Mr Thomas and friends

Trip Start Oct 27, 2004
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Trip End Aug 17, 2005


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Thursday, June 23, 2005

We crossed out of East Timor the same way as we went in. Bags emptied and checked twice on both sides of the border with underwear, coffee and my surf board coming in for the most scrutiny. The bags of various pills, powders and potions didn't seem to interest them much. We were lucky to cross at all seeing how the borders on both sides are only open for about 6 hours a day and do not share lunch break. We waited one hour in East Timor for the guards to finish lunch, only to cross into no-mans-land and find the Indonesian Immigration closed for 20 minute tea-break. It sounded from outside like they were watching a porno film. So, an hour and a half unpacking and repacking bags, waiting around and giving free English lessons to eager border guards.

We arrived in Kupang to discover that all of the boats out of Timor had left the day before and none would be leaving for another 8 days. We looked at the map for somewhere to kill time. Prime candidate, Rote (pronounced, rot-eh) island, a little speck in the Indian ocean. Closer to Darwin than to Jakarta and open to the beautiful long swells of the south Indian Ocean.

The town of Nemberala, in the south west of the island, is truly beautiful. A real break from the tourist trail. No-body offered us anything or tried to sell us anything, the smiles were genuine and the traditional arts and crafts were being created not for the tourist market, but for clothing and shelter. Ikat cloth weavings showing flowers, horse riders and crocodiles could be seen, half-finished, hanging from the palm trees by the beach. The shore was lined with bamboo huts where fishermen and their families, not backpackers, lived and eked out a wage from farming agar (seaweed used in cosmetics), fishing and selling the occasional Ikat weaving to traders who sell them on the beaches of Bali.

Not that Nemberala had no tourists, in fact there were quite a few. It's just that the tourists were mostly hippie-type surfers who all spoke fluent Indonesian and who seemed to fit right in with the locals. Because of this, no real "tourist" industry had sprung up. Many of the people there were staying for 6 months of the year and I think the locals knew that these people would go elsewhere if the place started to look like Kuta beach. Either that or the locals seriously couldn't be bothered with the hassle of selling things to tourists, they were VERY laid back! That is except for the rabid children who would run screaming "Apa Kabar touris?, Mau ke mana?" (How are you, tourist? Where are you going?) two questions that you will be asked throughout Indonesia, although usually in English and it just doesn't sound nice that way! Not all were as glad to see us though, one little girl just burst into tears when she saw me on the beach, the older kids couldn't stop laughing and I had to apologise to the poor girl's mother who had to come and soothe her. The look on the kids face was a picture when her mother started speaking to me, you could see that she'd expected her mum to chase the monster off the beach for her!

During our time in Nemberala we stayed at Mr. Thomas' guest house. Five USD per person for a bed and three-meals, with tea and cake included! Thomas himself (It's his first name, I'm often referred to as "Mr. Kris") was a living legend, he'd lived in the village all his life and been the headmaster of the school for 47 years until his retirement in 2002. When he decided to be headmaster of the local school, there was no school. He just scared the kids into learning and eventually they all started to come to his dirt patch and learn. About 15 years ago he applied for a grant from the Australian government and they gave him 5000 Ozzie dollars with which he personally built a primary and secondary school. He remained headmaster until retirement when he decided the school should be handed over to the Indonesian government. We heard this and many other stories in Mr. Thomas' inimitable style, through fits of giggling and crazy flapping hand gestures, the guy was just so much fun to be around.

He told me on more than one occasion "Very sorry, English no good, I'm a little crazy. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!", before running out of the door to chase his pigs.

The town was full of these characters. Next door to Mr. Thomas lived Jenet, the proprietor of the first and only "cold drinks" store. Most of the time Jenet was in bed because she couldn't handle the fast pace of life in Nemberala, so you were left to the devices of her crazy, beetle nut chewing, mother. Her mother had no teeth because of her love for Pepsi's "Enrique" edition cola. You could ask for whatever you wanted, but nine times out of ten she couldn't figure out why you wouldn't be asking for "Enrique's" Pepsi, so she would bring you a can of that. A visit to the shop usually ended with one of us raiding the fridges and cupboards and leaving a note for Jenet saying we'd come back and pay when she woke up.

The surf in Nemberala was probably the best I've ever seen in my life, unfortunately one of the first waves I took off on left me ditched and managed to rip off one of my fins, complete with fin-saver. This wasn't the sort of place you could paddle into with one fin, so we drew up our own 'risk' board, a project co-ordinated by our Brazilian friend Ricardo whom we met in East Timor. It wasn't really a substitute for surfing but it was quite a way to burn off the hours.

We left Nemberala relaxed and happy, a perfect way to kill a week!
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Comments

kalahari
kalahari on

nemberala
i am a regular in nemberala. its the best place on earth

anthonypeck
anthonypeck on

Food for those poor kids
Anybody know a responsible person in West Timor? Those children starving is breaking my heart.

anthonypeck
anthonypeck on

Food for those poor kids
email me at anthony@titanpcb.com

kalahari
kalahari on

waste management in nemberala
the problem is that most of the waste come from the tourist who, of course wants a squeaky clean beach, where he can spend his time drinking beer and leave the empty bottles laying around in the sand.
of course the locals need to learn about waste mangement, but as a westener one should be a good example for that

surf indonesia on

yeah am surfing in nemberala and am stay in mr thomas good ..thanks mr thomas. my facebook surf_indonesia@yahoo.com

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