Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 October 2008 • Itinerary
To heat up my memory about the trip to Alor Island, I installed some reggae music in my ears… and I think it’s working… 🙂
I had the accidental pleasure to spend 2 days and 1 night on Alor Island. Went there with my co-workers because it was a detour from a disastrous travel plan!!! I’ve heard so many things about it from the people that work in Wetar, so I happen to have it on my To Do list. Thus, rather than having a bad mood because it was a detour, I embraced it with eagerness. Twas a trip paid by the company too so might as well get the best out of it right ;)?? Let’s go…
Alor (sounds exotic hey?) is one of the islands at Nusa Tenggara Timur (East Nusa Tenggara) province. It’s located on the far east of the Lombok, Sumbawa, etc island line. If arriving with the public boat as I did, you will come in to a long bay where the port will be hiding, right in the middle of the island, called Kalabahi bay. And what is the city called? KALABAHI (Applause!). It’s a small town but quite busy being a harbor city. Coming near the harbor, we met a pod of dolphins fishing. I could see their humps coming up and down in many spot and not far from local fishermen. As if they were partners with them; everyone is just getting breakfast that fresh morning. I arrived at 6 am, the air was chilly and the cold mist was still covering the bay. Being a dry area, the scene was a mix of blue and orange in the month of October.
It’ll be interesting to come to the bay on Independence day. As a tradition, a swimming race is held within the bay. The race is to compete by swimming across the bay and back. The distance is probably about 1 km away.
Our local friend and guide, Maskur, enters this competition when he can. That explains his abs, shoulders and biceps, …ladies, if you know what I mean (raising eyebrow)?
As you probably have guessed, we (Indohoy) heart beaches. We adore the beauty at and within the sea floor. Turns out the young fellows of the bunch, 4 guys, love it too!!! So a beach hunt it was. We’ve heard so much about the island of Alor and being an area of great underwater world, beaches became our priority.
First beach to suck up was Alor Kecil (translated: Little Alor). Maskur did great advertising about his home village, so we had to buy buy buy! We found an information board on locations for diving and snorkeling. Seems like this place is for serious diving! Hurayyy for his brother who is a fisherman, so we borrowed his boat and headed out to Kepa island that was just up front of the village. Not to mention on Kepa island there are French foreigners that have a resort. I think it’s called La Petit Kepa Island Homestay. I didn’t stay there, but by the looks of it, buy buy buy!!!
Now these foreigners really know their stuff. Besides the huts that look great on the island, they also were located beside a B-E-A-UTIFUL white sandy beach. You have rocks on one side and a small private beach on the other. Me and me comprendes couldn’t wait to jump in the water. The water was all kinds of blue! Light blue, dark blue, whitish blue… you name it, they got it! All bunched on one beach. We couldn’t swim too far out because of the heavy current at this particular day. The locals know all about this and it’s good to listen to them. There are certain points where the currents meet and you should avoid this. It has claimed lives before…
But seeing the seriousness of these establishments, there must be a lot of diving site. Within 2 hours, we saw 2 boats carrying foreigners and their diving gear.
We then hopped back on the boat to head back on main land. We were supposed to fast (tis the month), but since we were travelers 😉 we decided not to… and on the boat we slurped down a few young coconuts and drank the milk. Yummy! Double yum since it was for free.
Coming to the main land… we were a bit pumped to continue… why? We couldn’t wait to see the next dipping destination. The day was young. We continued to Alor Besar beach, a small white sand bay. There were no currents or waves, just flat water… so we could swim and snorkel. Here, there is a small underwater world. I’m not sure how far it extended to, but up to about 50 meter, there were still some small reefs to see. And since it wasn’t a holiday, there weren’t anyone else… IT WAS OURS! We were like small kids in a playground, and exchanged info where to look … it was like a ‘touching pool’ but bigger. We decided to use up our afternoon here. It was worth it. I don’t recommend not going there on Sundays, ’cause it can be jammed pack.
Late in the afternoon, I saw a sea urchin, and for me, that was the cue to jump out. Four black dots landed on Chandras feet. Some say pee on it… but the locals believe to just gurgle sea water and spit on it. So everyone took turns spitting on him.. hahahaha… just for the fun of it. He looked fine.
You could enter this beach by the public road and put your belongings on the beach, but not recommended to be left there if there are other people around. And there is a sort of a private area where they provide umbrellas and chairs, and you could ask the officer there to guard your stuff. You just have to pay a small price. We were given a cheap price of Rp 1000 per person, but I’m guessing a little more for you guys. This area is not a wealthy land so the owners, of any business actually, really can’t profit big from the locals. Oh… and there aren’t any public bathrooms so might as well soak.
Our flight was late in the afternoon, so a lot of us thought… yeah… we’ll do a tour. We were approached by Pak Achmad, a local, offering experienced guiding service, and he spreken sum engelish! (By the way, ‘Pak’ is a respectful way to call a man, as in Sir).
Since there was about 12 of us, half day tour costs us Rp 75,000 per person without any lunch, but it included some snacks and fruits. It started at 8 am and he was ready with a tourism minibus. You can negotiate things such as what to see with Pak Achmad.
First visit was Takpala, a village that still values old customs. This village has been well managed for tourism purposes. Now don’t think that it’s THAT established. But it’s sufficient to welcome tourist for sure. Well yeah the people wear modern clothes but the way they live is still the old way. We were greeted and then accepted in to one of the houses. Heading up to the first floor is where they keep the food and ingredients. It’s an outdoor terrace. Rice is kept on a higher table so that mice can’t reach it. The second floor is actually where the locals live in. The Alorers (I try :P) cook and live here. It’s a bit odd when you cook in a wooden house, but the structure makes it happen. They cook inside without any visible ventilation… I hope the food is as good.
For a house that is so small, the inside can be spacious! There is usually a third floor, and if you’re lucky a fourth floor in each house. This is where they sleep. If visiting, you might feel sturdy going up the stairs, but these houses are strong. About 10 people entered the house and not a single wiggle from it. Traditional structures in Indonesia are kewl!
The locals are really nice and used to receiving tourists. They will take out their goods to sell. Some of my favorites are the cloth that are hand woven and the coins that clearly show the blend between cultures at the time, Muslim, Netherlands, and Javanese. They will even dress up to show you their traditional clothes. The cloths are big and great for blankets or sarongs. They have more cool stuff and are sold much cheaper than in established shop. It actually just occurred to me that they are selling their historical artifacts… ups!
Remember the movie Cast Away and the ‘Come on baby light my fire…’ scene? One of my ultimate favs. Well here are some people from the next village we visited that have the same anthem. Can’t really remember the name of the village but the Indonesian name for it is ‘Desa Kopi’ or Coffee Village. There’s a lot of coffee trees obviously.
Now the villagers can light a fire with just two halves of a bamboo. It’s soo easy turns out. You take the bamboo… split it… rub it together ummm………..I did try to explain here, typed it out but it didn’t make any sense so I refuse to try to explain it. Just visit the area and they’ll show you. And they are a great bunch of friendly funny people… you know, the crazy happy type 😀
One of the highlights of the tour was the holy Quran. A lot of us were Muslims so we would like to see some history about it.
Here lay the historical Quran from the 16th century. It was bought by Sultan Baabullah, one of the many figures that landed in our history books. It was great to see something that was left by somebody that you learn about. Basically he was the first to spread Islam here.
The book itself was hand written and I doubt with any mistakes cause you can see that it was written in one go. It is also written on bark, preserved without any preservatives, just prayer J. It is still almost in one piece. Some of the initial pages are kinda shriveled of but the insides are good. Until today, his descendents are the holy keepers. And if you go there, then yes you are in the presents of royalty… umm.. but it wont look that way!
After this stop, we it was time to head back.
I highly recommend Pak Achmad to anyone since he is very kind, has been in the business for a long time and he knows all the tourist officers and locals at the attractions. He will show you how much he knows and quite transparent about the everything including about the gifts for the locals you visit, and he explains them when offering the tour services. And very flexible! If you are much interested in him, email us.
Once we arrived at the hotel we immediately got ready to go to the airport. Packed our stuff and headed out. On the way we saw even more excellent beaches and heard that Maemol is the best of all. I definitely have a reason to come back, so I might see you there!
A place to eat is the ‘reclamation area’, where they sell lots of various food; a lot of them are sea food. It’s located near the harbor and you can’t really miss it. We chose some random shop and it was edible, so we can’t really recommend which stall is good. But this area is where you can get your night dose of nutrition with more option than one. It only opens at night and is quite crowded. Just try your luck and pick out a dish. A meal, and hopefully a fresh one, would cost a mere Rp 30,000 per person.
Besides the homestay I’ve mentioned earlier, you can always stay in the oh so so so humble Adi Dharma hotel. It’s located not far from the port. Just ask around and people will show you. It’s not five star or even one star, but for just a decent sleep, it’s ok. But I advise you take a room in the side and not in the main hall. It would cost about Rp 77,000-180,000 per room, but each room can fill up to 3 people, so you can split it in to a bargain!!!
As a note, Kalabahi is quite small so I doubt you will find ATMs of prominent banks. BCA, Mandiri, and BNI are probably the most established ones, so prepare to withdraw from these banks or keep a whole lot of cash in a doggie bag taped to your stomach during your stay.
Me and my coworkers happen to get there by the public boat that runs by our work place (Wetar) once a month heading to Surabaya. It’s called KM Wetar and takes about 16 hours to get from Wetar to Kalabahi with one stop at Perai which is still at Wetar Island. A ticket from Wetar to Alor vice versa is about Rp 45.000 rupiah per person. Leaving at 1 pm and reaching 6 am the next morning.
I do know, whether you’re interested, that you can see many of the coastal lines in this area by using the public boat. You probably spend about Rp 120.000 from Surabaya to Alor or the other way around. Alor is the furthest island around these water that have a decent airline flying in and out.
The other convenient option is heading out through Kupang, the capital of this province. A plane ticket to Alor from Kupang is about Rp700,000 one way.
Running around Alor, you could take a public transport or charter the whole car or use a chartered motor bike (ojeg). I don’t know exactly how much the price is but haggle and have fun with it. The locals are quite familiar with tourists so they quite understand letters and numbers written on a piece of paper…
The public transportation is small but high tech I tell you. It even has those DVD players within the car, playing karaoke for the travelers. An entertainment that makes me nauseas to tell you the truth. But since we chartered this public transport, I can’t really tell you how much a trip cost.