Friday 30 Dec, 2016. Boawae to Gurusina. 12th day of cycling. 5 hours 43 minutes. 50.22 kilometres. Average 8.8 km/h. 1124 metres up and 1144 metres down.
Breakfast overlooking Mt Ebulobo, whose last lava stream was in 1941. I daydreamed it would erupt again, then, as I was drinking my coffee, but it didn’t. It looked pretty at peace with the world and I decided I wouldn’t hang around waiting for it to happen. From the plains of one volcano to the foot of another, I was headed for the inactive Mt Inerie, the highest on Flores.
On the way I passed a very grand religious building. I entered the gates and was greeted at the end of the driveway by a priest who spoke English and apologised he couldn’t show me around and had to dash. He had time to tell me the building was built in the 1920s by Dutch missionaries before jumping in the waiting car. Another younger man took over and offered to show me around. His English wasn’t quite as good but I gathered that it functioned as a seminary and he was a priest in training.
Before Bajawa I turned off the Jalan Trans Flores “highway” towards the traditional village of Bena. It becomes a white knuckle hold the breaks no time to respond to hi mister ride down to Bena. Bena is set up as a marketplace and many tourists visit to see the traditional houses as well as shop for trinkets. I skipped this and headed for another traditional village, Gurusina that has a different approach to tourism. They offer homestay accommodation. This means the village doesn’t really change for tourists. Whether or not people are staying the townsfolk just go about their business. Seeing a traditional dance in Bali is one thing but it’s another thing to be in a place where nothing is staged.
I really enjoyed my stay. The place is a real mix of old and new. The structure of the houses hadn’t changed in a number of years. How many? Not sure, but the village is described as megalithic, and has many stone monuments. You won’t be surprised to here they are very simple, with basically an inner room which includesa wood srove, and a veranda. The mandi, squat toilet and water for bathing is shared. Everyone has electricity and the village gets good phone signal but houses that all face inward together are passed down through clans, and they still practice traditional customs.
One house has been transformed into a tourist information centre with posters explaining more about the village. I took a photo of everything and have included a few in this post.
I spent the afternoon relaxing drinking coffee with the adults and making faces with the children. I also felt extremely fortunate to sit in on a church service. It was completely by accident. I was making very basic conversation with a man who had a bunch of people sitting on his veranda. I left to get my photo album and on returning went to talk through the photos when he told me to hush. I sat down where I was and for the next hour was part of the church service (In Indonesian? In local dialect? Not sure.) Lots of hymns, chants and repetitions led me to a slightly hypnotic state. The only one I knew was Silent Night, so I sung along in English to that but otherwise tried my best to sing of hum the tune or in the case of the repetitive chants sing one or two words. I was able to give them a bit of “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and afterwards shook everybody’s hands saying “peace be with you”, which didn’t seem to be part of their version of mass. Afterwards we shared a meal and some local liquor and I was able to try chewing betel/areca nut. The brick of nut is wrapped in the leaf and sprinkled with lime powder. You chew it up and store it in the gum, ala chewing tobacco, moving to mouth to chew some more when you feel like it. It didn’t do much for me other than dry the mouth and make me screw up my face from the bitterness. Maybe a very small head spin. Certainly nothing like smoking your first cigarette, or trying chewing tobacco. Man, I remember trying that in Flagstaff. Instant nicotine hit.
I then watched and listened to the village, looked like just about all the 15-45 year olds, practise for a ceremony they are performing January 2nd.
Dinner, and a shot or two more palm liquor and then bed, on a new mattress with mosquito netting on the veranda of of a traditional house in Gurusina village.