A Travellerspoint blog

Museum of Nusa Tenggara Timur

After deciding against bike hire due to my enduring fatigue, it subsequently proved to have been a good move since Kupang's roads were a crazy and confusing sprawl. A Bemo crew wasted an hour of my life in the promise of Oebobo bus terminal, my true destination lying nearby but I eventually ended up back where I had started and made my sentiments clear before walking way in disgust. That therefore provoked me plumping for the lesser ambiguity of an Ojek then at a palatable INR5,000 which the boy tried to double on arrival, but I wasnt in the mood for anymore messing around. The museum thankfully proved to be open with good initial impressions, it was under renovation though, they were never as you hoped to find them. At least I could see this time though!


First off, an ethnicity map revealed the diversity of NTT, with Flores for example being split between 10 distinct groups. The major one sited in the western third were the Manggarai people who I had encountered in Labuanbajo and Ruteng, with a local lingo unintelligible to the other islanders. West Timor was revealed to be the stronghold of the Dawan people, though there are small pockets of Helong south of Kupang and Tetun, Marae and Kemak people in the north east. There were photos of varying indiginous architecture with houses adopting variously wedge shaped, pyramidal, conical or beehive roofs of thatch. An early painting of Kupang contrasted in portraying Fort Concordia flying the Dutch flag. Disappointingly the fine presentation was poorly only labelled in Bahasa in the main, with the habitual initial gallery of geological and fossil samples cutting a thrust above most others. What really qualified it however was a dedicated section on Homo Floresiensis, the "Hobbit", with photos of the Liang Bua discovery site. What I had not previously encountered were actual photos of the excavation and a skull on display looked so genuine as to betray the example in Jakarta as a reproduction. Though its evidence is still being debated, my impression was that it might just be the amazing discovery purported, a skull little larger than a grapefruit yet with discernibly strong jaw and fully developed teeth. Other fossil finds had betrayed the existence of the Stegadon, a dwarf elephant. Stone headed axes looked contemporary and perhaps were, and suitably exotic ghoulish looking statues in wood and stone continued the vibe of lands where time had stood still. More photos told of the culture of traditional boxing and the raising of horses for an annual hunting ceremony in Ngada Regency, West Flores. Ikat weaving merited a strong display of cloth samples, looms and spinning wheels, and old currency included notes issued by the Javasche Bank scripted entirely in Dutch, also of blurry printed examples which seemed to have been destined only for Sumatra, the other end of the country. They read "Republik Indonesia, Propinsi Sumatera, Keresidenan Lampung".

Though I normally yawned at traditional costumary by and large, a very archaic looking warrior outfit strung with ribs of wild boar tusks was excellent, and the many fine mannequins demonstrating the beauty and adaptability of Ikat left me suitably impressed, the regional diversity was considerable. Most notable perhaps was the contrastingly understated but by no means unappealing habit of the Ngado to dress all in black, and the dress of the smaller sadly unexplored islands east of Flores held a special lure. Amongst many everyday implements from spears to basketry, another first was the use of buffalo horns and seashells as communications aids, and then a full scale diorama of a traditional roundhouse did me a favour lest I not find time to hunt out any for real. Known locally as Ume Suba, their simple design is merely a crown of thatch reaching to the ground with an entrance portal of barely a metre high cut to one side, symbolically split into male and female halves. Outside to the east are always placed a 3 branch post known as the Hau Monef (Male Post), representing a supreme being, lesser supernatural spirirts and their ancestry. The ancestors are regarded as mediators to the gods and the Hau Monef consequently guards against ill fortune. Moving onto a large section dedicated to Sumba, bundles of black thatch which I had only just earlier seen a man carrying either end of a pole in the street were revealed to be destined for rope making. Photos and a diorama showed their remarkable habits of the Pasola horseback fighting ritual, with horses colourfully clad in rosettes and their mounts sporting hats akin to birthday cakes with 4 giant candles. They dressed buffalos' horns with red cloth and palm leaves in readiness for ritual slaughter, an accompaniment to the dragging of massive stone slabs to their chosen tomb spots.

Though it would probably serve little purpose considering my imminent departure, I elected out of curiosity to now pursue a nearby and otherwise thoroughly inconvenient tourist office, what transpired to be just one more lavish public building all spit and no substance. For once however I was amazed to find that rarest of things in Indonesia, a bona fide tourist office which actually possessed tourist information. It was a reality check to then find not just the glass cabinets littered with maps and brochures locked, but the whole building apparently unattended and deserted. In what must be a terrible drain on the Indo economy, for once I scoured the innards of one of these habitually lifeless palaces, finding not so much as a security guard to help me. Piles of folders sat neatly atop a plethora of desks in the pretence that work actually got done, but one meaningless office after another revealed not a soul. Finally electing to shout for attention, I dont know who got the biggest shcok when an unseen boy asleep stirred from an adjacent couch, and though he was helpful in predictably scratching around for a random forgotten copy of a map, he could not avail himself of the key for the cabinet full of rare offerings. Though I was unimpressed it was polite to make do with that, reflecting that with tourism clearly dead in East Nusa Tenggara and struggling in general outwith Bali, they had failed to satisfy their sole customer of the day, perhaps that week. I could only guess the other purported penpushers had found couches upstairs out of sight! Certainly if they had disappeared to pray, another obscenity, they were taking their time about it.

Approaching 2 O'Clock it was sadly too late to consider a foray out of town from the perversely conveniently neighhbouring bus terminal, and though there was the promise of more traditional villages, colourful markets and an Australian war memorial to entice me, the truth was that it was also just too damn hot. I couldnt tell if it was in particular because of the build up to the wet season, certainly Australia's most uncomfortable time, but the energy sapping climes which now deemed living unbearable even by 8am and had me constantly mopping my face, had notably crescendoed in recent weeks. It was a forewarning and an anticipation of Darwin now seemingly suddenly only 10 days distant, so I for once opted to be kind to myself and accept the day for what it was. The museum despite renovatory work had been one of the finest encountered in all Indonesia after all, perhaps a reflection of this most alluring of the world's dark distant corners, and so I was happy to settle for that. A return Bemo was mercifully more direct in conveying me back to the centre, where I opted to hop off early upon sighting my first decent bookshop in weeks. Even the Gramedia national chain store couldnt bless me with a copy of the Jakarta Post, Indo's prime English daily however, so I settled for an aircraft magazine and sweat sustaining beer. An internet session was then the order of the day under pressure to establish some important onward considerations, but even in big city Kupang the connection was excruciatingly slow. AT less than 10p a pop, corn on the cob at a seafront concentration of stalls was a nice change, also serving to remind me of how humble some others lived. Though it had been noted recently by a gang of Cherrypickers that people here did not adhere to the same work ethic, here they were manning smoky stands at late o'clock for money I wouldnt even fight an Ojek driver over, it was a perversity to be asked for a pittance and wished they'd asked for double to ease my conscience. What really made it though was that these were not the recognised face of poverty, they were respectably dressed people of mobile intellect and a sense of manners which made it worse. During habitual enquiries as to my lot from locals which pushed my Bahasa to the limit, I noticed that a rare seafront bar little distant had a live band playing and so that was good enough excuse for another beer or 2, qualified by me writing this. In actuality I had stumbled upon a humble concert dedicated to "Hari AIDS Sedunia" (World Aids Day) 2007, and was promptly invited to append a suitable scrawl to a large banner being created in that ilk. "Dont Die of Ignorance" was an obvious addition, but upon establishing my origins a camcorder wielding boy with a bit of English requested an additional edict in "Bahasa Skotlandia". Amused that he would even surmise Scotland to boast a language of its own, my imagination struggled to meet the occasion, and upon explaining that a literal translation would be little different to the first, the best alternative I could come up with was "Dinnae be daft, hink afore ye dunk". The irony was not lost on me then upon reaching the bar to be confronted with a gaggle of unlovely aging western stereotypes attended by their diminutive local live entertainment, they could have been their granddaughters if it wasnt for the ridiculously juxtaposed ethnicity. Though it might have been useful to query them for local knowledge I instinctively elected not to get involved, and their intransigence was a welcome telltale relief. They didnt give a stuff about anything it seemed, not even another rare white man.

Posted by andyhay2 13:03 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Flores to Timor

My initial tentative plan for today had been to brave once again the demands of a motorbike escapade, prompted by the vicinity of Flores's major attraction Gunung Kelimutu. Kelimutu was nothing on a scale of Indonesia's more gargantuan volcanoes but this one was renowned for its character in boasting 3 giant crater lakes, each of a different colour. Not only were they of unlikely garish persuasion, but poorly understood mineral action had prompted the observation that the colours would also change over time. The 70K jaunt east with the last leg being understandably steep and demanding meant that I would have to really go for it, but the originally scheduled departure of my flight to Timor meant that I could maybe just about squeeze it in. It was not to be however in the end. Though my substantialy illegible handwritten ticket could not confirm the departure time as anything more than sometime after 1400 hours, the one discernible scrawl of "Check In 1300" left little ambiguity. I just had to presume the boy had got the date right and the fare breakdown also bore little resemblance to the 21 quid odds I had paid. Even with a sunrise start I had to stoically accept that I could not take the chance of missing it, and so another dream nosedived in a mood of frustration. I was really having to sell myself short now in curbing long held intentions, betraying my decision to stupidly wait a ridiculous 20 days in Bali in lieu of a package from home perhaps the single most major error of my whole trip. How I could have better invested those days now. I did what I could then to salvage some pride in retracing the town centre, checking somewhat skeptically first at the nearby airport as to the exact departure time. The boy said 3 which rather flew in the face of my ticket, even if it had read 1450 he might have been setting me up for missing it. I didnt mess about in hailing a Bemo seawards, scoring a doorstep drop off back at the Bung Karno Museum once again. Its open shutters were just what I wanted to see, and though there was little else to observe other than that in the end, the main thing was to have my curiosity satisfied, my frustration tempered slightly.

Posted by andyhay2 13:06 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)



It had been a realisation that whatever promise Ende might have to offer, I might have to promptly escape her throes on a dubiously scheduled flight that morning. Air services in this part of the world tended to be well frequented due to the nature of island isolation and tortuous surface travel, and so it was a major concern that I would get stuck for the want of availability. Having had to accept that I simply had no further time to complete my intended traverse of Flores and onto the allure of Lembata Island for example, Plan B was now to afford Ende a day and then fly out the next, but if that flight was booked out then I would be snookered. Awaital of the airports opening had me fighting a battle of repeatedly nodding off, only to subsequently discover that there were no computer terminals in situ and so no means of clarifying the situation. There was nothing for it then but to await the opening of the airline office, putting all of my frustrations in one basket then as I forsook that days flight and pinned my hopes on the next. The day after that the flight purportedly didnt operate, one more reason for my urgency. It at least afforded me a bed at long last, finding the indulgence of a nearby pricey option full but its neighbour still a palace for a pittance, geared up to tourist expectations but seemingly absent of them. Though sleep should have been a default reaction, my recent travails had left me in even more dire need of a tiresome laundry routine and full body makeover. That bitter sweet freezing cold Mandi had been a long time in coming and I had been like never before down to zero clean clothes besides underwear for days. What hadnt helped either was a recent spate of mosquito and even more infuriating ant bites, a swathe of heat spots around my neck and a dose of dhiorrea for good measure. You couldnt kid nature, hardcore travel strategy held a price to pay. I belligerently short changed myself with only 2 hours kip that morning, an enforced strategy to at least promptly elicit my options though in truth there was only one, the Merpati office just had to come up with the goods. To walk into their office and be habitually ignored was the unnerving experience I really didnt need right now, but soon enough I made my pleading demand and had my answer. Even here they werent computerised but the boy got on the blower and relayed my request, I punched the air as I walked out minutes later with ticket in hand. It was not just relief at securing the onward connection, but I now knew that I was just a day away from reaching not only the last island of Indonesia's incredible 5200K long chain, but all the facility promised by East Nusa Tenggara's capital, big city Kupang. Still paining at my enforced corner cutting which had served to slightly scupper my Europe to Australia overland ethos at the death, it was all I could do to accept the inevitable and at least make the most of Ende's offerings, finding only "Hello misters" where there should have been a brace of churches but locating nonetheless and more importantly a museum. This one was simply a house, a pretty gardened whitewash bungalow with yellow shutters which held a special place in the hearts of locals as the Bung Karno House. Before assuming his rightful place as Indonesia's first president, Sukarno had been interred here by his Dutch colonial repressors, finding the time here to not only write works of fiction and paint, but formulate the Pancasila, new nation Indonesia's 5 guiding principles.........

It was closed of course as these places tended to be, so I hoofed it round the corner to avail myself of a second museum. Though this one looked likewise deserted a couple of young kids playing in its picnic garden gave me the resolve to unlatch the gate myself and poke around, upon which a boy materialised to suggest I came back at 5. That left me a little perplexed and only served to reaffirm the impression that the Sumba house stylised Ikat Museum was more a tourist trap concerned with peddling its wares. Needless to say I did not return. Onwards to a large scruffy Padang area, a small unexpected monumernt was of passing interest, its intentionally fracturised finishing and clocks indicating a poignant moment at 1.29, am. or pm. I could not tell. My recent personal experience had occurred in the nick of time to be able to translate that an earthquake had struck here on 12th December 1992, doubtless a big one. Across the road was another bonus, an unforseen tourist office rendering a deja vu throwback to the one in Waikabubak on Sumba. Overstaffed with uniformly gorgeous mature ladies in khaki drill, they managed to muster not one but 2 passable leaflets on Ende and the Gunung Kelimutu region, just a pity then that they would promptly be deemed superfluous. An adjacent neglected parkland bore a very large and impressive bronzed statue of General Suharto, Indonesia's independence hero, and an obelisk celebrating 50 years of Indonesian independence, notably from it's original 1945 declaration and not its final realisation in 1949. The supreme heat had already deemed it Beer O'Clock and so I searched out Ende's sole tourist touting restaurant, presenting no customers and an array of unobtainable wall maps and leaflets I envied them for. The most interesting of its revelations was that Ende Island 14Ks offshore still bore the ruins of an old Portugese fort, and at an undisclosed locality known as Watunggere there were similar remnants constructed by an unknown national hero Marilonga who had resisted Dutch colonialisation.

Poking around Ende's central market from there revealed a very grubby encampment frequented by similarly grubby people, affirmed by the popular indulgence in mouth corrupting betel nut and the common proferring of the same, also a large pile of discarded buffalo and goat skulls. Strips of animal hide hung like washing to dry, though its repugnance did not exude any impression of its usage for craftwork, it was probably for consumption. Fruit and veg. were accompanied by chilis, pungent miniscule dried fish and yet more betel nut, but it was the first place I had encountered great piles of sweet potato. It was another reminder of Australia's proximity where they commonly indulged in what they call Kumera. Ende's superb backdrop of lurid green mountains and intense blues was sadly detracted by its beach being covered in filth and goats, prompting my election to escape its mirky litter laced shoreline waters in checking out the local cathedral. This large and contrastingly pristine whitewashed example was notable for its Dutch roof styling, with a very large Jesus statue symbolically boasting the faiths worldwide dissemination stood upon a globe. With Ende's so-so sights now squared away I could at least afford to appease myself with a long trek back to overdue sleep, chancing upon the way however a previously promised but untraceable Maritime Museum. That was just the kind of place to provoke renewed energy in me but alas through locked glass doors I could appreciate its entirety of scant poor offerings. A small whale skeleton and ridiculous looking porpoise effigy were surrounded by a clutter of seashells and storyboards fit for kids, too bad.

Posted by andyhay2 16:47 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Labuanbajo to Ende

I was up with the dawn that morning in a determination to devote a whole day to as much progress as possible, and it was an immediate hurdle to therefore realise LB's one main drag completely devoid of hitherto noted buses. It was a fluke then to hear a normally unintelligible passing Bemo boy shout "Terminal!" with the word printed on the van's bonnet for good measure, the guidebook p[urp[orted that LB didnt have one but clearly it did. Far along a soon rural encompassing road sat a brace of buses, and its ridiculously isolated siting revealed another insight into Indonesian philosophy. Perhaps it was that they simply didnt care to plan any better, but the cynic in me had me considering that perhaps it was a deliberate habitual policy to create transport hubs wholly inconvenient,m thereby creating an otherwise unnecessary industry of Bemo and Ojek boys in the name of employment creation. It certainly helped stir up the economy but it wasnt exactly customer friendly. The bus crews fought hard over me but I knew the score very well, stoically aiming for the fuller one and gaining a prompt departure as a result. It was one of the acceptances that we would periodically halt in order to convolutedly load with bags of rice or whatever else, even unblinkingly tie onto the roof rack gaggle sof liove chickens or pigs with their feed, and the road back to Ruteng was inconsequential in spite of now expected scenery. The fun and games started upon arrival in Ruteng once again however, with a Bemo crew of whom even the driver could have only been 14 at most compromised what should have been a straightforward transfer to the centre. Theior moneygrabbing antics saw usd tracing every distant corner of the town with the exception of its heart, negotiating excruciatingly slowly roads deteriorated into rock. After a couple of unsubtle hints as to "When are we going to the centre, tomorrow?", I finally lost my patience at a final distant drop point and hopped out onto a handily adjacent second Bemo. Beyong caring, I didnt have all day even if they did and so thankfully finally got my transfer from a point even more distant than from where I had started.

Priority number 1 was to retrace the Merlin tourist orientated restaurant which remarkably today boasted some real live tourists, a group of Dutch folk whose converstaion revealed they knew little about Nusa Tenggara and even less about reasonable prices. Then I made a point of taking advantage once again of Ruteng's rare as gold net connection, and I took a chance in getting a lot of business done in deference to pressing time. I had presumed it possible to reach Bajawa another 4 or 5 hours distant from Ruteng that day but a fortunate hook up with an Ojek boy requesting the terminal for Bajawa and Ende buses saw him making consultations before dropping me at a bus office not so far from the centre. It was revealed that there was somewhat excellently to be a through service all the way to Ende at 4, and though it was a shame to elect to pass by Bajawa once again, the progress had to take priority. With 2 hours now to kill I gave myself a sweaty slog around Ruteng's backstreets in search of chance discoveries, and amazingly was immediately rewarded with a very strange materialisation indeed, the stripped out carcass of an aircraft bizarrely now plonked on a patch of waste ground miles from any airfield. The diminutive CASA C-212 Aviocar which still bore Merpati airline markings was a rare bird to find anywhere, and now devoid of all fittings including its 12 seats had somehow found itself a second life as a hanging point for washing lines adjacent to 2 rustic shacks. And it wasnt lost on me that if I hadnt had the fortune to discover the nearby bus office I would never have known of its presence. A subsequent short but very wide bridge had overstated entry portals and might have hailed from the Dutch era, leading me to a ridiculously gargantuan cathedral with overwrought idolatory strewn around its grounds. A solitary tomb revealed its longtime minister to have up until recently been a Dutchman. A charismatic nearby monumernt topped with a kangaroo and komodo dragon revealed that Australian aid had as recently as 1994-1999 availed the town of a reliable fresh water supply, thereupon swimming through a sea of frequent "Hello misters" until the centre revealed an unusual mosque with whitewashed crenellated walls, perhaps in deference to the prison compound next door. More time on the net then eked out

Posted by andyhay2 18:38 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)


In view of my time restriction I had been desperate to ensure somehow of bagging a tour that morning, a plan scuppered by my understandable reluctance to sleep lest we get hit by "the big one". Woken at half 8 by a French boy and a local prattling away in bad English outside, it was a dismay to realise it probably already too late to catch a boat trip out to Pulau Rinca 2 hours away, and all I could do was trail LB's shonky seafront road in search of suitable offerings. There was an evident dearth of fellow itinerants however, with most of them being Cherrypickers who had plumped for dedicated tourist boat services from Bali or Lombok. Considering the interest value of the nearby Natioanl Park which boasts a UNESCO listing to boot, I felt I had no choice but to dedicate another precious day in trying to sort something out though, first of all tracing the small park information office. It was never going to be a surprise to find the small Raja house stylised hut closed however, and I attempted to cut out the middle men in hunting down a boat directly, finding plenty of iridescent fish trolling around the pier but no boatmen. Given the propensity of schedule changes, cancellations and heavy bookings, I then tried to redeem the day with a visit to the Transnusa airline office, finding their schedule to now bear little resemblance to their route map. A case in point was the short hop allegedly linking Labuanbajo back to Ruteng which I would have undoubtedly done had it still been in operation, and my pressing concern to book a flight out of Maumere was scuppered by the sods law fact that it ran every day except Friday, the one day that I needed it. In trying and failing to hook up with any one of the boats lying offshore, I cheekily traced a route through the cramped grubby confines of the shoreline fishing community, finding large shoreside stilt platforms decked with bamboo which were used for the laying out of nets and the drying of seaweed.

There was then nothing for it but to accept the long hot scorchy sojourn out along the lengthy seafront road in a quest for further info, interrupted by a downpour which I sheltered from back in "Hello mister" territory away from the tourist trappings. I passed first a tourist office which was again closed and indeed unreachable due to a ditch having been dug in front of it, rather an image which encapsulated Indonesia I thought, then stumbling across another unexpected and much larger general information office in the throes of renovation. Ambitious demands for a brochure or map remarkably revealed a rare tourist pamphlet about the park after much rustling about through piles of paper, and then I found the Merpati airline office which if it hadnt been for the sign outside I would never have recognised the dilapidated shack as such. Lazy sifting through of a dissaray of faxes revealed that the boy could only reveal a dearth of services and no fares for the ones still extant, and it was only at my request that I received an unprecedented glossy booklet from a glass showcase listing the schedules at least. I was so close to the airport here that I thought I might as well take a look, and found the small terminal filled with habitual X-ray equipment and single check in desk, it was open but utterly deserted. Instead of helping myself to a computer monitor I strolled through the open door airside, finding nothing but wandering goats and cycling kids on the runway and hardstandings, and I wondered how and who was going to clear them for the imminent arrival from Bali promised by the timetable. No one was though, the anticipated flight didnt materialise and it rather served to sum matters up. Becoming somewhat exasperated by the continual contradictions which made any kind of forward planning impossible, I dropped that concern for a while in crossing the runway and followed a muddy trail out onto a distant parallel road, pursuing an impromptu shortcut to hopefully trace a local attraction promised by the guidebook, Batu Cernin. This limestone outcrop seemingly housed some cave tombs allegedly not justifying the entry price, but my conviction to nevertheless qualify the day in that vain was scuppered when enquiry with a local revealed it to still lie much further away than what the map promised. Baulking at the extra expense of an Ojek, it was another frustration to let that one go then, plumping for a Bemo back into town to a much needed Mandi.

Contemplation of my now still questionable alternatives elicited at least one indisputable fact, I really was scarily short of time for anything more than constant eastward travel. The world took the piss all over again when just after crushingly admitting to myself that the park tour would have to be shelved, a snooty London girl with a Cherrypicker vibe and fantastic cleavage turned up with the same plan in mind. Though most men would have thought differently, it almost qualified my decision in considering that she would just be one more distraction I didnt need, and so the plan became somewhat simplified. Get drunk, then get the hell out on the first morning bus east. Even that resolve wasnt allowed to pass unhindered however. My Bahasa allowed me to circumvent the normal agenda of a trinket vendor whose island origins betrayed the existence of a doubtless deliberately hushed up public boat into the park, a service which I guessed had to exist but had failed to trace. This cheap unadulterated option was an attraction in its own right in enabling a circumvention of the pricey package tourist conveyor belt, but my visa expiry now took precedence over even that. Though I had elected to aim for the closer hence cheaper island of Rinca, this boy hailed from its larger more distant neighbour some 4 hours away from LB, a destination provoking excitement at its name alone. Komodo. Though there were allegedly a number of redemptions in forking out for the foray in that direction, the main ones being an assortment of wildlife treks promising deer, wild buffalo, horses, monitor lizards and cockatoos, there was only really one reason for this problematic sidetrack but one which fully justified it. It was Varanus Komodoensis Ouwens, the world's largest lizard species, the Komodo Dragon. This one had attained the heights of a priority for my whole trip, and for the sake of a day it was excruciating to let it go.

Posted by andyhay2 18:37 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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