Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 24 November 2018 • Destination
“I have a thing for rocks,” Alice, mother of three told me, with her blue eyes widen of excitement. She had been the trooper of my group, educating everyone, especially her children, about nature’s phenomenon including that in relation to geology. Her eyes were the same exact color and expression as we came close to Blue Stone Beach, Panggajawa, Flores. You can imagine why. The beach was as its name, filled with turquoise colored rocks which extended in layers all along the cliff face of the beach. I knew, it was going to be along stop.
“They used to be very poor,” Om Anti, my local driver and storyteller told me. “Their houses used to be thatched walls. But after they started to sell the blue stones, they became prosperous,” he continued half shouting, to compete the rolling engine of our minibus. Entering and passing through the village, sacks of turquoise, grey, and whitish rocks countlessly line the coast.
“It never runs out. The ocean keeps on washing in the blue rocks,” Om Anti continues as we parked on the beach. Alice, taking the hand of her children, walked to the beach with a smile on her face. After a while, she took extra time for herself to admire the layers and taking pictures of them. “Fascinating!” is the term she used.
I have heard one other famous beach that has blue rocks on its sand called Kolbano Beach, located far in Timor Island, about 3 hours from Kupang. I haven’t found anywhere else ever since. The predominantly blue rocks, contrast to the black sand beach, varied in shape and sizes.
Setting foot on the beach, I saw three women wearing hijabs, squatting near by and picking rocks. Puzzled by the rock picking process, I approached Ibu Fatima and offered my help. Little did I know, I had to take a crash course. Handing a turquoise rock, she declined. “Cannot!” she said with a straight face. It was all business, I guess, she didn’t have time for small talk. I tried another, she shook her head.
“It has to be smooth, slightly flat, not too small, and an has a circular shape,” she taught me. I kept to it, trying to understand the demand. Around my fourth rock, she started laughing at my persistency. By the sixth, I got it. “Yay!” I couldn’t contain myself feeling happy, passing my Miyagi test. “Why are you doing this?” she asked.
“I want to help and learn what kind of rocks are valuable,” I answered. Ibu Fatima nodded and added that grey and whitish rocks are also collected but separated in different sacks. Vaguely, she knew these shapes and sizes are good for construction, and the sacks are sent to Surabaya by demand. I recall seeing these rocks found in gardens, villas or hotels around the world.
I continued picking rocks and proudly got better at it. I thought I could do it for hours; squatting, constantly carrying buckets of rocks and collecting them in sacks. But it was quite physical. At some point, I gave up squatting and sat on the rocks. “If you want to help, better give me money,” she said. “But I don’t have any, I’m working too,” I answered pointing to the ibupenyu group I was leading. She smirked a little and continued picking stones, also declining or accepting the rocks I propose to her.
Her tone softened and she continued to share her ordeals. Ibu Fatima, as many of the local Panggajawa people collect rocks on a daily basis, about three hours in the morning and about four hours in the afternoon. Sacks are then sold at about IDR50,000 each.
As a tour leader that day, I couldn’t indulge myself in a longer conversation. I had clients scattered around the beach that needed to be in Manulalu for dinner, and we were still very far away. “So did I pass?” I asked. She nodded and laughed. I thanked her hospitality, asked for a picture, and bid farewell. I ended by saying “Assalamu alaikum!” She answered with “Wa’alaikum salam,” and continued her activities. This stroked a cord.
It was nice to visit somewhere new but I couldn’t help myself to feel it wasn’t too foreign. Sure, there’s no denying the facial characters of the people I saw in the village were Floresian, but there was a void compared to visiting other Flores villages. As I pondered, I realized the feeling lacked Flores culture compared to other villages. It felt like a village in Java, with many Muslims struggling to find decent food to put on the table. But, I think that’s for another time.
The beach was relatively nice and clean. The view was quite nice because it was part of bay. You can see parts of Flores island in the distance. It’s swimmable as the beach slope is relatively shallow. However, I think you can’t swim in your bathing suit here because Panggajawa seem like a strict Muslim village. Shoud you want to enjoy the waters, at least with a t-shirt over your swimsuit.
It’s a recommended visit, especially as a stop to cool off your ass during your doing overland Flores trip. I would love to return, see more of the village and stare longer at the layers of blue rocks on the cliff.
And if you’ve read this far, here’s a friendly tip. Observe the road coming into and heading out of Panggajawa Village, where the blue stone layers beneath the asphalt. It’s something different to the beach scenary. Move over white sandy beaches. Hello Blue Stone Beach!