Tuesday, November 27, 2012

first rain

It is a long torrid season far east of the Wallace Line. The last rain was on the 21st May, and six months later the land is harsh, thirsty and exposed.  The humidity soared through November, but the wet season is rudely lagging behind schedule. There was little of the dramatic cloud build up we have seen in other years, nor the usual respite offered by the onshore breeze. All we wanted was one downpour before we left.  Visiting friends ten k's south we got our first taste of the wet, a glorious ten minute dumping, but in the true nature of isolated showers, our village didn't get a drop. 

family portraits

We've left our baby Sumba in the hands of local neighbours for the wet season, and do not like to entertain the idea that he may end up as Christmas lunch.  We made it very clear he was not to be eaten and their reply was "oh...but what if he just dies?" 

 I plaited him a collar which made him look like a real hippy kid, and left boxes of milk and his bottle with his babysitter. Like packing the first born off to boarding school.

An innocent little being, full of love and acceptance; thanks for the great times, sorry we had to leave you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

goat kindy

walking the goat
what kind of creature are you?
my twin playmates showing me what goats like to eat
my first greens ; six new messages
You might have thought this blog was about surf and fruit. Well, sorry, but it appears that goats are where it's at. Sumba is growing fast and is somewhere between a cute toddler and a horny teenager. He will chew any inanimate object he can reach, with a particular fancy for plastic bags, rope, power cords and books. 

He is now too cool to give his mumma kisses, preferring to indulge his manliness on my leg.  In the hope of convincing him he is, in fact, a goat and not a human, I encourage him to attend goat kindy when the other kids come around.  If he has finished checking his facebook and playing scrabble, he will curiously watch goat behaviour from his lounge room vantage point, joining in the occasional friendly head butt. 

We have reduced his bottle feeds from seven to four each day, hoping he will start eating solids. He nibbles the garden with the effect of a grasshopper and ate his first fruit yesterday. Like a gentle bleeting alarm, he wakes us at 4.45am each morning for his breakfast, treating us to the beauty of a tropical sunrise.  

With only six days until we leave, I am racked with sadness over leaving the little fella behind, but we have found a family nearby willing to watch over him and promise he won't become Christmas lunch.

Thanks to Aquaman for the drawings. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

lontar spa part 2

Sascha, the Lontar spa founder, with Hildi

The day spa experience isn't only for women, as these photos illustrate. After a long session in the surf, the boys are partial to a massage, especially when it can be combined with a cold beer.  The beachfront wing of the Lontar Spa is a more public affair, suitable for manicures, pedicures and seated massage. The open bamboo bale has unhindered views to the wave, the sunset and the bar; all essential elements of the island dream.

We have known Bingin Mick (seated right) for many years, and never seen an alcoholic beverage in his hand.  He was about to leave on a boys only boat trip to Sumatra for his 50th birthday, and felt sure there would be a few beers involved, so prior to this massage he announced that he better go into training. He claims it  did in fact enhance the experience.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

lontar spa part 1

A tickle of luxury has arrived on the island this season, with the opening of the Lontar Spa at the resort.  The building was designed by Tom McArchitect and the interiors styled by the spa's founder and manager Sascha; the beauty and brains behind the successful cliff-top spa at Mick's Place in Bingin (also Mick's better half and my neighbour).  I was delighted to be asked to photograph the spa, and try out the signature treatments over the course of a girl's afternoon.  The two therapists are local girls, trained by the experienced spa staff at Mick's Place

The main building has a curved stone entrance, spiralling inwards to a concealed door that welcomes clients into the secluded, calm interior.  The nautilus inspired design features an open air shower and vanity in the centre and classic grass roof.  On the beach, with a front row view of the wave, is a small bale for manicures, pedicures and seated massage. See the boys blissed-out smiles as they combine beer-o-clock with a treatment in the next post.  

Riding home along the beach front at sunset, after a swim, full body massage and fresh shower, I experienced one of those peak moments that etch into your memory. Thanks Sascha, and congratulations. 

Monday, November 5, 2012


Looking west from our house we can see three islands, each with different profiles. The closest one is flat, like a green pancake with a white fringe. In the clear morning light the beach is a distinct disc on the ocean, then as the sun moves westward, the glare and heat haze obscure the island to the point where it can disappear. It is a twenty minute speed boat ride from our village, yet is visited infrequently.  Due to the lack of fresh water the island is uninhabited, save for the occasional fishermen who camp out in crude shelters on the leeward side. Sea snakes are the most common guests, coming onto land at night, leaving their undulating patterns in the sand.

The landscape is reminiscent of the Kimberley or Northern Territory, with scrubby pandanas, the occasional stunted coconut palm, and spiky grassland.  Without grazing animals, the under storey supports small succulents and grasses that we don't have at home, where the free range pigs and goats make short work of any green tuft. It is hot, harsh, and dry; the kind of place you imagine being shipwrecked, or the imaginary island of childhood maps, where spot x marks the hidden treasure. We walked across the middle then back around the beach to the boat. I picked up shells and bleached urchin skeletons, while Aquaman found a beautiful slab of driftwood destined to become an occasional table in our living room. 

The island was crown land until a 15 hectare block was bought by a wealthy and influential Indonesian businessman.  Remember these photos - things are about to change. 

for god's sake

The church bell (a length of metal pipe hanging from a tree) started ringing at 5am, calling all able bodies to help with the task of pouring a suspended slab for the new church. Here was a chance to notch up a few frequent flyer points on god's airline. Almost every person in the village participated in some way, rotating between roles as heat and fatigue took their toll. Tea, water and fried bananas were in continual supply, and a free lunch was served for all. We could hear the yipping and yooing all day, like a twelve hour grand final.  There is no doubt religion has a way of instigating action and forms a strong communal spirit, but the rebuilding of the church to make it grander, and therefore greater in the eyes of god, is a scandalous waste of money in a village that lacks basic services. There is an inter- village rivalry over who can have the most lavish church, and our congregation are determined to have more air conditioners than the neighbours. The alternative could have been a well designed open air pavilion that captured the breeze, but that doesn't speak of wealth, power and progress.

It is estimated to take another five years and billions of rupiah to complete the vision. The cathedral is being built over the top of the old church, and by the look of the watery concrete mix used, it will be danger of collapsing before it is finished. The scaffolding has been up for over two years, and locals volunteer on a rotating roster to slowly erect their monument to the big fella.  
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