Published: October 5th 2010October 5th 2010
After a long but pretty comfortable 20 hour ferry ride I was in Kupang, Timor, just north West Austrailia. Another 5 hours on a ferry and bemo and I was on the east side of Rote, just off the coast of Timor. Nembrala, Rote is the home of T-Land another one of Indonesia's epic surf breaks. T-Land is billed as the easier G-Land (*surfer knowledge*). It is a long long left point with a few other breaks nearby.
I have finally found paradise. Ive been told that Nembrala is like Hawaii in the 60's. A single paved road runs through town lined with stacked coral fences. The town sits beneath the swaying shadows of coconut trees. The 4 hotels in town are scattered throughout thatched huts and concrete block houses. Goats, pigs and dogs roam the streets freely grubbing up whatever dry scrap they can in this monsoon desert. At sunset herds of pigs head down to the beach to root for crabs. The town is about as mellow as you can get.
The facilities at my hotel were rather basic but awesome. The $13 per night included 3 massive home cooked meals. Breakfast each morning was bread fresh out of the oven from the attached bakery. There was no running water so you had to remember to fill up your garbage can (water basin) when the hotel owner turned on the taps. Electricity in the town only comes on while the sun is down (all wind turbines and batteries). The first few days they were having trouble with some power lines so people had to use generators at night. This meant that the monthly supply of gasoline on the island ran out a week early. The near total lack of motorbike horns and trucks on the road only grew the mellow. They do have an internet cafe but it opened randomly.
I soon began receiving signals that it was time to go home. I arrived on the tail end of a big swell and for the 8 days I paddled the 1/2 mile out to the reef, the surf was near flat and never got bigger than 4ft. The wave is pretty fun, not too fast but not too slow, reeling along a point. When the surf is big enough the wave breaks for 200-300 meters (real long). Small surf meant only a couple hours surfing a day, maximum. There were enough books in the hotel to occupy the other 10 hours of the day. Spent a lot of time chatting with an Australian guy who has been frequenting Rote for the last 20 years (before hotels). He has been staying at Mr Thomas Homestay since it was just a home. During my last couple days a big swell was scheduled to hit but swell direction wasn't west enough to clear Australia... so Rote got crumbs... "Get out" it says.
The second signal to leave was less subtle. Someone in another hotel contracted typhoid. Typhoid is spread through fecal contamination of food and water. It is a relatively dangerous (20% mortality) bacteria that is totally treatable with antibiotics. It can be spread by unwashed hands or flying insects but the plumber inside me looked a little sideways at all the wells dug 15 feet away from septic tanks. A couple days later another person came down with typhoid, again in another hotel. There is a clinic in town that does blood tests and has the correct antibiotics, so nothing to worry about. Then the numbers started stacking up. 5 tourists. 6. 8. 10. And I dont even know how many locals contracted the bacteria. Typhoid has a 7-14 day incubation period so most people were fleeing to the safety of Bali where better medical treatment exists. The day I left 30 tourists were packed in bemos headed for the ferry out of town, 2 of them sick with typhoid. That same day the provincial government was sending in a team of doctors and nurses to check out hotel kitchens and test all the wells in town.
And Indonesia says: "GET THE FUCK OUT!"
I haven't had a hot shower for 2 months and Im pretty ready to go home.
Some of the things Im looking forward to: sidewalks; electricity; potable tap water; water pressure; reliable internet; showers, sinks and mirrors; cheese
Some of the things Im not going to miss: mosquitoes; brackish well water; car horns; cigarette smoke; brownouts; being hassled like a celebrity; dengue and typhoid outbreaks; stinky fish drying in the sun; shitty beer
Some of the things Im going to miss: everything else