Reflecting on a day on tour in West Timor
Our host family had vacated their front bedroom enabling us a very comfortable night in their village of Sainiup in the north eastern Biboki kingdom of West Timor. Although it was only a 12km walk to the village the previous day, by the time we had our picnic lunch and enjoyed numerous interactions with the very curious locals along the way, it had taken us nearly 5 hours, so we had slept well. That is until about 5AM when the village roosters stirred!
Today’s adventure was to walk up to the small village of Temkasi, the ritual centre of the kingdom. It is only about 8km each way and our small bus was to make this journey easier for those who were feeling less energetic. After about 1 hour’s wonderful morning walk through a scraggly forest, we heard the bus following-on – not just the engine labouring up the hill but raucous singing and laughing! There were six of our group on the bus accompanied by eight of the women from the village who had decided to join our excursion and they were fully enjoying it! (See above video)
We met on a ridge with a huge view down to the north coast with the Timor Leste enclave of Oencussi down there somewhere. It was wonderfully windy on the ridge but the road was a bit too slippery for the bus to progress past here. So we enjoyed a cup of the marvellous local coffee that had arrived on the bus and then the whole party set off for Temkasi. The track wound through the hills with grazing cattle and small groups of Timor ponies watching our progress.
By the time we reached the base of the rocky peak on which Temkasi is perched, the mountain mist was rolling in. This added an amazing sense of mystique and reverence to our visit. Willy impressed on us the traditional significance of this place and that as part of our added attention we should try not to fall over. This was not a simple instruction to follow as the rocky climb into the village was now slippery from the misty rain.
Mist curled around the clan houses, the ritual poles and the thatched huts built on multiple levels of rocky platforms. Our village hosts were generous in welcoming us all around their fire and offering a cup of coffee as we gathered ourselves for our return. We were pleased to see that the women from our village were obviously thrilled by the opportunity to accompany us on this visit.
Fog, mist, wind and rain made for a memorable and enjoyable walk back to Sainiup. This may sound strange but I believe our spirits were lifted by our visit and we embraced and enjoyed the whole experience.
Our hosts had more in store for us today. These women support each other’s livelihoods when as a group they move from house to house processing and spinning cotton and leaving each household fully prepared to complete their weaving. With the support of Willy and his wife Ruth, the women have established a fair-trade organisation that now has more than 700 weavers. Their income has been instrumental in supporting the livelihoods of this and other villages in the region.
It was a privilege to watch the group work together in processing the cotton from the cotton pods, through the cleaning, spinning, dyeing and weaving. As part of the process, the women sang and chatted and laughed – a lot!
Meanwhile, the chickens were being prepared for dinner, the vegetables were harvested and chopped and all was expertly prepared over open fires. Again these wonderful village women had prepared and presented a deliciously fresh and tasty dinner to finish another day of our wonderful trip!