“Who the hell farewells at 7 AM?” I asked, yawning. “And on a Sunday?”

The farewell ceremony involved a speech from Indonesia’s Tourism Minister and more cultural dancing including the bamboo stick dance.

P1030465Eight girls dressed in traditional yellow costumes put together four bamboo sticks, laying them horizontally on the ground, criss-crossing each other. Four girls held four sticks by the ends and proceeded to copy a weaving in-and-out action while the other four girls danced around, jumping in and out of the openings before they closed, potentially breaking their ankles if caught. It’s to show their agility and dexterity to the men in their tribe.

After the ceremony we headed out for our tour of Kupang including Oneusi Waterfalls, the Crystal Cave and feeding monkeys. Our guide, Lukie, an English teacher and our driver, Jimmy (no English) crammed all seven of us in a 4-seater Toyota.

Everything is smaller in Indonesia; the horses, cows, goats, the lanes in the road and the people themselves, averaging a height of 5 feet. Oddly enough, the chickens were larger.

We arrived at the parking area of the waterfall after a half-hour drive out of Kupang, waving and calling out ‘Hello’ to the people on the street. We paid the keeper the $5 cover charge (it covered the entire group) and went in.

It was interesting to see that, although the park had rubbish bins, they seemed to be acting more like garden statues as they were empty and the rubbish, littered all around in small piles. It seems the locals have no awareness or education regarding littering and the harm it does to the environment.

The water itself was clear, cascading over rocks into shallow rock pools. Only Omar, Bazza and I hit the water,


swimming under the waterfalls. A local man who was already there whipped out his phone and photo-shot us for the next hour.

As we trekked through the jungle-like scenario, we passed a huge Orb spider hanging in the middle of its web and a hand-sized cicada with long antennas and funky wrap-around eyes perched on a rock. The area was surrounded by banyan trees and other jungle plants and vines.

And rubbish.

The toilets were a little different from what us westerners might be accustomed to. Containing nothing but a squat hole with a water-filled basin, once you’ve finished your business, you use a ladle to ladle water from the basin to flush down whatever you’ve dropped (which is why using your left hand for anything else is regarded an insult).

We continued on to the Crystal Cave, stopping in a village to buy a bunch of bananas (10 in the bunch) for 70 cents.

70 cents!

The ants that came with it were free. And Omar got eight bread rolls for a dollar.

Just outside of the village Jimmy pulled over to the side of the road. There was no signage anywhere as Lukie announced that we had arrived.

We hopped out and trekked five minutes off the road over sharp, rocky rocks.

And rubbish.

“So Lukie,” I turned to him, being the inquisitive type, “why do they call it the Crystal Caves?”

“Because when the sun comes in, the rocks look like crystals,” he said.

Makes sense.

We reached the opening of the cave and clambered down over sharper rocks and bouldering boulders. There was no dedicated path or track. Make your own way kinda thing. We entered the dark abyss. Littered with large boulders (and sadly, rubbish).

As we trekked further down into the darkness, I noticed something blue lighting up the cavern.

“What is that?” we asked Lukie.

“Water pool,” he said proudly.

“No,” said Baz, “I don’t believe it.”

It was so clear you couldn’t tell where the rocks ended and the water began. You could see massive boulders through the turquoise crystal-coloured water, the colour reflecting off the dark ceiling of the cave.

© Omar Hernandez

© Omar Hernandez, 2013

“This is amazing!” Baz called out, his voice booming around the cavern.

Lukie didn’t wait for us. He was stripped to his briefs before we had even made it to the waterline and jumped off the rocks into the water. Baz jumped in after him and I followed suit.

Within minutes, everyone was in the pool, splashing about in the perfect temperatures of the water. There was enough light streaming in from the opening, 40 feet above us, to keep it almost romantic.


The pool was deep but I could see the bottom, about 5-7 meters below so I dived down, avoiding the dark, black caverns that probably lead to some more underwater caverns (and might be housing some cave monster). We jumped off a huge boulder which everyone cannon-balled while I swan-dived.

The thing about swan diving off a high platform is not to let your legs go over your head. You’ll avoid the feeling of your lower back about to snap and your vertebras fusing together which I learned the hard and painful way. When Olivia jumped off it seemed like she was thrown over and face-planted the water which had us all in stitches which in turn, almost drowned us.

Orla landed with a resounding splash right in the middle of us, just short of landing on the opposing cavern wall like Spiderman.

“You told me to jump as far forward as I could,” she said as I tried to tread water and laugh at the same time.

We had the cave to ourselves, spending almost two hours in the pool, splashing around, laughing like school kids.

From there, we headed to the outskirts of Kupang and ate at a restaurant, shouting Lukie and Jimmy. It was a Nasi Padang, buffet-styled cooking originating from West Sumatra. I packed my plate to the brim with three different styles of chicken, a spicy fish, declined the heart of cow, piled on the steamed rice, onion and potato cake and a fluffy spring onion omelette.

From lunch we went to feed the makak monkeys. They look like little baboons (minus the red, inflamed arse), someIMG_3382 sporting mohawks. We bought some peanuts and fed them. They were wary but soon enough they warmed up to us.

Enough to try and steal my water bottle straight from my pocket. The flash of the monkey’s canines had me resolving that it wouldn’t have been a good idea to get into a fist-paw with them. Especially when seeing the open wounds some of the other monkeys carried.

But I still got the bottle.

From monkeying about we headed over to the market. Being the only tourists there we gathered our own entourage of followers, mainly kids that we hi-fived. As we walked around, we came upon a basket full of small red chillies which Baz challenged me to eat.

The shopkeeper watched wide-eyed as I took a bite.

“It’s not too spicy,” I said to Bazza’s camera. I took another bite, finishing off the chilli. “It’s alright.” I waited a few more seconds. “Hang on,” I felt something warm climbing up my throat, getting hotter as it got higher. When it hit my mouth I thought my tongue was about to self-combust. “Oh good God,” I choked , sputtering about.

IMG_3401The shopkeeper shook my hand telling me I had very large testicles.

“Terima Kasih,” I thanked him in his native tongue. The market was very colourful and shaded but without any refrigeration we thought better of buying the raw chicken carcasses being used as a landing pad by the flies.

From the market we headed back to the landing area, thanking Lukie and Jimmy for an awesome day. We presented Jimmy with a ‘Sail Indonesia’ polo shirt.


We returned to the boat where Alison cooked us her famous vegetarian curry with fresh tofu from the market. We discussed further plans for the trip ahead and agreed on stopping at two more local anchorages on the West Timor Island. From there we will head north to Alor, where the Baz and Simon Road Show is to begin once we jump ship.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Conservation, Indonesia, Sailing, The Timor Sea | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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  1. moniquelt

    Love the photos from Crystal Cave. Caves fascinate me to the point where I’m studying re-breathers and chemical mixtures haha

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