01.12.2007 - 01.12.2007
December and still in Asia, I had never even dreamt of it. Though my intention had been to hit the road this day in order to set myself up to within striking distance of my Indonesian egress, inspiration provoked by Kupang's long colonial history had me sidetracked in a determination to trace an unknown but enticing cemetery. Enquiry to the guy at the hotel not only revealed its whereabouts but also that it lay adjacent to an army base, the original site of Fort Concordia which I first learned of only the day before from a sole historical print at the museum. That centuries old painting had even allowed me upon consultation of a city map to guess its whereabouts, and a small sunken river channel running out into the Sawu Sea had appeared appreciably reminiscent. Sure enough, I crossed a bridge spanning it to climb up to the rivermouth promontory the Dutch had selected, and the cemetery was immedaitely discernible as possessing the dozens of ancient looking tombs I had predicted. Already dripping with sweat at this early hour, I braved the full blaze of the sun in pursuing a methodical tour of tellings of sad passings. All of them without exception inscribed in Dutch, it presented a long legacy of tragedy which the museum had singularly ignored and it was once again no surprise to encounter a remarkably high incidence of child graves. One surname Rozet which appeared frequently was ascribed to no less than 4 kids, 3 of them dying within their first year. Let any man who believes in a god walk this field and re-evaluate his convictions. Making a beeline for a concentration of grander though sadly fragmented tomb obelisks, I had hoped that considering Kupang's importance as a prolonged and important outpost, snippets would be betrayed of remarkable histories and forgotten heroes. In the end however there was only one which related anything more than the conventional places and dates. One of the very first tombs I came to out of a hundred or more, it told of the only foreigner to have succumbed on this shore with perhaps the exception of a J.M. Jackstein "born in the Prussian Free State" in February 1829. Mindblowingly, Thomas E. Drysdale a name which I thought I might have previously come across, had been born in "Edinburg, Schotland" on the 17th March 1817. Tam fae Auld Reekie had somehow managed to rise to serve as Chief Consul of Portugal to Kupang. Wow, what a find!
After a contemplation of the small adjacent river mouth which must have entertained Portugese galleons and Dutch schooners over the centuries, and then a nearby independence obelisk, the swelter then left me with no choice but to retrace my hotel for the relief of a Mandi, then a midday beer routine which left me too late and too tired to check out as intended. In so doing I checked out a rare travellers book exchange instead and found fantastic finds which I decided would keep for later. Refreshed, I eventually coaxed myself into a belated day trip out 28Ks east to a small grubby market town called Oesao, the instigation for which had been to reconnoitre an Ozzie war memorial. Friendly locals included the cops I consulted in order to track it down, they proved to be stunned and gleeful to encounter a white man who spoke Bahasa and thankfully were able to relate that the monument excellently lay only a couple of hundred metres away. Thew memorial cairn related the wartime presence of the 2/40th Infantry Regiment known as "Sparrow Force" who presumably were decimated here by the Japs in 1942.