While we at DTT are busy organising a visa for Wendy in Europe and planning the project’s future; We would like to kick-off 2016 with our first guest article by our dear friend Nick Metherall. Nick has spent several years living, studying and volunteering in Indonesia, during which time his heart was captured by Eastern Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT, ‘Southeastern Land’s East’). Nick is a specialist in the remote region, often neglected by politicians, international markets and researchers alike. Nick was an absolute wealth of knowledge for our journey through Indonesia, putting us in touch with some truly amazing communities and families. Eastern Indonesia is one of the most special places we visited in our journey and thanks to these connections, we were able to dive into the depths of its complexities. While we are still finding the words to describe our experiences in the region, we know we’ll be returning to this topic again. We wish to stress that this is a most fascinating place, because of the cultural diversity of the region from which there is so much that can be learnt, not to mention its picturesque beauty. As Australia’s closest neighbour, Eastern Indonesia certainly deserves a greater focus. But let’s hear Nick’s voice first…
Almost exactly a year ago I was on the small island of Sabu Raijua, in Eastern Indonesia. Far off the beaten track, Sabu is located southwest of Kupang, Timor and northwest of Darwin, Australia. This is one of the driest and most remote islands in the province of East Nusa Tenggara and Indonesia more widely. Through visiting Sabu I learned a great deal about how the small-scale farming communities in such rural areas are able to survive the challenging conditions of living on one of the driest islands of Indonesia. I also had some adventures along the way which involved riding my motorbike all around the semi-arid island, staying in villages and farms, learning of sabu sugar and even a bomb scare…
Thanks to our friends in Adventurous Sumbawa, we connected with another wonderful group on the neighbouring island of Lombok. Lombok Backpackers are a group of locals passionate about the natural beauty of their island home (click the link to their facebook). In the provincial capital Mataram they have their ‘Base Camp’. Base Camp is a open-house set up for travellers to stay as long as they need for free. There are just a few basic rule: no drugs or alcohol in the house, clean your room when you leave and help keep communal spaces clean. In the evenings, the travellers and locals gather in the outdoor area to swap their adventure stories of the day, share food and make music.
We asked the owner of the house, what made him want to create this place? He replied “I’ve always loved trekking and snorkelling and having my friends around. So I thought to make a place where this can all come together.”
Sumbawa is the mysterious island between Flores and Lombok. Mysterious because it was very difficult for us to find any information about the place! The Lonely Planet made it sound like it was better to skip over and our usual go-to online sites, TravelFish and WikiVoyage, were also drawing blanks… Naturally, this made us even more determined to go to Sumbawa and find out for ourselves. Continue Reading →
Our second month in Indonesia was completely different. We left behind the isolated communities living slow-paced lives on the beaches and in the mountains of the distant east, barely touched by the global world and its brutal economies (if you missed that part of our travel, click here). Now we were getting to the core, to the heart of the country alike the Roman Empire bonding vast lands and most diverse cultures – and I imagine going from borderlands on the shores of Black Sea to Rome in the year 100 A.D. would look similar. We got close to the place most Indonesians from the East will never afford to travel to, but if they have electricity they often see it on the TV full of whitened faces and straightened hair – Java.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Keeping a blog while travelling is extremely hard. Even harder if your travel is as fast and full of experiences as ours was in Indonesia (we’ve spend the whole April and May there). We found ourselves still posting articles from Timor-Leste when we were already in Singapore.
While articles about particular happenings and organisations are in making (and some of them will be for months), we’ve decided to write a kind of ‘been there done that’ article for the sake of showing you what kind of stuff we’ve been engaging with (and rockin’ it!), as well as documenting dropthetension’s activities.
Hopefully this will show you where we are now with our project, how amazing it’s going and what a learning experience it is for us (to be utilized in the future!) Let’s begin!
We want you to meet our friends from eastern Indonesia. They’re a student organisation called MITRA, or ‘partners’ in Bahasa Indonesia. It stands for Mahasiswa Indonesia Timur Relasi Asing, or East Indonesian Students Foreign Relations Society. Their goal? To empower the students of East Indonesia. After travelling East-West across Indonesia, I understand why MITRA’s work is so important.
From the outside, Indonesia seems to be another Muslim, South East Asian country. But it’s actually a complex and extremely diverse “empire” ruling over many different nations and regions, with differing languages, customs and even climates. This is a country made up of more than 17000 islands! I didn’t realise before arrival that Indonesia is the world’s 4th largest population! However, 58% of these people live on Java – the most densely populated island in the world. This skewed population density makes for inequality of resources, as allocated by the central-focused government.
Hey guys! While I’m having an incredible time, it turns out the overland travel thing can also be really exhausting. Huge trips on rough roads on hot over crowded buses, sometimes with more bags of onions than human passengers, leaves you really tired. 6+ hours on hard floored ferries full of smokers, where you can barely find a clean space out of the sun to lay out your camp mattress (which deflates these days anyway, so provides little relief from the hardness of the metal floor); then just when you’re comfortable it starts raining and you have to relocate in a hurry and most passer-byers will stop to ask for a photo with you, all starts to take it’s toll. Your bum is so sore and you’ve started developing some weird pimples from all the sitting and sweating that it now part of your everyday life – will it ever look the same again?! Looking at a world map in some hotel lobby, leaves you feeling completely overwhelmed at the distance that lays ahead of you… How many more bus trips will that mean? Why am I doing this? What difference would a plane make anyway?
Thursday, 9th of April 2015
At 5.17am Rita knocked on the door and asked us to have a tea. The rice was already cooked, boiled eggs and some tasty noodles were also waiting for us. The sun was rising and ayams (or chickens) were getting crazy, echoing through the whole town. Rita didn’t have to shout through the door as the house’s roof hangs above the walls with no ceiling, allowing for the hot, humid air to circulate throughout the building. Still very sleepy, drinking the sweet tea, Wendy told Rita ‘Wow, pagi-pagi tapi sudah ada nasi, terima kasih! Kakak tidur bagus?’ (So early but already have rice, thank you! Did sister sleep ok?) ‘Cukup’, enough, replied Rita smiling humbly.
We took a shower, sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent, packed our bags and quickly went along the street full of banana trees to the main road. We had to catch a bus and it was already after 6. We were in Larantuka, East Flores, heading to Maumere after a wonderful week there. Rita had just started her CouchSurfing profile and we were her first guests. All of us were really excited to meet each other and we felt sad saying goodbye.