Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lembata, ikat hunting again

After the weirdly aggressive people of Adonara, it's a joy to be on the relaxed island of Lembata. Aside from the ferry breaking down 30 minutes into the crossing, and us drifting for a while whist the engine was repaired, the crossing was uneventful. At the ferry dock the transport mafia wanted a ridiculous 10,000Rp for what is a short stroll in to town. Instead, I walked.

I was hoping to find the Lile Ili Homestay, but, as I found out a couple of days later, it is no longer operational. Instead I stayed at the Hotel Rejeki, which is run by Richard, who speaks good English and is very helpful for travel advice. Just below the hotel on the waterfront is a small Bajo stilt village, and the people are gentle, friendly and very happy for me to visit and take photos. The difference in the temperament of the people here on Lembata is striking, they are relaxed and genuinely friendly. I feel I'm going to like this place a lot.

I wander around town, having conversations with local people, taking pictures of kids and adults alike, and enjoying being back with friendly people.

That evening I have a wonderful meal of crispy fried chicken with a seriously wicked sambal. After the boring food of Maumere, we are back to hot spicy food again. Halelujah! The fingers on my eating hand tingle for hours that evening, god knows what it's doing to my insides!

The next day I hire a motorbike from Richard, in order to do the loop around Ili Api. Ili Api is a volcano which sits on a peninsula north of town, and there is a very scruffy road which winds through coastal villages all the way around it. It is also the region for good quality ikats and it is from some of the villages that one starts the climb to the top of the volcano.

I head off around 9am, carefully negotiating the pothole ridden poor excuse for a road. Luckily, there is minimal traffic to deal with, and once outside town, almost no other vehicles at all. I take an anticlockwise route, heading along the western flank of the mountain, hoping to find the village of Jontona, the traditional starting point for the climb. Unfortunately, I don't work out which scruffy village it is, but do stop at a few places along the way for some photography, and then turn into a very cute town on the north coast, to ask around about skates.

The town I turn into is Lamagute, and there is a lady weaving in the shade just where I stop. A group of men come over to talk and we discuss climbing the mountain. They suggest leaving at 3 in the morning to make the sunrise, and say it's possible for me to stay overnight in the village. We discuss guide prices, and the cost of being picked up from Lewoleba by ojek, and exchange phone numbers. Phone service is poor here, so I am instructed to SMS only. I take a few pictures of the lady weaving, then say my goodbyes.

Just down the road I find a nice shady cove to have lunch, some leftover biscuits from yesterday, and have a chat with a couple of old ladies spinning cotton. Then it's back on the bike for the second half of the circumnavigation.

The road continues to be poor, but then I see a road off to the right which is smoothly asphalted and I decide to turn down it, hoping there will be a nice beach and the opportunity for a swim at the end of the road. The road stays good most of the way out to the tip of land on the very north west of the peninsula and there is indeed a jetty that I can swim off. Of course there is also a gaggle of young boys to contend with, one of whom is fascinated by my nose. Not sure if he was being cheeky or was a little simple, but they were all perfectly harmless, and certainly not camera shy.

The final ride back to town is along more potholed roads, but by now I am feeling much more confident in my bike handling. I'm fully aware of how easy it is to have an accident on a bike, so I continue to maintain a high level of care and refuse to become complacent. I really must get myself a bike licence when I get home, it just makes any travel insurance claims possible should an accident occur.

Tomorrow I'm off to Lamalera, a traditional whale fishing village on the south coast of Lembata.

See you when I get back!!

Monday, March 28, 2016

When it feels like you've been kidnapped

What a strange couple of days I had.

After the Good Friday Procession I was quite exhausted. It had been so full on, and the weather wasn't obliging either. I'm starting to think I prefer cold snowy weather to this infernal heat and humidity. It also didn't help that after 3 months without a period I started menstruating.

Suffice to say, I was looking forward to holing up in a hotel for a day whilst I got over the first heavy day of bleeding, to have numerous showers and lie in front of a fan to stay cool. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, here's what did.

After an emotional farewell from Ritha's family, Ritha gave me a lift down to the pier on her motorbike. I stocked up with biscuits and water and boarded the ferry to Waiwerang, the main town on the nearby island of Adonara. It was an easy crossing, but the views were marred by heavy downpours of rain, necessitating closing the windows and turning the interior into a sauna. Seriously unpleasant. At Waiwerang a friendly chap showed me where the two hotels were, but unfortunately, both hotels were full. People from Jakarta here for the celebrations, but yet to leave again. Oh dear!!

Then a chap called Bernard showed up, and offered if I wanted to do a homestay in his village. Given the circumstances I had little choice but to agree, I mean where was I going to sleep if I didn't take advantage of people's hospitality? After a toilet stop, I hopped on the back of Bernard's bike and we drove to his village. It's in the inland portion of the island, dry according to him, but still looks pretty green to me. Dry is where I come from!

I meet his wife, daughter and mother, then go for coffee at another family member's house. This is where I will sleep as there is no room in Bernard's small house. We have coffee and cake and watch some men playing cards and gambling. Then we head over to the neighbour's, where a bunch of young men are sitting around shooting the breeze, drinking locally brewed Arak, and eating dog meat.

Dogs are quite well cared for family pets around here, as are cats, just they get eaten when they get old. No room for sentimentality when protein isn't easy to come by. We forget this in our pampered world of supermarkets and choice about what cuts of meat we will eat. Here, there are no such luxuries, so I try a little taste, but it's gristly and not particularly pleasant tasting. Anyway, they need the protein more than I do!! They certainly do tuck in with relish.

After 2 glasses of Arak, it's spicy and quite strong, we head off to see the church, ho hum, and to visit the village head, to discuss climbing Ili Boleng, the reason I'd come to Adonara in the first place. Only now I was thinking I wouldn't be doing anything strenuous for a couple of days, as my period was turning out to be a little heavier than usual, making me rather uncomfortable.

Sorry if this is an unsavoury topic for some, but this is the reality for women, that we have to deal with menstruating when we travel, and it can seriously interfere with our plans. Many years ago I began using a silicone menstrual cup, which is inserted into the vagina and catches the flow. Because it's a non absorbent method, it's much safer than tampons as there is no risk of getting toxic shock syndrome, meaning you can leave the thing in for extended periods, as long as it doesn't overflow. It is simply removed, emptied, rinsed and reinserted. This is a godsend in countries without adequate garbage disposal services, as all you need is water.

So, I begin to explain to Bernard that tomorrow I would like to go back to Waiwerang and the hotel, that I am tired, need to wash some clothes and that the timing is not right for me to stay longer in the village. He listens, and then tells me that he thinks I should stay a few days in the village, rest here and someone will wash my clothes for me. I say no, I need to wash my own clothes, and then I tell him I am menstruating. He then acquiesces to me washing my own clothes, but still thinks I should stay a few days in the village.

Bernard is friendly enough, but he makes me feel uncomfortable. He wants to be my Facebook friend, which I am fine with because I can always delete him again, and then goes through all my profile pictures which I find a bit creepy. He has a certain self assured pomposity to him, and he refuses to contemplate me returning tomorrow. As I have no choice for the night, I let it ride, and decide to see how things pan out overnight.

I have a dreadful night. My room and bed are fine, there is even a mosquito net to use, but I am bleeding heavily and need to empty my cup every few hours. I run out of clean underwear, I stain the sheets, I need to use my towel as a pad, and luckily there is a sarong in the bedroom that I can wear because I run out of clothes to wear on my lower half! And in the small periods I manage to sleep, I am woken once by some late night revellers turning up wanting to buy phone credit, and then at 4am by my body wanting to do a shit! At six am I am woken yet again by Bernard wanting to take me to see a traditional market! He gets told no!

I get up and pack my bag. I decide that if Bernard won't take me back to Waiwerang I will find someone who will. When I surface I must look absolutely frightful. I tell Bernard I have been unable to sleep and then continue to milk my situation by almost falling asleep over my morning coffee. Bernard at last concedes, and rings the hotel to book a room for me, and we head back in to town.

I offer Bernard some money for the homestay, for which he is suitably vague and accepts 50,000Rp, which seems reasonable for one meagre meal, 2 coffees and a bed for the night. I tell him that when I feel better I will ring him and maybe return to the village, and then we can visit beaches and climb volcanoes. He then asks for 100,000Rp for fuel, which seems excessive, as motorbikes run forever on very little fuel, and a full tank would probably cost less than 50,000Rp. Or perhaps that's what he thinks his services as an ojek driver are worth. I give it to him, deciding at that point that I won't be returning to his village, that I have had enough of this annoying man and his weirdly aggressive friendliness.

I understand that there are cultural differences, and that unemployment is high, but I would appreciate when people offer to help that they are upfront about how much of that help they expect to be paid for. I didn't ask for Bernard to be my guide for a few days, I simply took advantage of his offer of hospitality when I needed it, and was totally prepared to pay for it. What I wasn't prepared for, was to feel bullied into staying longer in a place I didn't wish to be.

I retire to my clean, fan cooled room at the Hotel Asri and say goodbye to Bernard. I tell him I will ring him when I feel better. I know I won't.

I shower, rest, and update my blog. I have the sort of day I wanted yesterday, just to chill and gather my wits and strength for the next part of the adventure. I wander down town to get some lunch. One young kid skids his bike at me, not once but twice. Oh for a stick to put through those spokes! Even the adults swerve their bikes toward me when saying hello. One young man stops and insists I get on the back of his motorbike. I refuse, many times. He goes away, comes back and tries again. No way am I getting into another Bernard situation. I turn around and head back to my hotel.

I pass by the pier and inquire as to ferry departure times for Lewoleba. Reading my guidebook it looks like there's much more to do on the next island Lembata, and my body isn't up to climbing a mountain in the next few days, so I'm best to move on. I won't be letting Bernard know my plans, I have a sneaking suspicion he would come and try and persuade me to stay.

On the ferry the next day my phone rings. It is Bernard. I don't answer it. I am surprised at how uncomfortable not just Bernard, but the people of Adonara made me feel. Though outwardly friendly there was a strange aggression to them. I didn't feel relaxed with them at all.

Lembata, however, is completely different. These are my kind of people!

yep, that's next...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Medieval Catholicism on a grand scale

How can I describe my experience in Larantuka?

It was both extremely unpleasant, and really enjoyable, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But it was tough, like I think it's meant to be.

When I first booked my ticket to Bali a year ago, I had the intention to go to Nusa Tenggara, and then, as I read up about it, I realised that I would have the opportunity to be in Larantuka for Easter. In particular for the Good Friday Processions that follow a 500 year old tradition brought here by the Portuguese missionaries, and since extinct almost everywhere else in the catholic world.

I knew that the Procession was a site of pilgrimage, so rather than hope there would be a spare room at a hotel, I'd reached out to the couchsurfing community and found myself a local host to stay with. This way I could experience the procession through full cultural immersion, whatever that meant. It meant pain and suffering….

I had an early breakfast at Sunset Cottages then stood on the side of the road for the Larantuka bus to come by. I didn't have to wait long and soon my bag was on the roof and I was squashed between a talkative lady my age and a quiet, travel sick young moslem girl. At first the bus scooted along the northern coastline, but then it began climbing through the hills. Round and around, I was soon feeling queasy, as were many others, and bags were being handed around for the less stoic.

We stopped in Bora for a meal and toilet break, and then went through a police roadblock where they were checking vehicles for explosives. As the lady next to me explained, people come from all over Indonesia and the world for this event, it's a legitimate terrorist target. Our bus was found to be bomb free, so we were soon on the road again, churning more stomachs on the final run in to Larantuka.

Like most towns and cities in Indonesia, the bus station is inconveniently located a few kilometres away from the centre of town, meaning you have to take alternative transport from the bus station to get anywhere near town. My very helpful lady told me the prices, and suggested I take an ojek as they'd be able to take me directly to where I wanted to go, whereas a bemo would only take me to town and then I'd need another to the hospital, which is nearby where Ritha lives. She even chose which ojek driver to take me, and then began holding court with a bunch of people at the bus station as I was leaving. What a personality! Funnily enough, I even ran into her again at the cathedral at the end of the procession, which given the crowds, was quite a feat!

The lady was right, it was $2 well spent, and I arrived at the hospital as planned, then texted Ritha, who came to meet me and took me to her house down a nearby lane. She lives there with her mother and father, three sisters and a brother, a couple of cousins, her two children, and her sister Ana's one child. Ritha's husband is studying in Kupang, whereas she is studying to be a maths teacher in Larantuka, whilst raising two children. I didn't ask where Ana's husband was. The girls all spoke a small amount of English, but since they discovered I could speak Indonesian, they mostly stuck to that, with the occasional break into English at an impasse. Let's just say I spent a lot of time looking words up and only understanding portions of conversations. But it's great practice and the only way to reach fluency.

The house itself was reasonably large, with three bedrooms and another bed in the breezeway near the bathroom. Ritha's mum is a maths teacher, her father works in the local forestry office. I was given Ritha's bedroom to sleep in and she slept in the breezeway with her kids. I had a shower and lunch, then managed to catch up on my blogging now that I had reliable internet. I am using an Indonesian SIM card and then purchase a mobile internet package. For $11 I get 4GB data, 400 SMS and 60 minutes of call time. I can purchase extra data as I need it, but I found last time that buying a packet with a bit of SMS and phone time ends up good value when you meet new friends who insist on endlessly texting you.

Ritha and son Ascar

Early afternoon we had visitors, family from West Timor here for the procession. They were all fed lunch too, and chatted for a while, before heading off. Then, Ritha's mother and two of the younger girls took me down to the end of their road where there is a small boat harbour. We bought tickets for a boat trip across the narrow strait between Flores and the island of Adonara to the small town of Wureh. They also hold a good Friday procession, but we were there only to light candles and pray to the statues, before boarding boats for the return journey. Some of the ladies were terrified during the crossing. I'm not surprised given the speed and turbidity of the current rushing between the islands, but both crossings were without event.

Back on terra firma we wandered down to the Tuan Meninu Chapel. Here resides Meninu, or son in Portuguese, which I presume refers to Jesus. It is a coffin on a palanquin, I have no idea what is inside. We waited for almost an hour for the chapel to open so we could pay our respects to Tuan Meninu, and then we wandered down to the little park by the sea where his boat awaits him for tomorrow's procession.

Apparently, Tuan Ma (the Virgin Mary) and Tuan Meninu (Jesus) were statues brought here by the original Portuguese missionaries in 1510, and are hidden away the rest of the year in their respective chapels, only coming out at Easter, when they are washed and people come to pay their respects. Because of its geographical isolation and the political power of Portuguese descendents still living in Larantuka, they maintained a ceremony which is unique to Larantuka and not performed in other parts of the Catholic world.

The next morning Ritha and the two cousins came down with me to the foreshore to watch the Processi Laut. There is a serious police and military presence and there are a lot of spectators. We wait in the sun, finding shade where we can, for a couple of hours whilst a pile of boats line up in front of the chapel waiting for Tuan Meninu to be loaded on to his boat and paddled down the sea to the cathedral. It is atrociously hot, and because you aren't allowed to wear hats or sunglasses, I believe I get a little sunburnt. But watching the procession of boats, from tiny canoes to medium sized boats packed with people escorting Tuan Meninu, is worth a little discomfort. It might have been fun to be on a boat, but in reality I think I would have had much more sun exposure out there waiting for the start, and then waiting to disembark at the end.

Back at the house I rested for a few hours, declining Ritha's mother's offer to join her to visit Tuan Ma in the cathedral. I was going to go on the night time procession and was feeling somewhat frizzled after the morning's activity, and figured I'd need my energy till then. How much of an understatement was that? I had no idea what I was in for!!

At six I had a hurried meal and shower, then joined Ana and the two cousins, equipped with candles,  taking a Bemo down town to the cathedral. We arrived just after 7pm.

The place was packed and a service was taking place inside. Ana got us to line up near some side doors, and when they opened we jostled along with the huge crowd which surged into the church and turned down the aisle and out the rear again. I didn't have time to look around, I was holding on to the girls so I wouldn't lose them.

Outside we formed rows of five people in 2 columns, lit our candles, and were spaced into individual segments with procession marshalls providing crowd control. Each segment had its own contingent of priests, nuns or missionaries, who chanted prayers that the rest of the crowd responded to, led hymns that the crowd all knew the words to, and read from a book of bible readings. This kept the crowd on task as we walked 7 km, yes seven kilometres, through the streets of Larantuka past various shrines and chapels before we returned to the cathedral some time after 1am.

I noticed a number of foreigners on the sidelines, and despite the absolute agony of walking seven slow kilometres in thongs, I was glad to be part of the procession rather than just on the sidelines observing. Ana was really good at pointing out all the different chapels, and even the Raja's palace, as we passed by them all. Ana remained stoic, where the girls and I kept sitting down on the sidewalk or road when we had to wait ages for the procession to continue, so she suffered the most. But then she hadn't spent the morning in the sun like the girls and I had!!

At last we were back at the cathedral. We headed in and found a seat in the pews to await the final bit when Tuan Ma and Tuan Meninu are brought back in to the cathedral at the end of their procession through the town. We didn't see them during the procession as we were somewhere towards the front of the procession and the papers the next day said 10,000 people participated. The church slowly filled with people whilst a bunch of young men played some strange percussion instruments, including a drum. It wasn't what I was expecting inside a church and was quite disconcerting. Then the priests came in singing, not words, just melody, it was amazing to listen to. Then came Tuan Meninu, a coffin on a palanquin carried by bearers wearing an outfit that looked like a cross between Santa Claus and the Ku Klux Klan. Apparently this is an ancient costume and the KKK copied them.

Next, some more people piled in, and finally, Tuan Ma. This was my first view of her as I'd not been to see her earlier in the day with Ritha's mum. Suffice to say, she's an old statue of an old lady, but a very revered old lady statue indeed.

After Tuan Ma and Tuan Meninu were placed each side of the front of the church, the priest said a few words welcoming people and mentioning where everyone had come from, then acknowledged our two special guests (Tuan Ma and Meninu silly!!) and then it was all over.

Here's a six minute video I put together to give you a little taste of what it was like. Sorry if the quality is a bit dodgy, and if you think 6 minutes is long, the real thing took six hours!!!

We filed out of the church and made our way to where we could pick up a bemo back to the house. Everyone was exhausted, in fact by the final bit of the procession even the marshalls were staggering. It's an interesting exercise in that by participating, perhaps everyone, in their own way, is experiencing Jesus's walk to his crucifixion. I had a long five hours to think about this and wonder at the sheer weirdness of things pilgrims do in the name of their religion. At least this procession is held at night, and with all the candles burning it's very beautiful to behold.

Back at the house (just after 2am) it was shower and bed. I was out like a light. The next morning I was taking a boat further east and planning to climb a volcano….

That's next...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chilling in a beach bungalow for a few days

The extreme humidity here in Flores is quite sapping. I'd expected that we would be at the tail end of the wet season by now but it isn't the case this year as it started late and the locals tell me it is normal to still be raining through to April. Note to self, try Maluku at this time of year instead.

After 4 nights staying at the increasingly decrepid but convenient Gardena Hotel in Maumere I jumped on the only bus I could find heading west. It was Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, and a Public Holiday, so there wasn't much traffic on the roads, but this bus to Larantuka was just about to leave so I squashed in and got dropped off near Wodong. Unfortunately I'd got off at the wrong sign to Sunset Cottages, something the owner could easily remedy by removing the sign. But since he was home, he gave me a lift to the new cottages, further down the beach but no longer with a sunset view. Apparently the landowner wouldn't continue to rent him the land, so he had to move.

The new cottages are three in total, made from wood and bamboo with thatched roofs. They have attached bathrooms with a shower and western toilet, but no cistern so you still need to use a bucket. Since I don't bother with toilet paper whilst travelling in Indonesia, preferring to wash my arse with water the local way, this is totally fine by me. It's the squat toilets I struggle with, due to tight achilles tendons and dodgy knees.

Each cottage has a lovely covered verandah, and two are very close to the water's edge. The third, a family sized cottage, is set back a little. There's a covered restaurant area and nearby kitchen, a beach at our front door, and that's it. There isn't 24 hour power as the electricity company is yet to connect the property with the grid, so Mr Henry runs a generator for a few hours during the day and in the evening, meaning it's still possible to get your electronics recharged, but the internet coverage is dreadful.

The meals offered by the kitchen are pretty minimal as they stock very little food at this quiet time of the year. It's mostly fried rice or noodles, or vege curry. Despite that, all cottages are occupied for most of my stay. There are also alternative cottage accommodation either side of us along the beach, including the more upmarket Ankermi.

There is a German lass staying here long term, who has started a reading and drawing class with the local children. She spent a week at Nita village learning about how to make ikat, and was a mine of information about things to do locally. She'd also had a bad experience at Gardena, worse than mine: bedbugs!!

I had planned to climb the nearby Gunung Egon, but it's not safe at this time of year during the wet season, so instead I mostly chilled by the beach. The views were just stunning.

One morning a German couple and I took a bemo up the road to the small village of Nangahale. Here they make boats from local timber sourced from the forest, each boat taking about 3 months to complete.

Old women boil sea water in shallow baths to extract salt.

There's even a small fish market, where we buy some tuna for dinner. Each fish costs a dollar. One man has a stingray for sale.

The kids are outrageously friendly, and follow us around. The German couple haven't been to non touristy parts of Indonesia before, so are really enjoying having a wander and I encourage them just to smile and be friendly and interact with people. It's not hard!

We return to the cottages on a bemo stuffed to the eyeballs with school students, luckily we have seats. It's an eye opener to the German couple, Alina and Kristof, and they later tell me they wouldn't have done that trip without me. I realise how easily I now can interact with people, can ask them questions and learn about what they are doing, and can tell people about myself. It does make travelling in foreign places a lot easier when you can speak the language, no matter how limited it is it's better than none.

Our barbequed fish was delicious, and an incredibly welcome change after the boring meals otherwise on offer, though they always came beautifully decorated with smiley faces.

That evening I am sick, with diarrhoea, and later fever and headache. I spend the next day just lying around, drinking water and having numerous cold showers, and catching the sea breeze. It's not such a bad place to be sick. The staff are concerned, and make me ginger tea, while Mr Henry offers to take me to a doctor if I want. I'm not that sick, and I had no plans anyway, so resting, reading, and watching videos is a fine way to spend time, sick or otherwise.

By the next day the fever and headache have resolved, my bowels have settled down, and I am ready to take on the next adventure. I message my couchsurfing host in Larantuka to let her know I'll be on a bus there in the morning.

That's next...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ikat Hunting - Maumere region

So what are ikats?

Ikats are hand woven material, usually sewn into a cylinder, which men and women wear as a sarong wrapped around their waist or like a sari slung over one shoulder. These days they also wear a western shirt on their upper body, but they are the traditional clothing of the people of Flores, Timor, Sumba and most of the other islands of Nusa Tenggara. Traditionally the ikats were made from scratch, growing and spinning the cotton, dyeing it with natural products from their immediate environment, and weaving them with intricate designs specific to each village and region. These days most ikats are made from milled cotton and synthetic dyes, but the painstaking work of dyeing the warp and weaving by hand is still done by thousands of women throughout the archipelago.

Lio ikats

My first foray to the weekly markets at Nita revealed a number of women, and a few men, selling ikats not only from local areas, but also from Alor and West Timor. I interrogated each seller as to where the ikats came from, disappointing them all as at this stage I wasn't interested in buying, but simply learning about them. In particular, I was interested in seeing the process. I met a lady from Ledalero, just up the road, who invited me to visit the women's collective which she was involved in, but not for a few days as she had markets to attend. As did I!!

Yanti with her kids

Walking the couple of kilometres between Nita and Ledalero I spied the sign to the Nita women's collective. They were all at the market too, so I wandered around looking at unfinished projects before heading back along the road again. Nita is one of the few weaving collectives still using traditional dyes, which probably doubles the time required to make the finished product. This also doubles the asking price!

Back on the road I visited the Ledalero museum, and took a picture which maps the different ikat designs throughout Flores for future reference.

A couple of days later I returned to Ledalero to visit Yanti and her weaving collective known as Kelompok Korosang Manualu. The name is in the Sikka language, and manualu means "8 chickens", being the traditional motif usually weaved in to the ikats.

see the chickens?

The collective has only been in operation for a year. Previously the women weaved alone in their houses, but this way they can share the workload, send one person to the market to sell the wares, and also attract tourists to see the process. The Nita collective has been doing this successfully for many years, and even offers a homestay for people interested in learning to weave, so I presume the Ledalero ladies have learnt from their example.

Nita ikat in progress

Yanti showed me a beautiful traditionally dyed ikat which her mother had made. It had a dragon motif and it was obviously very special to Yanti, and definitely not for sale. They showed me the leaves used to make the indigo dye, and also how they wrap the twine with rattan in the design they wish to make, before it is dyed, often in multiple colours. They do each section in turn, so when you see the finished ikat it can be any width dependent on how many sections they do, and can be any combination of different designs.

Once the painstaking process of dyeing the yarn is complete, the warp is threaded onto the handloom and the weaving begins. This is incredibly hard work, as the women take up the tension using their own bodies as a fulcrum, with a backbrace and their legs. Working all day, it takes at least a week to weave the irate. And yes, they all get sore backs.

After showing me around and showing me such hospitality, including lunch of fried bananas and a really yummy salad, I felt it would be rude not to purchase an ikat. So I did. I also learnt that there is definitely a top and a bottom to an ikat when worn.

never mind the socks

So, should you decide to visit the Museum at Ledalero, I'd also recommend crossing the road and asking for Yanti or the Kelompok Korosang Manualu. Her house is opposite the road to the Museum, towards Nita. If you get the wrong house someone will show you the correct one. It is expected that you offer a donation to the collective for their time showing you around, whether you purchase an ikat or not. The ladies are so friendly and helpful, though very little English is spoken. Yanti has the most English, but that's pretty minimal, so for the best experience some knowledge of Indonesian would help.