日本語

The Whale Beach



Day 1

I take a wooden boat from Larantuka port, the East end of Flores Island in Indonesia. As the boat speeding up, comfortable sea breeze is coming through the window.
Not so crowded. The passengers are loosen up everywhere they like for three and half hour trip. As watching them, I notice their feature is slightly different from the one of Bali or Flores where I have been so far. Their features include essence of Melanesian or Polynesian. Yeah, it must be true because here is only several hundreds km from the northern coast of Australia.
This is it. It's a very features which I expected in this travel. At first, I planed to visit New Guinea. Although the weather looked really bad. So the second choice was coming up. It's Lembata Island where I'm heading for.


Another boat which has followed now catches up with us. Oh! Look at the front deck. It's a full of motos and passengers. The boat is speeding up and we are left behind. Must be going other island. There are many volcanic islands in this area.
I recall the picture I saw and go to the front deck. Yes, we also have tons of motos, always Indonesian's friends, are there. There are passengers even in operation room. Talking to the captain. When I aim at them with camera, all of them pose for me. Amm...Captain? Are you OK not to watch the front?
The green of the island becomes clear and we arrives to a small port. Leworeba, the entrance of Lembata Island. As soon as I get off, I get busy calls by ojek (moto-taxi) drivers. The moment always stress to me. So I checked the correct fare in advance. "Take me to the bus terminal for Lamalera" "OK, To Lamalera" "No, I'm not hireling you to get to the village which is 30 km away. To the BUS TERMINAL. Please"


At Larantuka, I was told that there would be Big Bus service from Leworeba on the north coast all through the mid mountain area to the Lamalera on the South coast. However all cars parked in the terminal are actually trucks which cover the rear deck with tin shell. I wanna believe they are not the Big Bus. A madam next to me on the bench is also going to Lamalera. She tells me "The bus has not come yet. So wait for a while" Yes, mom. I'll wait like your faithful dog.
Another truck comes into the parking lot and is loaded with cargo. In the crispy sun light a girl talking to the porter on the tin roof. I gaze at the scene from the shade. I recall Africa. Suddenly the madam next to me pats my shoulder and say "Let's take it! Come with me" The truck is the big bus as I worried.
The floor which used to be a cargo deck of truck is covered with cement bags. Wood boards hung on the body side. More stuff are on the rooftop. Simple benches lined both side of the cabin. I sit on it and rest my foot carefully on the cement bag. The passengers are diverse from kids to the olds. The girl who talked to the porter in the bus terminal climbed up to the roof top as soon as the bus starts. It was the negotiation. Yeah, rooftop can be more comfortable.


Before long, the truck goes into a mountain path. Dusts flow up from the gravel. The cabin is squeaking. Wood branches are scratching the body. I thought it's under construction, although no change has been happen for more than 20 minutes. Is the main road crossing the island  such a gravel all the way?
My head is hardly shook. Even in the tough situation, madams in the cabin are chatting quite normally. A kid who watched me with interest in the beginning is now sleeping. People can adjust to tough environments. Even me who thought I would be sick get used to the situation. Actually the truck never speeds up to get sick. It runs in dirt and puddle with bicycle speed. I see lined traffic after our truck through the lifted canvas curtain. Bus, moto, car ... Bus? There is a bus service.
Traffic is too heavy for the narrow path. The traffic line which is taken by our truck is proceeding on the gravel road in the mountains. In the residential area the gravel changes to the paved road. Small villages in the mountains are beautiful like jewels. An old church, palm trees, small houses ... looks like Jamaican landscape, although I've never been to Jamaica.
Disappointedly the pave peeled off again out of the residential area. "Why the infrastructure is so poor while the heavy traffic?" I ask to a passenger. The answer is simple. The government has no money to construct it. In Japan, local governments make a useless road reconstruction every year to run out their annual budgets. Why not give some assistance for the small island in Indonesia to construct paved roads.


The off road trip has been continued for more than three hours. Suddenly the sight is opened and I see a blue ocean below. Finally we get to the other side of the island. I see three palm trees are lined far away on the mountain ridge. On the way going down to the sea side, the truck goes around small villages to drop off the passengers. Families who pick'em up looks at me through the rear gate with curiosity.
Before long we go into Lamalera village. Then the madam who helped me in the bus terminal asks me something with the gesture of sleeping. Don't understand Indonesian language, but I guess she is asking if I 'm looking for an accommodation. When I nod for the question, she says for me to get off together at the right stop. I get off and follow her and now we are in her house's yard. I put my baggage in a main house and have a look at the her tourist cottage. Although it's a relatively modern and settled almost on seaside, it looks like abandoned. The floor tiles and ceiling panels are peeled off. ummm...
Feels like the private cottage is not match to my Lamalera stay. I want to stay with host family. So I reject the offer. I gotta find another one.


Then I see the real Lamalera beach in the first time. The sandy beach is not so big and fishing boat hats are lined along it. Many drying poles are settled on the beach and something like chopped meats are hang on it. Obviously they are not fish meats because of the smell. The smell flown over the beach is the animal meat's. Giant white bones are left beside the meat. If I'm a passenger of drifting boat and reached to this beach, I must be scared and hesitate to land. But fortunately I know what they are. They are parts of whale. While I pre-studied Lamalera, I saw pictures of drying whale meat many times. But the actual scene of the beach which is covered with hundreds of whale parts is more shocking than I expected.
As holding my bag, I walk on the beach. I have absolutely no idea each piece of the meat, or gut, is which part of the whale. One of them is an oil dripping slice while the others are dried up in black. And white bones make contrast on it. Smoke is flown over the beach. I head for the direction the smoke comes from. A fisherman is scorching a bamboo pole. He tells me that it's a harpoon's haft for whale hunting. I don't know what he scorches the joint for. Maybe for straightening the pole, maybe preservation from decay.
Kids play football on the beach. Surrounded by peace of whale parts, they kick the less inflated ball by barefoot. That's another shocking picture to me. Oh, I gotta looking for a guest house.


There is a Bayan tree in the village square. Fishermen are chatting in the tree shade. I ask to them if there is any guest house nearby. "Rosman? There is. Just walk up the path. Ask them" I follow the advise. I thought Rosman was the guest house's name. But actually "Rosman" means guest house itself in Indonesian. The name after Rosman is the name of the guest house. I missed chance to make sure the name. I remember the owner's name is on it. But it isn't big matter because I have no possibility to get lost in this small village. The owner is quiet madam. (I call "mom" from later on")



The guest house is perfect to me. All meals are included. No restaurant or shops in the village so it's the best way to survive. Mom's daughter has got married and moved out. Her room with two story bed is offered to me. Notebooks are still stacked in the shelf and photo collage work on her cat with letters "I Love Kitty!" is pinned on the wall. Might be a homework for English class. Feel like time is stopped as a kid's room. Somehow it's cozy to me.


The guest house is mom's house. Her son's family and her brother have each house in the house yard. I feel really safe staying with the families. It's absolutely better than staying in tourist cottage alone. Three times in a day, meal is prepared on the simple table in the kitchen.
Electricity is blacked out during daytime. Mandi (shower) is typical Indonesian scoop cold water from the bucket type. But no problem at all. Above all, the quiet settlement is luxurious to me. The only sound I hear is surf note from 200m away and sound of domestic animals. No traffic noise nor Karaoke sound here.
I heard the whale hunting boats leave at 7 am and come back at 2 pm. I gotta get up early tomorrow.