Tuesday, January 01, 2008

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Village of the whale hunters

Lembata Island by the prospect of visiting the unique village of Lamalera, where the traditional practice of harpooning whales and dolphins for subsistence still survives. So, on Friday 16 September, after two nights in the 'bustling' port town of Lewoleba (see previous entry), we set off on the four-hour drive to Lamalera, situated on the south coast. Our public transport by 4WD vehicle took us through the mountainous, sparsely populated interior of the island, dotted with small farms and tiny villages of bamboo huts. The surfaced road soon gave way to a rutted, dusty track. As the vehicle passed through settlements and stopped along the way to drop of people and goods, we were met by friendly smiles and waves from women and children.
Boat at sea
Boat at sea

Our car had left at midday, and we arrived in Lamalera in the mid-afternoon. The accomodation in Lamalera is limited to a couple of homestays, and we checked into one of them - the home of Abel Beding and his family. We took a walk around the small seaside village - a cluster of brightly painted brick homes situated on the main street and along the curve of the small bay. On the beach, a picturesque row of palm-thatched shelters housed 40 or so traditional wooden fishing boats. At sunset, three boats returned (empty-handed) and we watched the crew heave the boats up the beach, using logs as rollers. I got chatting to a skipper named Frans, who could speak some English, and we agreed that Rich and I would join his boat on its fishing expedition the following day.
Leaping from boat
Leaping from boat

So on Saturday morning at 7am we accompanied the crew of the boat 'Arnol'. Like roughly half of the 40 or so fishing boats owned by the clans of the village Arnol is a hand-built wooden boat with an outboard engine, and is used for hunting dolphins as well as manta ray and other large fish. The balance of the village fleet are outrigger 'pledang' boats propelled by traditional palm-frond sails instead of engines. These are used for whale hunting.

The international whaling treaty exempts the people of Lamalera from the ban on whale hunting, on the grounds that this is a unique and traditional way of life. They are thus permitted to use only their sail boats for whale hunting, and land around 15 to 20 sperm whales a year. For the rest this subsistence fishing community relies on its catches of manta rays and dolphins. Every part of the whale or dolphin is utilised - the flesh is divided among all the families of the village for eating, the blubber is hung in the sun to release the oil, which is bartered as lamp fuel at the surrounding markets. Bones are used in construction and carved into ornaments.
Traditional village of Lamalera
Traditional village of Lamalera

Visiting Lamalera and accompanying a fishing boat presented a moral challenge to us: of course, we instinctively find the idea of whale and dolphin hunting offensive; yet, staying in the village, meeting the people and seeing how they live, we quickly realised that they were barely eking out a living from this subsistence way of life. As Westeners who live in comfort, consuming huge amounts of natural resources yet staying well removed from our food sources, it would be wrong of us to judge this way of life by our own standards.

Though we were eager to observe the unique hunting methods of Lamalerans, we were secretly hoping that no whales would make an appearance - the thought of a full blown whale hunt was just a little too daunting. Thankfully, no whales had been spotted that morning and the prahus remained firmly ashore; Arnol's crew were on the lookout for dolphins. About two hours into the morning and a good few miles out at sea, we came across a very large pod of dolphins, and the hunt be began.

The technique for hunting dolphins is the same as for whales - the harpooner, youngest and fittest of the crew, stands on a small platform on the bow of the boat, weilding a long bamboo shaft with a barbed metal harpoon tip. When the boat comes within striking distance of an animal, he lunges at it, flinging himself into the water to put his full weight behind the harpoon. More often than not it's a miss; a line is thrown to the harpooner and he scrambles on board looking exhausted. If it's a hit, a second and third harpoon are often needed to secure the animal. Then the long battle to reel it in begins... hit or no hit, the whole process is a labour intensive group effort, requiring each of the eight or so crew members to do their bit at just the right second.

We found the sight of struggling dolphins rather hard to bear, yet the absolute delight and relief of the crew whenever they landed their catch made one realise how much they needed it. At about 2pm, with five dolphins in the boat, the guys called it a day, and we started chugging back to shore. By now the two of us were starving, thirsty, sun-burned and quite traumatised. But instead of coming ashore an hour or so later, it took us another four hours to getb back... the boat engine packed up! The helmsman would really battle to start it (Rich was often asked to pull the chord, as he had an unusually high success rate!), then it would splutter a little and die again. Finally, just before sunset, another boat came out looking for us and towed us back. Phew, what a day! We watched as the old men of the village butchered the dolphins on the beach, sharing out the meat to women from various households.

The following day, Sunday morning, most of the 2,000 or so inhabitants of the village went to church (like Flores, the island is staunchly Catholic) - from the verandah of Abel's place we watched families troop by in their Sunday best: clean sarongs, colourful blouses, the women's long black hair knotted tightly in a high bun. We went for a walk to the west of the village and found a secluded little cove where the snorkeling was excellent. The water was crystal clear and the soft corals covering the dark volcanic rocks seemed more like cold water forms. However, walking back up the hill we discovered that a whole clan of youngsters had been spying on us! They said a shy hello and scattered as we walked up the path. Good thing we hadn't been skinny dipping! After another superb lunch at the homestay, we walked the road along the coast in the opposite direction, and found another beautiful little beach.

On Monday morning, Rich joined the fishermen again while I relaxed, chatted to a few people in the village and went back to the little beach we had discovered the afternoon before. The snorkeling from here was absolutely gorgeous too, but I had to keep a look-out for little spies! In the early afternoon, before the boat came in, I returned to the village beach and sat in the shade of one of the boat sheds with a young man named Thomy. Thomy was teaching himself English and eagerly paged through the Rough Guide, trying to read bits here and there. He was particularly taken with the Glossary section, and we had an amusing English-Indonesian conversation using the glossary as a dictionary. By the end of the afternoon, Rich and I had promised to post him a proper dictionary (which we duly did from Bali when we returned there). No doubt the little book will be passed around and use by all the others like him in the village - bright kids who simply do not have educational opportunities available to them.

That evening we said goodbye to all the friends we had made in Lamalera. We'd been bowled over by the friendliness of the villagers and their decency and inner strength despite the hand-to-mouth existence many of them faced. At 5am the next morning, we boarded a 4WD truck back to Lewoleba, from where we returned to Flores by ferry.


Friday, October 05, 2007


Banda Aceh is a capital of Aceh and also the main gateway to the province . The Governor's Residence, was built by Dutch in 1880 on the spot where the palace of sultan once stood. The building is known is one of the historical sites with a unique architecture and completed with traditional house equipment. This place is of course restricted area and entering must be with a kind of permission from the security guard.

Baiturrahman Grand Mosque

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It is one of the most outstanding landmarks in the capital city. The old mosque that stood there before it was burnt at the beginning of the Aceh War, was rebuilt in 1875, taking its present shape after a number of renovations and expansions.

Gunongan and Pinto Khop

Gunongan and Pinto Khop which are located at a few steps from the Pendopo are also charms of the city . Gunongan was erected around the 16th century during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda.

The Syiah Kuala Grove

It is another visitor's object. Teungku Syiah Kuala was one of Aceh's Great Moslem Ulamas of the past. His grave stands near the mouth of Krueng Aceh River about 2 kilometers from the city, visited by local visitors and other parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indra Patra Fortress

This old fort was build during the time of Iskandar Muda. It probably functioned as a defence against invader's attack

Museum Cut Nyak Dien

It is historical object. The house is a replica of the heroine Cut Nyak Dien, from the Aceh War. The house was burn down by the Dutch but replica was build later, after Indonesia's Independence. This house in Lam Pisang about 6 kilometers from Banda Aceh, is now a museum.

Museum Negeri

It is another charm of the city. The museum is filled with antiques. Among the exhibits is a big clock, a gift from the Emperor of the China and brought to Aceh by the formed Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414.


The most popular beaches are Gapang beach and Ibah beach in Sabang, Kuala Dou beach in west Aceh and the others most popular beaches uncrowded Banda Aceh are Ujung Batee beach, Lumpu'uk beach and Lho'nga beach. It's located 16 kilometres from Banda Aceh. All the beaches have clean waters and white sands. Sunset are quite impressive at the all beaches.

Sea Gardens

Sea Gardens are located off short from Banda Aceh at about 45 minutes by speed oat. Some can be enjoyed around Rubiah island in Sabang and the others are around Beras islands, Aceh island and other small islands them. Sea gigantic clams, angel fish, lion fish and much more.

Around Takengon and the Lke

Takengon is a town locates at the central area of Aceh. It is being promoted as a tourist resort since its temperature is about 20 C (68 F), cool enaugh for a holiday resort. The main feature of the town is Laut Tawar Lake. The scenery is loved and the lake can be used for water sport, such as ski. We can tour around the lake by motor boat or other water trasportation. Thre are caves around the lake slopes of the mountain and the mountain itself is suitable for climbing. A number of hotels are being built to encourage a rapidy incriasing tourist trade. The others object around Takengon are warm water pool at simpang Balik, Layang Koro and Layang Pukes caves by the side of Laut Tawar lake.

Around Lhokseumawe and The Former Kingdom of Samudera Pasai

Lhokseumawe is a town located 274 km from Banda Aceh which is now being developed as an industrial zone of Aceh. Many gigantic plants are constructed following the discovery of huge LNG resources in the area. Touristic features of the town is The Samudera Pasai. It was the first great Islamic kingdom of Indonesia.
All that remains of it, however, is a graveyard 18 km east of the town. The historical indication of this can be seen at the grave of Malikul Saleh, the first ruler of the kingdom and from the royal graves, including that a queen named Nahrisyah and graves of other members of the royal families of Samudera Pasai. The kingdom produced its own gold coins which still can be round in the surrounding areas. Other object for visitors are Blang Kolam Falls and Ujung Blang beach.

The National Park

The National Park of Gunung Leuser is probably the wildest in Indonesia, located in Southeast Aceh that can be reached either Kutacane, or Tekangan. The magnificent national park has a wealth of flora and fauna. The park also has research facilities for the study of primates, birds, insect, and other animals. Basic accomodation facilities are available at Katambe. The rapids-infested Krueng alas river inside the park is popular with rafters.

Laut Tawar Lake

Rafting in Aceh
Laut Tawar Lake is located in Aceh Tengah. Takenagn, the capital of the region, lies on the west side of this lake, 1,120 meters above sea level, with an everage temperature of 20 C. The town is quit cool and is growing holiday resort. The scenery is lovely and the lake can be used water sports, such as ski. We can tour around the lake by motor boat or other water transportation. There are caves around the lake slope the mountain and the mountain itself is suitable for climbing. Anmber of hotels are being built to encurage a rapidly increasing.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Change Your Life Through Travel: Inspiring Tales and Tips for Richer, Fuller, More Adventurous Living

Change Your Life Through Travel: Inspiring Tales and Tips for Richer, Fuller, More Adventurous Living

Book Description
Living life as fully on the road as at home is celebrated in this book that ponders the people who mastered the art of moving about. Passages of classic travel writing by Isak Dinesen, Ernest Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence, and Henry Miller are woven through accounts of the author's own globetrotting adventures. A collection of travel hints, inspirational ideas, and suggestions for journal-keeping fill chapters entitled "Take More Risks," "Buck Convention," "Slow Down and Live in the Moment," and "Find Your Wild Side." Color photographs and an enticing list of travel books for further reading are also included.

Lonely Planet the Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World

Lonely Planet the Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Even the most avid readers of travel guides and travel literature will not have encountered a book quite like this one. It is huge and heavy but reasonably priced, and it is vastly informative, which is its calling card. All the writers who contribute to the Lonely Planet travel guide series have put heads, knowledge, and experience together and come up with an A-Z series of capsule profiles of every country in the world, 230 in number. Each country gets a two-page spread, on which are placed, like luscious dishes set before one at a feast, illustrations that are typical of Lonely Planet's unique, non-picture-postcard brand of shots. The accompanying text presents a cogent rundown of the best experiences for gaining the essence of the place; books to read beforehand; music to listen to before you go; food and drink to consume once you are there; and a few brief but pungent closing comments on the trademark things to do and buy and see and what, ultimately, is the best surprise awaiting the tourist. For borrowers in the travel section to sit down, look at, and make notes from, without taking off the premises. Brad Hooper

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List

From Publishers Weekly
This hefty volume reminds vacationers that hot tourist spots are small percentage of what's worth seeing out there. A quick sampling: Venice's Cipriani Hotel; California's Monterey Peninsula; the Lewis and Clark Trail in Oregon; the Great Wall of China; Robert Louis Stevenson's home in Western Samoa; and the Alhambra in Andalusia, Spain. Veteran travel guide writer Schultz divides the book geographically, presenting a little less than a page on each location. Each entry lists exactly where to find the spot (e.g. Moorea is located "12 miles/19 km northwest of Tahiti; 10 minutes by air, 1 hour by boat") and when to go (e.g., if you want to check out The Complete Fly Fisher hotel in Montana, "May and Sept.-Oct. offer productive angling in a solitary setting"). This is an excellent resource for the intrepid traveler.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Newsweek : "At last, a book that tells you what's beautiful, what's fun and what's just unforgettable—everywhere on earth."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure reveals the best travel destinations in the world! Readers discover where to find the best hotels, the best shopping, the best food, and the most fun. With Travel + Leisure, readers keep up on hot deals on vacation travel and get tons of insider travel tips to help them save money, reduce travel headaches, and enjoy every trip more than ever.

Product Description
Feature articles on travel destinations worldwide, notices of exciting events, restaurant and hotel profiles, regional articles, recommendations and weather for leisure travelers worldwide.

Conde Nast Traveler

Conde Nast Traveler

From Amazon.com
As the title implies, Traveller offers more than just articles and advice on vacation planning. Beyond resort and hotel reports, its insightful, thorough, and informative features delve into regional culture, transportation, and cuisine, serving those who are as interested in actually experiencing another part of the world as they are in escaping their own. Traveller also offers pragmatic articles on the perils of visiting foreign countries, such as car insurance (or the lack thereof), medical care, and crimes such as pickpocketing. Other features pinpoint charming diversions--a roadside dried-coconut vendor on Maui's Hana Highway, Seattle's surreal Experience Music Project museum, the latest boutique hotel in Miami's South Beach, or a tiny crêpe shop in Paris. The focus is on more opulent destinations--those looking to do London on $15 a day should look elsewhere. But whether you'll travel by mountain bike, Sherpa guide, or Learjet, and whether you're on a lengthy sojourn or a weekend spa getaway, Traveller inspires a voyager's dreams. --Beth Massa

Product Description
Feature articles on worldwide travel destinations, savvy strategies, shopping, hotels, transportation, legislation, news and tips for vacation and business travelers.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Explorer Blazes Trails in Venezuela

Charles Brewer Carias has discovered giant sinkholes, collected new species of plants and scorpions, and rappelled into unexplored caves on his nearly 200 expeditions into the flat-topped mountains and jungles of Venezuela.

The mustachioed 68-year-old says his passion for discovery makes him a throwback to the 19th century explorers who once trekked through South America. And he has found his modern-day Eden among the sandstone plateaus of Venezuela, known as "tepuis," which tower above rain forests and savannas.

Brewer has spent much of his life learning to spot subtle anomalies in this rugged landscape, which is home to Angel Falls — the world's tallest waterfall — and was the setting of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous dinosaur novel "The Lost World."

"The idea of discovery is to see things that no one has seen before," says Brewer, who calls the tepuis "islands in time," each of them isolated much like the Galapagos Islands, allowing evolution to run its distinct course on every mountaintop.

His knowledge and keen abilities of observation have made Brewer the best-known explorer and naturalist in Venezuela.

Flying by helicopter, he gazes down at the tepuis searching for changes in vegetation, rivers disappearing into holes or other clues that could point to a landing spot for his next expedition.

This time he is headed to the site of one of his grandest discoveries: a giant quartzite cave in the belly of a plateau, which he is exploring with the help of scientists from Slovakia and Croatia.

Five years ago, he spotted a river emerging from this cave while flying past. He returned with a team to hike into it, and found what experts believe to be the world's biggest quartzite cave. The group named it after Brewer.

Measured at nearly 2.8 miles long, the cave runs along a river through chambers at times up to 130 feet high. The explorers pause to examine amphibious crickets, rare scorpions and odd mineral deposits called speleothems that grow like coral reefs from the cave floor.

"That's a beautiful piece," Brewer exclaims, squatting to photograph one of the chalky opal speleothems, which scientists believe are built up by bacteria over time.

A total of 22 species — plants, reptiles, insects and a scorpion — have been named in Brewer's honor, including an entirely new genus of bromeliad, with glossy leaves and white flowers, which he found in 1981.

He also has explored underwater, leading a 1998 scuba expedition to a sunken fleet of 17th-century French ships off Venezuela's Las Aves Islands.

Some scientists accuse Brewer of excessively seeking credit and attention for discoveries.

But he sees a simple reason for their complaints: "Jealousy, sheer jealousy."

Brewer has long been captivated by Sir Walter Raleigh's writings about his travels in Venezuela more than 400 years ago. And citing stories related by Raleigh, Brewer is convinced that the lost city of El Dorado, named after an Indian headman who covered himself in gold dust, remains hidden in Venezuela's jungles.

He hopes to prove it by returning to explore a site in the Amazon where in 1990 he unearthed a find of pottery shards, made of clay mixed with gold dust.


Brewer, the grandson of a British diplomat who married a Venezuelan, has always been fascinated by subjects from botany to anthropology. While growing up in Caracas, his father urged him to specialize, so Brewer became a dentist like his dad.

But he soon gravitated to broader interests. In 1961, he went to live with the Yekuana Indians, performing dental anthropological studies and learning their language. He did similar work among the isolated Yanomami Indians.

The government used to support his expeditions, but today he struggles to obtain funding and asks scientists to pay their own way on rented helicopters.

His most harrowing experience came when he was shot during a 2003 burglary. Wounded in the shoulder, he shot and killed one of the intruders. Bullet fragments remain lodged in his shoulder, but he has not let the injury limit him on outings, boasting he can go for long periods without food or water and still swim faster than most men half his age.

"You have to have a childish, inquisitive nature," he says. "I'm discovering new caves, places where people never imagined before. I'm getting answers where no one ever asked questions before."

source : Discovery Chanel

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bali ATV Tour

If you are planning to visit the island of Bali, you definitely made a good choice on that, as Bali has something that you cannot find in most other tourist destinations. Despite having welcomed foreign people from all over the world for over a century, the island and its people haven’t changed their way of living, their habits, their culture. Of course you will find influences brought in by people from other continents, mostly noticed in the south and most developed part of the island, where most tourists stay. In places like Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua you will find all ingredients for a perfect relaxing holiday, as there are beautiful beaches, restaurants that serve dishes from all over the world, bars, shops and sport facilities.

Meet the friendly people
But of course Bali has much more than that, and for the people who want to experience what Bali is really like, we from BALI QUAD DISCOVERY TOURS have developed some unique off road adventure tours with quad bikes (ATV’s) four wheel drive motorcycles through a very authentic part of the island. Our tours combine a great experience of driving your own powerful off road 4-wheel motorcycle (or enjoying the ride while comfortably sitting on the back of the bike) with the opportunity to learn about the way the local people live. You will follow our experienced guides by driving between beautiful rice fields, pass the rainforest, drive up the mountain and cross some riverbeds. It doesn’t matter if you have ever driven a quad bike before, as the bikes are user friendly, and everybody will get a detailed instruction and practice on the spot before we start our tours.