Christmas in West Timor

Christmas is all about traditions

Three years ago my brother caught his first wave on a longboard on Waikiki beach. We had bbq and beers for Christmas dinner, and we were of course wearing Hawaii shirts. It was the best Christmas ever. The year after we went to Morocco for two weeks and celebrated Christmas at a surf camp in Taghazout. We made new surfing friends and paid way too much to ride a camel on the beach. A year ago I put on my santa hat and cruised around somewhere in Java looking for uncrowded surf. I shared nasi goreng with a german monkey while listening to the call-to-prayer from the three nearby mosques. This year I wanted to keep the tradition alive, so Sarah (one of the surfing diplomats) and I went down to Rote in search of waves.

Race tracks and Lego ships

I don’t remember exactly when Christmas changed for me. I guess it was about the same time the presents went from being awesome Lego ships and epic race tracks, to socks and towels. I decided to buy my own socks and towels, and to spend time with my family at other times of the year. Catching a good wave, just on the borders of my comfort zone, makes me feel like a little kid again. And that’s exactly the feeling I want for Christmas.

Socks and towels

When we arrived in Nemberala Beach on the south western tip of Rote, we soon learned the true meaning of “off-season”. There are plenty of villas and small resorts to stay at, but all of them were closed. The wind was heavy on-shore all day. There was a swell, but it was too messy to surf. And no boats would take us out to the wave even if we wanted to. It became clear that my surfboard would remain wrapped for the rest of the year. If we followed our plan and stayed, we would’ve had to play with socks and towels for a week.

We started looking for options in the Lonely Planet travel guide for Indonesia. The problem of traveling in Indonesia isn’t finding an option, it’s deciding which one to go for. West Timor was never really on my radar, but the few pages in Lonely Planet (and the fact that we already had a flight from Kupang) was enough to convince us. One of Sarah’s colleagues knew a local in Kupang who agreed to help us. So after a couple of days riding our bikes up and down the beach at Nemberala, we went to Kupang looking for a different kind of adventure.

Awesome surf pictures

Family road trip in West Timor

After meeting with Ino and her family for dinner in Kupang, we decided to all go on a road trip together. So the 8 of us filled up the car and set out to explore West Timor. I knew very little about this island and I had not seen any pictures. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited!

161230-0001-west-timor-roadtrip
It’s not easy to find your way around West Timor, unless you know this guy. Best driver on the island.

161231-0011-west-timor-roadtrip
All those hours of playing Tetris as kid finally paid off.

161231-0012-west-timor-roadtrip
Indonesia has some serious problems with traffic.

161230-0003-west-timor-roadtrip
First stop None. This was our whole crew for the trip. Except for the driver who took the picture.

161230-0002-west-timor-roadtrip
This guy told us about their warrior traditions from earlier times. They used to fight the other tribes and chop the head of one of their opponents. That was a sign of victory. They would then go on to celebrate for four days and nights, because that’s how long it takes to properly smoke a human skull… We didn’t want to spend the night. (They stopped doing this ca 1945 according to Lonely Planet)

161230-0004-west-timor-roadtrip
Friendly locals saying goodbye.

161230-0005-west-timor-roadtrip
We stopped for some roadside fast food. Rice, eggs, chicken and veggies… I think Padang food is healthier than McDonalds drive through. The latter wasn’t an option anyways.

161230-0009-west-timor-roadtrip
On our way to Boti we ran into some challenging infrastructure. A stretch of 5 km took us an hour.  Lonely Planet says bring a 4WD car and don’t go if it’s raining. We didn’t follow any of those advices. The whole way I was thinking: “We’re never getting out of here again.”

161230-0008-west-timor-roadtrip
In Rote and all of the places we visited in West Timor, the locals make and wear ikat. I bought a couple of them (warning: I might show up in a skirt to some event soon).

161230-0007-west-timor-roadtrip
Orang Kupang dan orang Boti. 

161230-0006-west-timor-roadtrip
Boti is a very peaceful, and the locals seemed very happy. Only one guy in the village has a phone, I guess he’s responsible for updating the social media for all of them. #NoSmartphoneGreatConnection

161230-0010-west-timor-roadtrip
We almost got stuck in Boti… It took us a lot of attempts and some pushing to get up this slippery hill. 

161231 0001 West Timor roadtrip.jpg
The next day the driver just started driving without really explaining too much. We drove through a beautiful forrest and stopped for some picture as this view point. This area was very different from what I normally see in this country. “Are we still in Indonesia?”

161231-0014-west-timor-roadtrip
Further along the road we stopped for a little photo sesh. The locals wanted a picture with a bule (white person). 

161231-0015-west-timor-roadtrip
They were pleased.

161231-0018-west-timor-roadtrip
Finally we arrived at the secret destination of the day. We met up with the boss of Fatumnasi in his home. He was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have time to stay the night at his homestay. He insisted we stayed for lunch, so we spent the whole day. It was a great day.

161231-0016-west-timor-roadtrip
This is one of the traditional houses guests can sleep in at the homestay in Fatumnasi.

161231-0017-west-timor-roadtrip
We did some more ikat shopping…

161231-0001-west-timor-roadtrip-2
Before we returned to Kupang, to sleep through the fireworks, we stopped at this beautiful waterfall.
Picture of fireworks 

The trip we ended up taking was better than the one we planned. West Timor is an amazing place! Very interesting and beautiful, and the people are so friendly.

I didn’t get to surf, but it was still a great trip! I’ll just have to put some surfing in my calendar soon. I think 2017 will be another very good year for traveling!

Ronny.

 

Etc

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Its good article +photos, Ronny. I am from West Timor. Do you mind if I translate this to Bahasa and post it on my blog? Of course I will add a link to this blog as the main source šŸ˜‰

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: