Gecko galore

My hotel was located in an isolated place in the Lamboya region on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. I was absolutely stunned as I was shown to my little house. The view from my own terrace was this:

There was a cable coming out of the bathroom lamp though, so I wanted to adjust that. But it moved!!! On closer inspection I discovered a gecko, not a cute little one but a 30-40 cm long one, apparently having set up living quarters inside the lamp. It got upset by this disturbance and made a noise that sounded like a door hinge in bad need of oiling.

As night fell, I noticed that the gecko had a friend living behind a textile wall decoration. It stuck its head out at 6 pm all three evenings I spent there.

It appeared that there were no other guests in the hotel, a great pity given its outstanding location. Before dinner it was a meditative experience to watch the sun set.

Dinner was served on a big terrace with a gorgeous starry sky above, no light pollution here! It was accompanied by the sound of geckos calling out to each other: eeeeoooo, eeeeooo. They were indeed very loud. And many. I didn’t get quite used to having them so close by, I must confess, so I closed my suitcase carefully every time I left the room. And I avoided to turn the inhabited bathroom lamp on – there was enough light anyway.



Mamas and papas

The short luggage conveyor belt at Tambolaka airport in the island of Sumba, Indonesia, didn’t run in a loop as in other airports I have been in – it just ended. All bags that hadn’t been picked up during their 10 meter ride ended up in a huge pile. There are very few flights landing here, only a couple per day, but unfortunately just after my plane had arrived, another one landed too. The pressure around the conveyor belt grew to an intense level.

While I was anxiously waiting for my bag to appear, and while being pushed further and further away, I was approached by a boy aged perhaps 12 or so who asked me, in very good English, where I was from. When he heard that I was Swedish his response was a huge smile and one word: Ibrahimovic!

Once outside the terminal building I spotted a goat peacefully grazing in the not very full car park. I had just met the guide, who greeted me with the words Welcome to Sumba, mama. He continued to address me in this way: Did you sleep well, mama?, for instance. ‘Mama’ and ‘papa’, or ‘umbu’ (meaning ‘king’) and ‘rambu’ (meaning ‘queen’), are very commonly used in conversation and a sign of respect.

Sumba traditional houses have thatched roofs that look a little like witch hats. Modern houses may have metal roofs, but with the same shape. There is of course a reason for this: traditional religion, marapu, is very much alive here, in spite of the majority being Christian at least in theory. In fact, the marapu, God, resides in the top segment of the roofs.

Decorations on the outside include buffalo horns and pig jaws from sacrificed animals.



Boats on dry land

Why do traditional houses and rice barns in the Tana Toraja region in Sulawesi, Indonesia, have boat-shaped roofs? We are in a landlocked region after all. A legend explains it all: the Toraja came to Sulawesi by boat from the mountains of what is today Vietnam thousands of years ago. They followed a river on foot, bringing their boats with them, to the region where they decided to settle and which is today Tana Toraja. It is said that they hung their boats between trees for shelter. Thus the boat shape reminds them of their roots.

The houses, known as tongkonan, are beautifully decorated and adorned with buffalo horns from ceremonies.

Buffalo jaws, also from sacrificed animals, are hung in rows on the long side of houses.

It is a status symbol to rebuild your house or rice barn: houses that are in no need at all of repair may still be torn down and rebuilt. Here you can see the how bamboo is used for the construction of the roof and how much bamboo it takes.

One of the most peaceful moments during my stay in Indonesia was sitting on the “porch” under a boat shaped roof: the warmth of the wood, the smooth surface, the green surroundings, the stillness (in spite of some barking dogs). I warmly recommend it!