Stepping off the beaten track in the search for Moby Dick...Pulau Lembata


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December 12th 2009
Published: December 30th 2009
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04 December 2009 - 09 December 2009

TRANSPORT:
Maumere to Larantuka by bus: RP50,000 (4 hours)
Larantuka - Lewoleba by boat: RP50,000 (1.5 hours) (express boat)
Lewoleba- Bus terminal by ojek: RP5,000
Bus terminal to Lamalera by truck: RP30,000 (3.5 hours)

HOTELS:
Lile Ile (Lewoleba)
Twin, shared mandi- RP50,000
Very positive report by lonely planet turned into disappointment. Food wasn't available, sea view was obstructed by long grass. Jim the owner, very nice guy and has a lot of info and every dvd you could ask for!!!

Mama Maria's Homestay (Lamalera)
Bunk beds, shared mandi- RP65,000 Per person/ per day (inc. 3 meals per day)
Local village house just a few hundred meters up the hill. Lovely host, decent food. House is very hot and there are lot of farm animals around making noise.

Hotel Rejeki (Lewoleba)
Double, cold shower, western toilet, fan--RP100,000 (inc. breakfast)
Possibly the best hotel in town, the rooms are comfortable enough. Breakfast was a joke!

The morning that we were to leave the dump that is Maumere we sat around at the hotel for the bus to take us east to Larantuka. We happened to bump into Jim, an Indo-Dutch guy who runs the Lile Ile Guesthouse in Lewoleba, at our hotel. The original plan was for us to stay the night in Larantuka but as Jim was heading straight to Lewoleba on Lembata we decided to go straight there.

Planning our trip through Asia we felt intrigued by the Island of Lembata, part of a group of islands east of Flores, in a chain known as Alor&Selor Archipelago. This was to be as far off the beaten track as we were going and it certainly felt it!

We arrived at Larantuka's bus terminal after a 4 hour non-eventful journey... actually we stand corrected. The goats being thrown onto the roof was entertaining, and the soft rock album that was playing was great until the driver stopped it for some Indonesian songs which were played on repeat!

Anyway, after arriving at the terminal we were mobbed by the bemo drivers. Jim told us to stay in the bus and it would take us straight to the port in town. This was our first real experience of the 'Bemo Mafia.' Normally bus drivers wouldn't be allowed into town, instead it would drop the passengers off at the bus terminal,
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How to get a goat on a bus step 1
several km out of town. This is where the bemo's take over. However, as the majority of the passengers wanted to make this boat, we had to pay the bemo fare for the bus to be able to go into the town. This cost each passenger an extra 5,000 and we didn't even set foot in a bemo! Hence the Bemo mafia!

We missed the slow boat to Lewoleba but we didnt miss the fast boat. Where the slow boat took 4 and a half hours, the fast boat only took 1 an a half hours! (And we thought we were in the back waters of Flores!)
We hopped aboard, discovering that the leg room was atrocious and once all the seats were filled we set off.

Now lets introduce you to a perplexing Indonesian Psychology. Obviously while the boat was moored up everyone was suffering from the heat. But as soon as the boat gets going everyone decides the best way to cool down and get a breeze going is to shut all the windows! So for 1 and a half hours there we were cramped, tired and roasting!

We arrived at Lewoleba's port and walked
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How to get a goat on a bus step 2
the 500m to Lile Ile's. We were, to say, disappointed. We knew the room was as basic as they came, with now windows, 2 beds and an outside mandi, so that wasnt a problem. But Lonely planets description of great views of the magnificent Ili Api volcano and home cooked meals on a huge open deck were not true. The views were obstructed by 2 meter high grass which looked like it hadnt been cut in years and the meals were unavailable due to 'staff shortages.' All he could provide was a cup of tea or coffee the following morning and not even anything for breakfast! We decided just to stay one night and went into the town in search of some food and to explore Lewoleba.

We finally found a great little place to eat called Berkat Lomblen, with a plate full of rice and fried chicken and noodles (all for RP16,000) and after a quick walk around we knew there was not much to do or see so we headed back to lile ile and sat and played cards until we resigned ourselves to sleep at 8pm! That night we had magnificent electrical storm so we found
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Step 3, everything is still ok!
it hard to sleep.

Nevertheless, we woke up early the next morning and had a tea and a coffee (the only thing included) and headed off to the bus terminal to catch our transport to the southern viallage of Lamalera. First we stocked up on a couple of snacks, not easy i a place where it is hard to find even a bottle of water!

We caught a couple of ojeks to take us to the bus terminal. Ojeks on Flores are basically anyone who owns a motorbike and wants to make a little money. Dan had a driver who thought it would be funny, to show off in front of his friends and they almost fell off after the first 100 meters!
We arrived safely and waited around for the transport to Lamalera. Transport on Lembata is a truck with seats in the back and we would find out why when we set off! The 3 and a half hour journey took us over the bumpiest roads in the world and as we were pretty much sat on the rear axle we were very nearly catapulted out of the back!

Lembata is a scenic, yet extremely
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Step 4...getting a little flustered here!
dry and inhospitable island. We passed through several tiny villages and past slash and burn plantations and eventually down to magnificent coastline and into the tiny village of Lamalera.

Lamalera is a tiny, fascinating, poor yet extremely welcoming village that rises steeply from a small volcanic sand cove. There is no phones, internet or banks and only electricity from 6pm till 6am (thats on the day that the electricity is working!) The village is famous for its whaling as it is the only place in the world where the locals still whale by hand! They head out in groups in small fishing boats and use bamboo spears to mame the whale before catching it. They also hunt dolphins, manta rays and sharks.

As it was out of whaling season (as well as this year having been a lean whaling season- only 10 whales caught instead of the normal 30) we knew there was little chance of seeing these real life 'Moby Dick's' in action but we still listened out for the call 'baleo baleo' which signals a coming whale.

Apart from the occasional dip in the sea or walk we did little except play cards, read and
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Step 5...one down, another 3 to go!
talk to Mama Maria. The heat in the village was stifling and there wasn't much escape from it other than constant mandis! There is one small warung, no fridges and the bottled water is expensive. Meals were provided by Maria (it was lovely not having to worry or think about where to get food.) Maria was a great cook and we drank water boiled from the well.

During the first night we had no electricity due to power lines being damaged during a storm. The lanterns made the heat even worse and by 9 pm we were in bed....along with the mosquitoes!
We decided to stay 2 nights to get a real feel for the place and enjoy Mama Maria's hospitality.
The following morning we were rudely awoke before dawn by hundreds of chickens. The day was spent sitting by the sea (the only place with a breeze), reading, playing cards and Amy doing the weekly wash. The evening was the same as the night before, we had an early night in order to wake up for the early 4.30am truck.

At 2am Mama Maria woke us telling us that the truck was outside. Confused she tied to
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Step 6, watch the paint!
explain that it was market day in Lewoleba and therefore there was more than one bus that day. It was difficult to understand her as she doesnt speak English and Bahasa Indonesian isnt her first language. We changed and packed while 3 buses arrived simultaneously at 3am.... they were all empty. We waited and by 4 no more buses... 4.30 still no buses. By 5:30 we asked Mama about the trucks and she nonchalantly told us that there were no more coming for the day! We were pretty peed off to say the least! Not so much at her but for the info that people kept giving us both in the village and back in Lewoleba. Yes, let's have three trucks in a row leave pretty much empty at 3am instead of staggering them throughout the day shall we!

We headed back to bed, moody and hot. We were actually later told that a truck would also be leaving at 4pm later in the day. We waited around, spirits slightly lifted, but nonetheless bored out of our brains. Books had been read, the phone was dead and the iPod's battery gave up. By 3pm we were packed and ready
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Step 7...hey presto!
once again, eager to get a truck out--mainly due to the heat! One truck came and went...not ours. Asking around the majority of locals said there wasn't going to be a bus at 4pm. Another truck came and told us the one we want is on it's way. Next came the truck we arrived in Lamalera on, and the one that we were supposed to jump on that morning. The conductor realised then that he had forgotten about us in the morning! But the driver said that he waited until 4:30 and we weren't there! They actually left at 3. OK, so where's the 4pm truck? "Broken...no coming today. Tomorrow 3am or 4:30am." I wonder what time that would actually mean...

So we resigned ourselves to another night. Dan went nuts and legged it into the sea. At least the electricity was working. Which meant we had a TV!!

So another night of sweating away our body weight was in store. So after some day old fish (which was tasty), rice and veg we hit the sack hoping we could catch our truck out the next morning.

We woke up at 2am to make sure we were ready. At 3:30 two trucks came and we finally hopped aboard for our bumpy three hour journey back to Lewoleba.
We arrived into Lewoleba at 6:30am and caught an ojek, this time to Hotel Rejeki, who had decent and fanned rooms! We had a sleep before heading to our favourite eatery, Berkat Lomblen, for some lunch.

The rest of the day was spent in front of the fan, glad to finally get some wind on us and got ready to set off back to mainland Flores the next day for the last part of our Flores adventure (and Indonesia come to think of it!)


Additional photos below
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Larantuka to LewolebaLarantuka to Lewoleba
Larantuka to Lewoleba

Larantuka port
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Larantuka to Lewoleba

A fully laden express boat
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Lewoleba

Local volleyball match..somewhere!


24th September 2011

Miss the whale island
By 2004 i was there stayed at mama maria as well..i still can smell of dried whale meat and the whale cooking oil.Did you guys meet the carver artist?i cant remember his name..he did artwork with whale bones..i bought 2 pieces and both now on top of my piano.One thing different is there wasnt land journey from lewoleba to lamalera...we must went by boat...small one to lamalera for about 9 hours.

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