibrahim still blessed me with arrival back home with a smile on my face. I hooked up straigt away with Lazy Lin, who had spent the day dodging the touts on the beach, appreciating a purportedly endearing beach market and enviously bagging an invitation to a local wedding. She lived up to her name by retiring early, upon which I headed for a noisy cafe bar across the road only to resist it due to its moneygrabbing entry fee and noise pollution. Bed came early then but certainly not sleep, I finally conked out after paining at the overwrought party music and prolific mosquitos only to be wakened at Stupid O'clock by the holler from the local mosque.