We rose at 6 am.
Well, let’s be honest here, I rose at 6 am. Baz lightly snored on when El had come in with a change of plans.
“We go to Sika Island maybe at seven,” he suggested.
Baz was more than happy to continue sleeping while I sat at my laptop writing up last night’s adventures.
Baz finally woke up at around 07:30 and we hit the road by 07:45. The morning was surprisingly chilly and wearing wet bathers from the night before didn’t warm up my cockles. We rode through the empty streets to Mali Beach where we bought a few packets of wafers to bring to the family.
At the house, we were served with a similar tasting sweet tea as the night before, accompanied by a few bread rolls and some sweet donut bread, locally known as ‘roti gorang’.
Riding with Baz, we hit the road while El took on his youngest brother of 10, Kon, Roland’s sister of 17, Tina, and at El’s feet, his black dog, Brekky that appeared to be a cross between a short-haired Border Collie and a Labrador. We rode off-road around the airport perimeter to reach the beach. I hopped off as the bike was struggling in the sand and Bazza gave up a few meters later where we legged it, following Kon down the beach.
“Very good fisherman,” said El of Kon.
We hiked along the beach, the turquoise waters lapping quietly on the exposed corals due to the low tide. At the end of the headland we crossed through the water to Sika Island. Sharp rocks and coral lay beneath the water’s surface which had Baz swimming across although the current was taking him out and away from the safety of the sand. El picked Brekky up, threw him around his neck and carried him over.
“Baz,” I approached him, “can you teach me to wolf-whistle?” Something I’ve been very keen on mastering.
In the simplest manner he explained what needed to be done to accomplish the wolf-whistle. El got it right away. I blew until I almost passed out from hyperventilation but to no avail (at time of publication, I have yet to blow a wolf whistle. I have, however, mastered blowing air).
An uncle of Roland and Tina joined us and led the way, his mouth red from the silakapan that he chewed on, spitting out blood-red saliva every now and again. Upon reaching the island, Bazza mustered up some guts and tried the stuff, turning his mouth to an instant red, as though someone had smashed him up in a bar fight. His teeth went yellow almost instantly.
“It’s not so bad once you mix it up with the snuff powder,” he chewed as the uncle laughed.
We were keen for some coconuts so Roland, the uncle, Baz and myself went to explore. We passed an open-walled thatch roof that seemed to be an Indonesian version of a picnic area. Contining on Baz spotted coconut palms. There were only five of them. Communication wasn’t easy as Roland’s English was poor and the uncle barely knew any besides ‘I love you’ and ‘yes, no’. We reached a tall palm and the uncle, who seemed to be in his early 40s, shimmied up the trunk and dropped five coconuts.
Bazza had another go at cracking one open, doing better than the day before. The coconut water was refreshing and using a side of the external nut skin, the uncle crafted a spoon with which we dug out the flesh.
Safely choosing a shorter palm than the one the uncle had climbed, Baz and I both attempted to shimmy up the trunk.
“I’ll leave it to the expert,” I patted the uncle on the back as I scraped myself coming down.
We continued hiking, passing a weird arrangement of cement blocks with what appeared to be flower beds being grown inside them.
“Welcome to Alor,” explained Roland, gesturing that that’s what the cement blocks spelt out. It’s the first thing to see from the air when entering the island paradise by plane.
Soon enough we came across another hut. From the thatched roof a mosquito net dropped down over a bamboo platform. Some coloured lights hung between bamboo posts.
I wondered if they do weddings and bar mitzvahs.
We rested in the shade before heading back to the camp site where Kon was busy emptying the water of fish. El had snatched a small blue crab and it was all being cooked over hot coals. The fish weren’t cleaned or gutted but thrown onto the coals as is until the skin burnt and became crispy. Rice, pre-made at the house, was the side dish of choice along with steamed yam leaves.
With our stomachs full to the brim, we all found a bit of shade and napped away while the sun beat down on the mangroves as the tide came in.
I woke up feeling restless and Kon, being the only one awake, invited me for a swim. We hit the water, diving about for a bit. I showed him how to skip rocks using dead corals. Eventually, the others woke up and we packed up to head back. As the tide had risen, the uncle took us in his canoe with the comfort of an outboard motor.
This time, we didn’t sink it.
El volunteered to bring the bikes back so we hiked back along the beach with Kon leading all the way to Roland’s house.
“Show him your lion roar,” said Baz.
I have the ability to roar like a lion. Not as loud as leo but generally creating the same sound. How does one develop such a talent? I have no idea. I’ve been able to do it since I was about six-years-old. Kon was impressed and wanted me to keep doing it. The thing about roaring like the opening credits to an MGM production is that it actually hurts the throat so I declined politely.
From the house we headed back to Kalabahi, stopping by Cheryl’s stand to say ‘hello’. She offered us a citrus that was the size of an orange, green like a lime but tasted like a mixture between a grapefruit and a pomella.
We rode on into town, catching up with Perfect who showed us where Baz could get his hair cut.
“Like this,” Baz pointed to Perfect’s hair for the barber to do on him. The latest hair styles of the outer Indonesian islands seemed to be a rat-tailed Mohawk.
Alfonse, the hairdresser, sent his 3-year-old son out the door with some money. “Cigarettes. Three,” he instructed the toddler.
A few moments later, the little rug-rat came back with three cigarettes in his tiny hand, handing them over to his father who promptly lit one up and, with the skill set of Paul Mitchell-meets-Zohan-Scrappy-Coco, he carved Bazza’s hair into a mohawk. He only charged a dollar but Baz, pleased with the work, paid him $2.
“Back home in England that would have cost me £20,” he said as we walked away to the cheers of the onlooking locals.
Getting hungry we went in search of a place to eat. On the way we passed by what appeared to be a school. In the front yard, a hundred or so kids varying in age from 5-8 were paying attention to their teachers.
Until Baz and I decided to go in and say ‘hello’.
I can only say that I now know what The Beatles and Michael Jackson felt at the peak of their fame. The kids screamed as we entered, manic cries of happiness engulfed us as they grabbed onto everything we had exposed, swallowing us up deep into the throng while we struggled to pull out our cameras to get a group photo.
Music was playing and the teachers were urging us to dance. The kids went crazy and screamed out more every time we busted a move (and a hip), all of them whipping out mobile phones and taking photos.
We were lucky to get out with our limbs still attached.
We rode on downtown and stopped at the first food shack. Not knowing what any of the names of the dishes meant, we took a gamble and ordered two Nasi Babi’s and a Bintang beer to share. Turns out Babi means pork fat because we were served with a bowl of soup, a plate with rice, yam leaves, chili and pork fat.
We went home for a shower as we were catching up with the gang at about 19:00 to celebrate Orla’s birthday. The organiser for Sail Komodo in Alor arranged a car to take us to the harbour where there was a choice of restaurants. I noticed in the window of the first one a tiny little hairy ball among the bowls of tofu and tempura. Approaching the window I realised it was a Jerry-looking mouse, twitching its little whiskers at me.
“Don’t tell Jill,” said Orla as I pointed it out. “She would freak the fuck out.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, drawing the attention of the owner of the shop to the mouse. She laughed as she shooed it away.
We bought some beers and although Baz and I had chewed on Nasi Babi, we went for a round of rice and chicken.
We said our ‘goodbyes’ to the gang and rode back home to rest up for our trip to Pura Island the following day.