I acquainted with several friends in the Metropolitan City, Jakarta 2 years ago. They proudly self-promoted about their islands uniqueness with words of sincerity and the hope of visitors to come and experience their land, also at the same time they actually show their true personality of kindness, love and friendliness while talking to me. I can feel it. I was attracted by both of their true hearts and what the island have. They persuaded me to come to their land called Lembata Island and had offered me to stay at their houses once I come to visit. Once they go back, they will wait for my presence there.
I feel that the longing of me wanting to go there and the longing of the Lembata people for me and the other visitors to pay a visit to Lembata are equal.
Well, who would have thought that I would finally come to Lembata. This chance I have, felt like a fruitful result of my patience, longing, spirit and positive mind. I cannot believe myself. Although still in doubt, I braved myself to contact my friend that I met before in Jakarta and told him that I was coming and he responded happily with a –cannot-believe-that-I-finally-came kind of voice.
Departing Jakarta before the sunrise at 2.30 am and arriving in Kupang at 6.30 am, I was excited! We waited for another smaller aircraft to board at 8.30 am to our final destination in Lewoleba, Lembata Island at 9.10 am.
Lewoleba is the capital City of Lembata Island. During the Dutch reign, Lembata was known as the Lomblen Island. Geographically it is positioned at:
North: Flores Sea
South: Sawu Sea
West: Boleng Strait and Lamakera Strait
East: Alor Strait.
Astronomically Lembata Island is positioned at 8°10′ – 8°11′ LS dan 123°12′ – 123°57′ BT. To make it more clearer, Lembata Regency is part of the Nusa Tenggara Timur Province. Internationally, Lembata is popular for its traditional whale hunting.
When I stepped out my first feet along the short ladders of the commuter aircraft, I saw the locals getting ready to welcome the visitors through dancing with traditional music and placing Lembata’s exotic weave around our neck. I finally met one good friend of mine named Lega and gave me a huge traditional Lembata’s weave and put it on my shoulder and say ‘This will give you beautiful dreams’. Then the welcoming dance called Hedung Huri was presented spirit fully. The dancers show their sincere happy faces towards us. ‘It feels like a dream that you are here!’Lega said to me. I felt welcomed at the Lembata land.
My report about the weather was hot that time and although there were some grey clouds. But rain hasn’t come yet. The sun did make my skin tanned enough.
Well, it was a short trip for me but it left me with meaningful memories. My ride during my journey there was a tough rigid blue coloured hardtop. No air-conditioner with hard seats. ‘Perfect!’ I said cheerfully. My driver is a young local, strong and much focused on the road. He is a racer from Nusa Tenggara Timur named Pieter Witak. 4×4 Cars are suitable for the roads here, which are natural and rocky. Since they have long summer here, the roads are dusty which adds up the adventure. What Lega said to me earlier, that Lembata is known for its 3 coloured land which are black, brown, and green. So, although its rainy season, there will still be some dry leaves or grass at some area in Lembata. I also asked him about how long it takes to circle the island. He answered confidently, ‘It only takes 3 days using a 4×4 car’.
Pieter took me to Bukit Cinta and Bukit Doa. Watching the view from the hardtop window that I pulled down, Lembata scenery does look similar with Taman Nasional Baluran in East Java with dry savannah, palm trees, dry trees all yellow and brown coloured. It was amazing!
Our first stop was Bukit Cinta (The Love Hill), it took us less than an hour drive from Lewoleba. Pieter drove vigorously that rattles the hardtop until I have to fix and catch things like a bottle of water, sunglasses and things that fall form the dashboard. We laughed at it. There were 2 big holes that was dug facing the sea in Bukit Cinta. And based on the information, they would build a big Jesus statue on top of this hill. The front scenery was the sea and the mountain. Behind are rolling hills of brown savannah. Not much vegetation grows there. From my standing point, far away I could see 1 solitude tree living strongly among the vast brown savannah. Then we continued our journey to Bukit Doa (The Praying Hill).
It wasn’t located that far from Bukit Cinta. It would take us faster if the roads are smooth but hey that is the sense of adventure right! The hardtop went up and around the offroad hill until we reached at the peak. It was around half an hour to reach that place. There was a big white statue of Mother Mary standing firmly on top of The Praying Hill. On the front-left side there was a beautiful bronze of Jesus’s Crucifixion. The scenery in front of The Praying Hill was spectacular. The same with the Bukit Cinta hill which is the vast sea and a mountain. Behind and around the Mother Mary was the amazing brown coloured savannah. I had found out that there’s actually stairs going down at my left side and we had started from the end point of Bukit Doa which is on the peak. So, I went down tracing the stairs and left Pieter driving the hardtop down and pick me up there at the starting point. Along the way I found out that there are more of Jesus’s crucifixion story of beautiful bronze statue that are divided into 14 bronze statues in total which the 1st statue started at the downhill and the last statue ends up at the top hill with the Mother Mary. I felt peace and nature infused together inside my heart.
Then we went to Jontona Village, Ile Ape district. There were huts facing the lovely beach with spectacular Lembata landscape of hills and sea. Behind my back was the view of the spectacular mountain of Ile Ape. Ile means mountain and Ape means fire. Ile Ape has another famous name which is Ile Lewotolok. It is still active and produces sulphur as we can see the white gas surrounding the summit. It was just beautiful. A beautiful view. A good friend of mine that resides at Lembata named Takdir says that the local kids like to trek up the mountain and play football around the summit. I was surprised by that statement. I just couldn’t believe it as I say ‘Really?’and he answers spirit fully and trying to convince me with his words. So, since that time I am curious with Ile Ape. I wish that one day I would climb the spectacular mountain of Lembata.
Not far from the beach. I saw a huge skeleton of a blue whale. And yes!!! It’s a blue whale. The blue whale according to the locals, are likely to be stranded around the bay or at their beach. They often tried to pull the whale back in the ocean. Some were in success and some like to come back at the shore and dies. So, the locals took the meet and placed the skeleton in a hut as a memoriam. The one I saw was in 2008. Along the ride home, I also see another skeleton of a blue whale under a natural made hut. Well, the traditional whale hunting that are usually held at Lamalera Village, hunts only sperm whale and orcas using harpoon and ropes. The only species of whale that can’t be hunted is the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). I guess there is a myth or a sacred history about it. It was nearly the whaling season when I came. Maybe, I only have to wait another 2 weeks to be able to see its tradition. And like I always believe that adventure always gives you surprises and curiosity. So, that we could be grateful and come back again one day.
Lembata Island is definitely a remote island in Nusa Tenggara Timur. No buildings except for the capital city but nothing tall and eye catching. The island is a pure natural. And I hope it will always stay that way. How would you enjoy the nature in the modern days along with the sophisticated technology when all is easy, effective, and built in cement and hard concrete. When will we learn about life? When will we be grateful of what we have? Until when do we have to be aware of the importance of nature? How should we enjoy the God’s gift for human beings such as nature? We live from nature, don’t we? Why living in such a fast phase life? I know life is short but use it well to learn the values of our lives. Make it meaningful.
Explore the lands in the world. Don’t change them. Respect the aesthetic of God’s made. You will feel deep in feelings of awe and appreciation. Travel to learn and adventure to make yourself a better person.
And one more, the people of Lembata are pure. They love seeing visitors come. I can feel their hope at the quite land. Kids and adults are grown in such a natural characteristics. They live through nature. They have live their real life. And have we?
How to get to Lembata Island? Go check www.indonesia.travel
All photographs are taken by me, Fiona Callaghan. Except the ones with me in it.