Friday, April 8, 2016

Around the bird's head on a motorbike

I decide to hire a motorbike for a day from the Homestay owner in Alor. It's a semi automatic, ie it has 3 gears and a foot brake, but no clutch, and comes without a helmet. I throw all caution to the wind and go on an adventure.

It takes me a little while to get used to the gear changes, but I've ridden a bike like this before so it's not completely new. Soon I'm feeling more confident and managing to get a bit more speed up on the nice roads. I head towards the airport and the beach at Mali, but stop along the way to admire the turquoise waters and deep blue sky.

After Mali the road heads up hill and becomes narrow and dodgy, and doesn't improve one bit for a very long time. I'm feeling a lot more confident on two wheels now, but still play very safe indeed. I find myself at a lovely bay called Batu Putih, named after the white stone cliffs at one end of the golden sand beach. It's hot, but very picturesque. The locals say it is safe to swim (the waters around Alor have wicked currents so it's important to ask before venturing in to the water) but I decline. I don't know what it is, but I'm just not that into going swimming, even though I've brought the snorkelling gear with me.

The road then heads up into the mountains, gets very steep, very narrow, and even more dodgy. It then begins to rain, so I quickly stop to put my camera and all electronics safely away inside my lightweight drybag. By then it's pouring down and I find it impossible to ride with the rain pelting in to my eyes. My sunglasses provide no protection, and since I have no helmet, there's nothing to stop it. A young farmer offers to drive me up to his house and let me shelter on his verandah until the rain abates. He happily walks back down to his farm.

Once the rain stops I continue further into the interior. The rain has caused the branches on each side of the road to droop over, making for an interesting and rather wet ride, and the road itself is a little slippery now its wet. I drive oh so carefully and have absolutely no dramas at all, no slipping wheels, certainly no falling over. I'm really proud of myself.

I get to a small village, and ask the way. I later discover there is a nearby waterfall, but I missed it through ignorance and a complete lack of any maps or signage aimed at tourism. Though admittedly, there are many more road signs on Alor than I'd seen on Lembata, which had, well, none!!

I find myself at Kokar Beach, on the northern side of the birds head peninsular. The road has now improved and I hope to get back to Kalabahi by dusk. I am stopped by a couple on a motorbike going in the opposite direction and invited to their house. It's only 2 o'clock so I happily agree. I turn around and head back maybe a kilometre, to their house, where I meet 3 generations of family. They are all incredibly welcoming, feeding me a local dish of papaya and banana blossom cooked with coconut, offer me betel nut to chew, a cup of tea, and even some Sopi. They totally understand when I just take one glass of the sopi, explaining I still have to drive back to town.

They are none of them camera shy, so we all take lots of photos on our phones and nice cameras. Then I get back on the bike and head home.

The road skirts the coast the whole way back to Kalabahi. It passes Sebanjar beach, good for snorkelling, and Alor Kecil, where the boat to Pulau Kepa goes from, then turns south bordering the strait between Alor and Pantar. There are a bunch of other islands in the strait, including the Sopi producing island of Pura, all of which you can visit, with a boat of course.

I arrive back in Kalabahi just as it's starting to get dark. I made it!!

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