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Back to Bima



This dynasty began as early as 775AD, converting to Islam under Abdhul Kahir Kumata 1620-1640, the last Sultan Muhammad Salahuddin rescinding his power in 1951. The modern nearby palace which resembles a more humble government office is now home to his heir, a government official retaining a symbolic title. With the original palace having been destroyed by fire in 1925, the present one was built in 1927 in the Dutch style. Traditional black costumary of the Donggo people included buffalo skin sandles and cross over tunics, it reminded me of an old photo of traditional Chinese. A Dutch inspired battle drum with a lion rampant wielding a sword and a fistfull of arrows was inscribed Pro Patria Indorieni 1640-82. A contrived saddle made from looped rope and lengths of thatch for a cushion betrayed the function of pairings ofdeer horns I had earlier spotted, they were slung across the horses back and used as hooks for carrying sacks of rice. A new weapon here was a Sumpi, a kind of bolas. Portugese weapons were tellingly imported to resist the Dutch 1642-82, the old "my enemy's enemy" adage. As well as chain mail and crude large bore shotguns, local tastes included multi-bladed lances and pikes. Accosted by one of the officials who had broken English, it was uncertain as to whether I had any choice in being herded around by a guide, though normally I resisted such a distraction. I'm not sure I learned anything which wasnt already apparent or explained by a few scant poor English translations, and the periodic interjection of how poorly they were paid (200,000 Rupiah a month allegedly, a little over a tenner), and that I should not forget my guide. I gave her 5,000 in the end which she managed to coax up to 6 in the supposed absence of change, that was double the peanuts entry fee. The headscarved official's real worth was proved when she related that she hailed from Wawo, the district through which I had just journeyed that morning and spied Lenge Wawo once again from the road. In contradiction to the guidebook she explained that the second traditional village of Sambori boasting 3 tiered original houses was not nearby at all but in the same region as Donggo in the opposite direction. Lack of transport meant that that would remain just a dream, but at least I was now in the picture. I tried to promise myself that I would return to Sumbawa a little bolder one day and finish the job, but who knew when that might ever be. Crossing Sumbawa had been palatably straightforward however, and Bali was still a convenient entry gate. It had been a presumption by many in Sape that I was there to continue the natural eastward lineage of Nusa Tenggara to the island of Flores, even the Losmen owner chapped my door that morning in view of the ferry's imminent departure, but consideration of the scant available services had also excellently revealed Sape as the departure point for another island which lay off the already little beaten track, isolated to the south, the ferry running just once a week. Not to be confused with present locale Sumbawa, this land of mystery held the promise of the most unadulterated traditional living of all Indonesia, testimony to its isolation which rendered Africa as its unlikely distant westerly neighbour, a problematic detour which just had to be done. The island of Sumba.

With another precious day left to kill until my ferry departure that night there was only one course of action which made bitter sweet sense, I would retrace the 2 hour jaunt back to Bima and at the third time of trying hopefully avail myself of it's museum. A cheap Ojek transfer was the superefficient means of getting me out to a bus stand in deference to the seemingly underemployed terminal, the resultant slow climb out of town allowing more careful consideration of valleys hued into garish green rice terraces and horse and buffalo pastures. It was still very dry here however despite the onset of the rainy season, a corner of Indonesia which obviously only saw its fleeting influence as a stagnant river bed betrayed. Its as well to note here that though I had failed to get off the beaten track, Sumbawa had not been the arduous assault which I might have anticipated, and indeed there were compensations in being able to efficiently negotiate transport options with not the slightest hint of anyone pushing for a rich tourist premium. In all my time in Sumbawa I had not seen a single white face upon which to prey and so that culture had simply not evolved. In returning to Sape that afternoon I was even surprised to be unusually issued a ticket at a lower than expected fare for the rickety bus, it was just a pity that this trip became the sole example of a hot squashy convoluted journey with people being travel sick around me for good measure. I didnt get back into Sape until almost 7 which prompted an immediate Ojek transfer to the port, resisting the pushy ones and laughing at the guys' ambitious demands. Telling him in Bahasa that I knew the price was all it took, and so for a third and hopefully final time I caught a glimpse of Sape's mosque and hotchpotch of shop fronts. I immediately bagged my ferry ticket lest there be any last minute surprises to deal with but secured it with ease from friendly professional officials at under 2 quid for the overnight cruise. I then had just enough time for a cheap and scrummy Padang cuisine splurge and a quick wash before grabbing my bag and boarding the surprisingly passable looking tub. Though predictably small, the RORO design appeared from the exterior to put the Flores ferry to shame, and despite mountains of cargo and baggage lining the car deck in great piles, the upstairs passenger area was remarkable in being almost civilised. Where I had expected to encounter great swathes of bodies sprawled everywhere on mattresses or "slave ship" racks, rows of plastic seats and TVs were a redemption of considerable value, the modern vibe completed by a disco suite pumping out drum and bass Bemo style. That didnt prevent the continuing uncertainty over departure times however, we finally pulled away almost 3 hours late. We headed East with a gibbus moon shining in our wake, the slow pace dictating that it would take all night to cover the 100Ks or so to port town Waikelo on Sumba. The only white man on board, I had not seen another tourist in all my time on Sumbawa.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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