WE were the only ones there at peak season, Shivaji Das observes of his trip to the Kelimutu coloured lakes in Flores, listed on Wikipedia as the islands most famous tourist attraction. Thats what makes these islands a bit special, he says.
Das was at Universiti Malaya last month to give a talk on his newly launched travel ebook, Journeys With The Caterpillar, that charts his adventures in the Eastern Indonesian islands of Sumba and Flores with his then partner, now wife, Lobo (real name Yolanda Yu).
These relatively unknown islands seem to be a curious choice for two lovebirds, but Das lists their other options as Nepal and Syria, proving that these two choose the road less travelled by (and also less air-conditioned) whatever the circumstances. As it were, he says, Indonesia was the cheapest option with the best weather.
Its very different from Bali, he tells an audience of students and academics who will probably venture no further than that glossy destination when it comes to Indonesian islands. Its still very raw.
Sumba, Das informs us, is known as the Texas of Indonesia. Its very dry and you have a lot of flatlands and small hills. And of course horses. About a hundred years ago, the Sumba used to export horses. They still do, though not to the extent it once was and horses still play a major role in their culture, especially in annual festivals like Pasola, where horseback riders throw spears at each other.
Flores on the other hand, is wet and mountainous and has many volcanoes. These volcanoes, Kelimutu specifically, are the cradles for the lakes that change colour according to the oxidation state of the lakes. But more captivating than their landscapes is their culture.
PINK BUFFALOES AND MONOLITHS In his three-week travel, Das managed to cover a lot of ground and also discover much about the daily lives and festivities of the people of Sumba and Flores.
In Flores they say they dont have a face, Das says as the projector reveals a slide populated with faces that seemed to look like they are from South America and Africa. If you look at their faces, theyre all very different. From a Creole face to sharper features to more Javanese features.
These variations can be attributed to the rich colonial history of Flores, waves of colonisation as Das calls it, from neighbouring islands of Sumbawa and Sulawesi, and the Portuguese, then the Dutch.
On Sumba and Flores, a lot of importance is placed on ancestor worship, although most of Flores is nominally Roman Catholic. It is especially strong in Sumba, where the practice is called Marupu. In recent years, there has been a new surge of pride in their culture.
Read more from the original source:
HERITAGE: Mysterious isles of East Indonesia