November 23rd 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

We had received a sort of half-invitation by a local guy to take us to a ceremony in a village some way away, + being of a suspicious turn of mind, wondering as we often do what’s in it for him, we had made a sort of half-promise to be at the main square at 10 to 8 this morning.  Our obvious lack of enthusiasm had obviously put him off tho’, since he didn’t turn up.  So we put plan B into action, and walked out on the road north, to the villages that way.  It was a pleasant enough, tho’ long + unexciting, walk out to the first one, Palawa.  It was enlivened, however, by the picturesque sight of various old men + women walking in towards town, carrying their bamboo poles full of palm wine, presumably to sell there.  We eventually arrived at what we thought was the turn-off for the village, + this seemed to be borne out when we came on a row of traditional houses with their barns facing them.  We caused quite a stir among the people when we arrived there – a bunch of old ladies, not so old ladies, + very young children.  They were chatting + intermittently looking after mats of rice drying in the sun, protecting them from marauding chickens by waving long bamboo poles at the creatures.  We caused a welcome diversion, especially when we handed round biscuits.  There was, tho’, little or no conversation, once we’d exhausted the very basic sentences.  Some of the ladies were chewing on what I imagine is a variety of betel – it produces the same red spittle.  They look even more repulsive when they’re chewing it tho’, since it’s too big to be contained within their mouths, + sticks out obscenely.  A man came along just as Val was taking a photo of the women, + he made it clear he was very annoyed about it, tho’ I don’t know what it had to do with him.  He did later give us “permission” to photograph one of the houses.

We didn’t stay much longer tho’, having seen all we could see, so we walked back to the road, + continued our journey.  A few hundred metres later, we discovered the “real” Palawa, so I don’t know where we had been before.  Palawa was quite an attractive village, laid out, again, traditionally, but was rather spoilt for me by the more aggressive attitude towards the tourists.  Each house had a collection of various artefacts + antiques which a woman would try to sell to you as you passed.  We would look at what was offered out of politeness, but we had no intention of buying, + I felt uncomfortable about it all.  Palawa is clearly on the tour bus trail, + knows it.  So we soon moved on.

We soon attracted the attention of a young man who spoke some English, who when we discovered we were on our way to Sa’dan, the next village, came along with us.  When we arrived he showed us the way up to the weaving centre, Sa’dan’s claim to fame.  It was very interesting, especially for Val of course, who was able to look at the difference between this style + the Guatemalan she had learnt.  The finished product, in fact, was remarkably similar in style, tho’ obviously this had its own distinctive motifs – representations of buffaloes + Torajan houses.  We bought a small shoulder bag in the end, a mere R1500.

Walking back down the road, still accompanied by our friend, it started to rain, so we sheltered under the eaves of a small shop.  We started talking to the people, + ended up going in for coffee (tho’ we were expected to pay for it.)  They were nice friendly people, + between their broken English + Val’s broken Indonesian, we were able to communicate a fair bit.  It was a fairly broken-down shack that they were living in, so it was quite a surprise to discover the guy is a teacher.  Evidently it’s a profession which commands even less reward here than back home.  We took their photo, + promised to send them a copy.

Back to the main road again, + just a few further yards on to where a bemo was waiting to go back to Rantepao.  They were in no hurry to go tho’, + we spent a while chatting with the driver – he was a friendly sort.  He gave us what looked to be the spitting image of a Tahitian pamplemousse – it was quite a disappointment when we cut it open later to discover it was as sour as a grapefruit back home.  Nice with sugar tho’.

An amazingly bumpy ride back to town – the bus must need a service every week.  In the evening we went to a small restaurant recommended by Tom + Jan, where Val had gado gado, a sort of salad covered in peanut sauce, + I had nasi goreng, or a special fried rice, the national dish.  Both were very tasty + very cheap.  We were trapped there for a while by a heavy thunderstorm, but escaped during a slight lull, + spent the rest of the evening sitting in the lounge/foyer, listening to the Walkman + respectively writing + biluming.

More exploration of the area, the local villages, etc. Without the high drama of yesterday’s antics, but none the less enjoyable for all that.

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