Woke at 4:30am. Village life starts early. We wanted to wander the village in the business of the morning. We wandered into one of the small huts, where the king’s niece and her cousin were making fried bananas in a big cauldron in the middle of the tiny room, dutifully chopping vegetables, peeling bananas. Charlie and I snapped a few photos, then told Nesi to take us for a longer walk through some of Boti’s other villages. We strolled around, finding the villages surprisingly lacking in life. Only a few dogs yelped aggressively at us, and a few villagers could be seen mingling around.
We went back to the King’s porch and had breakfast of fried banana and popcorn, with a cup of earthy tea. Then the ojeks came, and it was time to go. We bought a couple of locally crafted scarves from the shop, then hopped on the bike to go to Niki-niki. Charlie drove one, the ojek driver at the back. I couldn’t be bothered, so sat on the back of mine. The drive up and down the dirt road, riddled with turrets and potholes that would test even a seasoned scrambler rider, was a painful yet exhilarating one. Charlie’s ojeck driver took over after a while, and, when Charlie dismounted before a difficult uphill, as was our practice, his driver raced off. 7km later, he realized he’d left poor Charlie to navigate the mountainous road on foot, which was pretty hilarious. We all reconvened at the end of the dirt track, where the asphalt road started, and Nesi tried to explain that it was because the driver had just broken up with his wife. Idiot.
We got back to the Padang place we’d been to the day before, where the grumpy Italians refused to eat. We ate again, exactly the same food as before. I’ve eaten exactly the same for a week now. We then jumped on a bus to take us to Kefa, the jumping off point for the famous village of Temkesi. Checked into Nesi’s dire recommendation, Hotel Cendu. Dark, overpriced rooms, 125,000Rp for a room with a mandi and a horrible Asian style toilet. When I asked for 2 towels, I was told 1 towel per room. I was sharing my room with Charlie, and there was no way we were only using 1 towel. After some argument, we managed to get the second. Terrible service. Got 2 ojeks to go to a village Nesi recommended, though it took him a long time to organize them. Charlie was ready to throw in the towel and send him home, but I was a little more reasonable. We could do with him.
After a rain storm (rain was following us everywhere), we managed to get to the place, Charlie and I on one bike, Nesi on the other. Nesi claimed this was because he couldn’t ride a bike well, but I know this was because he had no idea where he was going. We rode through some shallow river, along a difficult dirt track, and finally got to the village, which was some 20km away. We got permission from one of the elders to enter the village, and we walked around a bit. We heard the sound of bells and singing. Nesi, whose job was on the line, was excited. ‘Come quick. A party! You are really lucky!’ We walked towards the sound.
Children noticed us and soon a large group was following us excitedly. When we got to the source of the noise, friendly pandemonium ensued. Women were playing the bells that were hanging, cylinders of different sizes, from a wooden beam, hitting them with spoons. They stopped playing. Everyone looked at us. We were ushered into the middle of the circle, and a scarf was draped around my neck. The playing started again. People whooped and cheered, and I danced to the rythms, or at least tried to. The excitement that had built up was energizing and frantic, and I swirled and twisted with some of the female dancers, who looked in their 40s but were probably in their 20s….it was an a amazing experience, the whole village had gathered to watch. They put a sarong on me, and Charlie too, and we danced around, a sea of village faces in all directions, the kids smiling, the grown-ups chewing betel nut and laughing, 2 white boys in a tiny village in the middle of West Timor. We left just before nightfall, an entourage of village kids following us all the way back to our bikes.
In the evening, we went to eat in a Chinese restaurant, and I got some Mie Goreng. We were the only ones in there. Charlie and I were worried about Nesi. He was falling apart, on another planet. I feared he’d eaten too much betel nut. He wasn’t with it at all. Every question was met with a vacant stare, and he could seemingly no longer understand basic questions such as: ‘What would you like to eat?’ even when I said it in bahasa: ‘Mau makan apa?’ As he still hadn’t organized ojeks for our trip to Temkesi and back tomorrow, we were naturally quite worried. It was 9:30pm. Nesi was desperate. He started to ask around, he asked anyone who was on a bike, and they all made the same promise that yes, they could take us, but they needed to speak with a friend first. Of course, they never got back to us. Typically Indonesian. Never say ‘no’ to your face, just slip out of an arrangement slyly. Charlie and I went to bed, leaving the useless Nesi to sort things out. A great day in the village.