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July 1, 2005

The people of Lembata Island

DAY: 17
LOCATION: Lembata Island
LATITUDE : 08 degs,13.13'S
LONGITUDE: 123 degs,42.35'E

Our passage across the northern coast of Lembata today was dominated by the Kedang volcano towering to our left side. At 5027 feet it commands not only the view but also the local weather conditions; heavy rain clouds build up on it's south side driven by the now ever more constant south east trade winds, the only respite from which we found in the lee of the volano for the mid part of the day.

So the terrain is starting to change, and the people with it. The people of Lembata seem a little more outgoing and playful than the people of Alor, bordering on fiesty even. Chris and Jansen were challenged to a pretend race by four fishermen in their 'sampans' (dugout canoes). They whooped and hollered encouragement to each other (and probably insults to us) as they churned the water with their paddles and even their bare arms.

Some of Lembata's most famous inhabitants reside on the south coast in the town of Lamalera. Traditional whale hunting is still practised here, at least still by the middle aged men (the younger generations consider it old-fashioned, so the practise probably won't last much longer). This is the only place in Indonesia where whales are still hunted 'the old way'. Instead of motor boats and explosive harpoons, 12 metre 'prahus' are paddled, with the harpooner balancing precariously on a flimsy platform at the front of the boat. When he gets within striking distance he hurls the lance, leaping in after it irrespective of which creature he has speared, hoping to put his full weight behind the spear and pull of a quick a kill as possible. Then the fun really begins. The whale will typically take off, reeling off a couple bundles of rope (woven from palm fronds) before towing the boat off behind - sometimes as far as Timor!

Regardless of ones views on hunting these magnificent beasts you have to admire the whale hunters of Lamalera for their vim and vigour.

Jansen is a little homesick today. It's the first time he's ever been away from his family for more than a day and the first time off the island of Alor. It's only 60 miles but it must seem like outer space to him - foreign people speaking a foreign language in a foreign part of the world (all the islands here still have minor feuds between them going on). We tried to call his friend Ady on the satphone to perk him up a bit but I think an area code is needed - which we don't have of course. So he's drowning his sorrow by playing guitar and singing sad Indonesian love songs as I write this...

Posted on July 1, 2005 2:13 PM


hang in there, jansen! think of the stories you'll have to tell!

(jason: can you post an mp3 of jansen singing & playing guitar?)

Posted by: gl. at July 2, 2005 6:09 AM

This might sound a little weird to you Jansen,seeing as this is coming from two thirteen year olds, but we think that you are very brave to leave home. It is especially brave that you are leaving the home that you have always known with three complete strangers.When you first left home for this journey, did you ever think that you would be known to people from all over the world? Good luck on your journey and I hope you return home safely.
-Anastasia and Maryna Rolland

Posted by: Anastasia and Maryna Rolland at July 1, 2005 11:29 PM